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Sunday, 3 November 2013

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Kerry heads to Middle East to shore up key Arab ties


WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry headed to the Middle East Saturday, aiming to shore up decades-old alliances with Egypt and Saudi Arabia left badly frayed by the turbulence sweeping the region.Egyptian state media said the top diplomat would visit Cairo Sunday for the first time since Washington froze part of its $1.5 billion in annual aid, angered by the bloodshed and lack of democratic progress since the July ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.The Cairo stop was not immediately confirmed by US officials.It would come just a day before Islamist leader Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, is due to go on trial on charges of inciting the murder of protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012.Clashes and unrest between supporters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and military security forces have left about 1,000 dead since he was overthrown by the army on July 3.The US administration has openly voiced concern at the lack of visible progress by the interim military-led leadership toward restoring democracy and holding fresh presidential and parliamentary elections.Washington announced in early October that it was recalibrating its aid to Egypt, which includes about $1.3 billion for military assistance.It also said it was suspending the delivery of big-ticket items such as Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams tank parts and Harpoon missiles until it sees some progress on democratic reforms.If Kerry's Cairo trip goes ahead, the timing is somewhat awkward, with Morsi's trial likely to inflame further protests by his Islamist backers. A huge security net is being thrown over the southern part of the city, with some 20,000 police being deployed to guard the police academy where proceedings against Morsi and 14 other defendants will take place.US officials have repeatedly called for Morsi's release and for an end to any politically motivated trials.But Egypt's official MENA news agency said Friday that Kerry would only stay in Cairo for several hours.US officials, meanwhile, say he will arrive in Saudi Arabia some time on Sunday, where he also faces tough talks with the kingdom's leaders, including King Abdullah.Kerry's 17th trip since becoming secretary of state in February will also take him to Poland, Israel, Bethlehem, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Morocco, and he is due to return to Washington on November 12.Along with its concerns over the hesitant US policy towards the bloody conflict in Syria and Washington's outreach to arch foe Iran, Saudi Arabia has been dismayed by the freezing of US aid to Egypt, seen as a cornerstone of regional stability.The Gulf kingdom had considered Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood a threat and had quickly pledged financial aid to Egypt's new military-installed authorities congratulating interim Egyptian president Adly Mansour after he was appointed in July and unveiling a $5 billion aid package.The dragging war in Syria, now in its 31st month, is also one of the major bones of contention straining ties between Washington and Riyadh, a staunch supporter of the Syrian opposition rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.In an unprecedented move, Riyadh earlier this month turned down a coveted non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in protest at the world body's failure to end the war that has left over 115,000 dead.Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud also reportedly told diplomats last month that he would scale back Saudi cooperation with the CIA on training Syrian rebels, and work with other allies including Jordan and France.State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki praised Riyadh this week as an enormously important partner on all issues including Iran, as Western powers seek to rein in its suspect nuclear program, and said that if there were concerns among allies, Kerry believed in the power of face-to-face talks.The secretary, overall, believes that rolling up his sleeves and having personal diplomacy is the way that we should continue to approach either issues we work together on, global challenges, or issues where there may be concerns, Psaki said.

Syrian opposition leader meets Arab League chief


CAIRO (AP) - Top officials from the main Syrian opposition group discussed Saturday with the head of the Arab League a proposed peace conference to end the country's civil war.The talks in Cairo came a day before foreign ministers from the League's member states were to meet to discuss the 2 ½-year crisis and the peace talks expected to take place later this month.The meeting between leaders of the Syrian National Coalition and Nabil Elaraby came as U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi voiced uncertainty about the proposed Geneva peace conference scheduled for late November.Senior coalition official Burhan Ghalioun denied after the talks that the group is under pressure from the League to participate in the Geneva conference.The Syrian opposition is made up of different factions, many of them politicians based in exile the majority of whom are part of the coalition, the main umbrella group. The coalition is demanding President Bashar Assad to step down.Haitham al-Maleh, another coalition official, said the demands of the opposition will be announced during the Arab foreign ministers meeting Sunday. The basics, he said, include an end to government aerial bombardment, releasing political prisoners and ending the siege of some rebel-held.The opposition can't go to Geneva while the Syrians are being killed and slaughtered, he added.In Syria, state-run news agency SANA said Saturday troops killed Abu Mohammad al-Yamani, a local leader of the al-Qaida offshoot the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in the village of Salma in the coastal province of Latakia. SANA added that tens of gunmen were killed with him.SANA also reported that 10 people were killed and several others wounded when a car, which terrorists rigged with explosives blew up in the Damascus suburb of Yabroud.In neighboring Lebanon, gunmen stopped a minibus in a Sunni neighborhood in the northern city of Tripoli and shot six men in their legs, the state-run National News Agency reported. The pro-Assad Arab Democratic Party said in a statement that the men were from the city's predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen.Videos aired on local TV stations showed at least four men lying on the ground with the legs bloodied while being surrounded by dozens of men.Tripoli has witnessed intense clashes between pro and anti-Assad groups that left scores of people dead in the past months. Lebanese are deeply divided over Syria's civil war.More than 120,000 people have been killed so far in the war, now in its third year, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which closely monitors the war through a network of activists in the country. The U.N. said in July that 100,000 Syrians have been killed, and has not updated that figure since. Millions of Syrians have fled their homes because of the fighting.

