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Daily Archives: 07/28/2010

Dmitry Medvedev sent his condolences to President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari following a plane crash near Islamabad

July 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / KREMLIN.RU)  The President said, in particular, in his telegram:

“I was profoundly saddened to learn of the plane crash near Islamabad that has taken many lives.

I ask you to pass on my sincere condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones.”

The plane operated by a Pakistani airline and carrying 152 passengers crashed into the hills as it came in to land in bad weather conditions on the morning of July 28, 2010.

Passenger plane with 152 on board crashes near Islamabad, at least 8 survive (Update)


July 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI)  At least eight people on board a passenger plane that crashed near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Wednesday have survived, national media said.

The Airblue company plane, which was flying from Turkey to Islamabad via the Pakistani city of Karachi, was carrying 146 passengers and 6 crew members. Other reports say that at least 153 passengers were on board.

Four of the survivors have been evacuated by helicopter; the other four are waiting to be transferred to a hospital.

Pakistani TV said that up to 40 people on board of the plane could have survived.


The plane crashed in the Margalla Hills, about 30 km from Islamabad airport.

National media reported that the plane burst into flame during landing and thick black smoke engulfed the area.

“The plane was landing in Islamabad when something went wrong,” an aviation spokesman said, adding that it is still unknown what caused the problem.

Rescue helicopters are working at the site, however, heavy rains and thick fog may impede the operations.

Airblue was established in 2004 and operates Airbus A320 and Airbus A321 planes. Apart from destinations in Pakistan, the company flies to Manchester (Britain), Muscat (Oman) and a number of cities in the United Arab Emirates. (*)

British PM Cameron: Gaza must not remain a prison camp

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron gestures as he addresses the media in Ankara July 27, 2010. (Getty Images)

July 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / HAARETZ)  British prime minister David Cameron, who has often described himself as a “friend of Israel,” harshly criticized Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, telling a group of Turkish businessmen in Ankara that the strip was “a prison camp.”

“The situation in Gaza has to change,” he said. “Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.”

While Cameron has made similar remarks in the past, in the House of Commons, the prime minister’s decision to repeat them in Turkey – whose relations with Israel have severely deteriorated recently – gave them a more prominent significance.

Cameron’s remarks, made on his first official visit to that country, were sure to endear him to his Turkish hosts – but managed to both surprise and anger Israel.

The Israeli embassy in the U.K. issued a response to Cameron’s remarks, saying that “the people of Gaza are the prisoners of the terrorist organization Hamas. The situation in Gaza is the direct result of Hamas’ rule and priorities.”

“We know that the Prime Minister would also share our grave concerns about our own prisoner in the Gaza Strip, Gilad Shalit, who has been held hostage there for over four years, without receiving a single Red Cross visit,” the statement continued.

Cameron did not mention Shalit in his speech. However, he did mention the events of May 31, when Israeli commandos boarded a Gaza-bound aid ship and clashed with Turkish activists in a confrontation that resulted in the deaths of 9 activists. Cameron said the incident was “completely unacceptable.”

The British prime minister called for a speedy and transparent Israeli inquiry into the incident, but stopped just short of calling for an international probe.

In a later press conference with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, further criticism was heaped on Israel, this time by Erdogan. The Turkish prime minister called Israel’s reaction to the incident aboard the Turkish boat an act of “piracy,” and compared Israelis to Somali pirates.

“The pirates are there in Somalia [but] when a similar situation occurs here … political leaders, who are there to establish a fair life for everyone – they should not remain silent,” he said.

Israel was not the only ally of Britain taken aback by the content of Cameron’s speech in Turkey, as the prime minister went on to encourage the European Union to accept Turkey’s membership bid to the group – a move opposed by France and Germany.

Cameron said he was angered by the slow pace of the accession talks, and warned against shutting Ankara out because of anti-Muslim prejudice.

“When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally and what Turkey is doing now in Afghanistan alongside European allies, it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be frustrated in the way it has been,” Cameron told the businessmen. “I believe it’s just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent.”

The prime minister further argued in his speech that a close alliance with Turkey was especially critical now, in light of the new EU sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program. “We need Turkey’s help in making it clear to Iran just how serious we are about engaging fully with the international community,” he said.

Just last month Turkey voted against fresh UN sanctions on Iran over its controversial nuclear program.

