QATAR | Page 20 SPORT | Page 1 Fenced-off Rumailah Park still draws visitors Defending champs Spain start with win over Belarus INDEX QATAR 2, 20 3 REGION ARAB WORLD INTERNATIONAL 3-5 6 – 17 COMMENT 18, 19 BUSINESS 1 – 12 CLASSIFIED SPORTS 8 1 – 12 DOW JONES QE NYMEX 17,448.54 11,862.51 48.46 +127.83 +0.74% -14.92 -0.13% +2.21 +4.78% Latest Figures pu d he R is bl TA 978 A 1 Q since in GULF TIMES SATURDAY Vol. XXXV No. 9605 January 17, 2015 Rabia I 26, 1436 AH www. gulf-times.com 2 Riyals PM attends Kahramaa presentation Bikers rev up for charity In brief WORLD | Anger Offensive cartoon sparks protests Thousands demonstrated in the Middle East yesterday and clashes broke out in Pakistan as a new offensive cartoon published by French magazine Charlie Hebdo angered Muslims. In Zinder, Niger’s second city, protesters smashed the entrance door to the French cultural centre and set fire to its cafeteria, library and offices, while three churches were also torched. In Karachi, Pakistan, at least three people were injured when protesters clashed with police outside the French consulate. Pages 2, 3, 11, 15 SRI LANKA | Politics Sirisena lifts travel ban on foreigners Sri Lanka’s new government yesterday announced lifting a ban on foreign nationals visiting to the island’s former war zones and scrapped an economic embargo on minority Tamil regions. President Maithripala Sirisena, just a week after taking office, removed the travel ban introduced by his predecessor three months ago, the defence ministry said. “Since there is no war situation in the country and the life of the community is normal, it was decided to remove restrictions imposed on foreigners,” the ministry said in a statement. Page 17 NIGERIA | Violence Bomb attack razes opposition building Unknown assailants threw dynamite at an opposition coalition secretariat in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta yesterday, destroying the building but not claiming any casualties, police said. “Around 3am on Friday the youths attacked the APC secretariat at Ngor. The entire building was razed to the ground in the fire. I’m calling on the commissioner of police to investigate the matter,” local opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) official Ikwut Emmanuel said of the incident in Rivers state. AMERICA | Personality Ali out of hospital Boxing legend Mohamed Ali was released from hospital yesterday after receiving treatment for a severe urinary tract infection. A family spokesman said Ali was looking forward to celebrating his 73rd birthday today at home with family and friends. Ali, an Olympic gold medallist, has suffered from Parkinson’s disease since the 1980s. The annual show aims to raise the “biker culture” in Qatar and the GCC region By Peter Alagos Business Reporter HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani attending a presentation on the main projects that are being implemented by Kahramaa (Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation) and its plans. HE the Minister of Energy and Industry Dr Mohamed bin Saleh al-Sada and senior Kahramaa officials were present. The Prime Minister also reviewed Kahramaa’s role in providing electricity and water services to vital projects in the state, including Doha’s New Port, Qatar Integrated Railway (Qatar Rail) and the World Cup sites. Page 2 ICC opens initial probe into war crimes in Palestine AFP The Hague T he International Criminal Court’s prosecutor yesterday opened a preliminary probe into possible war crimes committed against Palestinians, a move immediately blasted by Israel as “scandalous”. Fatou Bensouda said her office would conduct an “analysis in full independence and impartiality” into alleged war crimes, including those committed during last year’s Gaza war. Her decision comes after Palestine formally joined the ICC earlier this month allowing it to lodge war crimes and crimes against humanity complaints against Israel as of April. Nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis were killed during last summer’s war in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted angrily to the prosecutor’s decision, calling it “scandalous” and “absurd”. Gambian-born Bensouda had earlier stressed that “a preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process of examining the information available... on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation”. Bensouda will decide at a later stage whether to launch a full investigation. Israel began a massive crackdown on the West Bank on June 13 after the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers, triggering a series of events that led to the sevenweek Gaza war. Palestine’s move to join the ICC is also seen as part of a shift in strategy to internationalise its campaign for statehood and move away from the stalled US-led peace process. The Palestinians were upgraded from observer status to UN “observer state” in 2012, opening the doors for them to join the ICC and a host of other international organisations. Both Israel and the US have condemned the plan, with Washington calling it “counterproductive”. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement yesterday that the ICC decision was “solely motivated by political anti-Israel considerations”. Lieberman said he would act to “dismantle this court”. Israel earlier this month delayed transferring some $127 in taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinians in retaliation for the attempts to press war crimes charges against the Jewish state. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki welcomed the move. “Everything is going according to plan, no state and nobody can now stop this action we requested,” he told AFP. “In the end, a full investigation will follow the preliminary one.” Rights group Amnesty International welcomed the ICC’s announcement saying it “could pave the way for thousands of victims of crimes under international law to gain access to justice”. But the initial probe could lead to an investigation into crimes “committed by all sides”, Amnesty stressed in a statement. Yesterday’s announcement is the second such an initial probe by the ICC’s prosecutor into the situation in Palestine. The Palestinian Authority in 2009 lodged a complaint against Israel but the ICC prosecutor said in 2012 after “carefully considering legal arguments” it could not investigate because of the Palestinians’ status at the UN. At the time the Palestinians’ “observer” status blocked them from signing up to the ICC’s founding Rome Statute. The ICC is the world’s ﬁrst independent court set up in 2002 to investigate genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. But it can only probe alleged crimes in countries that have ratiﬁed the Rome Statute, or accepts the Haguebased court’s jurisdiction for a certain time period, or through a referral by the UN Security Council. Currently, chief prosecutor Bensouda is also running preliminary investigations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Iraq and Ukraine. While 123 countries have now ratiﬁed the Rome Statute, Israel and the US have not. Page 4 M ore than 1,000 Qatari and international bikers attended the second annual GCC Charity Bike Show organised by the Soul Riders Motorcycle Club at the Aspire Zone yesterday. The event kicked off with a motorcade starting from the Museum of Islamic Art on the Corniche and culminating at the back of The Torch Doha with more than 750 bikers joining the parade. Soul Riders founding member and leader Abdulla al-Hajjaj told Gulf Times the event recorded a huge turnout compared to the last year’s edition, which attracted about 600 bikers. Al-Hajjaj said that Soul Riders hoped to surpass last year’s proceeds totalling QR80,000, which was donated to the Hamad Medical Corporation’s Kidney Bank and Qatar Red Crescent. “For this year’s fund-raiser, we chose Qatar Charity as our beneﬁciary. We hope to raise more funds this time considering the huge turnout of participants,” said al-Hajjaj, who added that the QR200 registration fee from each biker participant would go directly to charity. Aside from its fund-raising component, al-Hajjaj noted that the event was also highlighted by a competition among participating bikers vying for recognition in 25 categories, including Sportster, Dyna, Softail Touring, V-Rod, Vintage, Touring, Metric Touring, Chopper, Bobber, Burgor, Radical, Trick, Super Shot, Spider CanAm, Hayabousa, best paintwork, and public’s choice award. “The owners customise their bikes. The labour and effort they pour into their vehicles to take it to the next level make it a work of art. These are no longer ‘manufacturer bikes’ but a piece of art,” al-Hajjaj said. He stressed that the annual show aimed to raise the “biker culture” in Qatar and the GCC region: “This is something that we have worked hard for the past ﬁve years.” Describing Soul Riders as a “multinational biker club”, he said: “We have members from the US, Europe, and Asia aside from those coming Spectators viewing some of the motorcycles participating in the GCC Charity Bike Show yesterday at the Aspire Zone. from other GCC countries. In a manner, we speak at least 32 languages due to the diversity of our membership. “Religion or nationality is not a factor for us. We are a group connected by our souls, hence our name Soul Riders.” Al-Hajjaj emphasised that the biker culture had a “strong bond”. He added that the group received government support for other motoring activities such as the escorting of other chapter members from neighbouring GCC countries visiting Qatar. In the past, Soul Riders was involved in social and cultural campaigns such as breast cancer awareness, Ride for Hope, and Wheels n’ Heels – Reach Out to Asia, as well as sporting events like Tour of Qatar Cycling Race, Qatar Sports Day, among others. Soul Riders was established in October 2012 by Khalid al-Hamadi with only 11 bikers as its initial members. It now has 62 active members from different expatriate communities in Qatar that also form part of the 2,000-member umbrella organisation, “Bikers Network”. 2014 the hottest year on record Reuters Cape Canaveral, Florida L ast year was Earth’s hottest on record in a new sign that people are disrupting the climate by burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases to the air, two US government agencies said yesterday. The White House said the studies, by the US space agency Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showed a need for action to reduce rising world emissions of greenhouse gases. The data showed that the 10 warmest years since records began in the 19th century had occurred since 1997. Last year was warmest, ahead of 2010, 2005 and 1998. The records undercut arguments by climate sceptics that global warming has stopped in recent years. The scientists said the record temperatures were spread around the globe, including most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, the western US, far eastern Russia into western Alaska, parts of interior South America, parts of eastern and western coastal Australia and elsewhere. “While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York. “The data shows quite clearly that it’s the greenhouse gas trends that are responsible for the majority of the trends,” he told reporters. Emissions were still rising “so we may anticipate further record highs in the years to come.” UN studies show there already are more extremes of heat and rainfall and project more disruptions to food and water supplies and rising sea levels as ice melts from Greenland to Antarctica. In December, about 200 governments will meet in Paris to try to reach a deal to limit global warming, shifting to renewable energies. China and the US, the top emitters of greenhouse gases, say they are cooperating more to achieve an UN accord. “We can’t wait to take action,” a White House official said in a statement. Opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would take Canadian crude across the US said the new data made it all the more pressing to prevent the construction of the pipeline. But US Senator James Inhofe, the Senate’s leading climate change sceptic, said the difference between 2014 and 2010 was so insigniﬁcant as to prove there was no need for more stringent EPA regulations. “Human activity is clearly not the driving cause for global warming, and is not leading our planet to the brink of devastation that many alarmists want us to believe,” he said. In Britain, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey also said the records were “yet more evidence that we need to act urgently to prevent dangerous climate change”. Members of Soul Riders Motorcycle Club before the start of the bike show. PICTURES: Peter Alagos. 2 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 QATAR Qatar condemns Charlie Hebdo cartoon Prime Minister reviews work progress at Kahramaa projects QNA Doha QNA Doha T H he State of Qatar has strongly condemned the French Charlie Hebdo weekly and some European newspapers republishing offending cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). In a statement on Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said that freedom of expression did not mean offending others and provoking feelings and cynicism on the beliefs and religious symbols. The statement stressed that such actions were shameful and would not serve the interests of any one but would fuel hatred, anger, and constitute a violation of human values and the principles of peaceful coexistence, tolerance, moderation and mutual respect among peoples. The Ministry called on the Western media to respect others and their beliefs and keep away from intolerance and extremism and be committed to the values and principles upon which the Western civilisation was established. E the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani has visited Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (Kahramaa) to review the progress of work at its current projects and future plans. During his visit, the Prime Minister attended a presentation on the main projects implemented by Kahramaa and its preparations in various sectors, including consumer services, water, electricity, cooling of areas, energy rationalisation and efficiency as well as future plans. The presentation included a review of Kahramaa’s emergency services centres, electronic services provided by the corporation and plans aimed to improve the service. The Prime Minister underlined the importance of providing the best services to citizens and residents of the state and their development and re- sponse to the needs of customers as well as the importance of caring for infrastructure projects and their readiness. He reviewed a project for early delivery of electricity and water for the plots of land that have not yet been built. HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser praised the performance index of the power grid in Qatar and the outstanding level it had achieved on the region level, the coverage of electricity and water networks which reached 100% and the water security projects, including the construction of main giant tanks to provide a strategic reserve of water storage. He was briefed on achievements pertaining to the rationalisation and reduction of consumption since the launch of the national programme for energy conservation and efficiency in 2012, drawing attention to the importance of education and its role in reducing consumption and reduction of abuse, particularly of water. He also reviewed Kahramaa’s role in providing electricity and water services to vital projects in the state, including Doha’s New Port, Qatar Integrated Railway (Qatar Rail), the World Cup sites and others. He was briefed by a number of Kahramaa department directors on a number of projects being carried by the corporation and the progress of work. The Prime Minister toured Kahramaa’s crises management room where he was briefed on the surveillance and control system. He also visited Kahramaa’s training halls. He launched the smart metres system which is claimed to be one of the most advanced in the world, providing facilities for remote reading and equipped with consumption data recording modules for electricity and water as well as GPS modules for localising the individual metering points. HE the Minister of Energy and Industry Dr Mohamed bin Saleh al-Sada said that the Prime Minister’s visit had conﬁrmed his “keenness to closely follow up the progress in the projects being carried out by Kahramaa and reﬂects the attention the state pays to the electricity and water sector”. Sales of expensive bicycles riding high on popularity By Joey Aguilar Staff Reporter S ales of high-end bicycles have increased signiﬁcantly in Qatar due to the rising popularity of cycling in the country, according to supervisors of leading sports shops. One supervisor said many cyclists have been upgrading their existing cycles and their accessories and parts since September, a few weeks before the start of the cold season. “A lot of races and cycling events are being organised since last year and everyone wants to make sure that their bikes are good and performing well,” he added. With Qatar hosting the World Cycling Championships next year, he said they expected the sales of expensive bicycles to shoot up. The shop sells at least two to three units a week, with prices ranging from QR8,000 to QR26,000. While the shop is the sole distributor of a popular brand, the supervisor said some stores sell cycles of other known brands from entry-level to high-end units. Asked which units are the most saleable, he said average race and mountain bikes that cost between QR2,500 and QR5,000 top their list. In June last year, the shop recorded an average sale of 65 units per week despite the soaring temperature. The ﬁgure is higher than their sales during Some customers want their orders (high-end cycles) personalised. the peak season as well, according to the supervisor. The trend continued before the start of the winter due to some special promotions by the shop. At some stores elsewhere in Doha, a typical mountain bike costs around QR1,600, a lot cheaper than the units sold in malls. The price of a bicycle also varies depending on what its parts are made of: from the main frame to parts such as chain rings, pedals and the handlebar grip, among others. The supervisor also noted that sales of bicycles for children have increased with at least 25 units sold in a week. “Sometimes, it falls to 18 units but that is still good,” he pointed out. Prices of branded units range from QR1,100 to QR1,800. But in other shops, prices are lower, between QR500 and QR800. Another shop at Salwa Road also recorded a rise in highend bicycle sales, with the price range being QR14,000 to over QR20,000. Meanwhile, sales of bicycles priced between QR1,600 and QR4,000 continue to surge, according to a supervisor. An average of 160 units (all kinds) has been recorded per month since last year. He said that some of their customers who buy high-end cycles prefer to have their orders personalised. “It is up to them what colour and type of materials will be used for each part. It takes about 45 days to complete it and the assembly takes place in the US,” he said. HE Sheikh Abdullah touring Kahramaa facilities. HE the Minister of Energy and Industry Dr Mohamed bin Saleh al-Sada accompanied him. Use of pictograms for medications ﬁnds favour with migrant workers T he efforts of a Qatar University (QU) professor and his team, to use pictograms for dispensing medications to migrant workers, are paying rich dividends. Through one-year study, Dr Nadir Kheir, associate professor of pharmacy practice at the College of Pharmacy, has enabled the use of pictograms for medication labels project. A large number of migrant workers in Qatar do not follow English or Arabic. When they have health issues, the interface between them and health workers poses a serious challenge and the pharmacists face difficulty in dispensing prescriptions. Dr Kheir says: “It is a challenge if patients can not communicate with healthcare staff. I saw that upfront. Some of the pharmacists try to solve the problem with illustrations like drawing lines to indicate the number of times the medicines are to be taken.” At QU, Dr Kheir found that the International Federation of Pharmacy (FIP) had a project about pictograms in pharmacy which assisted in developing pictorials or pictures in labels. He thought of trying it out in Qatar among the workers. He along with Dr Ros Dowse of Rhodes University in South Africa, worked on a study project. “We spent more than a year on the project, in recruiting workers through Qatar Petroleum’s Dr Nadir Kheir contracting companies,” he said. Over 120 consenting workers joined the project. To explain the consent to them, at least ﬁve translators were needed. The workers, who did not understand English or Arabic, were divided into three groups to assess the comprehension of labels on medication packs. “In the ﬁrst group, we used the current system which is medicine with the label, written in English or Arabic and the pharmacist gives verbal instruction. The second group was labels with pictorials only without any written or verbal instruction, and the third group was shown medicines with labels supported by written instructions, pictorials and verbal instructions,” Dr Kheir explained. The three groups were tested and asked to explain what they understood in their own language. After analysis, it was found that the group that was given medicines with labels supported by written instructions, pictorials and verbal instructions was the best to comprehend. Destination Imagination Qatar programme begins AlFaisal Without Borders Foundation (ALF) kicked off this year’s Destination Imagination Qatar (DI) programme with 300 students taking part in a DI workshop. The event was organised by Stenden University Qatar students, as a series of didactic workshops in photography and photo editing, film editing, engineering for Illusions, acting and theatre, visual arts and sculpture and augmented reality. The workshops were designed to provide DI students with specialised skills they could take back to their school teams and use to create the solution of their chosen DI challenge in one of the workshops subject areas. Ali Mare, executive director of ALF, said, “With knowledge and creativity comes innovation and the DI programme provides the opportunity for these students to hone these skills to present something unique to the appraisers at the DI Qatar National tournament held this spring. Through the introduction of the DI programme to the region, ALF is committed to developing 21st century skills in students that take part in DI to empower and inspire them to be influential, ethical contributors to their society and the world.” Many Doha residents and companies provided key experts to deliver the skills workshops including representatives from Qatar University, Qatar Photographic Society, College of North Atlantic Qatar, The Little Engineer, New Methods Technologies, Northwestern University Qatar, Qatar Robotics Institute, Nano Technologies and Katara. The event closed with an anime show performed by Qatar Cosplayers. Winners of the DI Qatar National Tournament will be able to showcase their talents and compete at the global DI finals to be held in May in Knoxville, Tennessee, US. TAMU-Q organises international mathematics workshop Leading experts and graduate students from Brazil, Europe, the Gulf region and the United States have gathered in Education City at the international mathematics workshop held from January 4 to 8. Organised by Texas A&M University at Qatar, the event aimed to promote the exchange of ideas and interactions among researchers. Dr Nordine Mir, professor of mathematics at Texas A&M at Qatar, said the workshop was designed to spark mutually beneficial collaborations between mathematicians in the region and colleagues in Europe, Brazil, and the US. “This meeting focused on recent results and developments in the analysis and geometry of several complex variables, CR manifolds and closely related areas, such as the theory of over determined systems of partial differential equations,” he noted. The workshop also helped build exposure for the Qatar research enterprise. Mauritania families beneﬁt from QC projects A Experts and students at the international mathematics workshop in Doha recently. “Therefore it will contribute to the Qatar National Research Strategy,” said Dr Mir. A lecture on complex BrunnMinkowski theory was given by Bo Berndtsson (Chalmers University, Sweden). The conference was organised by Dr S Berhanu at Temple University in the US, Dr Mir and Dr Emil Straube at Texas A&M University at College Station. Besides Texas A&M University at Qatar, some of the sponsors included Texas A&M University, the US National Science Foundation and Qapco. “A conference of this calibre adds substantial further visibility to the science programme at Texas A&M at Qatar and to Qatar as the Middle East research hub,” said Dr Straube, professor of mathematics at Texas A&M University. large number of families in Mauritania, a country in North Africa, have beneﬁtted from various Qatar Charity (QC) projects, giving them steady income and access to safe drinking water. Idris Almsahl, director of QC’s Mauritania office, said they focused their projects in remote areas to help thousands of poor people especially widows and divorced women. QC donated 15 sewing machines to sewing and arts training graduates during their graduation ceremony. Almsahl believes these initiatives will help students to launch their own businesses. “It will generate a source of income to support their families.” El-Ouyoun city mayor Saadna Ould Hamadi praised QC’s role in establishing small projects that “economically support” those who are in dire need. He said the projects also ﬁt the capabilities and skills of the beneﬁciaries, who thanked QC for giving them sustainable income. In co-ordination with specialised local association, QC also funded a number of initiatives to train women in sewing and arts, including Mohsen Without Borders, the organisation of Society Awareness and Goodness for Social Solidarity. The group supports women by providing unemployed female heads of household with free sewing training courses. QC also launched a project to provide safe drinking water for 2,000 people in the municipality of Al-Aria, state of Atararzh. It is learnt that residents suffer from lack of safe drinking water. A 20-tonne water tank was Qatar Charity donated sewing machines to Mauritania women. donated to the municipality beneﬁtting more than 20 villages. “The municipality has experienced difficulty in solving this urgent problem and Qatar Charity’s timely intervention has eliminated the population’s suffering from thirst,” said Al-Aria mayor Bemb Ould Salek. QC is currently drilling four wells in Mauritania which cost QR1mn to provide safe drinking water for around 20,000 people. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 3 REGION/ARAB WORLD Obama warns Congress against Iran sanctions Agencies Washington U S President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron warned US lawmakers yesterday not to trigger new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, saying such a move would upset diplomatic talks and potentially lead to war. In a joint news conference at the White House, Obama and Cameron urged members of Congress to be patient and hold off on any legislation calling for further sanctions now. “There is no good argument for us to try to undercut, undermine the negotiations until they’ve played themselves out,” Obama told reporters. “Congress needs to show patience,” he added. “My main message to Congress is ‘Just hold your ﬁre.’” Obama said he told Democratic lawmakers he would veto a bill calling for more sanctions if it landed on his desk. The joint push with Cameron, who said he had called US senators personally about the issue, represented the strongest effort yet by the White House to prevent lawmakers from both parties from seeking to force additional penalties on Tehran. Obama said Iran could use such sanctions as an excuse to abandon talks and accuse Washington of blowing up the deal and acting in bad faith. “There would be some sympathy to that view around the world, which means that the sanctions that we have in place now would potentially fray,” Obama said. “Congress should be aware that if this diplomatic solution fails, then the risks and likelihood that this ends up being at some point a military confrontation is heightened. And Congress will have to own that as well.” Cameron also spoke out against calls for further sanctions on Iran, saying negotiations needed “space” to succeed. “We remain absolutely committed to ensuring that Iran cannot de- velop a nuclear weapon,” Cameron said. “The best way to achieve that now is to create the space for negotiations to succeed. We should not impose further sanctions now.” Washington’s UN envoy Samantha Power warned on Monday that imposing new sanctions “will almost certainly” see to the end of negotiations. France said yesterday that “signiﬁcant” questions remained before a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme can be struck, after its foreign minister met his Iranian counterpart. “Laurent Fabius raised with Mohamed Javad Zarif the signiﬁcant questions that remain to be solved,” according to a statement from the French foreign ministry. Zarif also met US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris earlier yesterday to discuss negotiations for a nuclear deal. The pair, who held marathon talks in Geneva earlier this week in a bid to nail down a deal, were taking the opportunity to meet again in the French capital on separate diplomatic trips. Their talks lasted just under an hour, a US official said. The new Zarif-Kerry talks came as their negotiators were also meeting in Geneva. Global powers leading the talks, known as the P5+1 are due to open negotiations tomorrow in the Swiss city as a deadline looms for a comprehensive deal which would rein in Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for relief from a tight network of sanctions. Both sides have remained tightlipped about whether any progress is being made. Abe begins regional tour, makes peace push pledge AFP Tokyo J apanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began a sixday tour of the Middle East yesterday, pledging to play a role in regional stability while also pushing Japan’s infrastructure exports. “I hope to send a message that Japan will offer support in non-military ﬁelds to contribute to regional peace and stability,” Abe, who is being accompanied by a phalanx of business leaders, told reporters in Tokyo ahead of his departure. Abe, who will visit Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, said “I hope to send a message to the world that Japan, together with the Middle East, will build a tolerant society.” The tour comes “right after the terror attack in Paris, but Islamic society and extremism are totally different from each other”, he added, referring to the murderous assault on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Dozens of Japanese company executives are also accompanying Abe, and “we expect to strengthen economic ties with each of these nations”, Abe’s right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters this week. The last time a Japanese leader visited Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories was in 2006 when Junichiro Koizumi was in office. Abe was the last premier to visit Egypt during his brief ﬁrst stint in the top job in 2007. Abe will meet today with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and express support for Cairo, which Suga called “a key player in bringing stability” to the region. He is scheduled to deliver a policy speech on the Middle East in the Egyptian capital. Abe will then visit Jordan for talks with Jordanian King Abdullah II tomorrow, where he is expected to announce Japan’s support for the country as it deals with an inﬂux of refugees from Syria. He will also have talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and separately with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the last leg of his tour. His itinerary includes a visit to Yad Vashem—Israel’s national memorial in Jerusalem to the victims of the Holocaust, 70 years after the end of World War II. Abe and members of his delegation are welcomed by Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehlab upon their arrival at Cairo International Airport yesterday. A protester holds up a copy of the Qur’an during the demonstration in Amman yesterday. Prophet cartoons spark protests across Mideast AFP Amman M uslims marched yesterday in Middle Eastern cities against a new cartoon of Prophet Muhammad published by French magazine Charlie Hebdo, as Gulf states warned the drawing could fuel hatred. The largest rally was in Jordan, where around 2,500 protesters took to the streets of the capital Amman amid tightened security, while demonstrations also took place in East Jerusalem and Khartoum. The crowd, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood and youth groups, set off from AlHusseini mosque in central Amman holding banners that read “insulting the Prophet is global terrorism”. The latest issue of Charlie Hebdo, published on Wednesday, features a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad on its cover. It was the ﬁrst edition of the satirical magazine to be published since Islamist gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on its Paris ofﬁces on January 7 over such cartoons. Qatar condemned the cartoon, which was also reprinted by several European papers. “These disgraceful actions are in the interest of nobody and will only fuel hatred and anger,” the foreign ministry warned, describing them as a “violation of human values of peaceful co-existence, tolerance, justice, and respect among people”. Bahrain’s foreign ministry echoed the warning, saying publication of such cartoons “will create fertile ground for the spread of hatred and terrorism”. Charlie Hebdo’s latest cartoon is “disgraceful” and no more than an attempt to “provoke” Muslims and “mock” their beliefs, it said. Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Thursday said the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo was “irresponsible and reckless”. Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque compound yesterday, some with banners reading “Islam is a religion of peace!” and “Our leader will forever be Muhammad”. Israeli security forces, which control access to the compound— the focal point of months of Jewish-Muslim tensions in the Holy Land—said Friday prayer passed off without incident, and there were no initial reports of violence linked to the demonstration afterwards. In Khartoum, hundreds of dem- Suspects back from Syria held: Bahrain AFP Manama B ahraini authorities arrested suspects who have returned from Syria and are allegedly linked to “terrorist” groups, the interior ministry said yesterday. Bahrain is among the countries that have joined the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. Bahrain’s interior ministry announced that authorities have arrested “a group of people who were recently in Syria and are suspected of contacts with terrorist groups abroad”. It said that investigations were ongoing, without giving further details in the statement carried by the official BNA news agency. The conﬂict in Syria, which began in March 2011, is believed to have drawn in thousands of foreign ﬁghters. Sunni militants have ﬂocked to Syria to support the rebels, while Shia ﬁghters—mainly from Lebanon and Iraq—support Assad’s forces. The Syrian conﬂict “has attracted some Bahraini citizens”, the interior ministry acknowledged in February last year. But it did not clarify whether it was referring to Sunni Islamists or to Shias accused of links to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement which has been ﬁghting alongside Assad’s troops. Bahrain has been deeply divided since a 2011 uprising led by Shias. Last month, the kingdom urged the international community to focus its efforts on combating the “evil theocracy” of militant groups such as Islamic State. “I call on you to discard the term ‘war on terror’ and focus on the real threat which is the rise of this evil theocracy,” said Bahrain’s crown prince, Sal- man bin Hamad al-Khalifah. “We are ﬁghting theocrats... We will be ﬁghting these theocrats for a very long time,” said the prince. z Rights groups urged Bahrain’s Western allies yesterday to call on the kingdom to drop charges against prominent activist Nabeel Rajab, on trial over tweets deemed insulting to public institutions. Rajab was released from custody in November and will stand trial on January 20. “Bahrain’s allies including the United Kingdom, Germany, France and other European countries should publicly call on Manama to drop charges against the human rights advocate Nabeel Rajab,” Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) said. Rajab was arrested in October after posting comments on Twitter about the interior and defence ministries. onstrators poured out of the Grand Mosque and marched across the adjacent square, chanting “Expel the French ambassador, victory to the Prophet of God!”. One banner in Arabic said: “The French government should apologise and the French government must stop insults to religious ﬁgures”. In Lebanon’s northern ﬂashpoint city of Tripoli, 70 people staged a march carrying banners bearing the name of the Prophet and chanting “Allahu Akbar”. In Baddawi, on the northern outskirts of the city, prayer leader Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahimi addressed hundreds of worshippers saying: “May God punish this newspaper and those who back it.” A protest against the cartoon in Tehran was cancelled, with no official reason given, as senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kermani told worshippers its publication amounted to “savagery”. In Tunis, worshippers at El Fath mosque interrupted prayer leader Noureddine Khadmi as he delivered a sermon saying: “We are all against insults made against our Prophet but it is not a reason to kill.” Charlie Hebdo journalists “deserved to be killed because they insulted our Prophet many times”, the worshippers cried out. Saudi Arabia’s top religious body, the Council of Senior Ulema, also criticised the new publication of Muhammad cartoons that it said “have nothing to do with the freedom of creativity or thought”. Its secretary general Fahd alMajid warned that publishing such images would only “serve extremists who are in search of excuses for killing and terrorism”. Flogging of blogger in Saudi ‘postponed’ AFP Dubai S Protesters stand amid teargas smoke during clashes with police after a demonstration against the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman (on the poster), head of the Shia opposition movement Al Wefaq, in Salman’s home village of Bilad al-Qadeem, on the outskirts of Manama yesterday. audi Arabia yesterday postponed the next round of ﬂogging for a blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam because his wounds from last week’s beating have not yet healed, his wife said. The public ﬂogging of Raef Badawi, who is also serving a 10-year jail sentence, has sparked an international outcry and a campaign by Amnesty International and other rights groups to free him. Later yesterday, his wife Ensaf Haidar told AFP: “We only knew today that Badawi’s case was referred by the royal court to the supreme court nearly a month ago,” possibly paving the way for an appeal. Badawi received the ﬁrst 50 lashes of his sentence outside a mosque in Jeddah on January 9. He is expected to undergo a total of 20 flogging ses- sions until his punishment is complete, but Haidar said the second round of lashes had been postponed yesterday. “The prison doctor saw Badawi’s health does not allow his ﬂogging today,” she said, speaking by telephone from Canada. “The wounds caused by the ﬂogging last time do not allow ﬂogging him this time as well,” she said. “But it will probably still take place next Friday.” Amnesty said that the doctor had concluded that Badawi “would not be able to withstand another round of lashes at this time”. It also said the doctor had recommended the ﬂogging be postponed until next week. In September, a Saudi court upheld the decade-long jail sentence and 1,000 lashes for Badawi, who has been behind bars since June 2012. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Thursday urged Saudi King Abdullah to pardon Badawi. 4 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 ARAB WORLD Swedish FM slams Israel reaction over Palestine Agencies Stockholm S weden’s foreign minister said yesterday Israel had irritated close allies by overreacting to Stockholm recognising the state of Palestine, saying its rhetoric over the issue had “crossed all limits”. “It is unacceptable how they have been talking about us and everybody else,” Margot Wallstrom said in an interview in daily Dagens Nyheter. “It has irritated not only us, but the Americans and everyone who has anything to do with them right now.” Relations between Israel and Sweden have nosedived since Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Lofven used his inaugural address in parliament last year to announce that his country would recognise a Palestinian state. Israeli said the move was illconsidered, would not contrib- ute to peace and called its ambassador back to Jerusalem for discussions. The United States said recognition was premature. In the interview, Wallstrom said Sweden supported Israel, Palestine and peace, but was sharply critical of Israel’s policies. “Israel has been extremely aggressive,” she said. “They have continued with their settlement policies, they have continued demolitions, they have continued with their occupation policies which entail a humiliation of Palestinians, which makes the (peace) process difficult.” Wallstrom had been due to go to Israel this week, but postponed her trip. The Swedish government said the decision was due to scheduling difficulties, but Swedish radio quoted an official at the Israeli foreign ministry saying Wallstrom would not have been extended an official welcome by Israel. “We said that it is difficult to put these meetings together, diplomatic meetings of any kind, as we approach the elections,” Paul Hirschson, spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, said. “I would add that the atmosphere between Israel and Sweden is not exactly the best right now and that factors into the decision. But the primary issue is the timing, more than anything else.” *Envoys from the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia will meet later this month to discuss the next steps to address the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, officials said on Thursday. The gathering of the Middle East diplomatic quartet will take place on January 26 in Brussels to discuss ways of reviving the peace process after the Palestinians failed to win UN Security Council approval of a resolution on ending the Israeli occupation. “The Quartet envoys will meet at the end of this month to discuss the way ahead,” US ambas- Rivals agree on road map to form unity govt in Libya The participants call on all the players to cease hostilities to create a conducive environment for dialogue AFP Geneva L ibya’s warring factions have agreed on a road map to form a unity government after two days of UNbrokered talks in Geneva, touted as the last chance to avert total anarchy. The North African nation has been wracked by conﬂict since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddaﬁ in a 2011 uprising, with rival governments and powerful militias battling for control of key cities and the country’s vast oil riches. UN special envoy to Syria, Bernardino Leon, had warned at the start of the talks that they were a last-ditch effort to prevent all-out chaos. “The participants agreed after extensive deliberation on an agenda that includes reaching a political agreement to form a consensual national unity government and the necessary security arrangements to end the ﬁghting,” a UN statement said. It said the talks “were constructive and... reﬂected the participants’ sincere commitment to reach common ground”. The participants called on all the players to cease hostilities to create a conducive environment for the dialogue, and “expressed their unequivocal commitment to a united and democratic Libya governed by the rule of law and respect for human rights”. They agreed to work towards the release of abducted people, providing and allowing humanitarian aid to reach affected regions, opening airports and securing land and maritime navigation. The delegates will return to Geneva for a fresh round of talks next week after consultations. As news of the agreement came, the UN refugee agency said an upsurge in ﬁghting since the start of this year across several towns in the east, including the second city of Benghazi, had sparked more displacements. “In Benghazi alone, the local council is reporting that around 90,000 people are unable to return home,” it said, adding that number of people displaced nationwide was approximately 400,000. Libya’s internationally recognised government decamped last summer to the eastern city of Tobruk after an Islamistbacked militia alliance seized the capital Tripoli and set up its own administration. The alliance known as Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) also holds the third city, Misrata. It launched a bloody offensive in December to seize control of key oil terminals but was repelled by the army. The broad agreement cobbled in Geneva also saw the factions pledge to work towards ensuring the free movement of people across the divided nation. They also vowed to respect the legitimacy of state institu- tions, work towards the peaceful transfer of power and reject violence and terrorism. The agreement came after months of UN efforts to get the opposing sides back to the negotiating table after a single round of talks in September. A major concern in Libya is the proliferation of Islamist militias in key areas such as Benghazi. Those militias are led by the Ansar al-Shariah group, blacklisted by the United Nations for its links to Al Qaeda. The Islamic State group that has seized large areas in Iraq and Syria is also thought to have gained a foothold in eastern Libya. Leon had also underscored the threat of Libya becoming a hotbed of Islamist insurgency, saying it menaced North Africa, the Middle East, the Sahel and Europe, which lies on Libya’s doorstep. Jihadists are reported to have set up camps in Libya, including in the remote southern desert, to train militants to ﬁght in Mali, Iraq or Syria. The head of Libya’s recognised government has pleaded for more international help in combating militias by lifting an arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council at the start of the anti-Gaddaﬁ uprising in 2011. “In Libya, the government and armed forces are battling these groups alone, without any support from the international community,” Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said in an interview just before the Geneva talks. sador Samantha Power told the Security Council. The 15-member council last month rejected a resolution on Palestinian statehood that set a 2017 deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories. The United States and Australia voted against, but China, France and Russia were among eight countries that backed the resolution, leaving it just one vote short of the nine required for adoption. Netanyahu says ICC decision is ‘scandalous’ AFP Jerusalem I Women flash the victory sign during a rally of supporters of Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn), a mainly-Islamist alliance, yesterday in Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square. srael condemned as “scandalous” the International Criminal Court’s decision yesterday to launch a preliminary probe into possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces against Palestinians. The Palestinians, in contrast, said nothing “can now stop this action” from being widened into a full-scale investigation as they have requested. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he rejected the ICC decision, which he called “scandalous”. He noted in a statement that since Palestine was not a state, the ICC had no jurisdiction over it, according to the court’s own rules. The probe is “absurd” since “the Palestinian Authority cooperates with Hamas, a terror group that commits war crimes, in contrast to Israel that ﬁghts terror while maintaining international law, and has an independent justice system”, the premier said. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added that the sole purpose of the preliminary examination was to “try to harm Israel’s right to defend itself from terror”. In a statement he said the decision was “solely motivated by political anti-Israel considerations”, adding that he would recommend against co-operating with the probe. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki welcomed the move. “Everything is going according to plan; no state and nobody can now stop this action we requested,” he said. “In the end, a full investigation will follow the preliminary one.” Lieberman accused the court of double standards for not examining the mass killings in Syria or other conﬂict zones, investigating instead “the most moral army in the world”. He also said he would act to “dismantle this court, a body that represents hypocrisy and gives terror a tailwind”. Israeli actions radicalising Muslims: Turkey PM Reuters Istanbul T urkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday of terrorism and said Israeli “provocations” such as the bombardment of Gaza were contributing to radicalisation in the Muslim world. In a Reuters interview, Davutoglu said peace in the Middle East and the eradication of extremist groups would be virtually impossible without the establishment of a Palestinian state. He also warned the international community against focusing solely on ﬁghting Islamic State militants in its efforts to end the conﬂict in Syria, saying the “brutality” of President Bashar al-Assad was the root cause of the problem. Turkey, an EU candidate nation and member of the Nato military alliance, is a key Western ally in the ﬁght against Islamic militants. But its leaders have become increasingly concerned about what they see as rising Islamophobia in Europe Davutoglu speaks during the interview with Reuters in Istanbul yesterday. and increasingly outspoken in their criticism of Israel. “(Netanyahu) himself killed, his army killed children in the playground. They killed our citizens and an American citizen in international waters. This is terrorism,” Davutoglu said, refer- ring to a 2010 Israeli assault on a Turkish boat attempting to break Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian Gaza Strip. “Nobody can argue about Israeli aggression in Jerusalem in the Al Aqsa mosque,” he added. “These provocations create frustration in the Muslim world and are becoming one of the reasons why these radical trends are emerging,” he said. “If we want to establish peace and order in the Middle East, eliminating all the extremist forces, we have to solve the Pal- estinian question.” Davutoglu on Thursday compared Netanyahu to the Islamist militants who killed 17 people in Paris last week, saying both had committed crimes against humanity. Netanyahu has called for an international condemnation of Davutoglu’s remarks and those of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after he criticised the Israeli prime minister’s attendance with other world leaders at a solidarity march in Paris. Once-good relations between Israel and Turkey have declined markedly over the past ﬁve years, with US efforts to revive the soured ties failing to make headway. There was no immediate reaction in Israel to Davutoglu’s latest comments. Davutoglu said Turkey, which has faced criticism for failing to stop thousands of foreign ﬁghters crossing into Syria, would do everything it could to stem the ﬂow, describing the conﬂict in its southern neighbour as a major national security threat. But he said a coherent strategy was needed for Syria before Turkey would consider a greater frontline role in the US-led coalition against Islamic State, including an internationally policed no-ﬂy zone to protect the northern city of Aleppo from Assad’s forces. “The source of the problem is the Assad regime’s brutality. Without solving that source, that reason, dealing only with (Islamic State) or other biproducts of this crisis will not be solving the problem altogether,” Davutoglu said. “(We want a) no-ﬂy zone ... so that Aleppo will be protected at least against the air bombardment and there will be no new refugees coming to Turkey,” he said, warning of a potential new inﬂux of millions if the city was not defended. He said Turkey may extend a series of existing militarised zones along its border with Syria to try to stop the passage of foreign ﬁghters without closing the frontier to refugees. “On the border, up to now, there are refugee camps, there are certain places where there is much more strict control ... These military zones might be enlarged,” he said, adding Turkey had so far been reluctant to do so, so as not to deter refugees. The Turkish authorities had banned some 8,000 foreigners from entering the country over the past year alone because of security concerns and had further improved co-ordination with European intelligence agencies, Davutoglu said. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 5 ARAB WORLD Homs city receives food aid after local deal: UN Reuters Geneva/Beirut U N aid workers have started delivering food to tens of thousands of people trapped in a besieged district of Homs city in Syria following negotiations with warring parties, officials said yesterday. In the absence of a nationwide peace deal, relief groups have tried to get localised agreements with ﬁghters on all sides of the conﬂict to get convoys through to people in battle zones. The United Nations did not give details of the Homs agreement but local opposition activists said there was a temporary ceaseﬁre. Food was sent to Al Wa’er on Thursday, Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN’s World Food Programme, told journalists in Geneva. “Following extensive negotiations between parties to the conﬂict, a ﬁrst convoy carrying 8,500 family food rations were delivered to the besieged area of Al Wa’er,”—enough food for about 42,500 people for one month, Byrs said. Two more convoys over the coming days will deliver food to 75,000 people, she added, 30% of the estimated quarter of a million people the United Nations says are trapped in besieged areas across Syria. A UN official in Geneva said that the WFP rations were aboard an 18-truck convoy that also delivered some medical supplies and non-food items from other UN agencies. Al Wa’er has witnessed an intensiﬁcation of shelling and heavy clashes which prevented all access for humanitarian deliveries, WFP said in a statement. Al Wa’er has been cut off for nearly two years by government forces, opposition activists say. Syrian state media said last month that aid was delivered to Al Wa’er “almost every month”. The UN peace envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has said he wants to start focusing on brokering “freeze zones”, or local truces, in the northern city of Aleppo rather than a peace plan for the whole of the divided country. “This is why ... we have put on the table the proposal of a freeze of heavy ﬁghting in Aleppo, and eventually the return for a united, reconstructed Syrian city as it used to be because it is a symbolic mi- Chinese peace force troops in S Sudan 400 US troops to train Syria rebel forces The American troops will complement a small CIA training programme that is already in place AFP Washington T he US military will send more than 400 troops to train Syrian rebel forces as part of a long-planned effort to build up a moderate opposition to take on the Islamist State group, the Pentagon said yesterday. The training will take place in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar and is expected to start in the “early spring”, said spokeswoman Commander Elissa Smith. The Pentagon also planned to deploy an unspeciﬁed number of support troops or “enablers” to provide logistics, intelligence, communications and other assistance, Smith said. “The goal for the train and equip programme is to build the capabilities of the moderate Syrian ﬁghters to defend the Syrian people; stabilise areas under opposition control; promote the conditions for a negotiated settlement of the conﬂict in Syria; and empower trainees to go on the offensive” against the IS group, she said in an e-mail. The US Congress backed legislation last month to fund the training and equipping of Iraqi forces and moderate Syrian rebels. But President Barack Obama, wary of having the US drawn into the multi-sided civil war in Syria, has been accused by some rebel groups, lawmakers and allies of moving too slowly to help the Syrian opposition. The American troops will complement a small CIA training programme that is already in place. US intelligence agencies and foreign partners are working to identify potential recruits for the training programme, who will then be vetted to ensure they have no ties to the IS group or other extremists, officials said. “We’ve identiﬁed numerous groups that we believe are suitable for training based on our current understanding of the environment and we continue to evaluate the situation,” Smith said. The Pentagon hopes to train about 5,000 Syrian rebels a year, officials said. US troops already have started training Iraqi government and Kurdish forces in the ﬁght against the IS militants, with about 2,100 Americans deployed to Iraq. IS militants have executed 17 men in recent days in areas they control in eastern and northern Syria to avenge a string of assassinations targeting their ﬁghters, a monitor said yesterday. “The Islamic State (IS) group has executed 16 men in Deir alZor and one more in Raqa, to send a message to all their opponents after recent assassinations of 12 Syrian, Iraqi and Algerian jihadists,” said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman. “The men were accused of ﬁghting IS,” Abdel Rahman said, adding that only one of them had been proven to be linked to the assassinations. He added: “IS is sending a message to all people living under its control, to say: ‘This is what will happen to any opponent.’” The group emerged in Syria’s war in 2013 and in June declared a “caliphate” in areas under its control straddling Syria and Iraq. It has committed some of the war’s worst abuses, carrying out near-daily executions in areas in its grip. Most of Raqa and Deir al-Zor provinces are IS-controlled. Among those executed in the past two days in oil-rich Deir al-Zor were ﬁve members of the Shaitat tribe, which launched a local rebellion last year against IS. The millitants quelled the revolt, killing more than 900 tribe members in response. Syria’s war has killed more than 200,000 people in nearly four years. Reuters Juba A A Free Syrian Army fighter gets out of a hole in a wall on the Old Aleppo frontline on Thursday. Lebanon averts strife as talks ease tension Reuters Beirut A double suicide bombing at a cafe in the Lebanese city of Tripoli was meant to ignite a new round of civil strife in a country whose stability has been repeatedly strained by the war in neighbouring Syria. Instead, the fragile Lebanese state appears to have emerged a little stronger from the Sunni militant attack that killed nine people in an Alawite neighbourhood, helped by new political talks that are containing sectarian tensions. The state’s response to the bombing - an operation that re-established control over a prison taken over by its Islamist inmates - points to common ground among Lebanese on opposite sides of the region’s wider, sectarian-fuelled conﬂict. Lebanon, with its own combustible sectarian mix, has felt the force of that conﬂict in suicide bombings and bloody confrontations between the army and militant groups. More trouble is expected: a car bomb rigged with 120kg of explosives was found on Thursday near the Syrian border. Sunni militant leaders remain at large, with plenty of opportunity to recruit among disaffected Lebanese Sunnis, in Palestinian refugee camps, and from a pool of well over a million Syrian refugees. But Lebanese politicians see the outcome of the Tripoli attack as further proof their country will continue to muddle through, shielded by regional understandings that have spared Security forces accompany Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk during his inspection of Roumieh prison on January 13. them the kind of all- out conﬂict raging in Syria and Iraq. The two players best placed to contain sectarian tensions - the Future Movement of Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri and the Shia group Hezbollah - launched political talks this month seen as part of a broader effort to keep a lid on Lebanon. The dialogue has been credited with keeping tensions in check after the January 10 bombing in a predominantly Alawite neighbourhood that is generally sympathetic to Hezbollah and the Syrian government. “If we had been in a climate of tension certainly there would have been different reactions,” Samir al-Jisr, a Future Movement politician taking part in the dialogue, said. Hezbollah urged restraint. The families of the two bombers condemned them and said they would not hold funeral rites. Two days later, security forces stormed Roumieh prison in a long planned operation that could not have happened without a green light from rival politicians after the Tripoli bombing. crocosm of all of Syria,” De Mistura told a news brieﬁng in Geneva on Thursday, saying that Islamic State rebel forces were “only 20 miles away from Aleppo”. More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conﬂict, which began in March 2011 with popular protests against President Bashar al-Assad and spiralled into civil war after a crackdown by security forces. Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk, a member of the Future Movement, said Islamist inmates were connected to the Tripoli attack. “Dialogue is a strategic decision that supports Lebanon’s integrity and opens the way to every political and security step that will help with stability,” he said. Beyond the gates, the inmates were effectively running the jail. With access to the Internet and mobile phones, they were in contact with militants outside. Nabih Berri, the parliament speaker, said the operation “proved that the state exists”, adding that it was a result of Hezbollah-Future dialogue and had required a political decision. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has credited Hariri for pushing for the dialogue. With Saudi backing, the former prime minister remains an inﬂuential voice among Sunnis though he has made just one visit to Lebanon since leaving in 2011 after Hezbollah and its allies toppled his government. He hopes the talks might pave the way for agreement on a new president - a position reserved for a Christian that has been empty since Michel Suleiman’s term expired in May. Lebanon’s two main Christian rivals - Samir Geagea and Michel Aoun - are expected to hold their own talks on the presidency. But it is widely assumed a deal to ﬁll the post will need to be brokered by outside powers. For now, the Sunni-Shia dialogue is focused on managing tensions as the threat of more Sunni militancy remains high. Hezbollah’s role in Syria, where it is fighting alongside government forces, has been cited by Al Qaeda-linked militants as a motivation for attacks. Hezbollah’s critics say it has provoked such violence. The group says it is fighting in Syria to protect Lebanon from jihadists. Leading Sunni militants are still at large, hiding in Palestinian refugee camps beyond the reach of the security forces. Militants linked to Islamic State and Al Qaeda still represent a threat at the eastern border with Syria. They are holding some two dozen members of the security forces taken captive during an attack on the border town of Arsal last August - the most serious spillover of the Syrian war to date. “Despite what happened in Roumieh prison, which has restored some of the state’s standing, the situation in the country remains fragile,” said Rajeh Khoury, a political commentator. “The danger is still there because Lebanon stands in the middle of ﬁres and wars that are burning around it.” n advanced party of Chinese peacekeepers is in South Sudan and the rest of the 700-strong contingent is due to arrive by early April, a UN official said yesterday, part of a surge in a UN mission to protect civilians in a nation mired in conﬂict. Fighting in the oil-producing nation, which is one of the world’s poorest, has killed more than 10,000 people, driven more than a million from their homes and left many without enough food. “We had an advanced party of 18 members of the incoming battalion arrive on January 9 to begin preparations for delivery of contingent-owned equipment,” said Brian Kelly, a spokesman for the UN mission in South Sudan UNMISS. He said some of the equipment had already landed in Entebbe, in neighbouring Uganda. “Overall deployment of the 700-stong Chinese infantry battalion and its equipment will take more than two months to complete,” he said, adding 180 troops would be in Juba by the end of February with 520 more arriving by late March or early April. China is a major investor in South Sudan’s oil industry. Fighting erupted in December 2013 in South Sudan, which won independence from Sudan in 2011, after months of political tension between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy and political rival, Riek Machar. The conﬂict has reopened deep tensions among ethnic groups, pitting Kiir’s Dinka against Machar’s Nuer. Some of the worst ﬁghting in the nation of 11mn people has been in Jonglei state and the two oil producing states of Unity and Upper Nile. Linda Etim, USAID deputy assistant administrator for affairs, said yesterday nearly half of the population in those three areas was projected to face a food security emergency. “The malnutrition situation is classiﬁed as critical or very critical in more than half of the country,” she said. Although the warring parties have agreed to ceaseﬁres—the ﬁrst deal reached in January 2014, a month after ﬁghting erupted—the deals have been regularly ﬂouted. Fighting has picked up after a lull during rains that ended late last year. Bird flu claims third victim in Egypt this year A woman has died of H5N1 bird flu in southern Egypt, the third person in the country to die of the illness this year, a health ministry official said yesterday. The woman, 43, lived in a village in Assiut and had direct contact with infected birds, Ahmed Abdel Hameed told reporters. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there has been a jump in the number of H5N1 infections in people in Egypt, but that there does not appear to have been any major genetic change in the flu strain to explain the rise in human cases. At least 10 people died from the disease in Egypt in 2014. The Geneva-based WHO said on Tuesday that between December 4 and January 6, there had been 18 new laboratory-confirmed human cases of H5N1 infection in Egypt, including four deaths. This was the highest ever monthly number of human cases in Egypt, the UN public health agency said. 6 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 AFRICA WEATHER POLITICS HEALTH LABOUR DISEASE Malawi warns of more rain as floods ravage country Opposition leaders detained as polls loom EU partners with drug industry to fight Ebola Zambia’s key railway line re-opens after strike Nigeria finds H5 strain of bird flu in poultry Malawian authorities yesterday warned that more heavy rain was expected as floods ravaged the southern African country, leaving dozens dead and missing and thousands displaced. “What the country has witnessed is only the beginning of the onset of rains,” Paul Chiunguzeni, principal secretary for Disaster Management Affairs, said in a statement. “The government is urging people living in flood-prone districts to urgently relocate to upland areas to avoid losing more lives.” The floods, which have wreaked havoc on half the country’s 28 districts, have left an estimated 100,000 people homeless. The government on Tuesday put the death toll at 48, but Chiunguzeni would not provide an updated figure, saying teams had been sent to “source and verify information” on the number of people dead and missing. Burundi opposition leaders yesterday accused Bujumbura of eliminating rivals ahead of elections, after a senior opposition figure was jailed for bribery and another arrested for rebel links. The action against the two leaders comes amid growing fears of violence ahead of the elections later this year, with a string of attacks Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, a former Burundian vice-president and current deputy leader of the Front for Democracy (Frodebu) party, was sentenced on Thursday to five years in jail for bribery following a sex scandal. Meanwhile Frodebu youth leader Patrick Nkurunziza was arrested on Thursday, the most prominent figure held in connection with a rebel force that entered the country from lawless regions of neighbouring eastern Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this month. The EU will partner with the European pharmaceutical industry to finance 215mn euros in research projects to fight Ebola, mainly to develop vaccines and diagnostic tests, it announced yesterday. The funds come on top of 24.4mn euros that the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, released in November to boost research for a vaccine and treatment for the deadly disease which has ravaged west Africa. “Eight research projects to develop vaccines (and) rapid diagnostics tests are being funded with a total of 215mn euros,” the commission said in a statement. “There is no vaccine or treatment against Ebola as yet, so we must urgently step up our efforts in Ebola research,” Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said in a statement. A key railway line which links landlocked Zambia to the ports in Tanzania reopened yesterday after a Tanzania high court ruled that the five-day strike action by workers was illegal. “The suspension of operations...has now been uplifted and all train operations have resumed with immediate effect,” the company said. Workers at the cash-strapped Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara), which is owned by the governments of Tanzania and Zambia, downed tools on Monday demanding five months of unpaid salaries. Yesterday, however, the company said it had secured funds to pay the salary arrears. Built in the 1970s, Tazara remains an important route to the sea, handling most of Zambia’s copper and cobalt exports. But the troubled rail firm has been struggling to carry out its operations to capacity. Nigeria said yesterday it had quarantined two poultry farms in the north and south of the country after detecting an H5 strain of bird flu in both. Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina said in a statement that samples were taken from birds at the two farms, in the commercial hub Lagos and the main northern city of Kano, after they showed “unusual high mortality” rates. The samples “tested positive for the H5 strain of avian influenza virus”, the statement said, adding that samples had been sent to a laboratory in Italy for further testing. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy, was the continent’s first country to detect bird flu in 2006, when chicken farms were found to have the H5N1 strain. In 2007, it reported its first human death from the disease. Leaders mull force to ﬁght Boko Haram Dozens of Chadian tanks head out of the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, south towards Cameroon to help fight Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgents Reuters/AFP Accra/N’Djamena W est African leaders are considering creating a military force to ﬁght Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants and will hold a regional summit next week to discuss the issue, Ghana’s President John Mahama said yesterday. Regional bloc ECOWAS will seek the support of the African Union (AU) for its plans, said Mahama. “Nigeria is taking military action and Cameroon is ﬁghting Boko Haram, but I think we are increasingly getting to the point where probably a regional or a multinational force is coming into consideration,” Mahama, who currently chairs ECOWAS, told a news conference. “It is what we want to discuss at the AU because, if that must happen, there must be a mandate to allow such a force to operate,” he said. Boko Haram is ﬁghting to create a hardline state in northeast Nigeria along the border with Chad, Cameroon and Niger. But it has recently expanded its ﬁeld of activity to neighbouring countries. The group’s ﬁghters seized the military base and town of Baga, in Nigeria on the shores of Lake Chad, on January 3. Baga was the headquarters of a multinational force with troops from Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Meanwhile, dozens of Chadian tanks have headed out of the capital south towards Cameroon to help ﬁght Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgents. The convoy, seen by an AFP journalist, roared out of the city after Chad’s parliament voted to send armed forces to Cameroon and Nigeria to ﬁght against the militant group. Cameroon’s President Paul Biya had announced on Thursday that Chad President Idriss Deby had agreed to send “a substantial contingent” of troops to help Cameroonian armed forces, who have faced repeated attacks from Boko Haram. Earlier yesterday, Chad’s parliament in N’Djamena voted 150 to 0 to send an unspeciﬁed number of “Chadian armed troops and security forces to assist Cameroonian and Nigerian soldiers waging war against the terrorists in Cameroon and Nigeria”. Cameroon has been critical of the passivity of the Nigerian authorities and of muted international reaction in the face of Boko Haram aggression. Since Boko Haram’s insurgency began, around 135,000 people have ﬂed the restive northeast of Nigeria, and at least 850,000 have been displaced inside the region. A satellite image, released by Airbus Defence and Space satellites and made available by Human Rights Watch, shows evidence of large-scale destruction of the area surrounding Baga, particularly in the town of Doro Gowon, on the shores of Lake Chad, in the far north of Borno State in northeast Nigeria following attacks since January 3 byBoko Haram militants. So far Chad has been spared, but its border is not far from the Islamists’ headquarters in the Nigerian state of Borno. The entry of Chadian forces in the increasingly regional fight against Boko Haram may prove valuable in halting the extremists’ series of ruthless offensives. After describing Boko Haram as a direct threat to the nation’s “vital interests”, Chadian leaders moved quickly to deploy units of the country’s powerful armed forces to resume its position as one of the region’s most hostile anti-jihad forces. In 2013 Chadian troops became formidable allies of French forces battling militants who’d taken control of northern Mali, and played an important role in routing those extremists out into the remote areas of the Sahel. As they did so, Chadian soldiers gained a reputation for ruthless efficiency in pursuing and liquidating retreating militant ﬁghters, and were credited with killing some of the most wanted radical leaders. One of Chad’s main objectives in joining its neighbours to take on Boko Haram is re-taking the northeast Nigerian town of Baga, which the extremist group stormed in a stunning show of force January 7, provoking the ﬂight of 5,000 people. Over 3,500 of buildings in the strategically-situated Baga and outlying areas were thought to have been raised, perhaps 2,000 people massacred, and hundreds of people taken captive in Boko Haram’s offensive. “Boko Haram kidnapped at least 300 women and held us in a school in Baga,” a non-identiﬁed woman quoted in a statement released on Thursday by Amnesty International said. “They freed the older women, the mothers, and most of the children after four days, but they are still holding the younger women,” she said. On Thursday US Secretary of State John Kerry deplored Boko Haram’s activity as a “crime against humanity, nothing less”, and suggested the torment of Baga was a particularly stark reminder of the threat the group poses to the region and world. People gathering outside the Bata Stadium yesterday. Nations Cup organisers dismiss Ebola, venue fears AFP Bata T he African Football Confederation (CAF) yesterday expressed confidence that adequate measures have been taken in host nation Equatorial Guinea to protect against Ebola as the Africa Cup of Nations prepares to get underway. “We are very conﬁdent, it was one of our top priorities,” assured CAF general secretary Hicham El Amrani at a press conference in the country’s largest city Bata. More than 8,000 people have died in the epidemic in west Africa, but no cases have been reported in Equatorial Guinea, which stepped in to organise the hosting of the Cup of Nations after Morocco’s withdrawal over Ebola fears. “A lot of money has been invested in Equatorial Guinea in equipment such as specialist ambulances. There is an antiEbola commission and doctors have come from other countries. “A concrete plan has been put in place.” Meanwhile, El Amrani has stated his satisfaction at preparations in the towns and cities chosen to host games at the 16team event. Fears have been expressed in A Mali supporter blowing a vuvuzela horn upon the arrival of Mali’s team at Malabo airport yesterday ahead of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations football tournament. particular about the small towns of Mongomo and Ebebiyin, but he said: “In Mongomo and Ebebiyin what we have got is better than what we expected.” The two towns are hosts along with Bata and the capital Malabo, which also staged games when Equatorial Guinea cohosted the 2012 Nations Cup with Gabon. The small central African state has had barely two months to prepare after stepping in when Morocco refused to host the competition and there has been concern whether adequate facilities could be provided in Mongomo and Ebebiyin, both situated deep in the interior of the impoverished country. El Amrani said work to lay the pitches at the two venues started around December 13 and was finished by December 25. He added that work on other facilities at the stadia was on time. “We have four sites that are of an acceptable level, with certain imperfections, but with the priority given to the players, security, good quality playing surfaces and accommodation,” he added. Eight training pitches across the four host towns have been approved by specialists, while accommodation is “satisfactory”, despite concerns already expressed by Congo Brazzaville coach Claude Le Roy. Le Roy complained of a lack of sufficient rooms for his players and staff and a lack of water at his team’s hotel in Bata. El Amrani said: “Despite difﬁculties at certain hotels, we believe that the majority if not all of the infrastructure for the teams is satisfactory. “Of course, things are better in Malabo, and it has not been possible to build new facilities since November 13, but overall things are satisfactory. “The four sites are ready, the ticketing system is in place and the sale of tickets began last Monday. “We are just having a few worries with media installations, but we are working very hard on that.” The 30th Nations Cup begins today, when the hosts face Congo Brazzaville and Gabon meet Burkina Faso, with both Group A games being played in Bata. Quiet lawyer favourite in Zambian presidential race Reuters Lusaka Z ambian lawyer Edgar Lungu’s rapid rise from backroom politician to presidential front-runner in one of Africa’s most promising frontier markets has revealed tactical nous and a steely determination that few knew lay beneath his quiet exterior. The ruling Patriotic Front (PF) candidate goes into the copper producer’s January 20 presidential by-election as slight favourite over main rival Hakainde Hichilema, a businessman whose United Party for National Development is popular with the middle-class and investors. But with no reliable opinion polls, few experts are keen to call a clear winner in the contest to succeed President Michael Sata, who died in office in October aged 77. “Lungu has the edge but there are so many unknowns this time around,” said Alex Ng’oma, a political analyst at the University of Zambia. “It’s too close to call.” Lungu has been swift to tap into the working class support base of Sata, a populist leader from the majority Bemba tribe, using catch phrases and slang in traditional languages on the campaign trail, while avoiding detailed policy debates. His promises to build roads and reduce fuel and food prices, despite IMF pressure to cut public spending, mirror the pledges that won Sata a 2011 election. “We vote Lungu because of Michael Sata,” said Gilbert Neba, a shoe-seller on a bustling street in the capital, Lusaka. “What Lungu says in campaigns is about the continuity of the late president. Let him ﬁnish what Sata started,” Neba added, puffing out his chest to display a “Vote Lungu” t-shirt. However, Lungu, a tall, slim ﬁgure described by his campaign team as the “silent type”, is a very different prospect from Sata, an abrasive leader nicknamed “King Cobra” because of his venomous tongue. He only emerged as a potential PF leader in August when Sata shocked the ruling party by ﬁring his presumed successor, justice minister Wynter Kabimba, and replacing him with Lungu. “If you asked anyone six months ago who would be the next president, no one would have picked Edgar,” a lawyer who has worked with Lungu told Reuters. “But maybe we should have known. He’s a quiet guy but very persuasive. He’s got this affable, laid-back style and people tend to give him what he wants before they realise it.” Hichilema, known locally as “HH”, won 18% of votes in 2011 but is thought to have gained support due to PF inﬁghting following Sata’s death. With another election due in 20 months when Sata’s ﬁrst term would have ended, the winner will have little time to overturn a host of economic problems. Zambia, the continent’s big- gest copper producer after Democratic Republic of Congo, has been one of the world’s best performing economies in the last decade, averaging 6-7% growth as the mining sector boomed. But growth slowed to 5.5% last year and could ease further with the price of copper, which accounts for 70% of export earnings, falling to a six-year low last week. The government is also in deadlock with mining companies over unpaid VAT returns and royalty increases, adding to pressure on the kwacha currency. “The scope to make bold changes will be limited,” said one senior Western diplomat in Lusaka. “Victory this time could be a poisoned chalice.” A digital billboard displays an election message depicting the Patriotic Front (PF) presidential candidate Edgar Lungu in Lusaka. Zambians go to the polls on January 20. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 7 AMERICAS Obama, Cameron vow to help France defeat terror Obama warned Paris must not simply respond to the attacks with a security crackdown but should also learn to better integrate its Muslim minority AFP Washington U S President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed yesterday to help France and others defeat the threat of global terrorism with stronger co-operation and surveillance. In his ﬁrst meeting with a foreign leader since last week’s extremist attacks in Paris, Obama reaffirmed Washington’s close ties with its “indispensable ally” Britain and vowed both would support France. “I know David joins me when I say that we will continue to do everything in our power to help France seek the justice that is needed... to defeat these terrorist networks,” Obama said. Obama said the Paris attacks “underscored how terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIL are actively trying to inspire and support people within our own countries to engage in terrorism.” Both leaders had warm words for France, but Obama warned Paris must not simply respond to the attacks with a security crackdown but should also learn to better integrate its Muslim minority. “Our biggest advantage, major, is that our Muslim populations, they feel themselves to be Americans and there is this incredible process of immigration US President Barack Obama listens to British Prime Minister David Cameron during a joint news conference following their meeting at the White House in Washington yesterday. and assimilation that is part of our tradition,” he said. “There are parts of Europe in which that’s not the case ... it’s important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems.” He said the United States would hold a summit in February on countering violent extremism and the threat of radicalized Islamist ﬁghters returning to their home countries from the war in Syria. “David and the United Kingdom continue to be strong partners in this work, including sharing intelligence and strengthening border security,” he said, expressing personal friendship with his guest. The pair held a joint news conference in the White House after two days of detailed talks in Washington. Cameron said: “This morning, we have agreed to establish a joint group to identify what more we can do to counter the rise of domestic violent extremism and to learn from one another.” The British leader described the jihadist movements that inspired the Paris attackers a “poisonous, fanatical death cult.” The United States and Britain already cooperate closely in global electronic surveillance, and Cameron said the two leaders had agreed to deepen their cooperation on cyber-security. The pair issued a strong warning to Russia over what they said was its aggression in Ukraine, saying that sanctions would continue. “Russia has chosen to trample over the affairs of a sovereign state. This threatens our stability and our prosperity,” Cameron said, in a tacit measure to nervous Western allies in Europe. “It is important that every country understands that and that no-one in Europe forgets our history. We cannot walk on by.” And both leaders warned the US Congress not to threaten tougher sanctions against Iran while negotiators attempt to strike a deal to rein in its nuclear program. Obama said Iran was already chaﬁng under existing sanctions and had not accelerated its programme and that he would strongly urge Congress not to torpedo the ongoing talks with Tehran. “We’ll see how persuasive I am. But if I’m not persuading Congress, I promise you, I’m going to be taking my case to the American people on this,” he warned. In a separate statement, the White House said the US National Security Agency and FBI would form a joint cyber-security cell with British domestic intelligence MI5 and eavesdropping agency GCHQ. This will speed intelligence sharing and strengthen the allies’ defenses against cyber-attacks from foreign governments and criminals, the leaders said. The partners will begin their reinforced cooperation with a year-long exercise to test and strengthen the defenses of the ﬁnancial sector. In recent weeks Washington has been embarrassed by the seizure of a military Twitter account by jihadist sympathisers and angered by North Korea’s alleged hacking of Hollywood studio Sony. But trans-Atlantic partnership has also had successes. A young hacker—suspected of taking part in attacks that shut down online gaming platforms over Christmas — was arrested yesterday in a joint operation with the FBI and British police. Obama, 53, is beginning his last two years in office, while Cameron, 48, is preparing for general elections in May that are expected to be very close and could mark the end of his coalition government. Page 10 US on edge after attacks in Paris AFP Washington T he United States is on edge after the Paris terror attacks, tightening security amid fears of attacks by both “lone wolf” attackers and small cells guided from afar. On Wednesday the FBI announced the arrest of a young American man in Ohio who is accused of planning an attack on the Capitol in Washington, the seat of Congress. An undercover officer recorded him in conversations held both face-to-face and over the Internet, advocating violent attacks in conversations held both face-toface and over the Internet. The same day an American jihadist was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Florida for trying to support Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, new charges were ﬁled against the Qazi brothers, Americans arrested in 2012 for trying to detonate a bomb in New York. FBI director James Comey spoke recently of the spread of the terrorist threat since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Experts see a rising number of “lone wolves” and small jihadist cells of the kind formed by the Kouachi brothers in France and Amedy Coulibaly, who staged the recent attacks in France. These are Western-born Muslims inspired by the ideology and tactics of Al Qaeda or the Islamic State group, who decide to stage an attack with or without the direct support of the organisation. The threat is almost undetectable and extremely hard to prevent, said analyst Max Abrahms, who expects the FBI to break up more of the kind of operations envisaged by the Ohio suspect. The attack against the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo was claimed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemeni branch of the movement, which is “particularly worrisome for the US.” “AQAP is making a lot of noise right now and understandably that that gives US security officials jitters,” said Abrahms, who teaches at Northeastern University. “It makes perfect sense, particularly because the attack was linked to AQAP that the US would ramp up its own security,” he added. In the wake of the Paris attacks, which left 17 dead, US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson ramped up security and surveillance around government buildings and at airports. “It is time to be extra vigilant,” he said, announcing efforts to raise awareness among religious and ethnic communities across the United States. “The continuing terror threat” overshadowing the United States was hammered home with all US security services and police during a teleconference Wednesday with the FBI and Homeland Security. “Continued vigilance, information sharing, and co-ordination at all levels are the key to effective prevention, and provided an inclusive forum to share relevant information with our law enforcement partners,” said an FBI statement. Two congressional probes will focus on homegrown terrorism. The Republican chairman of the Homeland Security Commission of the House of Representatives, Michael McCaul, said it is a matter of determining how the US government ﬁghts these domestic threats and ﬁxes the gaps in its in defence systems to protect the US. Obamacare’s lead agency chief to quit ‘In Dog We Trust’ rug to go Reuters Washington T he Obama administration official who oversaw the botched rollout of the Obamacare website, Healthcare. gov, announced yesterday she will resign as head of the agency that also manages the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programsme. “It is with sadness and mixed emotions that I write to tell you that February will be my last month,” Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said in an email to staff that was