US, Germany to ink no-spy deal: report


BERLIN (AFP) - Germany and the United States are to strike a two-way deal not to spy on each other in the wake of the diplomatic furore sparked by the Edward Snowden revelations, a German newspaper reported.A delegation of German chancellery and intelligence officials reached the deal during talks at the White House this week, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) reported in its Sunday edition.The accord is set to be concluded early next year, it said, citing sources close to the German government.Contacted by AFP, a government spokeswoman declined to comment.Separately, German weekly Der Spiegel also reported that a deal between the two sides was being discussed.In a report to be published Sunday, the weekly said Germany and the United States have agreed to not carry out industrial espionage on each other.Der Spiegel also said that Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, had acknowledged the tapping of Merkel's mobile phone in the past.During a meeting with Democrat senator Dianne Feinstein, Alexander had been asked if Washington was listening in to Merkel's calls. In reply, he had said that was no longer the case, Der Spiegel said, citing unnamed participants at the meeting.Spy claims have been ricocheting across the Atlantic in a row that has frazzled ties between US and European allies.Top German envoys were in Washington on Wednesday to rebuild a basis of trust after alleged US tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone in sweeping surveillance operations that have outraged Europe.Merkel's spokesman said the talks were aimed at clarifying the allegations and working out a new basis of trust and new regulation for our cooperation in this area.The chancellor's foreign policy advisor Christoph Heusgen and intelligence coordinator Guenter Heiss met top US officials including National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and counter-terrorism advisor Lisa Monaco.According to the FAS report, the head of Germany's secret service is now to hold a top-level meeting with US intelligence chiefs on Monday in Washington.The government spokeswoman did not confirm plans for the meeting.France, Italy and Spain have also protested after media reports, based on leaks from US fugitive Edward Snowden, that Washington collected tens of millions of European telephone calls and online communications as part of anti-terror operations.But the documents leaked by Snowden also show that spy agencies in Germany, France, Spain and Sweden are carrying out mass surveillance of online and phone traffic in collaboration with Britain, the Guardian newspaper reported Saturday.Britain's GCHQ electronic eavesdropping centre -- which has a close relationship with the United States' National Security Agency (NSA) -- has taken a leading role in helping the other countries work around laws intended to limit spying, the British newspaper said.The report is likely to prove embarrassing for governments including those of Germany and Spain, given their protests over claims of US spying.The Guardian's report said the intelligence services of the European countries, in a loose but growing alliance, carried out surveillance through directly tapping fibre-optic cables and through secret relationships with communications companies.

17 killed in Nigerian church stampede: officials


LAGOS (AFP) - Seventeen people were killed and dozens of others injured on Saturday in a stampede following the end of an overnight church vigil in eastern Nigeria, a government spokesman said.We have visited the hospital in Nkpor and found 17 corpses that were brought in from the scene of the disaster, spokesman Mike Udah told AFP. Local media reports claimed the death toll could be higher, claiming that up to 28 people had been killed in the stampede at St Dominic's Catholic Church.There was no immediate known cause for the stampede which happened in the grounds of the church as followers celebrated an overnight vigil to mark All Saints' Day.The tragedy happened at 6am (0500 GMT). Hours earlier the event had been attended by the local Anambra state governor, Peter Obi. He later returned to the scene of the tragedy and visited the injured in hospital, promising to set up an inquiry to establish the cause of the tragedy.