The EU opened accession talks with Turkey in 2005, but has so far begun looking at 13 of the 35 policy areas, called chapters, that a candidate country has to successfully negotiate prior to membership, with matters such as Turkey’s refusal to open its sea and air ports to Cyprus holding it back. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have suggested that Turkey be offered a “privileged partnership” rather than full membership – a proposal that Ankara categorically rejects.

“We know what it’s like to be shut out of the club,” Cameron told the Turks, referencing General Charles de Gaulle’s description of the U.K. before vetoing its EU accession. “But we also know that these things can change.”

David Cameron agrees nuclear deal with India against official advice

British Prime Minister David Cameron converses with the Governor of Karnataka Dr Hans Raj Bharadwaj on July 28, 2010 in Bangalore, India. (Getty Images)

July 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / TELEGRAPH.CO.UK)  British companies will be free to strike deals worth billions of pounds under the new regime which will be based on a “presumption” that export licences will be granted for products intended for civilian use unless there are specific concerns about a deal.

The move will be announced today during a three-day trade mission by the Prime Minister to India, and includes a pledge to share research.

The last, Labour government had blocked the export of nuclear technology on the grounds that India had refused to sign the international non-proliferation treaty.

There were also concerns that, despite requests from the Americans, India had failed to ensure a proper separation of its civilian and military programmes.

The move is part of a wider push by the Prime Minister to strengthen trade ties and capitalise on India’s rapidly growing economy. However his attempts threaten to be undermined by a row over an immigration cap which threatens to prevent thousands of Indian workers from coming to Britain.

In June, a few weeks after the Coalition came to power, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, wrote to the entire Cabinet proposing that the restrictions be lifted, on the grounds that the United States had agreed to trade with India two years ago, and British firms were missing out on a multi-billion pound industry.

He suggested that Britain continue to make the case for the Indians to separate their military and civilian nuclear programmes, and under a programme of “assessed risk,” deals which raised specific concerns continue to be blocked.

British Prime Minister David Cameron (3rd-L) is greeted by the Governor of Karnataka Dr Hans Raj Bharadwaj (3rd-R) on July 28, 2010 in Bangalore, India. (Getty Images)

Following the letter, the Prime Minister “held back” relevant ministers after a Cabinet meeting to discuss the matter – and it was agreed that exports would be allowed.

Downing Street confirmed that the decision made despite official advice from both the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence.

Senior civil servants were said to have urged more “caution,” although the previous administration is said to have been “leaning towards” relaxing the export regime.

Rolls Royce and Serco are already said to be in the process of applying for licences.

As well as the business aspect of the policy change, Britain and India will today announce that the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will take part in a £2.4 million programme with the Indian Bhabha Atomic Research Centre to develop research. The costs are being shared between the two countries.

British Prime Minister David Cameron converses with the Governor of Karnataka Dr Hans Raj Bharadwaj (unseen) on July 28, 2010 in Bangalore, India. (Getty Images)

Also during the visit by the Prime Minister, and the 60-strong delegation of business leaders he has brought with him, defence firm BAE is expected to sign a deal worth around £500 million to supply India with 57 Hawk jets. Westland helicopters also hopes to conclude a trade agreement.

Mr Cable said that he had “no qualms” about providing India with such expensive equipment when millions of children were starving, saying that the country was a democracy enjoying rapid economic growth.

Mr Cable said UK firms: “potentially could do a large amount of business in India”.

He added: “There are obvious security sensitivities. We are conscious of those, as are the Indians.

“But within those constraints we really want to push ahead with civil nuclear co-operation.

“That would be quite a big sector within which we could really make progress.”

Medvedev : Modernisation is impossible without fighting corruption and promoting fair competition

Photo : Meeting of the Commission for Economic Modernisation and Technical Development. With First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Vladislav Surkov. July 27, 2010  (The Presidential Press & Information)

July 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / KREMLIN.RU)  Dmitry Medvedev made this statement at a meeting of the Commission for Economic Modernisation and Technical Development of Russia’s Economy.

The President said that modernisation must not be seen as simply upgrading technology. No modernisation will be possible without resolving key issues such as fighting corruption, reducing bureaucratic pressure, and establishing the conditions for fair competition.

Creating attractive conditions for doing business and investing is an absolutely fundamental part of building an innovative economy. This applies in full measure to developing a venture financing market in Russia – the subject discussed at the Commission’s latest meeting.

Mr Medvedev said that there is a clear trend now for Russian companies to spend more on research and development, but there is still little venture risk capital on the market. A number of measures are needed to develop venture financing, among which the President named developing a system of expert evaluations and services, effective use of grants and repayment financing mechanisms, overall financial market development, and ensuring the smooth operation of all links in the innovation chain.