seen by Reuters. A former nurse and hospital executive, Tavenner, 63, joined CMS in February 2010, a month before President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. She enjoyed widespread bipartisan support in Congress as a private sector leader who had also served as Virginia’s health and human resources secretary. An administration official said Tavenner was leaving “at the right time” after her agency had hired capable new officials in leadership positions. “She’s been here for ﬁve years and it’s a 24/7 job,” the official said. Andrew Slavitt, a former UnitedHealth Group executive who joined CMS last year to oversee HealthCare.gov and policy co-ordination with other CMS programmes, will replace Tavenner as acting CMS administrator, US Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said. HealthCare.gov is now headed up by Kevin Counihan. “Marilyn has done a great job in a very difficult position under near impossible circumstances. She has proven herself to be a strong leader and a straight shooter,” Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. Tavenner quickly emerged as a leading ﬁgure in the implementation of Obamacare, including HealthCare.gov, which crashed on launch in October 2013 due to technical glitches and plunged Obama and his signature domestic policy into months of political crisis. “It is with sadness and mixed emotions that I write to tell you that February will be my last month” Administration officials put together a rescue operation with help from outside experts that got the website working well enough to surpass enrollment projections. Republicans in the House of Representatives later accused Tavenner and other administra- tion officials of misleading them about the Obamacare rollout by assuring lawmakers ahead of the launch that the website would work. Tavenner’s nearly 2,000word e-mail to staff made no mention of HealthCare.gov, but focused instead on the successes of Obamacare enrollment, improved quality of care and a crackdown on Medicare fraud and abuse. Burwell told federal staff in a separate e-mail that Tavenner had helped shore up the ﬁnances of the ailing Medicare programe for the elderly and disabled, expanded the Medicaid programme for the poor, reduced deadly hospital infections and accelerated innovation. “It’s a measure of her tenacity and dedication that after the tough initial rollout of HealthCare.gov, she helped right the ship,” Burwell said. under the hammer in Florida AFP Miami T he rug at a Florida sheriff ’s department might have been better suited for an animal shelter. The plush green carpet proudly displayed the crest of the Pinellas County Sheriff ’s Department, emblazoned with its name and a picture of the state of Florida. Unfortunately, it also contained a small but disastrous spelling error: The words “In Dog We Trust,” rather than “In God We Trust,” the official motto found on US currency and on many government seals. It took workers at the office a few months to notice the typo, which appears in ﬁne print on The rug bearing the official motto with the spelling error. the rug. Now they’re looking to sell the defective ﬂoor covering for a good cause. “The Pinellas County Sheriff ’s Office will not ‘sweep anything under the rug’,” it said in a statement. “Due to extensive inquiries regarding the plans for the ‘dog- gone’ rug, the Sheriff ’s Office has placed the item up for bid and will donate 100% of the bid to Canine Estates Incorporated, a local animal rescue,” said the sheriff ’s department, The office has ordered a new rug which they hope will be error-free. New Cuba rules no beach bonanza for US travellers Reuters Havana/Miami A merican travellers beware: you can’t legally book your next beach vacation to Cuba just yet. New US rules that came into effect yesterday as part of moves to improve relations with Washington’s old Cold War foe will allow expanded travel to communist-run Cuba for American citizens. The new regulations will allow Americans to visit the island for any of a dozen speciﬁc reasons, including family visits, education and religion, without ﬁrst obtaining a special license from the US government as was previously the case. But trips purely for tourism remain speciﬁcally prohibited. Collin Laverty, president of US company Cuba Educational Travel, said the “educational” category would probably be one of the most-used formal categories for travel. “You will be expected to visit the agricultural market, speak with the owners of private restaurants, share your own life experiences with Cubans and, of course, to stay away from the beaches,” said Laverty. He has brought around 5,000 people to Cuba over the last four years, organising trips that range from short family visits for Cuban-Americans to holidays designed for art collectors or cigar aﬁcionados. Many of the Americans who travel to the island already visit beach resorts such as Varadero, on the island’s northern coast, betting on the fact that what US authorities don’t know will not hurt them. A senior US official said that under the new rules visitors could still be slapped with penalties for disregarding the travel categories, adding they would have to keep records and documents showing they complied with the rules for ﬁve years. Currently travel to the island from the United States is either via third countries such as Mexico, or directly on chartered ﬂights that are permitted to carry licensed travellers. Over time, if direct commercial ﬂights start and on-line booking sites add Cuba to their destinations, travellers might be A Cuban gives the thumbs up from his balcony decorated with the US and Cuban flags in Havana, yesterday. The United States eased travel and trade restrictions with Cuba yesterday, marking the first concrete steps towards restoring normal ties with the Cold War-era foe since announcing a historic rapprochement. able to book tickets themselves and certify to the airline that the trip was for an allowed purpose, the US official said. United Airlines Inc said on Thursday it planned to serve Cuba from Houston and Newark, New Jersey, subject to government approvals. Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways said they would look into adding services. “We are interested in providing service to Cuba from multiple US cities, as soon as legally permitted. Our existing charter programme to and from Cuba has given us valuable experience in the market and a strong foundation for future expansion,” said JetBlue spokesman Morgan Johnston. Experts in travel to the island noted that the new regulations exempt some but not all groups from the requirement of travelling in an organised group rather than as individuals. Those exempt include CubanAmericans, journalists and people travelling for government or business reasons. But ordinary travellers will still need, at least for the moment, to book through a tour operator, which will still be responsible for ensuring the itinerary meets Treasury regulations and does not constitute pleasure tourism. That regulation “implicitly bars individual travel which forces it to remain under the table,” said John McAuliff, who has arranged licensed trips to Cuba on behalf of the Fund for Recon- ciliation and Development. Augusto Maxwell, head of the Cuba practice at Miami law ﬁrm Akerman, said the new rules were a blessing to American business travellers who have long been constrained by a $180 per diem limit on spending by the Treasury Department. That limit has been lifted under the new rules. Previously, US business travellers wanting to visit high-end restaurants and sample expensive rums and cigars had to tread carefully in Cuba to avoid scrutiny. “The older rules were nudgenudge, wink-wink. These rules are very clear,” he said. David Campbell, marketing director at AllTheRooms.com, an accommodation search engine, urged US travellers to go now, before direct ﬂights and cruise ships made the island 90 miles south of Florida too accessible. That said, while tourism has developed strongly over the last two decades and Cuba is used to visitors from Canada, Europe and Latin America, the island still lacks a wide choice of high-end hotels and other tourism. 8 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 ASEAN American woman accused of killing mother seeks funds from her estate Reuters Kansas City A US woman who is being tried in Indonesia for the murder of her mother on the resort island of Bali has ﬁled a lawsuit seeking money from a trust in her alleged victim’s name to pay legal bills, court records showed. The woman, Heather Mack, and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, could face the death penalty if found guilty of murdering Sheila von Wiese-Mack, whose battered body was found in a bloody suitcase outside a luxury hotel in August. Mack ﬁled a suit in Chicago on Thursday seeking to transfer $150,000 out of her mother’s $1.6mn trust fund to pay her legal expenses, according to her attorney, Anthony Scifo. The money would go to a bank to pay future billed expenses, he said. Mack is the sole beneﬁciary of the trust, administered by William Wiese, the dead woman’s brother, Scifo said. Wiese has an “affirmative duty” to act for her beneﬁt, Scifo said. “He has not provided her with one cent,” he said. A hearing on the matter is scheduled in Cook County Circuit Court, he said. Trials for Mack and Schaefer, both from Chicago, began on Wednesday. Neither entered a plea in their initial appearance, and the two are due back in court next week. Mack, however, maintains her innocence, according to the lawsuit ﬁled in Illinois. She travelled to Bali for a vacation with her mother, the suit states. Mack, seven months pregnant, is charged with assisting Schaefer in killing von WieseMack, who was 62 at the time of her death. The couple is accused of stuffing her battered body in a suitcase and dropping it off with other luggage outside a luxury hotel. They could die by ﬁring squad if convicted, Sifco said. Bali police conducted a fourmonth investigation into the murder that included a reenactment of the crime at the luxury hotel where von WieseMack’s body was found. Other evidence submitted to prosecutors included CCTV footage showing the couple speaking to a taxi driver after dropping off the bloodied suitcase. Mack and her mother had a troubled relationship, and von Wiese-Mack had frequently reported that her daughter had punched and bitten her, according to police reports cited by Chicago media. Von Wiese-Mack had recently moved to a condominium in Chicago. Her husband and Heather’s father, classical music composer James Mack, died in 2006. Strong currents stop divers reaching aircraft’s main body AFP Pangkalan Bun I Buddhist monks hold placards as they protest against visiting UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, in Yangon yesterday. Myanmar govt warned over growing religious tensions AFP Yangon A top American diplomat yesterday decried growing religious intolerance in Myanmar and warned the use of faith for political ends was “playing with ﬁre” in a crunch election year for the former junta-run country. His comments came as hundreds of monks staged a rally in Yangon blasting the UN’s rights envoy for perceived bias towards Rohingya Muslims, in the latest show of strength for Buddhist nationalists. “We expressed a concern that the use of religion in particular to divide people —whether it is done for political or for any other purposes — is incredibly dangerous, particularly in an election year,” Tom Malinowski, a senior state department human rights envoy, told reporters after a six day mission to the country. The delegation voiced fears “this really is playing with ﬁre and exposing the country to dangers that it is not prepared to handle,” he added. Myanmar has seen surging Buddhist nationalism in recent years and spates of violence tar- UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee talks during a press conference in Yangon. geting Muslim minorities that have raised doubts over its much vaunted reforms after decades of harsh military rule. UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, was denounced by crowds of monks in the main city of Yangon as she concluded her second official visit to the country yesterday. The UN envoy warned that inter-religious violence remains a “signiﬁcant problem” in Myanmar, particularly in unresttorn Rakhine state, where she said continuing acute tensions between Muslims and Buddhists could have “far-reaching impli- cations”. “The election is a very critical time in shaping the future of Myanmar and the situation in Rakhine is still in a state of crisis,” she told reporters. Buddhist-majority Myanmar has large minority religious groups, particularly Muslims and Christians, who are both estimated to account for around four% of the population, although many believe the number of Muslims could be higher. Religious intolerance, sporadically spilling into lethal bloodshed, has spread across Myanmar since 2012, when unrest between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists ignited Rakhine state. Both the US and UN raised particular concerns about a set of controversial laws proposed by President Thein Sein in response to campaigns by hardline Buddhist monks. The draft legislation — including curbs on interfaith marriage, religious conversion and birth rates — are seen by activists as particularly discriminatory against women and minorities. They are yet to be passed by parliament, but the high-level support from government has raised fears over growing politicisation of religion in the diverse and conﬂict-prone nation. “If these bills are passed, it could be viewed as one of the indicators of backtracking in the political reform process,” said Lee. Her visit comes in the wake of a recent UN resolution urging Myanmar to grant the stateless Rohingya access to citizenship —stoking controversy in the country, where many view the group as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. At the monk protest in Yangon, hardline nationalist cleric Wirathu said that monks had decided to protest against the UN “as they are trying to in- Impeachment calls crescendo for ex-Thai PM AFP Bangkok A Thai anti-graft official said ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra must face a “political punishment” for a costly rice subsidy scheme, as calls for her impeachment gathered steam yesterday. Yingluck, the kingdom’s ﬁrst female premier and the sister of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled from office by a controversial court ruling shortly before the army staged a coup in May. She faces impeachment by the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly over her administration’s lossmaking rice programme, which funnelled cash to her rural base, but costbns of dollars and was a driving force behind protests that felled her government. A successful impeachment needs three-ﬁfths of the 250-strong assembly to vote in favour when they meet next Friday. A guilty verdict would bring an automatic ﬁve-year ban from politics, but also risks enraging her family’s ‘Red Shirt’ supporters who have laid low since the coup. “Although she is no longer in her position she still has to face a political punishment,” said commissioner Vicha Mahakhun of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). Yingluck did not appear at her second hearing on Friday - sparking indignation among anti-Shinawatra assembly members who refused to hear from former ministers sent to represent her. Experts say the impeach- ment move is the latest attempt by Thailand’s royalist elite, and its army backers, to nullify the political inﬂuence of the Shinawatras, whose parties have won every election since 2001. The NACC led the probe into the rice scheme which paid farmers up to twice the market rate for their grain but left Thailand with a mountain of unsold rice. “We warned the government twice (over the rice scheme) but the government ignored us,” Vicha said, adding he hoped the Attorney-General would “agree” to also pursue a criminal charge against her over the scheme. Last week Yingluck defended the scheme as a wellintentioned attempt to support Thailand’s rural poor, who historically receive a disproportionately small slice of government cash. “I ran the government with honesty and in accordance with all laws,” the former businesswoman told the assembly. But her failure to attend on Friday sparked sharp criticism from members known for their loathing of the Shinawatra clan, who bitterly divide opinion in Thailand. “All of our questions are clearly and directly put to Yingluck... she should come to answer,” said assembly member and renowned anti-Thaksin ﬁgure Somchai Saweangkarn. The assembly ruled that Yingluck would have to answer their questions next week ahead of the vote. Since Thaksin swept to power in 2001, Shinawatra governments have been ﬂoored by two coups and bloodied by the removal of three other premiers by the kingdom’s interventionist courts. terfere in our country’s internal affairs”. The Rakhine conflict left some 200 people dead and around 140,000 trapped in squalid displacement camps, mainly the Rohingya, who have fled the country in their tens of thousands in perilous sea journeys heading for Malaysia and beyond. “These people are Bengalis not Rohingyas,” Wirathu said, using a term seen as disparaging to the Rohingya, many of whom claim long ancestry in Myanmar. “I don’t accept them because they are dangerous to our country, not because I want them to suffer,” he added. Lee also warned that while dozens of displaced people in Rakhine’s Myebon area had been granted either citizenship or naturalised status during a pilot scheme last year, none of those given official documentation were permitted to leave their camp. “They remain inside the camp with minimum food rations, limited access to health care and to other essential services. The despair that I saw in the eyes of the people in the Myebon IDP camp was heartbreaking,” she said. ndonesian divers yesterday again failed to reach the main body of an AirAsia plane that crashed into the sea last month with 162 people on board, as strong underwater currents hampered efforts. Flight QZ8501 went down in the Java Sea on December 28 in stormy weather, during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. The plane’s black boxes were recovered this week, providing investigators with a wealth of information to determine what caused the crash, and on Wednesday a Singapore navy vessel spotted the fuselage, the jet’s main body. So far just 51 bodies of the crash victims have been recovered, but authorities hope the main section will contain most of those belonging to passengers and crew. Underwater photos taken by high-tech search equipment showed the fuselage and part of Malaysia-based AirAsia’s motto — “Now Everyone Can Fly” — painted on the plane’s exterior. For the past two days, divers have been trying to reach the wreckage but the inhospitable conditions in the area have prevented them from accessing it. Search and rescue agency official S B Supriyadi said that yesterday “the divers were hampered by strong currents which them stopped from reaching the fuselage”. Officials say that if it proves difficult to retrieve bodies from the main section while it is still on the seabed, search and rescue teams will try to lift it. The plane’s tail was raised out of the water last weekend using giant balloons. There was a huge international hunt for the crashed plane, involving ships from several countries including the US and China, but the search has now been scaled back. The jet’s black boxes, the ﬂight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have been ﬂown to Jakarta, where the National Transportation Safety Committee and international experts have started a probe. Indonesia’s meteorological agency has said bad weather may have caused the crash, but only the black boxes will be able to provide deﬁnitive answers. All but seven of those on board the ﬂight were Indonesian. Police shoot dead suspected militant AFP Jakarta I ndonesian anti-terror police yesterday shot dead a suspected militant accused of deadly attacks on policemen and having links to the country’s most wanted extremist, an official said. The world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation has struggled with extremism for more than a decade, facing a series of attacks on Western targets, although a crackdown has weakened the most dangerous networks. The elite anti-terror unit shot dead the suspected militant, identified by police only as Ronny, during a firefight early yesterday in a small village in Kediri district, on the main island of Java. “He tried to escape and opened fire on police,” national police spokesman Ronny Sompie said, adding that the suspect died at the scene. Sompie said that the man was linked to the country’s most-wanted extremist, Santoso, leader of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen militant group, which hides out in the jungles on central Sulawesi island. He was allegedly behind deadly attacks on four policemen. The militants on Sulawesi are thought to be among the few that remain a real threat in Indonesia. They regularly launch attacks but these tend to target Indonesian security forces and be low-impact. New species of legless amphibian found in Cambodia A new species of legless amphibian resembling a giant earthworm or a snake has been discovered in a remote but threatened area of Cambodian rainforest, conservationists said yesterday. The grey-brown creature -Ichthyophis cardamomensis -- was found in Cambodia’s southwest Cardamom Mountains, an area under threat from habitat loss, according to Fauna and Flora International (FFI). The new species is often mistaken for a snake, with larger species known to grow up to 1.5 metres in length, FFI said. It was confirmed by scientists earlier this month according to leading Cambodian FFI herpetologist Neang Thy. “These discoveries are important to demonstrate that much of Cambodia’s biodiversity remains unknown and unstudied by science, and This handout photo released by Fauna and Flora International (FFI) shows a new species of legless amphibian resembling a giant earthworm in Pursat province, Cambodia. many more areas need to be searched,” said Thy, who has been researching amphibians and reptiles since 2003. The creature is caecilian -- an order of amphibians that look like snakes or earthworms and are generally found underground. Once a stronghold of the toppled Khmer Rouge regime, the bio-diverse Cardamom Mountains are home to an array of rare species, including the Asian elephant, but the area faces widespread deforestation. Conservationists warn that illegal logging and other habitat destruction could mean new species become extinct shortly after discovery. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 9 AUSTRALASIA/EAST ASIA GRAFT TOURISM TRAGEDY PEOPLE REFUGEES Govt tries former Nanjing mayor for corruption North Korea sets up shop at Swiss holiday fair Vendors fleeing officers ‘run over and kill son’ Murakami begins online agony uncle clinic ‘Volatile situation’ in PNG asylum-seeker protest The former mayor of China’s Nanjing city went on trial yesterday on charges of taking $1.9mn in bribes, the court said, 15 months after he was removed from his post. Ji Jianye allegedly accepted 11.3mn yuan ($1.9mn) from late 1999 to 2012, the Yantai Intermediate People’s Court in eastern Shandong province said on its microblog. The court is in the eastern province of Shandong, while Nanjing is the capital of neighbouring Jiangsu. China typically holds corruption trials outside the geographical area where the alleged crimes took place, to separate officials from their local power bases. North Korea, a hereditary dictatorship under international pressure over its nuclear weapons programme and human rights record, has sent a representative to a travel fair in Switzerland to attract visitors to the isolated country. Mountaineering, landmarks and the country’s beaches are part of the sales pitch by the North Korea tourism representative, Ri Yong Bom. But the biggest pull for Westerners is the chance to catch a glimpse behind the last remaining Iron Curtain state. “Mostly, they are interested to see our system, how it works, how the people are living and what the present situation is,” Berlin-based Ri said. A Chinese couple selling fruit on the street accidentally ran over and killed their four-year-old son while trying to avoid city enforcement officers, state media reported yesterday, prompting outrage online. It is the latest public outcry involving “chengguan”, or urban management officers, who have gained particular notoriety among the Chinese public for abusing their power while enforcing city laws. Street vendors in China often operate without licences, and can be fined for doing so. When the fruit sellers in Zhejiang province’s Hangzhou city spotted four chengguan patrolling, they got in their truck to flee, accidentally running over their son. Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has started offering opinions and advice on queries from fans in an online agony uncle column, kicking things off by revealing his fears over hate speech and his own failing eyesight. The publicity-shy writer started the project Thursday at “Murakami-san no tokoro” or “Mr Murakami’s place” where he hoped for easy-going, fun exchanges with readers. The first batch of answers -- mostly in short and simple sentences — appeared at www. welluneednt.com yesterday, adorned by illustrations of a man resembling Murakami alongside several animals. Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said yesterday he was worried about the “volatile situation” at a Papua New Guinea asylum-seeker camp after reports that detainees were swallowing razor blades and washing powder. Australia sends asylum-seekers who try to enter the country by boat to offshore detention centres on Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the Pacific with no prospect of being settled on the mainland, even if they are genuine refugees. More than 400 boat people on Manus Island in PNG have gone on hunger strike protesting their detention, living conditions and the possibility of being permanently resettled in the Pacific nation, refugee advocates and reports said. Top Chinese spymaster probed for corruption AFP Beijing C hina’s ruling Communist Party said yesterday it has put the deputy chief of the country’s top intelligence agency under investigation, the latest high-ranking ﬁgure probed in a much-publicised corruption crackdown. Ma Jian, a deputy head of China’s ministry of state security, is suspected of “serious disciplinary violation” — generally a euphemism for graft — the party’s internal watchdog said on its website. The shady ministry of state security is said to be responsible for intelligence gathering overseas and surveillance against Chinese dissidents. It is a vast organisation but does not have a website or public address. Separately, the former mayor of the eastern city of Nanjing, Ji Jianye, stood trial yesterday for bribery. The news of Ma’s investigation follows probes into other ﬁgures in China’s security apparatus, most notably Zhou Yongkang who was responsible for the security ministry and Ma’s ultimate boss as a member of the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee before his retirement in 2012. Dozens of Zhou’s associates and family members, including many from the police and security services, have been detained in the past year, according to Chinese reports. State media reported Thursday that Zhou had formed a clique with Bo Xilai, a former rising star in the party who fell victim to a murder and graft investigation and was jailed in 2013. China’s President Xi Jinping has vowed to target both highlevel “tigers” as well as low-level “ﬂies” in a campaign against endemic graft that he says is a threat to the future of the party. But critics say China has failed to implement institutional safeguards against graft, such as public asset disclosure, an independent judiciary, and free media, leaving anti-corruption campaigns subject to the inﬂuence of politics. A party investigation usually precedes a criminal prosecution, followed by a trial and possibly a jail sentence. Former Nanjing mayor Ji, who was expelled from the ruling party last January, allegedly accepted 11.3mn yuan ($1.9mn) from late 1999 to 2012, the Yantai Intermediate People’s Court said on its microblog. The politician had earned the nickname “Bulldozer Ji” for promoting construction in the city -- but state media linked his downfall to construction project awards to a company with which he had close ties. The ministry of state security is often described as China’s equivalent of the Soviet Union’s much-feared KGB. Li Fengzhi, a former operative in the ministry who defected to the US, told reporters in 2009 that he had grown “furious” that his job entailed spying on dissidents, spiritual groups and aggrieved poor people. Very little official information about Ma has been made public, but respected ﬁnancial magazine Caixin said he had worked at the ministry for several decades after attending university in the 1980s. It cited an unnamed source as saying Ma was connected to “disputes” at Founder Group, a technology conglomerate affiliated with the elite Peking University. Police this month reportedly detained the group’s CEO and several other executives after they were accused by a business rival of insider trading and misappropriating company assets worth several billion yuan. The most recent official report to mention Ma says that he attended “activities related” to a December meeting in Islamabad between China’s top police official Guo Shengkun and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post this week cited sources as saying that Ma is “closely linked” to Ling Jihua, the previous chief of staff to former president Hu Jintao. It added that Ma may have been held as part of an inquiry into Ling, who was detained last month following rumours that he had attempted to cover up the lurid 2012 death of his son in a Ferrari crash. Members of a rescue team look at a section of the hull (front) of a tugboat which sank on a trial voyage in Jingjiang, east China’s Jiangsu province yesterday. Foreigners among 22 missing after boat sinks in Yangtze AFP Shanghai M ore than 20 people including four Singaporeans were missing yesterday after a tugboat sank on a trial voyage on the Yangtze, China’s longest river, state media and authorities said. The newly built vessel was undergoing testing with 25 people aboard in the eastern province of Jiangsu on Thursday afternoon when the accident