6.4 magnitude quake strikes off Tonga


SYDNEY (AFP) - A shallow 6.4-magnitude quake struck off the Pacific nation of Tonga early Sunday, the US Geological Survey said, but no tsunami warning was issued.The quake hit 345 kilometres (213 miles) northeast of the capital Nukualofa at a depth of 10 kilometres.The USGS PAGER (Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response) issued a green alert level projecting a very low risk of casualties or economic losses.The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no threat of a tsunami after the quake, which was followed by a 5.4-magnitude aftershock.Tonga, almost 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles) northeast of New Zealand, lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, where continental plates collide causing frequent seismic activity.

Injured McCullum out of Bangladesh series


WELLINGTON (AFP) - A back injury has forced New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum out of the remaining two matches of the Bangladesh tour, officials said Sunday, adding that he will return home immediately.McCullum had a scan and the decision is that he return to New Zealand immediately for further review and to begin rehabilitation, New Zealand Cricket said in a statement.He was initially scheduled to fly home after the Bangladesh tour, missing the subsequent limited-overs series in Sri Lanka.But team physiotherapist Paul Close said: Brendon's back needs careful management. It's flared up and is giving him significant pain. The best course of action is getting him home for rehabilitation as soon as possible.It means McCullum will miss Sunday's third and final one-day international and Wednesday's Twenty20 match.New Zealand drew both Test matches against lowly Bangladesh and lost the first two ODIs.

Ferrer stuns Nadal, faces Djokovic in Paris final


PARIS (AFP) - Defending champion David Ferrer upset compatriot and world number one Rafael Nadal on Saturday to reach the Paris Masters final where he will meet Novak Djokovic who eliminated Roger Federer.Ferrer, 31, who won his only Masters title last year in the French capital, dominated his fellow Spaniard 6-3, 7-5 to set up the championship decider against Djokovic who came back to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 against the 2011 Paris champion. No player has successfully defended the Paris title after previous winners Boris Becker, Guy Forget, Pete Sampras and David Nalbandian all failed after reaching a second straight final. Nadal hit an uncharacteristic 25 unforced errors and converted just one break point in seven attempts as Ferrer defeated his rival for only the fifth time in 21 meetings. The world number four received plenty of support from the Paris crowd and carved out the decisive break to go 6-5 in the second set before serving out for the match.It was definitely the best match I've played all week and I was fighting for every ball but I'm really pleased because I played my best tennis, said Ferrer. Now, I'm going to try and recover and play a strong match tomorrow (Sunday) but I love it here and I have great memories, added the man who defeated Poland's Jerzy Janowicz in last year's final. Nadal was sportsmanlike in defeat against the player he beat to win an eighth French Open earlier this year.He played much better than me today, said Nadal.The thing that I can do when these kind of things happen is congratulate my friend and wish him the best of luck for tomorrow (in the final against Djokovic).I hope he will have his chance tomorrow. For me, just have tomorrow and Monday to practice a little bit in London (for the World Tour Finals). I need to work on a few things.Djokovic extended his winning streak to 16 matches as he came back from a set down to defeat Federer and keep his hopes of reclaiming the number one spot from Nadal firmly on track.The six-time Grand Slam winner, who last suffered defeat in the US Open final against Nadal, overcame an inspired Federer before finally taking victory 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in just over two hours. The 26-year-old Belgrade native had to reach the final in the French capital to have a chance of snatching back top spot from Nadal at next week's World Tour Finals in London.Every time we play it's a great match, challenging and intense, said Djokovic.He was better than me in the first set and it wasn't easy. I just had to stay confident and focussed and wait for my chances. I was serving well and just kept patient and in the end it paid off.Federer, whose only title this season was on grass at Halle, admitted he was beaten by the better man. I think it was a tough match in quick conditions. I think I started well, and I was able to keep it up for some time, said the 17-time Grand Slam winner.I had my chances, second and third set. Disappointed right now, but overall it was a good week for me.Federer took the first set in dramatic fashion when he saved four break points at 5-4 up before converting his second set point when the Serb overhit a backhand that flew out the back of the court. Djokovic was broken again to open the second set when Federer found the line with a passing shot but then he importantly hit back to take the Swiss star's serve for the first time in the match to level at 1-1.Djokovic was gaining in momentum and got the break he needed to win the second set when Federer planted a routine volley into the net to go 2-4 down. The 2009 Paris champion then held comfortably in his next two service games to close out the set 6-3 and level the match. An expected tight final set developed into a one-sided affair as Djokovic grew in strength and broke twice to take the match as he moved closer to a sixth title of the season.