Russia has enough potential to carry out venture projects, but there are only a few successful examples so far and this has not been enough to form a system, and so the main task now is to create the system that would develop scientific research and encourage start-ups.

Mr Medvedev also announced the signing of a number of laws on economic modernisation that have come out of the Commission’s work. The laws signed include a law on provision of government and municipal services, a law simplifying procedures for recognising academic degrees, titles and diplomas, a law on the National Research Centre Kurchatov Institute, and a law regulating the production, transmission and consumption of heating supplies.

The Commission met at the National Research and Technology University MISiS (Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys). Before the meeting started, the President met with students at the university, who presented their project to develop helicopter transport as an alternative to building an extensive road network.

MISiS is one of Russia’s top universities for training engineers and scientific specialists for such sectors as metallurgy and materials studies, development of new materials and technology, efficient use of resources and ecology. A centre for industrial design and innovation has been working at the university since 2007.

Passenger plane crashes near Islamabad, all 152 on board feared dead


Map locates Karachi and Islamabad, Pakistan, where a plane took off and crashed, respectively. (Getty Images)

July 28, 2010

NEW DELHI, July 28 (KATAKAMI / RIA Novosti) – All 152 people on board a passenger plane that crashed near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Wednesday are feared dead, national media said.

The plane, which was flying from Turkey to Islamabad via the Pakistani city of Karachi, was carrying 146 passengers and 6 crew members.

“The plane was landing in Islamabad when something went wrong,” an aviation spokesman said, adding that it is still unknown what caused the problem.

National media reported that the plane burst into flame and thick black smoke engulfed the area.

The plane crashed in the Margalla Hills, about 30 km from Islamabad airport.

Rescue helicopters are working at the site, however, heavy rains and thick fog may impede the operations.

Hospitals in Islamabad have already begun working in emergency mode. (*)

Plane carrying 152 crashes in Pakistan; 5 dead

The plane crashed in the Margalla Hills at the edge of Islamabad (Photo : Aljazeera)

ISLAMABAD, July 28 (KATAKAMI / MYREPUBLICA.COM)  : An official says forestry guards are reporting at least five people have been killed in a plane crash in Pakistan.

That toll is likely to rise significantly.

The Airblue passenger jet that crashed into the Margalla Hills surrounding Pakistan´s capital, Islamabad, was carrying 152 people. Rescuers were trying to reach the scene amid rain and difficult roads Wednesday morning.

Imtiaz Inayat Ali, chairman of Capital Development Authority, said the forestry guards were trying to find survivors but that they had seen five bodies so far.

Carla Bruni Films Woody Allen Movie in Paris with Owen Wilson

French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and US actor Owen Wilson are seen in a street of Paris on July 27, 2010 during the shooting of US director Woody Allen’s latest movie ‘Midnight in Paris’. (Getty Images)

July 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / PEOPLE.COM)  Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, whose accomplishments already include supermodel, singer-songwriter, and French First Lady, has another impressive addition to her resume: actress.

Dressed in a white blouse and jeans, Bruni-Sarkozy stepped before cameras alongside Owen Wilson in Paris Tuesday afternoon in a film directed by Woody Allen. The scenes, shot around the Pantheon in Paris’s fifth arrondissement, will appear in Allen’s current project, Paris In Midnight.

“Carla and Woody got along incredibly well on the set,” a source tells PEOPLE. “They talked constantly and laughed quite a lot between takes. Owen as well.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni Sarkozy is pictured during filming of a scene of the movie “Midnight in Paris”, directed by Woody Allen, in Paris, Wednesday, July 28, 2010. (Getty Images)

The source says Bruni-Sarkozy’s first day of shooting lasted nearly five hours and included many takes. “They must have shot the same set up, where she walks along holding a baguette in her hand going into a supermarket … around 32 [times.]”

Allen proposed a small role to Bruni-Sarkozy in 2009, and then met with her and her husband, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, last summer at the Elysées Palace to discuss the cameo role.

Paris In Midnight is a 1920s Jazz-Age period costume piece featuring Wilson, Marion Cotillard and Adrian Brody told largely in flashbacks. Bruni-Sarkozy is playing the director of a Paris museum with Oscar winner Cotillard playing her subordinate. “Carla has a tiny role in the film,” says a member of her entourage. “In any case, she won’t be stealing the spotlight from the other actors.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni Sarkozy, center left, talks with her husband, center right, during a break of filming of the movie “Midnight in Paris”, directed by Woody Allen, in Paris, Wednesday, July 28, 2010. (Getty Images)

Sources tell PEOPLE that Bruni-Sarkozy, 42, is expected to do another half-day of shooting with Cotillard before joining her husband on vacation.

In November, Bruni-Sarkozy, officially announced that she’d taken the part, but said she wasn’t expecting to be perfect.

“I go into everything blindly, or I’d never do anything at all,” she said during a television interview on France’s Canal+. “I am not an actress at all. Maybe I’ll be completely hopeless, but I can’t miss an opportunity like this one in my life. When I’m a grandmother, I’d like to be able to say I made a film with Woody Allen.”  (***)

French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is seen in a street of Paris on July 27, 2010 during the shooting of US director Woody Allen’s latest movie ‘Midnight in Paris’. Despite a starry cast including Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard and US talents Owen Wilson and Kathy Bates, pre-publicity for ‘Midnight in Paris’ has focused on the supermodel-turned-singer’s big screen debut.  (Getty Images)

French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is seen in a street of Paris on July 27, 2010 during the shooting of US director Woody Allen’s latest movie ‘Midnight in Paris’. Despite a starry cast including Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard and US talents Owen Wilson and Kathy Bates, pre-publicity for ‘Midnight in Paris’ has focused on the supermodel-turned-singer’s big screen debut. (Getty Images)

US director Woody Allen (R) flanked by one of his adopted children Manzie Tio (L) is pictured in a street of Paris on July 27, 2010 during the shooting of his latest movie ‘Midnight in Paris’), with French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and US actor Owen Wilson. Despite a starry cast including Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard and US talents Owen Wilson and Kathy Bates, pre-publicity for ‘Midnight in Paris’ has focused on the supermodel-turned-singer’s big screen debut. (Getty Images)

French PM declares ‘war’ on al Qaeda after hostage killed

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon listens as he holds a press conference with German Hans-Peter Friedrich, CSU (right-wing party) group leader in German bundestag, after a meeting with a delegation of CSU representatives, on July 22, 2010 in Paris.

July 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / FRANCE 24 / REUTERS) – France is at war with al Qaeda’s North African branch and will intensify military support for governments in the region combating the Islamist fighters, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Tuesday.

He was speaking in a radio interview a day after President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed that a 78-year-old French hostage kidnapped in Niger and held by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had been killed following a failed French rescue mission.

“We are at war with al Qaeda and that’s why we have been supporting Mauritanian forces fighting al Qaeda for months,” Fillon told Europe 1 radio, saying that AQIM consisted of about 400 fighters operating in a desert area the size of Europe.

Asked what Sarkozy meant when he said the killing of retired engineer Michel Germaneau would not go unpunished, the prime minister said: “It means the fight against terrorism will
continue and will be reinforced.”

He declined to give details for security reasons. However, he stressed the government’s policy remained to negotiate with hostage-takers whenever possible to save French lives.

Asked whether Paris would retaliate militarily, he said: “France does not practise revenge.”

Sarkozy has said he decided to launch a raid into Mali with Mauritanian forces last Thursday only after failing to establish any negotiating channel with the kidnappers and because he feared for the hostage’s life after an al Qaeda ultimatum.

The opposition Socialists said they would not criticise the government’s action in the hostage affair.

Malian officials said they were not consulted on the raid, which went beyond the hot pursuit covered by regional accords. Maximum alert

Fillon said France was on maximum security alert and several attempted attacks were thwarted on French soil and in neighbouring countries each year.

However, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he saw no increased threat to France following Germaneau’s death.

“I don’t think we have the slightest bit of evidence of an increased danger,” Kouchner told RTL radio in an interview.

The minister said he had not urged French nationals to leave the Sahel but had asked them to step up safety measures.

The foreign ministry later confirmed there were some 9,000 French expatriates living in Niger, Mauritania and Mali.

French nuclear group Areva, which operates two uranium mines in northern Niger and employs 2,500 people including around 50 French nationals, said it was increasing its security in the region.

Four Areva employees were kidnapped and held for several days in Niger in June 2008, before being released unharmed.

Mali’s President Amadou Toumani Toure said late on Monday his country was committed to fighting terrorism in the Sahel but reiterated a plea for “thorough regional cooperation”.