Halep to face Stosur in Sofia final


SOFIA (AFP) - Simona Halep battled back from a double break down in the third set to beat Ana Ivanovic 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 and reach the WTA Tournament of Champions final on Saturday.Romanian top seed Halep will face Australian fourth seed Samantha Stosur who beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the sixth-seeded Russian, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 in her semi-final.On Sunday, Halep will be chasing her sixth title of 2013.Ivanovic led 3-0 in the final set but Halep won 25 of the last 32 points to seal victory.I played really well when she had break points to make it 4-1, and I'm really happy with the way I came back in the end, Halep said. I'm a little bit injured in my leg but I'm very happy I was able to win. Now I'm going to rest and recover and I hope to just come back and enjoy the final.Halep is now projected to rise from No.14 to No.11 on the new rankings.Former US Open champion Stosur needed one hour and 45 minutes to see off Pavlyuchenkova.Stosur relied on her powerful kick serves to take an early 3-0 lead in the first set against Pavlyuchenkova, who struggled with a very low first service percentage.The 29-year-old Australian -- who is the oldest player in the tournament -- broke Pavlyuchenkova again in the sixth game to win the set.The two traded breaks at the start of the second set but Stosur lost rhythm and concentration and made a number of unforced errors.The Russian took advantage, breaking again in the fourth and sixth games and holding serve to take the set.Stosur recovered in the decider and managed to break a tough Pavlyuchenkova in the fourth game.The Russian saved a match point in the eighth game before the Australian finally took the set and the match with an ace.I didn't serve well today, but I still won the match, said Stosur.I started great, but in the second set everything turned upside down. In the third I gave it all to reach the final.Simona returns incredibly and I'm sure it will be very difficult match.

Italy leads Russia 2-0 in Fed Cup final


CAGLIARI (AP) - Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani struggled but prevailed in the opening singles against Russian debutants to put Italy on the brink of a fourth Fed Cup title on Saturday.Vinci, the winner of nine WTA singles titles, overcame a surprisingly tough challenge from Alexandra Panova, who reached a WTA final once. Vinci rallied from 5-2 down in the second set and saved four match points to win 5-7, 7-5, 8-6 in 3 hours, 13 minutes.It was an incredible match, was a tough match, Vinci said. At the end I had a little bit of cramp but I won a great match. There was a lot of ups and downs and I tried to stay focused on every single point. It wasn't easy.At the end she got a little bit tired. It was her first time (in Fed Cup) so probably there was a bit of nerves. I won and I'm happy. I had a great season but I think this is a fantastic win. I love to play Fed Cup and this was an important match, incredible for me.Errani, playing in her second Fed Cup final, suffered somewhat in the second set before defeating Irina Khromacheva, also making her cup debut in the final, 6-1, 6-4.Russia has won the tournament four times in the past 10 years but has traveled to Italy without any of its top players, with some of them injured and some instead playing in the Tournament of Champions in Bulgaria.Italy needs one more victory on Sunday to add to its Fed Cup titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010. Errani takes on Panova in the first of the reverse singles.I dropped a bit in the second, I was very tired, maybe from Vinci's match, Errani said. Also the weather at night is a bit more heavy so it was not easy for me but I'm very happy to have won this point.I can play much better, of course. There's a lot of tension. It's never easy to play in Fed Cup especially when you're the favorite like this.Russia's youngsters showed they'd come to play when Panova brushed off an early break to win the first set with a love game. Panova continued to dominate and held three match points at 5-2 in the second set. But with teammates Flavia Pennetta and Karin Knapp furiously urging her on, Vinci managed to avoid being broken for a sixth successive time.That sparked the turnaround, as the Italian won the next seven games.But Panova again fought back and had another match point at 5-4 in the final set but hit a backhand wide.Vinci wasted her first match point when she hit a forehand long but secured the victory when Panova put a backhand volley wide, leaving the Italian in tears of joy.The match is definitely up there in my top three, Panova said. I had a couple of similar matches that were important and close and long and very tiring.My serve wasn't with me today because I had a very low percentage of first serves and only one ace. So I had to play every point in a rally and that's not what I usually do. I'm not very happy with my serve and I was losing my serve when I was serving for the match and during the set.Seventh-ranked Errani won the opening set comfortably but No. 236 Khromacheva seemed to grow in confidence and earned her first break in their match when Errani lobbed long after three delightful drop shot winners from the Russian.But Khromacheva failed to hold her service game and, although she broke again, a double fault handed Errani another break.From that point, Errani cruised, winning the next three games and sealing the match with a powerful forehand.

Djokovic and Federer in same group at ATP finals


LONDON (AP) - Roger Federer has won one title over the past 14 months, at a low-key tournament this summer. The ATP Finals in London are his last chance to compensate somewhat for a feeble season.I still have another week where I have to give it all. After, it will be long holidays, Federer said after losing to Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in their first meeting this year in the Paris Masters semifinals on Saturday.The pair was placed in the same group at the season-ending, eight-man finals, which start on Monday.Djokovic, who won his 16th straight match in Paris against Federer, is the defending champion in London, where he beat Federer in the final last year. Djokovic also won the title in 2008, while Federer has won it a record six times.Federer and Djokovic, who faced off for the 30th time, will be playing in a tough Group B that also includes the in-form Juan Martin del Potro and Richard Gasquet.Federer said he will focus on his recovery ahead of Tuesday's match against Djokovic.I'm always excited about those challenges, said Federer, who will be competing for the 12th straight year in the ATP Finals. I have had a good couple of weeks now, and the most important thing is to recover as much as I can, so maybe the extra day I will get over Novak now, who knows, could be an advantage. But I doubt it.Federer, who won his last Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2012, has only two victories against top-10 opponents in 2013. He registered the first one in January against then-No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open quarterfinals before a series of defeats against opponents outside the top 50. He confirmed his recent improvements with a win over del Potro in Paris this week.After reaching the final in Basel for his first final in more than four months in October, Federer showed more signs of recovery in Paris, where the back problems that have been hampering him for most of the season did not reappear.I played a lot of tennis during the past 10 or 12 days. It gave me a lot of information, Federer said. I know what I have to do now. I know what I did well, what I can improve. I know physically where I am, and mentally I have a lot of confidence. I know my body is keeping it up.Del Potro said he was the victim of a theft at a train station in Paris on his way to London, having his suitcase stolen as he stopped to sign an autograph. The tall Argentine lost his passport and a personal item in the incident.I don't know who asked me for an autograph but I turned round and they took my suitcase, he said. But I got here and it happens in every country. I have my rackets and my clothes but nothing else. I lost personal things, my rosary that the Pope blessed in Rome, which is important to me. But it's over and I'm safe.Saturday's draw placed top-ranked Rafael Nadal in Group A alongside fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka. Nadal lost to Ferrer in the semifinals in Paris and will have a chance to avenge his loss when he plays him again in London on Tuesday.The finals have a round-robin format, with the top two finishers reaching the semifinals.Berdych and Wawrinka will open on Monday, followed by del Potro playing Gasquet.Wimbledon champion Andy Murray pulled out after having back surgery.