Other officials were more blunt in their complaints at France’s sidelining of Mali, seen as a weak link in fighting AQIM for its failure to crack down on groups based in the north and reported links between some authorities and Islamists. “We do not understand why, in the case of Germaneau, France leaves us to one side and launches a military operation with Mauritania, which ended up being a failure,” a senior official in Mali’s defence ministry told Reuters.

Kouchner said he had been told that Germaneau was killed a long way from the area where the Franco-Mauritanian raid took place, but it was not clear when.

“Was he dead before this operation? Did he die afterwards? I don’t know,” he said.   (*)

PM David Cameron visits India


July 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / NUMBER 10 GOV UK) )  Prime Minister David Cameron has travelled to India as he seeks to strengthen the UK-India relationship and promote increased trade and investment.

The PM has been joined by a number of Government ministers and a high-level delegation of representatives of UK business, industry, sport and culture.

We will have more information throughout the day.

The visit follows Mr Cameron’s trip to Turkey, where he held talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and spoke of his support for Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.  (*)

Fidel Castro to release first volume of memoirs

July 28, 2010

(KATAKAMI / BBC)  Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro has unveiled plans to release the first volume of his memoirs.

The book, to be called The Strategic Victory, will be published in August.

It will focus on the story of how just a few hundred revolutionaries under Mr Castro’s command defeated the Cuban army in 1958.

Mr Castro, 83, said he had spent months working on the book since falling ill in 2006 and handing power to his brother Raul.

Among the many titles the former revolutionary said he considered for the 25-chapter book was: How 300 defeated 10,000.

The volume includes photographs, maps and plans of the guerrilla war against the dictator Fulgencio Batista, he told Cuban website cubadebate.cu.

There will also be a detailed account of the final offensive, which Mr Castro said lasted 74 days.

Taking Havana

After Batista’s army was defeated at the battle of Las Mercedes in the first week of August 1958, Mr Castro writes, “the fate of the tyranny was sealed”.

“Its military collapse was imminent,” he adds.

The rebel army suffered 31 deaths, while the government lost 300 troops and saw many more taken prisoner, according to Mr Castro. The rebel army seized a large amount of weapons and ammunition.

From then, the rebel army was in a position to launch its final, strategic offensive, the veteran communist writes. The war engulfed the whole country and Mr Castro’s rebels took Havana on the first of January, 1959.

Fulgencio Batista then fled Cuba.

The Strategic Victory will also include a short autobiography. In the autobiography, the former president remembers his childhood and describes how he became a guerrilla fighter.

“I did not want to wait to respond to the numerous questions about my childhood, adolescence and youth and how I became a revolutionary and armed combatant”, Mr Castro writes.

After a long period of seclusion since his illness, Mr Castro, who turns 84 next month, has made seven public appearances in recent weeks, including three televised speeches.

He said he would continue working on a second volume of memoirs, to be called The Final Strategic Counteroffensive.

David Cameron Begins Indian Charm Offensive

David Cameron previously met President Prathibha Patil in Windsor in October 2009

July 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / SKY NEWS) Prime Minister David Cameron and dozens of delegates have arrived in India in a bid to create a “new special relationship” with the country.

Mr Cameron has arrived in Bangalore joined by six government ministers, 50 leaders of British companies, Olympic gold medallists and academics in his attempt to woo the emerging economy.

The coalition government has identified India as a country that should be at the heart of its foreign strategy to increase trade and improve Britain’s economy.

“This delegation is unprecedented in its scale and ambition,” said Jo Johnson, a Conservative Party lawmaker who previously lived in New Delhi and is joining the trip.

“The government has made a very clear statement of intent, that India is rising to the top of Britain’s diplomatic priorities.”

Some of the UK’s most senior chief executives and chairmen are among the 68-strong delegation, including Richard Olver of BAE Systems and John Varley of Barclays bank.

There is a belief that we haven’t benefited as much from India’s growth as we should have.

Jo Johnson, a Conservative Party law-maker

Former Olympic athletes Dame Kelly Holmes and Sir Steve Redgrave are among a sporting contingent.

The Prime Minister has pledged to renew relations with the former colony, where the economy is growing at a rate of 10% a year.

Britain was the 5th largest exporter to India in 2005, but has since fallen to 18th.

“There is a belief that we haven’t benefited as much from India’s growth as we should have,” said Ms Johnson.

In the last decade Afghanistan and Iraq have dominated British foreign policy but Mr Cameron now wants to concentrate on the relationships that have been left to “wither or stagnate”.