Arsenal clear at top with 2-0 win over Liverpool


LONDON (AP) - For many observers, Arsenal needed to beat a major rival to prove its worthiness as a title contender in the English Premier League. The team responded with a thrilling performance and two superb individual goals from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey, beating Liverpool 2-0 and moving five points clear at the top of the table on Saturday.Cazorla's goal to open the scoring was a symbol of Arsenal's determination and resolve to prove their critics wrong. Mikel Arteta released Bacary Sagna down the right in the 19th minute and the full back's excellent cross was headed firmly onto the post by Cazorla. The Spanish midfielder didn't give up, collecting the rebound and volleying into the upper left corner.Arsenal sealed the victory in the 59th when Ramsey received a clipped pass from Mesut Ozil, dribbled forward and patiently waited for the ball to bounce up in front of him before unleashing a thunderous shot that dipped over the outstretched hand of Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.It was an important win for the team, for the club, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. I don't think anyone will dispute we deserved to win today.The match was a big test for Arsenal because critics believed the team moved to the league summit against relatively easy opposition. Liverpool was in second place going into the match and now sits third, behind Chelsea on an inferior goal difference.In their previous two home games, the Gunners faced strong opposition and lost both games to Borrussia Dortmund in the Champions League group stage and to Chelsea in the League Cup. After those defeats, some said Arsenal would wither against its main rivals like Liverpool.We needed to respond today, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. It was important to convince people that you can win the big games and to do in a convincing fashion.Wenger was especially pleased with the clean sheet and how the team defended, shutting down the dangerous strike partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.Our defensive performance was outstanding, he said.Arsenal's league form has been stellar since losing the opening match to Aston Villa, with the London club winning eight and drawing one.Up until Cazorla's goal, the teams were engaged in a midfield battle and neither gained a foothold in front of 60,000 spectators at Emirates Stadium. Liverpool pressed high up the pitch, but Arsenal managed to stifle the visitors' rhythm and was content to build from the back.Cazorla's goal invigorated Arsenal and the home team began to surge forward. The midfielder nearly scored a second but a flying save from Mignolet denied him.Sturridge had the only meaningful chance of the first half for the visitors, but his weak, 20-yard shot was easily caught by Wojciech Szczesny. But Liverpool started the second half brightly, with Suarez creating danger on several occasions.Liverpool had a chance for a late consolation goal, but Suarez chose to shoot across the face of goal instead of setting up strike partner Sturridge at the far post and the Uruguayan's effort missed.It was a game they (Arsenal) deserved to win, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. They had the greater control. We're disappointed with the two goals we conceded.Rodgers' only grievance was a chance in the first half. Suarez took a quick free kick after being fouled by Sagna, which released Sturridge, who crossed to Jordan Henderson for an easy tap-in. But the referee disallowed the goal, pulled play back and cautioned Sagna. The Liverpool manager spoke after the match with the referee, who told him he had to stop play to book Sagna.I don't agree with it, but overall I thought the referee did a good job, Rodgers said.Arsenal's next two fixtures are tough ones, away matches against Dortmund and Manchester United. Midfielder Jack Wilshere missed Saturday's match with an inflamed ankle and it wasn't clear if he would be ready for Wednesday's clash against Dortmund.Liverpool was missing right back Glen Johnson. He had to pull out of the match about a half hour before the team was to be named and was taken to a hospital with an unspecified illness, Rodgers said.

Mark Webber takes pole position at Abu Dhabi GP


ABU DHABI (AP) - Mark Webber managed to outshine his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel, beating the four-time world champion's time right at the end of qualifying to take pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday.The Australian is competing in his final season in Formula One and still looking for his first win this year. He will look to end Vettel's run of six straight race wins on Sunday.Webber, who is fifth in the championship, earned his second pole from the past three races and 13th of his career.Good day, Webber said, who clocked 1 minute, 39.957 seconds. Vettel timed 1:40.075.It was a good lap on a track that, in the past, hasn't been super invigorating for me in terms of layout but we certainly enjoyed qualifying today. I knew I had to work on certain sections of the track which Sebastian had already been doing a good job there, so I needed to match him and keep the areas where I was still doing well.Vettel, who already has his fourth straight F1 title, took pole in four of the past five races.I did what I could today but it wasn't enough. That's why I apologized to the team. I messed up a bit on turn 1, it's a tricky corner, Vettel said. I think it's a great result for the team, first of all.Mercedes starts on the second row, with Nico Rosberg ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who spun his car in the closing seconds.Nico and Lewis looked very strong, especially in Q2, Vettel said. We found some extra speed in Q3, so congratulations to Mark. He deserved to be on pole, no mistakes.It proved a disappointing afternoon for Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, who failed to make Q3 for the first time this season, although a later penalty handed to Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen means that Alonso will start from 10th, rather than 11th.Mercedes is battling with Ferrari for second place in the constructors' championship behind Red Bull, which has already won the title.Mercedes leads Ferrari by 313-309, with Lotus back in fourth with 285.Third place, best of the rest, which is our target for this weekend, Rosberg said. The constructors' is what counts for us. So that's a very good result for us.But Mercedes will have to assess what happened to Hamilton's car.Something gave way on the right-hand side, Hamilton said. I was going through the chicane and it snapped out. I tried to pull away and it wouldn't move.Hamilton has won one race this season clinching victory at the Hungarian GP from pole position in July but has not managed a podium finish in his past five outings.This is a very difficult circuit to overtake on so being at the front means everything, Hamilton said. Hopefully we can get a good start and maybe still challenge for podium positions.Raikkonen qualified in fifth spot but was demoted to the back of the grid after his car failed a post-qualifying floor deflection test.Lotus successfully argued that floor damage caused by track kerbing led to a similar failure by Lotus driver Romain Grosjean at the Hungarian GP, but this time their explanation was not accepted.Raikkonen's exclusion elevates Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg to fifth place and moves Ferrari's Felipe Massa up to seventh and Alonso back into the top 10.It has been a frustrating weekend for 2007 champion Raikkonen, who on Friday made a rare public outburst over unpaid wages and threatened not to race in the final two races of the season.Meanwhile, Alonso's qualifying form has been so bad that he has not even made the second row since qualifying third for the Bahrain GP in April. Massa, meanwhile, has made the top three only once, qualifying in second spot for the Malaysian GP a month earlier.Because qualifying and the race itself are held at twilight, when the track is considerably cooler at sunset, only a limited amount of useful data could be gained from early afternoon practice runs, when the daily temperature peaked.But Ferrari continued to struggle on the twisty circuit, just as it did on Friday, with Fernando Alonso down in 11th and Felipe Massa placing 14th in the final practice run.The design of the track, with its long, sharp turns and hairpin bends, exposes the lack of traction on the Ferraris, an ongoing problem this season and last. Neither Ferrari driver finished higher than eighth over the three practice runs.

Squash: Matthew, Gaultier make World Championships final


MANCHESTER (AFP) - Ramy Ashour lost his world title and saw his unbeaten 53-match sequence halted when a calf injury caused him to retire at one game all against Nick Matthew in the semi-finals of the World Championships on Saturday.The sport's most brilliant player and most charismatic personality was reduced to a sombre figure, close to tears, at having dreams of repeating his world title triumph in Manchester five years ago shattered.Instead it became the third time in four world championships that the world number one from Egypt has been forced to quit in the middle of the tournament, raising questions as to what the 26-year-old can do to prolong his career.After two painfully half-hearted rallies at the start of the third game, Ashour shook hands and received some consoling words from Matthew who made it to his third final in four years with the score at 6-11, 11-2, 2-0 in his favour.In Sunday's final, Matthew will face French second seed Gregory Gaultier who defeated Mohamed El Shorbagy, the Egyptian sixth seed, 6-11, 11-3, 11-8, 12-10.Ashour confirmed that he suffered the injury during his hard third round match with Cameron Pilley of Australia, which went to four games and lasted more than an hour.I've been having a lot of physio, and ice and acupuncture - and taking pills to relax, he said.It's going to be hard because I have been pushing my leg far too much and that's not the right way to do it.I've been expecting something wrong to happen but I've been trying to stay positive. It's a very big disappointment to me. I have to go back and see what's wrong with my legs, Ashour added.People in the hospital told me I have fatigue in my hamstrings and that it's going to come back, but that I might get lucky if it doesn't come back.It's a bit uncertain, he went on, referring to the future. There is no certain thing I can do to make it go away. I will have to go away for the 25th time and try to find a way to come back again.Matthew, twice a former winner of the world title, will now play Gaultier, who survived a late night drugs test, a lack of sleep, and a superbly tenacious Shorbagy to reach his fourth world final.Matthew was well beaten by Gaultier in the US Open final in Philadelphia two weeks ago.You know I don't really think about it, said Gaultier.I just enjoy being on court and playing well and being free of injury. I try to fly on court. It's just a pleasure, and if it's a pleasure when you work everything comes and you manage to play well.Gaultier started slowly on Saturday and allowed Shorbagy to take leads of 4-0 in the third game and 8-4 in the fourth, and profited rather fortunately three points from the end from a debatable no let decision which prevented a valiant opponent from reaching two games all.Gaultier had gone to bed at 5 am, he claimed, because he had been given a drug test during the evening, and eventually slept for only three hours. I was on the toilet, like this, he said, giving a brief demonstration. I was a bit sleepy but I managed to do it.His best was still very good indeed. He turned the pivotal third game round with the help of a monster rally of more than a hundred strokes at 8-7 which he won with a forehand volley to a perfect length, and also with a cool head during what followed.Shorbagy did more of the physical work, but was still able to extend the contest to a testing 80 minutes.