“From now on we will not neglect the wider world,” Foreign Secretary William Hague, will also be in India, said last month.

The Prime Minister will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil.

He will also meet leading legislators, potential investors and seal a round of trade deals.

Chancellor George Osborne is taking British executives to Mumbai for talks with their Indian counterparts.

David Cameron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan

David Cameron’s also been improving relations with Turkey’s PM

Sky’s political editor Adam Boulton is in Bangalore and said the visit is designed to show that Britain means business and is impressed with India’s economic growth.

But he said that India might not be happy that ministers will discuss aid spending, which is likely to see the UK cut the £300m it offers the country each year.

However, some experts have speculated that the charm offensive may be overshadowed by larger rivals like the US and Japan, who are equally aggressive suitors.

“There are a whole number of countries who recognize that India is a fast growing economy and is going to be an important ally – not just the UK,” said Gareth Price, a member of a British government trade organization’s Asia task force.

The visit comes one week after Mr Cameron’s first visit to the White House where talks were dominated by the release of the Lockerbie bomber and the BP oil spill disaster.

And he arrived in India from Turkey, another country the coalition is targeting as a future ally and potential trading partner.  (*)

Argentina Soccer Association Fires Diego Maradona

German fans hold a banner reading ‘Bye Maradona’ (Argentina’s coach Diego Maradona) after Germany defeated Argentina 4-0 in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal match held at Green Point stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, on July 3, 2010.

July 27, 2010

July 27 (KATAKAMI / Bloomberg) — Argentina’s soccer association won’t renew Diego Maradona’s contract as coach of the national team, spokesman Ernesto Cherquis Bialo told reporters in Buenos Aires.

Sergio Batista, the coach of the Argentine youth team, has been named interim coach and will head the squad for an August 11 friendly against Ireland in Dublin, Cherquis Bialo told reporters today in Buenos Aires.

Differences between Maradona and Julio Grondona, the president of the soccer association, “were impossible to resolve,” Cherquis Bialo said. Maradona, 49, said on Argentine television this week that he wouldn’t continue in the post if the association insisted on making changes to his coaching staff.

Maradona, who won the 1986 World Cup as a player alongside Batista, took charge of the national side in late 2008. Under his leadership, Argentina lost six matches in 2009, the first time since 1919 that it had so many defeats in a single year.

Argentina was knocked out of the World Cup last month when it lost 4-0 to Germany. The quarter-final defeat was the biggest in the tournament for the two-time title winners in 36 years. Argentina finished in fifth position, its best result since losing the 1990 world cup final.

His second goal as captain against England in the 1986 tournament was chosen as the best-ever in a survey by the international football federation, known as FIFA. He dubbed his first goal of that match, which was punched in with his fist, the “Hand of God.”

‘Hijacked’ Russian helicopter in Sudan returns to base, crew safe – aviation company

Russian  peacekeepers in Sudan. Archive
Russian peacekeepers in Sudan. Archive

July 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI)  A Russian helicopter allegedly hijacked by militants in Sudan has returned unscathed to its home base in the province of Darfur on Tuesday, a Russian aviation company said in a statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said a helicopter with four crew members and five passengers operating in the Darfur region had been hijacked. It was also earlier reported that there was no contact with the pilot, but the remaining three crew members and passengers were in a safe zone.

The aviation company that owns the helicopter, UTAir, said in a statement on Tuesday that the helicopter had returned to its home base in western Sudan. The helicopter was not damaged and the crew and passengers are safe, according to the statement.

“After landing at a stopover point in Sudan, the helicopter was detained by Sudanese authorities,” the statement read. On Monday, the helicopter was en route from Al-Fashir, Sudan, to a village in Chad on a UN mission.

“UN representatives are presently investigating the incident. UTAir and the Russian Embassy along with UN representatives in Sudan are taking all measures to clarify the situation,” the statement said.

The helicopter belongs to Russia’s UTair Aviation company and was working in Sudan on a UN contract. When it was hijacked, the helicopter was on a joint UN and African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

The civil war that broke out in the western region of Darfur in early 2003 has claimed the lives of more than 300,000, according to United Nations estimates, and forced 2.7 million people from their homes. The Sudanese side puts the number of dead at 10,000.

Several Sudanese rebel groups have recently signed peace accords with the government in Khartoum but a key rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, has so far rejected negotiations with Khartoum and fought fierce clashes with the Sudanese Army in March.

Russia has been maintaining a peacekeeping contingent in the war-torn country since April 2006 as part of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).  (*)