Prior's difficulties continue Down Under


PERTH (AP) - England wicketkeeper Matt Prior is remaining upbeat despite poor recent form that has continued early in his side's Ashes tour of Australia.Prior is under pressure to perform after scoring just 133 runs at an average of 19 during England's 3-0 home Ashes triumph this year.Things haven't started well for Prior, who was dismissed for 4 on a good batting pitch in England's drawn three-day match against a second-string WACA Chairman's XI which ended on Saturday.England has two more warm-up games before the first test against Australia in Brisbane, starting Nov. 21.Prior, who also dropped a catch in Perth, said he's not concerned about his recent lack of runs because his net sessions have been excellent.If I scored runs in the nets I reckon I would probably have one hundred 100s at the moment, Prior said. I've been hitting it brilliantly, moving well, and feeling really good. All you can do is keep doing what you have been for however many years and know that it's going to turn around.If Prior should suffer an injury or fall further out of form, Jonny Bairstow is on hand to replace him in the test side.Fringe pacemen Chris Tremlett, Boyd Rankin and Steven Finn all bowled poorly in Perth, meaning the final spot in England's three-man seam attack is still available. So is the No. 6 batting position, with Gary Ballance (0) and Ben Stokes (4) failing in their first audition.Ballance scored twin centuries for county side Yorkshire late last month, and Prior says Ballance remained confident despite his golden duck in Perth.It's no great drama, Prior said. There's a lot of things that come into being an international cricketer. So you can't just judge a guy on walking to the wicket, nicking one and walking off again.Skipper Alastair Cook, batsman Kevin Pietersen, spinner Graeme Swann and paceman Stuart Broad are all set to return for England's four-day match with Australia A in Hobart starting on Wednesday.Australia, meanwhile, will await scans on allrounder Shane Watson to determine his availability for the first test after Watson suffered a hamstring injury while bowling during the team's one-day loss to India on Saturday in Bangalore.Watson is expected to have the scans once he arrives back in Australia on Monday with the team.

India beat Australia to clinch ODI series 3-2


BANGALORE (Agencies) - Rohit Sharma smashed his way into the record books with a stunning 209 as the Indian cricket team provided the perfect Diwali gift to the nation with a 57-run victory in the the series-deciding final ODI against Australia to clinch the rubber 3-2 here tonight.The 26-year-old Sharma gave a breathtaking display to power India to an imposing 383 for six before the hosts bowled out Australia for 326 in 45.1 overs at the jam-packerd Chinnaswamy Stadium.The immensely talented Sharma thus became only the third batsman in the history of ODI cricket after Virender Sehwag (219) and Sachin Tendulkar (200 no) to reach the coveted double ton.Chasing a mammoth total, Australia made a spirited effort with all-rounder James Faulkner blasting a 73-ball 116, the fastest century by an Australian in ODIs. While Faulkner hit 11 fours and six over-boundaries, Glenn Maxwell pulverized the Indian bowlers on his way to a 22-ball 60 that contained seven sixes.Staring at a heavy defeat at 138 for six, Faulkner played a blinder as Australia made a dramatic recovery to give their chase respectability. He was involved in a record ninth wicket stand of 115 runs with Clint McKay.Earlier, en route his 158-ball-209, Rohit created a world record by hitting as many as 16 sixes along with 12 fours. His effort bettered Shane Watson's previous best of 15 maximums against Bangladesh. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (62) and Shikhar Dhawan (60) scored brisk half-centuries.This was also the highest individual ODI score by any batsman against Australia in ODIs as well as being India's highest team total against the visitors. The last five overs produced an unbelievable 101 runs.This is the first instance when India have won a seven-match ODI series against the Aussies.While Rohit scored his first 100 off 114 balls, the next hundred came off only 42 deliveries. All the sixes were clean straight hits in the arc between deep extra-cover and deep mid-wicket. There was minimum muscle and maximum timing in each and every six that he hit.


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