happened, state media said. Three people had been rescued, state broadcaster China Central Television reported, leaving 22 missing. The televi- sion report said “around” eight foreigners were on board when the boat sank. A Singapore foreign ministry spokesman said that the vessel, JMS Delta, was registered in the city-state and four of its nationals were on board. The Japanese and Indian consulates in Shanghai each conﬁrmed that one of their nationals was among the missing. A microblog posting by a newspaper under China’s transport ministry said two of the others on board were from Malaysia and Indonesia. “Water entered the boat cabin very quickly, in less than 20 seconds it was completely ﬁlled with water,” survivor Wang Zhenkai told state television from his hospital bed. Wang was accompanying a Japanese technician who was testing the engine, though the ship was made and outﬁtted in China, reports said. A photo carried by state media showed only the bow and part of the hull of the metal ship ﬂoating above the waterline, with a salvage barge alongside. Reports said rescue workers were trying to raise the vessel and the search was continuing, but Xinhua cited rescuers saying the work was difficult as the current was swift and the water cold. “As long as we have the slimmest hope, we will give a 100% effort,” Wang Shim- Tongan volcano creates new island Shark attacks teen off Australian beach AFP Nuku’alofa AFP Sydney A Tongan volcano has created a substantial new island since it began erupting last month, spewing out huge volumes of rock and dense ash that has killed nearby vegetation, officials said yesterday. The volcano, about 65 kilometres southwest of the South Paciﬁc nation’s capital Nuku’alofa, rumbled to life on December 20 for the ﬁrst time in ﬁve years, the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry said. It said the volcano was erupting from two vents, one on the uninhabited island of Hunga Ha’apai and the other underwater about 100 metres offshore. The ministry said experts took a boat trip to view the eruption on Thursday and conﬁrmed it had transformed the local landscape. “The new island is more than one kilometre wide, two kilometres long and about 100 metres high,” it said in a statement. “During our observations the volcano was erupting about every ﬁve minutes to a height of about 400 metres, accompanied by some large rocks... as the ash is very wet, most is being deposited close to the vent, building up the new island.” It said ash and acidic rain was A This handout photo shows smoke rising from the eruption of a volcano, some 65 kilometres southwest of the South Pacific nation Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa. deluging an area 10 kilometres around the volcano, adding: “Leaves on trees on Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai have died, probably caused by volcanic ash and gases.” A number of international ﬂights were cancelled earlier this week amid concerns about the volcano’s ash plume but they resumed on Wednesday, with authorities saying debris from the eruption was not being thrown high into the atmos- phere. Tonga, which is almost 2,000 kilometres northeast of New Zealand, lies on the socalled Paciﬁc “Ring of Fire”, where continental plates collide causing frequent volcanic and seismic activity. teenage boy was taken to hospital yesterday after being bitten by a shark he was ﬁlming off Australia’s east coast as another beach remained shut for a week over repeated shark sightings. The 17-year-old, named in local media as Sam Smith, was spearﬁshing off Mollymook, 230 kilometres south of Sydney, when he was bitten on the hand after attempting to stab the shark to “scare it off ”, his friend said. Luke Sisinni said the pair were shooting video clips while spearﬁshing when they spotted the animal, with Smith swimming down to ﬁlm it. “He said it spun around and started coming for him, so he stabbed it with his spear to try and scare it off, but it just went ballistic and bit him,” Sisinni told the Ulladulla Times, adding that the shark was about 1.5 metres long. A New South Wales Ambulance spokeswoman said the teenager was taken to hospital in a stable condition. “Our paramedics on the beach treated this patient for lacerations to his left hand in- cluding multiple lacerations to his ﬁngers,” she said. The incident came as beaches off the city of Newcastle, 400 kilometres north of Mollymook, were closed for a seventh consecutive day after lifeguards spotted large sharks close to the coast attacking dolphins. “This is deﬁnitely an extraordinary situation,” police inspector Paul Bernard told reporters. “We often see sharks herding schools of baitﬁsh... but to have large sharks in the environment attacking other creatures in the middle of the day close to shore is not something we see. Dolphins are not small — they’re bigger than people.” Sydney’s Bondi Beach was brieﬂy closed in early January after a shark sighting. Swimmers were also ordered out of the water at Bondi in November after a shark was spotted, which followed the discovery of a great white shark carcass in nets set up offshore to protect bathers. Beaches across Sydney and New South Wales state have been partially netted since 1937. The last shark fatality in Australia was in late December when a 17-year-old boy was attacked while spearﬁshing in the country’s southwest. ing, deputy head of the Jiangsu Maritime Safety Administration, told state television. The accident occurred on a stretch of the river between the cities of Jingjiang and Zhangjiagang, which is close to the Yangtze’s mouth near the commercial hub Shanghai. The provincial government said the boat was undergoing trials without properly completing the required procedures and without ﬁrst reporting the condition of the ship, as required by regulations. The operator “should have reported to the responsible government body for endorsement, but did not,” Wang, the safety administration official, said. China plans database of bad behaviour to deter its unruly tourists China has started work on a national database to help rein in some of its unruly sightseers and monitor the behaviour of habitual offenders, state media said, after some instances of graceless conduct brought its tourists unwanted notoriety. Chinese tourists overtook Americans and Germans as the world’s top-spending travellers in 2013, the World Tourism Organisation says, but questionable behaviour has given offence in some countries, making them unwelcome. In 2013, a Chinese school student scrawled his name on the wall of an ancient temple in Luxor, causing outrage in Egypt. In Hong Kong, the former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, anger reached boiling point last year when a mainland couple allowed their two-year-old to defecate on a sidewalk. Last month, a Chinese woman scalded a flight attendant on a Thai AirAsia flight from Bangkok by throwing hot water at her, in the most recent incident involving people from the country travelling overseas. A system that tracks bad behaviour by Chinese tourists is in the works, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday, citing Li Jinzao, head of the National Tourism Administration. Once it is in place, habitual offenders may find it tough to board planes or book hotels, with the data being shared with airlines, hotels and travel agencies. 10 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 BRITAIN CRIME LEGAL ACCIDENT LAW AND ORDER ARSON Man arrested over Xbox, Playstation hacks Sotheby’s wins court battle over disputed painting Architect killed getting out of taxi on M1 ‘Car thief’ hurt in fall during rooftop chase Girl denies starting fatal blaze The police yesterday said they had arrested a man in northwest England following the 2014 cyberattacks on Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox systems. Both systems suffered long outages over Christmas after a major distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack. A hacking group calling itself Lizard Squad, which had attacked the two networks earlier last year, claimed responsibility. “Officers ... have arrested a man in Southport, Merseyside yesterday morning as part of an investigation into ‘swatting’ and computer hacking offences,” Merseyside police said. The officers had worked closely with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the operation, it added. Sotheby’s yesterday won its legal battle with a man who claimed the auction house negligently led him to undersell a painting acquired by an expert who later declared it to be a Caravaggio. Lancelot William Thwaytes sold the painting, known as “The Cardsharps”, to the partner of renowned collector Denis Mahon at a London auction in 2006 for £42,000 after Sotheby’s billed it as being the work of a “follower” of the Italian Renaissance master. But a year later, Mahon claimed that the work was an original, painted around 1595, and insured it for £10mn. Thwaytes sued Sotheby’s for negligence, claiming they hadn’t sufficiently examined whether the painting could be an original. A London architect was knocked down and killed as he got out of a taxi on the M1. Andrew Griffiths, 32, was struck by a silver Mondeo when he stepped out of a white Ford Mondeo on the hard shoulder of the southbound carriageway at junction 20 near Rugby, Warwickshire. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police are investigating. The driver stopped and no arrests were made. Griffiths, who lived in Kentish Town and was originally from Sutton Coldfield, worked at award-winning PKS architects in Camden. PKS partner Christopher Kyriakides said: “We will sorely miss Andrew. He was a bright man with a bright future. ” A suspected car thief fleeing police over the rooftops of a wealthy west London street plunged onto a balcony, smashing his back and pelvis. The man hid for about 30 minutes as police flooded Crookham Road in Fulham, but he was located on the second-floor balcony after crying out in pain. The drama in the street, where homes can cost £3mn, happened at about 7pm on Thursday. The man, 38, had fallen 10ft. He was taken to hospital. A Met spokesman said he had been arrested on suspicion of theft. Police are battling gangs of thieves who are targeting expenisve “keyless” cars in wealthy areas. A 16-year-old girl has denied starting a fire which claimed the life of a firefighter. Father-of-two Stephen Hunt, 38, died after he tackled a blaze at a shop in Manchester city centre on July 13, 2013. The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared at Manchester Crown Court yesterday and entered a not guilty plea to committing arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. Her father sat behind her in the dock throughout the brief hearing. Sixty firefighters tackled the fire at Paul’s Hair World in Oldham Street as Hunt got into difficulties inside the building. The ex-soldier and firefighter for five years was taken to hospital but did not recover from his injuries. Global oil price drop hands Cameron a gift Reuters London C heaper oil has handed Prime Minister David Cameron a political gift four months before a national election by lowering prices for everything from petrol to food, blunting rival Labour’s attack over a “cost of living crisis”. But with just over 100 days before election day and his Conservatives still narrowly behind Labour in most opinion polls, Cameron’s allies are still uncertain if the feelgood factor will arrive fast enough to get him re-elected. One of Miliband’s signature proposals, launched to great fanfare in 2013, is a freeze on household utility rates. But that loses its impact with bills falling anyway “This is deﬁnitely a political windfall and a good thing because it’s a fast tax cut in layman’s terms and puts money into people’s pockets very fast,” one source close to Cameron and his Conservative Party said. “But there’s uncertainty about whether the votes will feed through as fast as the price cuts are feeding through. The election is not that far off now.” Labour insiders say the opposition party has no plans to change tack, arguing that the recovery has been uneven and voters who feel pinched will still respond to its message. “The cost of living crisis is not just about whether wages can rise faster than prices for one month. It’s a fundamental question about who the economy works for,” a Labour source said, explaining the party’s campaign strategy. The opposition party says workers have suffered the worst decline in real incomes over the course of a parliamentary term for more than a century, with real wages for full-time workers falling by more than £2,000 since 2010. The past ﬁve years have indeed been tough for many, but Britain now has one of the fastest growth rates of any advanced economy. Unemployment is at a multi-year low, mortgages have never been cheaper, and, perhaps most importantly, sliding oil prices have driven down inﬂation, so that wages are ﬁnally rising faster than prices. “It takes a huge bite out of Labour leader Ed Miliband’s core central economic attack that the recovery has only beneﬁted a small proportion of the population,” said Oliver Harvey, a Deutsche Bank strategist in London. One of Miliband’s signature proposals, launched to great fanfare in 2013, is a freeze on household utility rates. But that loses its impact with bills falling anyway. E.ON on Tuesday became the ﬁrst utility to cut household prices and others are expected to follow. Whether voters will give Cameron credit for improving circumstances is still unclear though. “The difficulty they have in getting much out of it is that it is beyond their control largely,” said Joe Twyman, of pollster YouGov, pointing out that Cameron is obviously not personally responsible for global oil price falls. “Yes it’s going well for them at the moment but there’s nothing to suggest it couldn’t switch round.” Nor is the oil price fall all good news: Scotland’s North Sea oil industry has been hard hit. But the Conservatives have few votes to lose in Scotland. Some economists are also starting to fret that low inﬂation could turn to damaging deﬂation. The eurozone, Britain’s biggest trade partner, is already suffering from falling prices and could face more uncertainty from elections in Greece. Yet overall few dispute that tumbling oil prices are a net beneﬁt for Britain, boosting growth and consumers’ disposable incomes, and that some of that feel-good factor should rub off on Cameron. The only question is how much. “It could be said that Cameron is lucky to have the right economic situation,” said YouGov’s Twyman. “He and his party will be rubbing their hands with glee.” Prime Minister David Cameron tours 1776 as he attends a cyber breakfast in Washington yesterday. 1776 serves as a global hub for startups tackling major challenges in education, energy, healthcare, government, and other critical industries. 1776 startups receive mentorship, corporate connections, access to capital, media attention, and a pipeline of top talent - the raw materials critical for innovators to succeed. Britain, US to up cyber security co-operation Agencies London B ritain and the US will increase co-operation on cyber security, Prime Minister David Cameron said, setting up “cyber cells” to share intelligence and conduct simulated attacks to test the defences of organisations such as banks. Cameron is on a two-day visit to Washington focused on the economy and security, and held a second meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House yesterday. “We have got hugely capa- Long-lost British space probe found on Mars AFP London A British-built space probe that disappeared without a trace more than a decade ago has been spotted on the surface of Mars, the UK Space Agency said yesterday. The Beagle 2 lander was found partially deployed with one of its parachutes still attached in images taken by Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Scientists said it would be impossible to renew contact or retrieve data from the machine, which was lost without trace on December 26, 2003. “These images are consistent with the Beagle 2 having successfully landed on Mars,” David Parker, head of the UK Space Agency, told reporters in London. Parker said the ﬁnd vindicated the hard work behind the ill-fated mission, which has remained a mystery. The driving force behind the project, planetary scientist Colin Pillinger, died last year not know- ing whether his rover landed successfully or not. “To be frank, I had all but given up hope of ever knowing what happened to Beagle 2,” Parker said. “Every Christmas Day since 2003 I have wondered what happened to Beagle 2,” he added. The mission gripped Britain and there were emotional reactions to the presumed destruction of Beagle 2 during a landing sequence followed around the country. Named after Charles Darwin’s ship HMS Beagle, Beagle 2 was shaped like a giant pocket watch and opened to reveal solar panels, a robotic arm and research equipment designed to search for signs of life. It rode piggy-back to Mars aboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express in 2003, taking off from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in the ﬁrst European mission to explore another planet. The mission’s call-sign was composed by the Britpop band Blur, and the “test card” used to calibrate the probe’s cameras after the landing was painted by British artist Damien Hirst. After detaching from Mars Express on December 26, it was never heard from again and scientists had said it may have burnt up in the planet’s atmosphere. “It was a great pity we couldn’t have delivered the world-class science Beagle 2 may have brought and even sadder that Colin and other colleagues who died in 2014 didn’t live to see the discovery that Beagle 2 made it to Mars,” Parker said. In the early days and weeks after it disappeared, Pillinger remained relentlessly optimistic and his terrier-like enthusiasm made him a popular ﬁgure on British television. The European Space Agency’s director general Jean-Jacques Dordain said meanwhile at a press brieﬁng in Paris that “what was viewed as a failure 11 years ago in fact turns out not to be a total failure”. “At least there was a landing on Mars,” he added. In London, Parker said: “The history of space exploration is marked by both success and failure. ble cyber defences, we have got the expertise and that is why we should combine as we are going to, set up cyber cells on both sides of the Atlantic to share information,” Cameron told the BBC in an interview aired yesterday. The co-operation between Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency and the US National Security Agency will include joint war games, with the ﬁrst exercise later this year to involve the Bank of England and commercial banks in both the City of London and Wall Street, the BBC reported. “This is a real signal it is time to step up the efforts and to do more,” said Cameron. The prime minister also issued a plea to the US Internet giants to accept they have a “social responsibility” to help ﬁght terrorism by allowing Britain’s intelligence agencies to have access to the data and content of online communications between terror suspects. Speaking in Washington, the prime minister reinforced his message by saying that access to communications data or actual intercepts have been vital in preventing attacks, speciﬁcally mentioning that a plot to murder police officers had been thwarted. Charity initiative The premier said he would ask Obama to step up pressure on the likes of Facebook and Twitter to do more to co-operate with the intelligence agencies as they seek to track terror suspects. He spoke earlier this week of a need to ensure there is no “safe space” for terrorists as he outlined plans to create a new legal framework to allow the intelligence agencies to break into encrypted communications between terror suspects. The prime minister said of Internet companies such as Facebook and Twitter: “They need to work with us. They need also to demonstrate, Singer Smith leads Brits nominations AFP London S Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, talks to children after attending a London event yesterday hosted by the Fostering Network organisation to showcase the work of foster carers in providing support to young people which they do, that they have a social responsibility to ﬁght the battle against terrorism. We shouldn’t allow safe spaces for traits to communicate. That’s a huge challenge but that’s certainly the right principle. “Of course people want privacy in their communications. Nobody wants to listen to the phone calls or read the e-mails of people as they go about their daily lives.” The prime minister added that the agencies have been successful in thwarting terror attacks but they need new powers to keep pace with changing technology. inger-songwriter Sam Smith was nominated for a Brit award in ﬁve different categories, going up against artistes such as Ed Sheeran and George Ezra at Britain’s equivalent of the Grammys. The 22-year-old is up to win best British male solo artiste, breakthrough artiste, best British single, best British video and best British album for his 2014 record In the Lonely Hour. Sheeran and Ezra were nominated in four categories each in the British pop music awards, which will take place on February 25. Smith made a splash with his hit ballad Stay With Me and has already scooped six nominations in the US Grammy Awards, which take place earlier in February. Red haired 23-year-old singer Sheeran was nominated in the single, album, British male solo artist and video categories. He will go up against 21-yearold Ezra, also nominated for the album, solo artiste and single categories for his song Budapest, as well as netting a nomination for breakthrough artiste. Paolo Nutini and veteran musician of Damon Albarn, who made his name with groups Blur and Gorillaz, complete the nominees for best British solo artiste. The best British group title will be contested by Coldplay, boy band One Direction, alt-J, Clean Bandit and Royal Blood. Meanwhile singers Ella Henderson, Lily Allen, Paloma Faith, FKA Twigs and Jessie Ware will battle for the title of best British female solo artiste. Star-studded nominations for the international female solo artiste category included Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Lana Del Rey, Sia and St. Vincent. Irish artist Hozier, propelled to fame by his single Take Me To Church this year will compete against Beck, Jack White, John Legend and Pharrell Williams for the international male solo artiste category. Foo Fighters, The Black Keys, First Aid Kit, The War on Drugs and 5 Seconds of Summer will go head to head to be crowned best international group at the awards. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 11 EUROPE VIOLENCE APPEAL DIPLOMACY POLITICS DEPORTATION New wave of fighting kills 11 in east Ukraine Polish bishops call for Holocaust remembrance Erdogan invites Armenian leader to join Gallipoli event Merkel rejects claim about German military aid in Iraq Spain migrant law may ruin asylum system: rights chief Fierce fighting in east Ukraine has killed at least 11 people over the past 24 hours, officials said yesterday, as a new round of violence threatened all-out conflict between government forces and pro-Russian rebels. A military spokesman reported six soldiers killed and 18 others wounded over the past day, adding that a civilian was left dead in a rebel strike on a checkpoint near Fashchivka in the Lugansk region. City officials in hard-hit Donetsk earlier said four civilians died after shelling sparked a fire at a warehouse there. “In the past day, six Ukrainian soldiers were killed. Eighteen more were wounded,” military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said. Poland’s Catholic Church yesterday made an unprecedented appeal to its followers to help preserve the heritage of the once vibrant Polish Jewish community wiped out by Nazi Germany. “The history of Polish Jews is an integral part of our country’s heritage. Poland was a common home for different people of different faiths,” the Polish Episcopal Conference said in a statement from its Jewish dialogue committee. “We call on priests to launch initiatives to preserve the memory of Jewish communities in the areas where they lived, and we ask the faithful and local authorities to help them out with this task. “Don’t shrug and say, ‘it’s not our problem’. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invited his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, to attend commemoration ceremonies in Turkey marking the 100th anniversary of the World War I Gallipoli campaign this year, officials said yesterday. In a surprise move, Erdogan has sent invitation letters to more than 100 leaders, including US President Barack Obama and the Armenian president, to participate in the Gallipoli centenary on April 24. The Gallipoli campaign was one of the most famous battles of World War I when Ottoman troops resisted an invading Allied Force seeking control of the Gallipoli peninsula on the Dardanelles strait. Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday rejected a claim that Germany had no legal right to send up to 100 military advisers to Iraq to train Kurdish forces to fight Islamic State militants. Through her spokesman, she said the aid, which Germany’s parliament is due to authorise this month, is legal and had been checked by government lawyers. “This conforms with the law, both [German] constitutional law and international law,” said the spokesman, Steffen Seibert. “There were clear requests from the secretary general of the United Nations that member states help against the terrorists of the Islamic State.” A top European rights official warned Spain yesterday it risked destroying its asylum system if it passed a law authorising police to immediately deport migrants from its north African territories. Spain says the measure is needed to help its border guards secure the border of Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish cities fenced off from Morocco. Its police have been accused of breaking international rights conventions by beating African migrants who climb the fences into the territories and deporting them on the spot without asylum procedures — so-called “pushbacks”. Kerry hugs Hollande, shares France’s pain Secretary of State on mission to give “big hug” to France; White House admitted earlier low-key response was mistake ; James Taylor sings classic song You’ve got a friend AFP Moscow R AFP Paris S ecretary of State John Kerry clasped French President Francois Hollande in a warm embrace yesterday and said the US shared France’s pain after its deadliest attack in half a century. In an unusual move, Hollande trotted down the steps of the Elysee Palace to greet Kerry, who hugged the French president in front of a phalanx of photographers. “I know you know that we share the pain and the horror of everything that you went through,” said Kerry. “Our hearts are with you.” Hollande said the French people “were victim of an exceptional terrorist attack,” likening last week’s events to the September 11, 2001 attacks. “We must therefore together ﬁnd the necessary response. And that is the (reason) for (our) meeting today beyond friendship,” said Hollande. The United States faced criticism for not sending a top-level representative to last Sunday’s march in Paris in the wake of the attacks, which drew 1.5mn people onto the streets of the French capital and dozens of world leaders. The White House was forced to admit it erred in sending only its ambassador when most French President Francois Hollande greets US secretary of state John Kerry as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris yesterday. countries were represented at head of state or ministerial level. Kerry, a noted Francophile who also speaks French, told his counterpart Laurent Fabius that he was unable to come earlier because he was travelling in India and Bulgaria. Fabius told reporters that he had “apologised” for his absence, which prompted contro- French post office hostage-taking ends An armed man who earlier took several hostages at a post office northwest of Paris yesterday has surrendered with no one hurt, a French police official said. The man equipped with a military weapon took an unconfirmed number of hostages at the post office in the town of Colombes, just Publication of Muhammad cartoons illegal, says Russia outside the capital. “I cannot confirm or deny whether it is linked to terrorism,” an official at the city prosecutor’s office said earlier, declining to give further details. BFM TV, citing an unidentified source, said the hostage drama was not related to last week’s attacks in Paris. versy on both sides of the Atlantic. The top US diplomat and Fabius laid a wreath of red roses and carnations as well as white lilies at the Jewish supermarket where four people died in a siege, the last in a spate of Islamist attacks over three days in and around the French capital. In all, three Islamist gunmen killed 17 people, including 12 people in an attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a young policewoman. “We appreciate your comments about our common history. ... The American people watched you and your team indeed all of the (government) lead with great elegance and grace in this week,” Kerry told Hollande. Kerry and Fabius later laid a wreath at the Charlie Hebdo ofﬁces, as the victims of that attack continued to be laid to rest. The burials of three more members of the Charlie Hebdo team were taking place Friday, with bagpipes playing Amazing Grace ringing out at the funeral of Stephane Charbonnier, alias Charb, the editor-in-chief. Since the attacks, copies of the magazine have ﬂown off the shelves with a print run of 5m compared to a normal circulation of 60,000. Kerry also visited the scene outside the Charlie Hebdo ofﬁces where a Muslim policeman was gunned down by the two Islamist brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi. With ambassador Jane Hartley, Kerry placed a bowl of ﬂowers on the spot which has also become a makeshift shrine. He then stood silently for a minute with his head bowed before crossing himself. Finally he gave an emotional speech at Paris City Hall, much of it in French, where he said: “We simply will not descend into despair.” “I really wanted to come here to share a hug with all of Paris, old friends,” he said, after what he termed the “living nightmare” of the attacks. “I wanted to express to you personally the sheer horror that all Americans felt.” He then gave way to US singer James Taylor, who sang his hit You’ve Got a Friend. The Kerry visit came as the shell-shocked French capital remained on edge after last week’s attacks. French authorities detained 12 people overnight in the suburbs of Paris, a judicial source said, in connection with the shootings. The nine men and three women were to be questioned about “possible logistic support” they may have given to the gunmen, in particular weapons and vehicles, the source said. ussia’s media watchdog yesterday warned publications that printing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad was against the country’s law and ethical norms following the Charlie Hebdo attack in France. “The publication in Russian media of such caricatures go against ethical and moral norms worked out over centuries,” said the media and communications watchdog Roskomnadzor. “Disseminating caricatures on religious themes in the media can be considered insulting or humiliating to the representatives of religious confessions and groups, and qualiﬁed as inciting ethnic and religious hatred”, an offence under Russian law, it said. The publication would also violate the Russian media and anti-extremism laws, the watchdog said, adding that it was asking Russian media to “refrain from publishing caricatures that can be seen as a violation”. The watchdog published the statement as a response to the ongoing debate on the “legality of publishing caricatures depicting religious objects of worship which affect feelings of religious people.” Many newspapers and maga- zines around the world reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad by Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris office was attacked by gunmen on January 7, leading to the deaths of 12 people. Although Russia’s leadership extended its condolences to France, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov participated in the unity march staged at the weekend, pro-Kremlin commentators and Muslims accused the cartoonists of provoking the attack. Russia’s Council of Muftis - a top Muslim authority - condemned the attack but said that “perhaps the sin of provocation... is no less dangerous for peace than the sin of those who yield to the provocation”. It further said after Charlie Hebdo published a post-attack issue with the Prophet Muhammad on the front page that it is an “unacceptable response” to the shooting because one “cannot laugh at the feelings of the faithful.” Several rallies have been announced next week by Muslims opposing the cartoons, including one in Chechnya’s main city Grozny. Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov said those who drew Muhammad cartoons were “people without spiritual and moral values” and said that 500,000 people would participate in the rally scheduled for Monday morning. Erdogan salms ‘provocative’ Charlie Hebdo Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday lashed out at Charlie Hebdo for its “provocative” publications about Islam, saying the French satirical weekly incited hatred and racism. “This magazine (is) notorious for its provocative publications about Muslims, about Christians, about everyone,” Erdogan told a meeting of businessmen in Ankara. “This is not called freedom. This equates to wreaking terror by intervening in the freedom space of others. We should be aware of this. There is no limitless freedom,” he said. In its first issue since the attacks by Islamist gunmen last week on its headquarters that killed 12 people, the magazine featured an image of the Muslim prophet. Erdogan said Muslims expected respect for their Prophet Muhammad the same way as they valued other prophets of Judaism and Christianity. “They may be atheists. If they are, they will respect what is sacred to me,” said Erdogan. “If they do not, it means provocation which is punishable by laws. What they do is to incite hatred, racism,” he added. Belgium uncovers plot to kill EU lays out strategy to police as arrests sweep Europe combat foreign ﬁghters AFP Brussels B elgian police raided an Islamist cell planning attacks against police yesterday as dozens of people were arrested in sweeps across Europe, keeping the continent on alert one week after the Paris attacks. Two suspected jihadists were shot dead in a police raid in the eastern Belgian town of Verviers on Thursday night and prosecutors said 13 suspects had been detained across Belgium, with two more held in France. French police separately detained 12 people in the suburbs of Paris in connection with last week’s attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, a Jewish supermarket and a policewoman, in which 17 people were killed. Hundreds of German police meanwhile raided alleged Islamist sites in Berlin, arresting two men suspected of being part of a group planning to carry out an attack in Syria. The raids highlighted fears about young Europeans travelling to ﬁght with the Islamic State and Al Qaeda-linked groups in the Middle East before returning to carry out attacks on Western targets. “The group was on the verge of carrying out terrorist attacks to kill police officers in public roads and in police stations,” Belgian federal prosecutors’ spokesman Eric Van der Sijpt told a news conference about the raids overnight. Police found Kalashnikov assault riﬂes, explosives, ammunition and communications equipment, along with police uniforms that could have been used for the terror plot, he said. Members of the group had recently returned from Syria, prosecutors said, but they said there still appeared to be no direct link to the Paris attacks. Prime Minister Charles Michel raised Belgium’s terror alert to its second highest level after the raids. The European Commission stepped up security at its headquarters in Brussels as a “precaution”, a spokeswoman said. Jewish schools in Brussels and the port city of Antwerp closed yesterday. The unrest across Europe has fuelled fears of tensions between communities, but in Verviers, a faded industrial town near the German border, residents said they would stay united. “The Muslim community had the strongest reaction, one that says that none of this should exacerbate the delicate balance that makes this town stand on its feet,” mayor Marc Elsen said. Belgium has one of the largest number of extremists who have returned from Syria relative to its population, with a large Muslim community that suffers from high unemployment and disenfranchisement. In Germany an alleged leader of a group planning to carry out an attack in Syria and the man in charge of ﬁnancing were arrested in raids on suspected Islamist sites in and around Berlin by more than 200 police officers, officials said. They were suspected of leading an Islamist group of “Turkish and Russian nationals from (the Caucasus regions’ of) Chechnya and Dagestan.” Reuters Brussels T he European Union will do more to stop citizens going to ﬁght as insurgents in Syria and Iraq but resist calls for sweeping pan-European powers to ﬁght threats after the militant attacks in Paris and police raids in Belgium, officials said yesterday. EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday will seek a strategy to deal with young Muslims heading to Middle East war zones or returning radicalised from the region. They plan talks with the secretary-general of the Cairo-based Arab League, Nabil El-Araby, as well as the EU’s counter-terrorism co-ordinator. Other priorities to be tackled at a Jan. 29-30 gathering will include a crackdown on arms traf- ﬁcking, better sharing of airline passenger data, trying to prevent EU citizens leaving to ﬁght abroad, and seeking to curb radical Islam on the Internet to discourage EU citizens from bringing violence back home. Ministers are also considering a plan to withdraw the travel documents and identity cards of any EU citizen planning to go to Syria or Iraq or considered to represent a public threat in Europe, an initiative supported by the European Commission. The rules underpinning the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone, which removes border controls among most EU countries, could be used to empower guards on external borders of the zone to undertake systematic checks of EU citizens arriving from a third country to stop suspected jihadist militants. Schengen rules have also re- cently been changed to make it possible to temporarily reintroduce checks at internal borders. The ideas will then be taken up by EU government leaders at a twoday summit on Feb. 12-13 in Brussels, where concrete steps could be taken, but the Commission cautioned it is not planning a host of new, pan-EU security legislation. “The European Union is seeking to minimise the risks posed by terrorism in Syria and Iraq,” said an EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Clearly the Charlie Hebdo shootings have galvanised everyone to act,” the diplomat said, referring to the Jan. 7 assault on the French satirical journal. Anthony Dworkin, a human rights expert, said EU officials were right to focus on improving coordination among agencies and across borders, rather than seeking new legislation. 12 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 INDIA DECISION INVESTIGATION OFFBEAT CLARIFICATION VIOLENCE Petrol, diesel prices cut; excise on fuels raised CBI seeks polygraph test of Chandy’s ex-gunman Story by jailed ex-MP included in textbook Goa chief minister denies occupying two houses Bareilly peaceful after clashes With international crude oil prices going below $45 a barrel, state-run oil marketing companies yesterday cut petrol price by Rs2.42 a litre and that of diesel by Rs2.25 per litre. At the same time, the government yesterday raised the excise duty on both petrol and diesel by Rs2 a litre. The basic excise duty on the transport fuels, raised for the fourth time in quick succession, came into effect yesterday. There would be no change in other excise duty rates applicable to the transport fuels, the government said. On January 1, the government had increased basic excise duty on petrol and diesel - both branded and unbranded - by Rs2 a litre. The Central Bureau of Investigation is set to move court in Kochi seeking permission to take a former security personnel of Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy for a lie detector test, according to officials. Salim Raj, Chandy’s gunman, lost his job in 2013 after it was alleged that he was in close contacts with Saritha Nair, one of the key accused in the infamous Solar panel scam case. Raj, a Kerala Police constable, landed in more trouble when a Kerala High Court bench in March last year handed to the CBI the case of two land deals. The 45 acres of land worth Rs4bn was believed to have been usurped by Raj and his accomplices. A story written in Hindi by former Bihar MP Anand Mohan, serving a life term for the 1994 lynching of Gopalganj district magistrate G Krishnaiah, has been included in a class VIII text book. The story - Parvat Purush Dashrath - forms chapter 19 of the book published by Central Board of Secondary Education. Anand Mohan has written two books during his stay in Saharsa jail. Anand Mohan and 35 others were accused of lynching Krishnaiah on December 5, 1994. A trial court awarded the death sentence to three accused, including Anand Mohan. On appeal, the Patna High Court upheld the conviction of Anand Mohan but commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment. Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar yesterday denied reports suggesting that he occupies two government houses and lashed out at the national media for blowing the issue out of proportion. Parsekar clarified that the roof of his official residence ‘Mahalaxmi’ was being repaired and till then he was staying in another bungalow, allotted to him two-and-a-half years ago when he was the state health minister. “I have not caused any loss to the government. I would have caused a loss to the exchequer, if the CM’s residence was not ready and I had gone to stay in five-star resorts in Goa. I am staying put in the same place where I was staying as health minister,” Parsekar said. Seventeen people were arrested and cases slapped against 400 people yesterday for their alleged involvement in communal clashes in Bareilly earlier this week, police said. “The situation is under control and we are taking all care to ensure that peace and the rule of law prevails in the violence-hit areas,” a home department official said. Clashes erupted in Fatehganj area of the city Wednesday after an animal carcass was found next to a religious place. While police and district officials acted promptly and defused the situation, violence broke out on Thursday in which over a dozen people were injured. Kerala govt plans to set up judicial panel for diaspora By Ashraf Padanna Kochi K erala, home to a majority of Indian workers in the Gulf, has announced a panel with judicial powers for the diaspora to redress their grievances. “We are in the process of bringing a legislation to formalise the commission to be headed by a retired high court judge with all judicial powers,” Ramesh Chennithala, the state’s home minister said. Addressing the Global NRK (Non-Resident Keralites) Meet – which opened here yesterday – the minister said NRKs could lodge both civil and criminal complaints with the commission. The decision follows widespread complaints of fraud against NRK investors, usurping of their properties back home by local residents and the duping of job seekers by recruitment agents. “We will present the proposal before the next cabinet and bring it to the Legislative Assembly for a comprehensive legislation,” he said, seeking suggestions from the nearly 1,000 delegates. The state will also approach the federal government to set up separate police cells at its three international airports for NRKs seeking justice. Finance Minister K M Mani urged returning migrants to invest in sunrise areas like hi-tech farming instead of the risky traditional sectors. He offered interest-free loans for starting such ventures. “Hi-tech farms is a better option than information technology which everybody seems to favour. It ensures a ready market and steady returns,” he said. “We are also ready to subscribe to 10% in these ventures”. The government also offers short-term courses in high-tech farming and similar ventures for those keen to start businesses individually or collectively. Expatriates were also urged to invest in the proposed hi-tech villages housing small biotech and nanotech units. Inauguratiung the two-day meet, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government would provide exemption in landholding limit to investments that bring in jobs. Currently, 15 acres is the maximum land that both individuals and groups can hold. “For every Rs50mn investment or 20 jobs created, exemption will be given for an acre in multiples and this will be treated as investments for public purposes,” he said. The chief minister who participated in two-hour long interactive session, suggested making the biannual meet an annual event. Industries Minister P K Kunhalikutty said the government was preparing to accommodate the skilled workers returning from the Gulf. The state has also decided to allow technology parks in the private sector. “The state-run technology parks here and the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, employ more people than the government. Similar projects are needed to accommodate returning migrants,” he stressed. K Babu, the minister for ports and airports, wanted NRKs to invest in the state’s fourth international airport at Kannur, which is approaching ﬁnancial closure. The ﬁrst ﬂight will land at the greenﬁeld airport on December 31. “Though 35% work is complete, despite the delay due to heavy rains, the response from retail investors has been lukewarm. It’s a potential area of investment,” he said adding the Kochi airport in which NRKs invested heavily, had already returned 130% of their investment by way of dividends in 15 years. Kashmir protest Supporters of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) surround Mohamed Yasin Malik as they chant slogans during a protest in Srinagar yesterday. JKLF chairman Mohamed Yasin Malik and supporters were demonstrating against a reported decision by the government to give permanent resident status to refugees of Bangladesh who are settled in various areas of the winter capital of Kashmir. Woman raped by Uber taxi driver to sue in US Guardian News and Media New Delhi T he women who said she was raped by an Uber taxi driver in Delhi plans to sue the smartphone taxi service for negligence in the US courts. The unidentiﬁed woman has instructed Douglas Wigdor, one of New York’s most high-proﬁle litigators, to represent her. Wigdor said he was examining the possibility of asking a US court to exercise jurisdiction in the case because Uber’s conduct was based on company policy made in the US. He said there was a substantial body of case law to suggest the court would consider doing so. Wigdor said: “I can confirm that I have been retained by the young lady who was raped by an Uber driver in Delhi last December. Having met extensively with her and her family while in Delhi, I can only compliment them for their bravery and fortitude during this very difficult time. We will use all of our resources to vindicate my client’s rights, hold those responsible for their actions and ensure that this doesn’t happen again.” The authorities in Delhi banned Uber from operating in the capital after one of its drivers, Shiv Kumar Yadav, was arrested in December over the alleged rape. Officials in Delhi accused the company of misleading customers and not having proper licences for the service it offered. Delhi police accused Uber of failing to check whether the driver had a clean police record. The case caused uproar in India where a series of incidents have highlighted the country’s growing problem of sexual violence towards women. The decision by the alleged victim to seek compensation T he government yesterday blasted the European Parliament for adopting a resolution calling for the repatriation of two Italian marines charged with killing two Indian ﬁshermen. “The case involving the two Italian marines ... is sub judice and is being discussed between India and Italy,” an external affairs ministry spokesperson said. He said the Supreme Court had on January 14 granted three months extension to marine Massimiliano Latorre for staying in Italy on health grounds. The other marine, Salvatore Girone, lives in the Italian embassy in New Delhi. “Under these circumstances, the European Parliament would have been well advised not to adopt the resolution,” he said. The Indian embassy in Brussels also issued a similar statement. The European Parliament on Thursday hoped that the row between India and Italy over the prosecution of the marines accused of killing the ﬁshermen in 2012 should be settled under “Italian jurisdiction or through international arbitration”. The members called for the marines to be repatriated to Italy as their detention without charge was a “serious breach of human rights”, according to an European Parliament press release. In a resolution, the members expressed “great sadness” over the death of the Indian ﬁshermen but voiced concern over the detention of the marines. “We have to ensure that the principles of international law are complied with and I think that the fate of the two marines will be linked to the credibility of our anti-piracy efforts,” said EU foreign affairs high representative Federica Mogherini. In February 2012, the two marines, on board an Italian commercial vessel, shot and killed the Indian ﬁshermen after mistaking them for pirates. Italy said the incident took place in international waters and the marines should be tried in Italy or in an international court. India insists the incident occurred in Indian waters. The two marines face murder charges. Disagreeing with the house, Neena Gill, British member of the European Parliament and vice chair of the parliamentary delegation for India, expressed her disappointment over the resolution. “I rise to express my disappointment about the way this matter has been addressed by this house. And I do have strong reservations about the resolution. “While the EU has a duty to stand up for its citizens, it is hard to understand that the lives of Indian ﬁshermen should be valued lower than the liberty of the two EU citizens,” said Gill. She called on Mogherini, a former Italian foreign minister, “to avoid further escalation of this case which is fundamentally a bilateral issue between Italy and India”. everything necessary to bring the perpetrator of the Delhi assault to justice. Uber introduced new background checks in Delhi and said it would pay experts to come up with the best screening method for all of India. Wigdor represented Naﬁssatou Diallo, the hotel maid who settled for a rumoured $6mn with Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2012 over an alleged assault. Wigdor’s past cases also include suing the investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein for $1.4bn on behalf of a group of women claiming sexual discrimination. That case was also settled. Japan minister meets premier European resolution on Italian marines ﬂayed IANS New Delhi/Brussels in the US is the latest setback for the Silicon Valley company, which was recently valued at $40bn. China last week banned drivers of private cars from offering services through ride-hailing apps and the company faces legal challenges in South Korea, California and elsewhere for using drivers who do not have taxi licences. Two of its drivers have been charged with sexually assaulting customers in Chicago in the past three weeks. Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive and founder, said last month his company would do AFP New Delhi J Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in New Delhi yesterday. apan Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday at the start of a two-day trip aimed at boosting ties between Asia’s second and third largest economies. Kishida’s trip comes on the heels of the crushing win of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in national polls last month and a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Japan in August-September. Abe, a right-wing nationalist likened to Modi for his zeal for economic reforms, has been keen to shore up ties with New Delhi to counter an increasingly assertive China. Modi too signalled the high priority he accorded to Japan by making the trip to Tokyo his first bilateral visit outside South Asia since taking office last May. There was no immediate word on the outcome of the talks with Modi which lasted around half an hour. The two men were pictured smiling and shaking hands at the start of their meeting. A government spokesman said earlier that Kishida’s visit would boost an already growing friendly co-operation between the two nations. “We welcome this visit which signiﬁes the importance that Japan places on relations with India,” foreign ministry Syed Akbaruddin told reporters. “You are aware of the pathbreaking nature of (our) prime minister’s visit to Japan last year, and you are also aware of the outcomes of that visit. “This visit is intended to take forward those outcomes in terms of reaching their logical conclusion,” he said. Kishida will also chair the eighth strategic dialogue with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj today and discuss ways to double Japanese investment in India. The Japanese government is encouraging businesses to tap fast-growing emerging markets such as India, as the domestic market shrinks due to a rapidly ageing population and low birth rate. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 13 INDIA LEGAL ALLEGATION PEOPLE CRIME EVENT Tejpal’s trial on hold for three weeks Nagaland CM accused of money laundering Ex-Aam Aadmi Party leader Ilmi joins BJP Trinamool MP accused of slapping policeman Goa carnival to be held from February 14 The Supreme Court yesterday put on hold, for three weeks, the trial of Tehelka foundereditor Tarun Tejpal for alleged sexual assault on his junior colleague in Goa during an event organised by the magazine. A court bench suspended Tejpal’s trial by three weeks after senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for the editor, told the court that the trial court had fixed January 23 for arguments by him but had not provided the documents relied on by the prosecution. Tejpal, accused of sexually assaulting a woman colleague in a Goa hotel on November 7-8, 2013, was charged on February 18, 2014 with rape, and sexual harassment of his colleague. The political crisis in Nagaland over the demand for removing Chief Minister T R Zeliang has got murkier as the rebel NPF legislators accused him of indulging in international money laundering, a charge Zeliang denied yesterday. Accusing Zeliang of wooing the legislators and party workers to favour him, the rebel Naga People’s Front (NPF) legislators, claimed to have documents of international money transfers to the chief minister and his wife’s bank account. “We have in our possession documents of international money transfers to Zeliang and his wife’s accounts,” the rebel legislators Noke Wangnao and G Kaito Aye said Former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Shazia Ilmi yesterday joined the BJP “for the rest of my life” after lavishing praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A day after former police officer Kiran Bedi formally joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, it was the turn of Ilmi, who broke ranks some time ago with Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal. “There is indeed a new political discourse in the country, and we must all be a part of it,” the journalist-turned-politician told the media in the company of Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay. Ilmi had contested - and narrowly lost - the December 2013 assembly elections on the AAP ticket. Former Indian football captain Prasun Banerjee has been slapped with a non-bailable charge after he allegedly hit a traffic constable who is said to have stopped him from flouting traffic rules. The Lok Sabha MP from Howrah, has become only the latest in a long line of Trinamool leaders against whom there are complaints of taking the law in their own hands and even attacking police personnel. However, Banerjee denied the charge. “The constable lacks mental balance. I never attacked him. This is a conspiracy to malign me,” said the brother of legendary Indian coach P K Banerjee and who also captained the Indian football team at the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi. Goa’s popular Carnival festival will be held over four days from February 14, state tourism officials said yesterday. The Carnival, a festival which is symbolic of Goa’s Portuguese legacy will be held in six towns, including capital Panaji. According to a press release issued by the state tourism ministry, the carnival float parade this year will feature themes “revolving around socio-cultural, environment and tourism-related aspects”. The carnival is celebrated in a big way in countries once ruled by the Iberians - either Portuguese like the globally celebrated Brazilian Carnival or the Spanish and to some extent in regions ruled by the French. Sanctions on oil ﬁrms ‘to feature in Obama visit talks’ Censor board chief quits ‘over govt’s interference’ Reuters New Delhi T he government will use an upcoming visit by Barack Obama to press the US to remove Indian oil companies from a list naming ﬁrms doing business in Iran, and to seek priority access to US LNG exports, sources in the oil ministry said. The US president will arrive in New Delhi on January 25 and hold discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited Washington in September. An official agenda has not been released. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) listed three Indian companies as having commercial activity in Iran’s energy sector in a report this week, potentially making it difficult for them to do business with other countries, mainly the US. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Oil India and Indian Oil Corporation, which have been on the list since 2010, cited interests in Iran’s Farsi concession in their 2013-14 annual reports but told the GAO they had ceased activity in 2007, the GAO said. “This (mention in the list) could hit Indian companies’ plans to invest in other countries, particularly in America,” one of the sources said. The US has imposed sanctions on Iran’s energy sector to put pressure on Tehran to halt its nuclear programme, which the West suspects may seek to develop atomic weapons. Companies doing business in the sector face exclusion from the US ﬁnancial system. Iran says its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes. Separately, oil ministry sources said India will seek preferential access to US exports of liqueﬁed natural gas (LNG), even though India does not have a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the US. “We want them to give us the freedom to lift LNG from any of their projects on a priority basis, including the ones that are meant for FTA nations,” an official said. IANS New Delhi L Members of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) shout slogans as they push a police barricade while they protest against the release of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s controversial film, in New Delhi, yesterday. Petition seeks to strip jailed minister of post IANS Kolkata W est Bengal Transport and Sports Minister Madan Mitra - arrested in the Saradha scam - was yesterday yet again denied bail with a city court extending his judicial custody till January 30. During the day, a public interest litigation (PIL) was also ﬁled before the Calcutta High Court seeking Mitra’s disqualiﬁcation as a minister as he can’t discharge his ministerial responsibilities from jail. Mitra, a senior leader from the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, was presented in the court of additional chief judicial magistrate H Mukherjee on the expiry of his earlier judicial remand. “The Central Bureau of Investigation in its remand application is claiming that all materials have been collected from Mitra. If so, why are they seeking his further custody,” Mitra’s counsel Ashok Mukherjee asked the court press- ing for the minister’s bail. The defence also questioned why Mitra was being detained in custody when Sajjan Agarwal one of the accused mentioned in the CBI charge-sheet, was not arrested. The CBI counsel said Agarwal was co-operating with the agency in the investigation and his arrest was not required. Subsequently, Mitra, seeking the court’s permission to speak, asked the court why was he arrested when he too had been cooperating with the CBI. “The CBI claims Agarwal is co-operating so he need not be arrested. I too have been co-operating with the CBI, then why was I arrested? Does this mean that one will not co-operate if in custody? If so, then I should also be allowed out so that I can co-operate,” argued Mitra. Opposing the bail plea, the CBI counsel said granting bail to Mitra would hamper the investigation. The agency asserted Mitra’s custody was essential for its bid to unravel the larger conspiracy involved in the multi-crore rupee scam which has affected lakhs of depositors across several states. Seeking the court’s permission for CBI officials to interrogate the minister in jail, the agency’s counsel said it would be later submitting a supplementary chargesheet in the case. Rejecting Mitra’s bail, the court extended the minister’s judicial custody by 14 days and allowed the CBI to interrogate him in the presence of a defence counsel between January 17 and January 24. Meanwhile, Subhrojit Bhaduri, a lawyer ﬁled a PIL (public interest litigation) before the bench of chief justice Manjula Chellur and justice A K Banerjee contending that Mitra be disqualiﬁed as a minister as he is unable discharge his ministerial responsibilities from jail. “As a minister, Mitra had taken an oath of serving the people by discharging his ministerial duties and responsibilities. Since now he is in jail and can’t discharge his responsibilities so we have approached the court seeking his removal,” he said. eela Samson has resigned as the censor board chief, protesting against what she termed interference by the government, while denying yesterday that her exit was linked to controversial ﬁlm “MSG”, which is ready for release after the Film Certiﬁcation Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) gave it the green signal. “It is absolutely true that I have resigned. (I resigned) on Thursday night by SMS and yesterday by e-mail and hard copy letter,” Samson said. Samson has headed the Central Board of Film Certiﬁcation (CBFC), a statutory body under the information and broadcasting ministry, since 2011. It regulates the public exhibition of ﬁlms under the Cinematograph Act, 1952. An acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer, Samson said her resignation followed interference by the government in the censor board’s working and what she described as coercion and corruption of panel members. But she denied speculation that her departure was due to the clearance given by the FCAT which hears appeals of applicants aggrieved by a CBFC order, for ﬁlm certiﬁcation - to Dera Saccha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s ﬁlm “MSG”. When asked by the media if “MSG” was the factor in her resignation, Samson said: “That is not the reason.” Meanwhile, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said Samson’s resignation was her Seeing red personal decision and there was no coercion by the government. “Whatever the decision, it has to be acceptable to all,” he said, in an obvious reference to the FCAT’s green signal to “MSG”. “There was no coercion by the government. If she feels so, let her convey it to the government.” “MSG” was reportedly ﬁrst rejected by the examining committee of the censor board and referred to the revising committee. When it too decided against clearing the ﬁlm, it was referred to FCAT, which cleared it for release after asking producers to make minor changes. Samson said her resignation followed interference by the government in the censor board’s working and what she described as coercion and corruption of panel members The ﬁlm’s producers claimed they have got the required permission from the censor board for the movie’s release, but it didn’t hit the screens as scheduled yesterday. A high-proﬁle premiere was planned for the movie in Gurgaon. Thousands of Singh’s fans had gathered at Leisure Valley Ground to watch a screening, amid protests by the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) workers Thailand extradites wanted terrorist IANS Chandigarh A Villagers protest by blocking the National Highway No 37 with a replica of a buffalo in Ahatguri in Morigaon district, Assam. The demonstrators are angry at the Supreme Court verdict of banning animal fights. Although the court banned animal fights in many parts of the country, the restriction has seemingly no takers in Assam. People of the state have organised buffalo fights on the occasion of the annual Magh Bhihu festival. and the party’s activists. The movie’s premiere had to be postponed to tomorrow, and police and security agencies in Punjab and Haryana were put on alert following the protests. Sect leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who is said to have around 50mn followers and has been mired in a controversy since 2001, facing murder and rape cases in courts, told media in Gurgaon that there was nothing objectionable in his ﬁlm. “There’s a move to stop the release of the ﬁlm. I have no knowledge on why the censor board objected to the ﬁlm,” he said, adding that the ﬁlm carries a message against social evils like alcoholism, prostitution and drugs and promoted good causes like blood donation and doing voluntary work. Samson said in an earlier statement: “Interference, coercion and corruption of panel members and officers of the organisation appointed by the ministry and having to manage an organisation whose board has not met for over nine months as the ministry had ‘no funds’ to permit the meeting of members.” “The term of all members and the chairperson is over. But since the new government failed to appoint a new board and chairperson, a few were given extensions and asked to carry on till this procedure was completed. “However, recent cases of interference in the working of the CBFC by the ministry, through an ‘additional charge’ CEO and corrupt panel members have caused a degradation of those values the members of this Board of CBFC and chairperson stood for,” Samson added. uthorities in Thailand yesterday issued orders for the extradition of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) chief Jagtar Singh Tara and a Punjab Police team was given custody of the terrorist in Bangkok. “A four-member Punjab Police party positioned in Bangkok is bringing Jagtar Singh Tara to India after his extradition by Thailand. After completion of administrative formalities, Jagtar Singh Tara has been handed over to the Punjab Police team,” a Punjab Police spokesman said here. Tara was nabbed in Thailand on January 6 following a coordinated operation of central agencies, Punjab Police and the Thailand Police. The counter intelligence wing of the Punjab Police had tracked Jagtar Singh Tara in Thailand. A Bangkok court had on January 6 ordered that Tara will be extradited from Thailand to India. Tara is one of the terrorists convicted in the sensational assassination of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh by a human bomb at the heavily-guarded Punjab secretariat complex here on August 31, 1995. Tara, who was using the assumed name of Gurmeet Singh, was living in disguise near the beach resort town of Pattiyya in Thailand. Thai authorities said that he had been living illegally in Thailand for over four months. Three terrorists - Tara, Jagtar Singh Hawara, Paramjit Singh Bhaura - and their accomplice Devi Singh, a murder convict living with them in the same prison barrack, had made a sensational escape by digging a 104-feetlong tunnel in the high-security Burail jail here on the intervening night of January 21-22, 2004. Hawara and Bhaura were rearrested by security agencies but Tara remained elusive. Tara will be produced before a court in Patiala town, 80km from here, today where police remand for his questioning would be sought, the spokesman said. 14 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 LATIN AMERICA MUSIC US musician Dave Grohl (centre) of the Foo Fighters band performs on stage during their concert in Santiago de Chile, Chile, yesterday. The band started its world tour to promote their latest album Sonic Highways. INDUSTRIAL ACTION LAW AND ORDER FALLOUT DECISION Brazil workers end strike after Volkswagen U-turn Police detain 80 Taiwanese online betting workers Fuel shortage in Argentina province after protest Chile to reform voting system Workers at Volkswagen’s main plant in Brazil ended a 10-day strike, after the German automaker scrapped plans to slash 800 jobs, their union said yesterday. “The Volkswagen work force has managed to overturn the 800 layoffs and agreed unanimously a union-mediated proposal to end the strike,” the metalworkers’ union said in a Facebook posting. Thousands of workers from Mercedes and Ford plants had joined their counterparts at Volkswagen to protest layoffs in the industry. The German firm announced just before Christmas it would cut 800 workers at the Sao Bernardo do Campo plant near Sao Paulo, sparking an openended strike at the site. A total of 80 Taiwanese people allegedly working in illegal gambling were detained in Paraguay by police, a prosecutor said. The 57 men and 23 women were believed to have been illegally exploited as workers in a human and drug trafficking ring. “They lived closed-in, cramped and exploited; they were exhausted and disoriented,” said Alfredo Acosta, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation. “We are assuming that they were working in online Chinese betting. Their work schedule was during the night and early morning, exactly business hours in China.” He said the authorities were seeking those responsible for bringing the illegal workers to Paraguay. Argentina’s state-run energy company YPF said an open-ended strike by oil workers in the province of Mendoza was causing a shortage of fuel at its service stations there and risked impacting supply throughout the country. Workers are striking due to conflicts within their trade union rather than due to problems with YPF, the company said. They are blocking oil fields and the refinery of Lujan de Cuyo which produces 35% of YPF’s fuel, equivalent to 20% of the country’s total fuel supply, it added. “Residents of Mendoza are beginning to feel the impact of this decision in terms of a lack of fuel in YPF’s main service stations,” the company said. Chile looks set to make major changes to its electoral system so it will better represent voters’ wishes and ensure more women participate in politics, an issue close to the heart of centre-left President Michelle Bachelet. The Senate this week gave the green light to Bachelet’s electoral reform bill, with the support of two opposition senators. The bill is expected to easily pass in the lower house and then be signed into law. The vote overturns a byzantine electoral system introduced by dictator Augusto Pinochet that has effectively excluded parties that do not belong to one of two leading coalitions and prevented either coalition from winning a significant majority in Congress. Venezuela city on edge as economic crisis worsens China ﬁrm ‘mulls deal for Mexico broadband network’ Reuters Mexico City C hina’s third-largest carrier China Telecom is preparing a possible bid for a contract to build and run a new mobile broadband network in Mexico and is seeking local partners to join it in a consortium, three people with knowledge of the matter said. It has already secured up to several billion dollars of financing from Chinese statecontrolled banks, including the China Development Bank, for the project, which Mexico estimates will cost $10bn over 10 years, one of the people said. The proposed network is part of a sweeping reform designed to break billionaire Carlos Slim’s hold on the Mexican telecoms business, but the Chinese involvement could prove controversial and trigger concerns from the US, some Mexican officials say. Mexico’s government is trying to ease its economic dependence on the US and ramp up Chinese investment. A Chinese-led consortium looks poised to win a $3.75bn contract to build a high-speed train system, sources with knowledge of the plan say. This is despite the group’s previous winning bid being revoked late last year amid a political scandal. Representatives for China Telecom did not return requests for comment, and representatives for China Development Bank could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Mexico’s communications and transport ministry (SCT) declined to comment. On a trip to China in November to reduce tensions caused by the train contract cancellation, Communications and Transport Minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza also discussed the mobile network plan with the Chinese government, according to a ministry press release. Reuters San Cristobal M Students block a street as they clash with national guards during a protest against the government in San Cristobal. 55 children rescued from trafficking gang Reuters Bogota U tah’s attorney general says he posed as a bodyguard and translator during a secret mission coordinated with authorities in Colombia to rescue more than 55 child sex slaves from a gang on an island off the country’s Caribbean coast. Sean Reyes, the US state’s top law enforcement official, said he played the role of Spanishspeaking interpreter and muscle for the sting set up by Operation Underground Railroad, a Utahbased non-proﬁt organisation that works with police to ﬁght child sex trafficking worldwide. “It’s not a black-ops deal,” Reyes, a Republican, said of the operation that took place last October. The sting had the support of both the US and Colombian governments, Reyes said. Two US department of homeland security investigators were also present, an adviser to the attorney general said. Reyes accompanied a small group of men who posed as wealthy investors in a plan by Colombian criminals to build a child sex hotel on the Rosario Islands, an archipelago southwest of the resort city of Cartagena. In video footage released by his office, members of the Colombian security forces are seen landing by boat and ordering everyone, including Reyes, onto the ground at gunpoint. “Everything happened so quick. Bang, bang, the takedown,” Reyes said. “The hardest part was standing there listening to these trafﬁckers, having them slapping us on the back and jubilant and thinking that we were all friends and partners,” he said. “I’m crawling out of my skin, as the father of a 12-year-old, when they bring out an 11-yearold and offer her up as the grand prize because she’s a virgin.” The Utah group said children as young as 10 were among those rescued, and that some 40 others were picked up elsewhere by local law enforcement. “We’re bringing them back into custody so they can stand trial and suffer the consequences of their depraved practices,” Reyes said. Colombian police officials did not immediately have details on the operation. Reyes said he took part because “it’s critical that people throughout the world understand what an epidemic human trafficking really is.” The attorney general, a father-of-six, said the arrest almost a year ago in Utah of a Guatemalan man, Victor Rax, showed the problem of child sex slavery striking close to home. Rax was charged with smuggling in Central American boys, sexually abusing them, and making them carry drugs into schools in what Reyes called “the sleepy little communities of Utah.” Rax committed suicide in jail last April. asked youths are once again blocking streets and burning tyres in the Venezuelan city of San Cristobal, the epicentre of last year’s massive anti-government protests. The groups are small and the unrest contained, but dissent is rising in this volatile Andean city, a barometer of frustration with nationwide shortages that are putting pressure on the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro. Students, who also accuse the government of corruption and repression but whom Maduro labels “coupsters,” are threatening to unleash larger demonstrations again. “It’s time,” Deiby Jaimes, 21, said from behind a barricade of burning trash as police gazed down from their hilltop perch. “There’s a social, economic and political crisis. Economically we’re completely lost and in a delirium.” But Jaimes and other students said they were restraining themselves to see if other Venezuelans also take to the streets. Last year’s protests split the opposition and failed to attract widespread support from Venezuela’s poor, meaning mainstream anti-government leaders like Henrique Capriles are calling for less radical tactics including peaceful rallies and a good showing at an upcoming parliamentary vote. “People are scared,” said Jaimes, an accounting student, as dozens around him knocked rocks together menacingly. “But fear is disappearing due to Brazil drought shortages. We’re expecting a social explosion.” High demand and a Christmas lull in distribution have aggravated shortages across the nation of 30mn people. Queues sometimes snake around entire blocks, prompting isolated scufﬂes for coveted milk or diapers. Although there has been scattered violence around the Opec nation, many eyes are once again on the opposition hotbed of San Cristobal, where clusters of demonstrators have been facing off with security forces since the New Year. It was here that the attempted rape of a student last year prompted protests that spread into a wave of national demonstrations. Major General Efrain Velasco Lugo, who is in charge of security for the western Andean region, called the protesters misguided delinquents. “They want to torch the city again.” Their motto, he added, can be boiled down to “because I think differently to you, I’m going to topple you.” Indeed, Maduro says rightwing foes, encouraged by the US and compliant foreign media, are plotting an “economic coup” to topple his socialist government. Protesters retort they are decrying ﬂawed policies, like currency controls that have crimped imports and led to shortages. Army officials said on Thursday 18 protesters had been arrested in San Cristobal, capital of Tachira state, in the last 10 days, with six currently behind bars. Rights group Penal Forum said 56 demonstrators were arrested nationally this year, with most now released. A national guard shot a protester in the chest on Thursday night during clashes in San Cristobal, a student leader Petrobras CEO to keep job: minister Reuters Rio de Janeiro M Water levels have fallen drastically at the Jaguari dam, part of the Cantareira System, in Braganca Paulista city, 84kms from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The drought in the region is the worst in 80 years, according to reports. The region received only a third of the usual rainfall during the wet season from December to February. said. Reuters could not immediately verify the information. The situation remains a far cry from unrest between February and May that left 43 dead and hundreds injured during the biggest disturbances in more than a decade. Victims included demonstrators, government supporters and security officials. Still, the mood is increasingly combative in San Cristobal, traditionally known as the “cordial city,” as life becomes a series of queues. Taxi driver Luis Perez wakes up around 5am to wait in line for gasoline. “We produce so much oil, and look how we’re suffering,” he said as he ﬁnally ﬁlled up his creaking blue 1982 Chevrolet. “We need a change of government,” he added before paying less than 2 cents a litre for the world’s cheapest gasoline. Roughly 15% of fuel in Tachira is smuggled out of the state, estimates Nellyver Lugo, a ruling party state legislator who heads a commission on gasoline. Lack of spare parts for trucks and tricky contract negotiations reduced supplies this year, she added. Up to 25% of food is smuggled out for sale at a hefty proﬁt in Colombia, the army says, citing discoveries of subsidised ﬂour stashed in tires or rice in engines. Even once-fervent “Chavistas” are becoming skeptical as inﬂation and shortages threaten anti-poverty advances under the late Hugo Chavez’s 19992013 rule. “There was a lot of hope, but things didn’t pan out the way we wanted,” Ronald, a government employee who would not give his last name, said as he stood in line clutching scarce toilet paper. “Now we’re paying the price. I hope they implement changes.” aria das Graças Foster will keep her job as chief executive ofﬁcer of Petroleo Brasileiro SA despite calls for her resignation after a corruption scandal at the state oil company, Brazil’s Energy Minister Eduardo Braga said. Braga made the statement on the Miriam Leitao show on GloboNews, a Brazilian 24hour TV news channel, GloboNews said on its website. The energy ministry was not immediately available for comment. Braga said that he expects the government to allow an increase in electricity rates of between 20% and 25% this year as authorities cut subsidies to replenish public accounts. Two years of low rainfall have curbed hydroelectric output and raised the cost of power. In 2012 President Dilma Rousseff strong armed utilities into reducing electricity fares by about 20% for household consumers in exchange for the renewal of their concessions. Braga said that CEO Foster will lead the cleanup of Petrobras and that its governance is improving as a result of the scandal. There was no evidence of any wrongdoing by the current leadership, he said. Calls for Foster’s resignation from Petrobras, as the company is popularly known, have grown since November, when the company delayed the release of its third-quarter results until at least the end of January. That came after Petrobras’ auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers declined to certify the results in the wake of a giant contract ﬁxing, bribery and political kickback scheme. Company executives allegedly conspired with construction and engineering ﬁrms to inﬂate the value of projects. They then kicked back much of the excess to executives, politicians and political parties as bribes and campaign contributions. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 15 PAKISTAN/AFGHANISTAN OFFICIAL DEFAULTERS TRADE DECLARATIONS REPORT Saudi Arabia appoints new envoy to Pakistan Revenue board to take action against doctors Transport of Afghan goods disallowed to India Many legislators found without own vehicles Record increase in mobile phones import Saudi Arabia has appointed its senior diplomat Abdullah Mardob Al-Dahrani as the new ambassador to Pakistan. The Saudi mission in Islamabad was without a full-fledged ambassador for eight months, the longest period of time without an envoy. Jassim M Al-Khaledi has been the acting ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan since then. Abdullah Al-Dahrani had also served in Pakistan as second-in-command with former ambassador Ali Saeed Al-Assiri nine years ago. Al-Dahrani is known for his favourable disposition towards Pakistan and is viewed as a competent diplomat, who has served his country in various capitals besides serving in the headquarter Riyadh. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) of Pakistan has directed the tax offices to initiate the process of penalty and prosecution against around 175,000 doctors, who have taxable income but are not filing income tax returns, official sources said yesterday. The directorate general of broadening of tax base of the FBR has circulated a list of around 186,000 doctors to regional offices, directing them to take immediate action against non-filers by sending notices, an official at the regional tax office in Karachi said. Around 11,000 enlisted doctors have filed income tax return for 2014, while the remaining has been declared defaulters. Pakistan has refused to allow transportation of Afghanistan goods through the Wagah border to India, arguing that this provision was not included in the bilateral pact between the two countries. The minutes of the recent AfghanPakistan trade meeting held in Islamabad state that Afghan-registered trucks will be allowed to carry fruits and vegetables up to Wagah for export to India. They agreed that necessary amendments would be made in the rules to include all exports rather than only fruits and vegetables. The Pakistan side had agreed to allow the Afghan trucks to go up to Wagah by January 20, 2015. A majority of Balochistan Assembly members, including Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch, have declared that they do not own a vehicle for travel, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) stated as the Assembly members revealed their assets and liabilities for 2014. According to the ECP’s website, Chief Minister Baloch, tribal elders and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) leaders Nawab Ayaz Jogezai and Sardar Raza Mohammed Badech, JUI-F leader and former senior provincial minister Maulana Abdul Wasay, former caretaker chief minister Saleh Bhootani, and BNP leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal are among those who do not own a personal vehicle. Pakistan witnessed record imports of mobile phones and telecommunication equipment worth $1.23bn in 2014, with investment in the sector during the same year reaching $1.8bn. A report published by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority attributed the big increase of 300% in the investment, and of 25.5% in the related imports, to the introduction of 3G and 4G services in the country during 2014. But the report noted that the import bill $544mn for the cellular handsets and $682mn for the telecom equipment contributed to the ever rising trade deficit of the country which stood at $16bn last year. Clashes at Charlie Hebdo protest, three injured AFP Karachi A t least three people were injured yesterday in clashes between antiCharlie Hebdo protesters and police outside the French consulate in Pakistan’s Karachi, ofﬁcials said, including an AFP photographer who was shot in the back. The protest by the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami religious party was one of several staged across Pakistan by Islamist groups after Friday prayers against the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad by the French satirical magazine. “Three injured were brought to the hospital, two were minor injuries and one photographer was serious,” said Doctor Seemi Jamali, a spokeswoman for the city’s main Jinnah hospital, referring to AFP’s Asif Hassan, 38. “The bullet struck his lung, and passed through his chest. He is out of immediate danger and he has spoken to his colleagues,” she said, adding that Hassan was hit by what appeared to be a live round. The others injured were a policeman and a local TV cameraman who were discharged after receiving ﬁrst aid. Senior police official Abdul Khaliq Sheikh said that the violence began when some 350 protesters were prevented by police from approaching the French consulate, in the southern part of the sprawling metropolis. “When the police tried to stop them they started ﬁring,” he said, adding that the police responded with tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesters. Police said Hassan and the other journalist did not appear to have been deliberately targeted but were caught in crossﬁre when protesters shot at the police. A witness at the scene backed the police account, though the religious party blamed the police. Five suspects of Pak school massacre arrested Afghanistan has arrested at least five men suspected of being involved in the last month’s attack at a Pakistani school that killed 135 students, officials said yesterday. An Afghan security official confirmed that the five Pakistani men were currently being held for questioning in Afghanistan. A Pakistani security official said that the arrest came after Pakistan supplied information to the Afghan government. They will be handed over in the coming days, both Afghan and Pakistani security officials confirmed. On December 16, seven Pakistani Taliban gunmen went from class to class and killed more than 150 people, mostly students, at the Army Public School in Peshawar city. Last week, Pakistan’s spy chief arrived in Kabul to meet with the Afghan president to talk about the arrest and the handover, security officials from both the countries confirmed. The attempt to engage with Afghanistan on terrorism-related issues “reflects Pakistan’s seriousness to root out terrorists for the first time since 9/11,” said Irfan Shahzad, lead security researcher at Islamabad-based Institute of Policy Studies. “We will have to see what impact does it have on the future of the region. Nonetheless, it is a very significant symbolism.” Pakistan bans Haqqani group after talks with top US diplomat Reuters Islamabad P Asif Hassan, left, a photographer of French news agency Agence France-Press (AFP), shot during a protest against satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad as the cover of its first edition since an attack by Islamist gunmen, is helped by a fellow photographer in Karachi yesterday. “Police are responsible for those wounded during the protest including Asif Hasan,” said Haﬁz Bilal Ramzan, head of the party’s student wing. The rallies come a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led parliament in condemning the cartoons in Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris offices were attacked last week by Islamist gunmen who killed 12 people. The newspaper was known for its cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, and its deﬁant post-attack issue released Wednesday again featured the Prophet on its front page. The new cover has sparked anger in parts of the Islamic world, with protests staged from the Philippines and Turkey to Kuwait and Mauritania. Many ﬁnd any depiction of the Prophet highly offensive, let alone images satirising him. The magazine’s new cover shows Prophet Muhammad with a tear in his eye, under the headline “All is forgiven”. He holds a sign reading “Je Suis Charlie” (I Am Charlie), the slogan that has become a global rallying cry for supporters of the victims and freedom of speech. In Pakistan, thousands of religious party activists turned out nationwide, including followers of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charitable wing of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group which masterminded attacks on Mumbai in 2008. The group has come under the spotlight since Pakistan vowed to crack down on militant groups of all hues, including those considered friendly to its interests, following a Taliban school massacre last month that left 150 people dead. The Jamat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban earlier issued a statement lauding the two brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo assault, saying “they freed the earth from the existence of ﬁlthy blasphemers”. “O enemies of Islam beware! Every youth of this Ummah (Muslim community) is willing to sacriﬁce himself on the honour of (the) Prophet,” said the statement, which was sent via email by spokesman Ehsanullan Ehsan. Protesters in the northwest city of Peshawar and central Multan burnt French ﬂags on the streets, while rallies were also held in the capital Islamabad and the eastern city of Lahore. In addition to protests by religious parties, lawyers have vowed to boycott court proceedings to show their displeasure over the sketches. Insulting the Prophet carries the death penalty under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, with 14 people currently languishing on death row for the offence. Mobs often take matters into their own hands and lynch those accused of blasphemy, and such killers are widely feted. akistan has outlawed the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, officials said yesterday, days after US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to ﬁght groups that threaten Afghan, Indian and US interests. American officials blame high-proﬁle attacks in Afghanistan on the powerful Haqqani network, which mainly operates out of Pakistan’s border areas, and say it has ties to the Pakistani state. Senior Pakistani government officials said a formal announcement of the ban would be made “within weeks”. “We have decided to ban the Haqqani network as a step in implementing the National Action Plan devised after the (Peshawar) school attack,” said a cabinet member, referring to a massacre of 134 children by Taliban gunmen last month. “The military and the government are on the same page on how to tackle militancy. There is no more ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Taliban. “Kerry speciﬁcally pressed for action against the Haqqanis, including banning the group,” the official added. A second official, a minister who spoke on condition of anonymity, conﬁrmed the decision to outlaw the Haqqani group. Afghan leader seeks to sideline powerful bloc in break with past Reuters Kabul T he Afghan cabinet, ﬁnalised this week after months of haggling, leaves a powerful faction that helped oust the Taliban in 2001 signiﬁcantly weakened, in a bold but risky break from the past by President Ashraf Ghani. Known as “mujahideen” because many also fought the Soviets in the 1980s, the group is angry at being overlooked for key security posts and is threatening to block nominees when they are presented to parliament in the coming days. The outcome of that process is difficult to predict, but Ghani, faced with the daunting task of dragging Afghanistan out of war and poverty, appeared to believe his predecessor Hamid Karzai had been held back by factional rivalries. “President Ghani didn’t want to repeat past mistakes during Karzai’s time,” said a close aide to the leader, who, like his top security choices, is from the country’s largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns. “He wants to give a message to the international community and his people that the cabinet will be a different one,” added the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The main loser is the ethnic Tajik wing of the former Northern Alliance, a group of ﬁghters mainly from the north of the country who have long been criticised for carving out local ﬁefdoms and putting personal above national interests. Afghanistan is listed as the world’s fourth most corrupt nation by the watchdog group Transparency International, although accusations of graft have been levelled at officials across the ethnic and political spectrum. Even under Karzai, a Pashtun, former Alliance members, particularly from the smaller ethnic Tajik community from the province of Panjshir, enjoyed sweeping powers. The ex-mujahideen’s exclusion has prompted criticism of Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani’s election rival-turned-government partner who draws his support mainly from the north. He was branded a “traitor” Ashraf Ghani ... facing a daunting task on social media after the cabinet was unveiled on Monday. During last year’s bitterly contested election, Ghani and Abdullah, who is a Tajik, both promoted themselves as candidates who aimed to put aside ethnic-based patronage. But the outcry over the nominations shows it will not be easy to break with Afghanistan’s recent past. “Right now, 80% of inﬂuential and powerful people around the country are former mujahideen commanders, and they don’t want to give up their power,” said Farhad Sediqi, a parliamentarian from the north. Hazrat Ali, a former mujahideen and now lawmaker, said there was a risk that par- liament could scupper the lengthy nomination process that has paralysed parts of Afghan government. “The parliament is dominated by mujahideen ﬁgures, and I don’t think they will vote for many of these nominees,” he said. Each nominee needs a simple majority, and parliament is expected to decide on the appointments as early as Januaryt 24. An ethnic Tajik was put forward as foreign minister, but the defence and interior ministries have gone to Pashtuns, as did the top post at the National Directorate of Security. Other Tajiks among cabinet nominees had little connection to the mujahideen and Northern Alliance. It is not immediately clear whether the nominations will affect Ghani’s push to re-start peace talks with the Pashtundominated Taliban. The Islamist militants have waged war on foreign and Afghan forces since 2001, and their campaign has become increasingly deadly over the last year, killing hundreds of civilians and thousands of security personnel. Shahzada Shahid, a lawmak- er close to Abdullah, said Abdullah was under pressure from his traditional power base. “It is not possible to include all those prominent ﬁgures in the cabinet, but there should have been a balance.” Mujib Rahimi, a spokesman for Abdullah, said his office had no immediate comment on criticism of the nominations. During three months of negotiations over the cabinet, Abdullah nominated two ex-mujahideen leaders, both Tajiks from Panjshir, for interior minister, said sources in both camps. However, Ghani used his veto to reject the candidates because he said they lacked the necessary education and represented the old guard, the aides added. The disagreement over the key post was the ﬁnal tussle in a protracted tug-of-war. Eventually, Abdullah put forward an ally who is Pashtun, Nur ul-Haq Ulumi, and Ghani accepted. For Panjshiris, the choice of Ulumi was especially contentious, since he was a general in the Soviet-backed army that fought the mujahideen in the 1980s. The United States accuses the Pakistani intelligence agency of supporting the Haqqani militants and using them as a proxy in Afghanistan to gain leverage there against the growing inﬂuence of its arch-rival India. Pakistan denies this. A formal announcement of the ban would show the government is keen to convince the US it will no longer differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militants. But it remains to be seen if the ban will translate into signiﬁcant action. There has been intense debate within the government on whether to brand the group a terrorist organisation. Some officials have argued the move would have little battleﬁeld impact but risks setting back Afghan reconciliation efforts and unleashing more attacks against Pakistan. In June last year the Pakistan army launched a longexpected military operation in the troubled North Waziristan region, said to be the base of the Haqqani group. “Pakistan has done a lot already to disrupt the activities of the Haqqanis ... within Pakistan,” said a Western diplomat. “But they must also take follow up steps ... to ensure the Haqqanis and other groups are not allowed to regroup or return to sanctuaries, their assets are frozen, their funding is blocked and their networks dismantled.” Imran Khan pays income tax Other than electricity bill, Imran Khan has also paid income tax formally ending his civil disobedience movement that was being preached and practised only by him, it was reliably learnt. PTI chairman gave a call for the civil disobedience on August 17 urging public not to pay the taxes and electricity bills. PTI secretary general Jehangir Tareen was the first to disobey as he had deposited his taxes the very next day of the call. Tareen is a regular taxpayer and considered among the highest tax paying Pakistanis. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s warning appears to have worked. He had announced to impose heavy penalties on those NTN holders who failed to file tax returns till December 5, 2014. FBR officials confirmed his tax payment but stopped short of disclosing the date and the tax amount. If his 2013’s tax is any guide, this year’s figure will be hovering around Rs200,000. While he calls into question the taxes of political rivals, Imran is shy of explaining his own position. He dodges questions every time when confronted about his taxes. He declared Rs12.3mn income in 2013 and paid only Rs194,936 tax over it. Most of the income declared was from agriculture and services (outside Pakistan). This year saw the declaration of the highest amount of cash in hand (Rs13.61mn) whereas Rs381,765 was in bank at the closing of that financial year. 16 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 PHILIPPINES Aquino slams clergy ‘critical’ of government By Joel M Sy Egco Manila Times T President Benigno Aquino welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival at the presidential Malacanang Palace. Right: People smile as they wait outside the Malacanang Palace for the Pope during his visit to Manila. Pope demands leaders end graft, ﬁght poverty AFP Manila P ope Francis yesterday demanded leaders in the Philippines end “scandalous social inequalities,” hitting out at corruption in a nation where tens of millions of Catholics endure brutal poverty. The pontiff made the comments in his ﬁrst speech of a ﬁve-day visit to the Philippines, after an electrifying welcome on Thursday enhanced the nation’s reputation as the Catholic Church’s vibrant Asian bastion. Francis, a revered ﬁgure for most Filipinos, took immediate aim at the nation’s elite who have for decades enjoyed the spoils of power while the vast majority lived in poverty. “It is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good,” the Pope said in the speech at the presidential palace. He challenged “everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption, which diverts resources from the poor.” The 78-year-old pontiff, seen by many around the world as a bold reformer compared with his predecessor, said the “great biblical tradition” obliged everyone to hear the voice of the poor. “It bids us break the bonds of Pope Francis meeting children at an event. injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities,” he said. Francis had moments earlier met President Benigno Aquino, who has waged a high-proﬁle campaign against corruption since coming to power in 2010 that has seen his predecessor and three senators detained. Aquino also orchestrated the impeachment of the Supreme Court’s chief justice on corrup- tion charges, and he has won international plaudits for his efforts. But critics of Aquino, the son of democracy heroine Corazon Aquino, have accused him of focusing his anti-graft campaign only on opponents and not allies. They also point out his family has for decades been among the elite. And, despite Aquino presiding over some of Asia’s strong- est economic growth, his time in office has failed to make a major dent on poverty. About 25mn Filipinos, or one quarter of the population, live on the equivalent of 60 cents a day or less, according to the latest official poverty surveys. The poverty has forced more than 10mn Filipinos to head overseas in search of a better life. Francis said one of the main purposes of his trip was to visit survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda, which left 7,350 people dead or missing in 2013. He will spend today in areas of the central Philippines that were devastated by the typhoon, which smashed into coastal communities with the strongest winds ever recorded on land. “In a particular way, this visit is meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured the suffering, loss and devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda,” he said. While in Tacloban, the Pope is expected to get some ﬁrsthand experience of the tropical storms and typhoons that claim hundreds of lives each year in the Philippines. A tropical storm in the area will bring “heavy to intense” rain today, according to the Philippine weather agency. Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the Pope intended to press on with the Tacloban trip regardless of the weather. The Philippines has long been the Church’s stronghold in the region, with Catholics accounting for 80% of the former Spanish colony’s population. Francis enjoyed a hero’s welcome when he arrived on Thursday night, with hundreds of thousands of people crowd- ing the streets of Manila to get a ﬁrst glimpse of him as he travelled in a motorcade. Massive crowds continued to choke his motorcade route on Friday as he travelled around the city, including near the centuries-old Manila Cathedral where he celebrated mass with priests and nuns. “My sacriﬁce was worth it. I feel happy. I feel blessed,” Nanette Hermano, 56, said as she cried after taking a smartphone picture of the Pope outside the cathedral. “I’ve been here since 3:00 am, but I don’t feel tired, I don’t feel hungry. It’s like a miracle.” Later in the day Francis will lead thousands of people in prayer at Manila’s top concert arena, where music fans have ﬂocked in recent years to see the likes of Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. Pope-mania will reach a peak tomorrow, with organisers expecting him to attract as many as 6mn people for mass at a Manila park. If as big as expected, the crowd will surpass the previous record for a papal gathering of 5mn during a mass by John Paul II at the same venue in 1995. Francis is on a week-long tour of Asia that began in Sri Lanka. It is his second trip to the region in ﬁve months, signalling the importance the Vatican places on Asia’s growth potential for the Church. he rift between President Benigno Aquino and some members of the Catholic Church became even more evident during Pope Francis’ visit to Malacanang yesterday when the Philippine leader lashed out at prelates who have been critical of his administration. In his speech during a general audience with Vatican and senior government officials, the president noted the “silence” of the Church when the administration of then president and now Pampanga representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was committing “abuses.” “Hence, there was a true test of faith when many members of the Church, once advocates for the poor, the marginalised and the helpless, suddenly became silent in the face of the previous administration’s abuses, which we are still trying to rectify to this very day,” Aquino said. “In these attempts at correcting the wrongs of the past, one would think that the Church would be our natural ally. In contrast to their previous silence, some members of the clergy now seem to think that the way to be true to the faith means ﬁnding something to criticise, even to the extent that one prelate admonished me to do something about my hair, as if it were a mortal sin,” he added. The president’s ﬁrst brush with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) was at the height of debates on the controversial Reproductive Health measure in Congress. Some CBCP officials grew even more critical when they openly called for the resignation of the president last year, stressing that he had lost the moral ascendancy to lead the country. A multi-sectoral National Transformation Council (NTC) has launched nationwide campaigns to muster popular support against the Aquino government.The group has called for the establishment of an alternative or transitional government in lieu of the one at present. But Malacanang ignored such calls and belittled the efforts of the NTC.Lipa City (Batangas) Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who hosted the Lipa assembly in August, said Aquino must quit immediately.Last October 1 in Cebu, the call became much sharper and Arguelles’ message became much stronger. In his speech yesterday, the president said he ﬁnds it hard to understand the transformation of the Church from being the champion of the rights of all. “Perhaps we had grown so accustomed to having this Church, always at the forefront of championing the rights of all, especially those of the marginalised, that we found it hard to understand its transformation. We were taught that the Catholic Church is the true church, and that there is constancy, for it upholds the truth at all times,” he added. Big business cashes in on ‘Brand Pope’ during visit AFP Manila P ope Francis says he has come to the Philippines to help the poor, but the country’s biggest businesses and multinationals are also cashing in with a not-so-subtle hijacking of his image. The pontiff is the most trusted ﬁgure for many in the Philippines, where 80% of the nation’s 100mn people are Catholic, and this week’s trip has generated a marketing frenzy for “Brand Pope”. Images of a smiling Francis are splashed on towering billboards and full-page newspaper advertisements, stamped with logos of McDonald’s, Pepsi, Hyundai and myriad big local companies. Gerald Bautista, a marketing strategist for 20 years who runs his own consulting ﬁrm in Manila, said putting the Pope and a brand together has a hypnotic effect on consumers in the Philippines. “He has no negative attributes, (and) gives 100% beneﬁts in terms of credibility and integrity,” Bautista said. “They (consumers) would subliminally think that the brand is good. Subliminally, it inﬂuences their choice when they go to a supermarket.” Local luxury department store Rustan’s rolled out a two-page spread on the day of his arrival Thursday, with its logo on the shoulder of the 78-year-old pontiff. A yellow ribbon, a symbol of allegiance to President Benigno Aquino and his late mother Corazon, who was an icon of democracy in the country, was also pinned on the Pope’s collar. The yellow ribbon appeared to be digitally manipulated, with a presidential spokeswoman telling AFP she was not aware the Pope had worn the pin. Next to the Pope were photos A Catholic store selling different kinds of Pope Francis merchandise. of a spread of ornate jewellery with the pontiff ’s image for sale, including a champagne pearl bracelet. The ad also reminded readers that a former ambassador to the Vatican owned Rustan’s, masquerading its promotion as a “welcome” message to the Pope. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, which is organising the Pope’s ﬁve-day trip, said it was unfazed with the Pope’s image being used for commerce. Asked if it was proper to proﬁt from the Pope’s image, conference spokesman Bishop Mylo Vergara said the decision to do so was “really up to” the businesses involved. The conference has in fact signed on some of the Philippines’ biggest companies as official sponsors for the tour, allowing them to place their brands on welcome banners erected throughout Manila. Francis would frown upon blatant usage of his likeness to sell products, according to Andrea Tornielli, co-ordinator for the Vatican Insider website in Rome. “The reality is that the Pope loves the poor so much, it would be much better that the money used for advertising be given to the poor,” Tornielli said. Philippine Long Distance Telephone, the nation’s biggest telecommunications company owned by business titan Manuel Pangilinan, is one of the official sponsors of the Pope’s trip. PLDT spokesman Ramon Isberto insisted the company’s motives were altruistic, pointing out it was providing free phone and Internet infrastructure so Filipinos could share information about the Pope. “This is not a money-making event for us... our main effort is to help every Filipino experience the Pope,” Isberto said. Meanwhile, small business owners are also enjoying a surge in sales out of the papal visit, as they ﬂood sidewalks and malls with a dizzying array of papal souvenir merchandise. Filipino bishops did not put out guidelines on the use of the Pope’s image for merchandising to give the poor a chance to make money, said Father Ruﬁno Sescon, from the organising committee. “(And) if we regulate, it might look like we’re the ones trying to make money off the Pope,” he said. Josie Rudavites, who runs a tiny stall outside one of Manila’s most popular churches, said daily sales had jumped 10-fold to 3,000 pesos ($67) since she started selling badges and calendars with the Pope’s image. “The Pope is all the rage,” said Rudavites, 36, who normally sells candles for praying at the church. A customer at a nearby stall, Angie Nalang, said she had brought her 17-year-old autistic son to the religious market surrounding the church because he was desperate for a souvenir. “He said he wants anything with the Pope on it,” Nalang said, as her son picked a white T-shirt with an image of the Pope smiling and waving. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 17 SRI LANKA/BANGLADESH/NEPAL Lanka names ex-envoy as governor of Tamil north Reuters/DPA Colombo S ri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena has named a former diplomat as governor of the northern province, replacing a retired military officer in a bid to forge reconciliation with ethnic minority Tamils after the end of a 26-year war. Since the 2009 end of the war, former president Mahinda Rajapakse maintained tight security in the region, ignoring requests to appoint a civilian governor to speed reconciliation efforts. The government announced the appointment of H M G S Palihakkara, a former Sri Lankan permanent envoy to the United Nations, on its official website late on Thursday. “The government has appointed a non-military civil servant as the governor,” it said. During his 38-year career, Palihakkara was also foreign secretary and a disarmament adviser to the UN Secretary-General. He served as a member of a domestic reconciliation panel appointed by Rajapakse to examine possible violations of human rights in the ﬁnal phase of the war. Rajapakse’s failure to adopt the panel’s recommendation to tackle such violations led to international pressure, with the UN rights body urging a probe into war crimes in March. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the former proxy political party of the Tamil Tiger rebels, which has long sought the removal of the previous governor, welcomed the move. “Changing the military governor to a civilian is a progressive step,” Suresh Premachandran, spokesman of the TNA, which backed Sirisena unconditionally at polls on January 8, said. “He has ﬁrst-hand information on what happened in the war. We hope he will take decisions in consultation with the elected representative, unlike the former military governor.” The TNA complained to parliament that former governor G A Chandrasiri had hampered many policy decisions by the northern provincial council, despite the party’s majority of more than two-thirds in that body. Rajapakse gave Chandrasiri another ﬁve-year term in July. Rajapakse gives up party leadership: Sri Lanka’s former President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday stepped down as head of his party to avoid divisions following a surprise upset in this month’s elections. “With effect from today, I will be handing over the leadership of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to President Maithripala Sirisena,” the former IANS Kathmandu M Maithripala Sirisena, centre, emerging from a meeting in Colombo yesterday after he was formally named leader of the party that had previously sacked him for becoming the common opposition candidate at the January 8 elections. president said in a statement. “I am taking this decision as I have a great dislike to see the SLFP face the danger of division,” Rajapakse said. Former health minister Sirisena defected to run against China port deal under scanner amid security concerns Reuters Colombo S ri Lanka’s new government yesterday said it will review a $1.5bn port deal with China Communications Construction Co over concerns about the Chinese company getting land on a freehold basis in a high security zone. Sri Lanka’s neighbour India has also raised security concerns over the project as a large portion of cargoes bound for India are transhipped through Colombo port. “You cannot have land given on a freehold basis to another country in a high security zone. The project has to be completely looked at,” Kabeer Hashim, Sri Lanka’s new investment promotion minister, told reporters after taking office. “When you sell land or give it in outright grant in a high secu- rity zone next to the port, it is a problem,” he said. New Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, during last month’s presidential election campaign, said he would scrap the port project if his party came to power. Mithripala Sirisena, backed by Wickremesinghe’s party, won the election to unseat former president Mahinda Rajapakse last week. Under the proposed deal, 108 hectares of land will be given to the Chinese ﬁrm to cover its investment costs, including 20 hectares on an outright basis and the rest on a 99-year lease. An Indian diplomat who has knowledge of the project said the 20-hectare plot is a security concern because of the large number of India-bound cargoes that pass through Colombo port. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the port project, which will be built on reclaimed land in the capital, Colombo, when he visited in September last year. Wickremesinghe’s probusiness United National Party says some development deals struck by the previous government, which was heavily dependent on China for infrastructure, did not follow appropriate tender procedures and were not transparent. The port development, which is to be built on 233 hectares of reclaimed land, would include shopping malls, a water sports area, a mini golf course, hotels, apartments and marinas. India has become increasingly worried about China’s inﬂuence in Sri Lanka. Rajapakse’s administration in November allowed a Chinese submarine and a warship to dock at Colombo, despite concerns raised by India. Rajapakse in the January 8 polls, which he won by around 51.3% to the incumbent’s 47.6%. Sirisena, who is supported by a range of opposition parties and several fellow defectors from the SLFP, has called on lawmakers B angladesh has asked the United Kingdom to send Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman back to the country to stand trial of the cases ﬁled against him, top government sources said in Dhaka yesterday. A letter signed by Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali in this regard has already been sent to the Bangladesh high commissioner to the UK and he has been directed to hand the letter over to UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond, they said. The government move came at a time when the BNP is enforcing a countrywide blockade coupled with occasional general strikes in protest against its alleged conﬁnement of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and refusal to allow the party to hold a Tarique Rahman rally in the capital to mark the ﬁrst anniversary of the January 5 polls which the BNP terms as the ‘democracy-killing day’. During the tenure of ‘armybacked’ caretaker government led by Fakhruddin Ahmed, Tarique, the elder son of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, was given bail in a number of cases and was allowed to travel to the UK in 2008 for medical treatment. He has been living in the UK since then. “The government has taken an initiative to bring fugitive Tarique Rahman back to Bangladesh. As part of the initiative, Foreign Minister Ali wrote a letter to his UK counterpart Hammond requesting the British government to send Tarique back to Bangladesh to face the trial as well as action for his recent acts against the country and outrageous statements against the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” a source said. There have been media reports in the past that communications were made with the UK authorities seeking the repatriation of Tarique against whom arrest warrants have been issued by many courts in Bangladesh. While commenting on the matter, a top government official said: “To the best of my knowledge, this is the ﬁrst ever foreign minister-level communication between Bangladesh and the UK regarding the repatriation of Tarique Rahman.” from the ruling party to support him, to control the 225-seat parliament. Rajapakse’s yesterday statement indicated Sirisena was considered a member of the party again. Sirisena at the weekend appointed opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and named a 27-member cabinet. Parliament was to reconvene on Monday. Ranatunga assumes office ore than two-thirds of lawmakers in Nepal’s constituent assembly yesterday petitioned chairman Subhas Chandra Nembang to promulgate the country’s new constitution through voting. Lawmakers of ruling parties - Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Uniﬁed MarxistLeninist) and Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist), besides various fringe parties submitted to Nembang a petition signed by 413 members of the 601-seat unicameral body tasked with drafting a new constitution for Nepal, Xinhua reported. The lawmakers’ push to go for voting came at a time when Nepal’s political parties have less than a week left to meet the stipulated January 22 deadline for drafting the new statute. Nepali Congress lawmaker Gagan Thapa said they have submitted 413 signatures to the constituent assembly chairman, as there were very slim chances for promulgating the new statute through consensus. “We are hopeful that it will put pressure on other parties to promulgate the new statute before January 22,” he said. Opposition and ruling parties of Nepal remain at loggerheads over key contentious issues, concerning the new constitution as even the self-imposed deadline is fast approaching. However, the ruling parties maintain that they would continue to make efforts to come up with the ﬁrst draft of the new statute. NC leader appointed envoy to India IANS Kathmandu A Sri Lanka’s former World Cup winning cricket captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, offering prays before assuming duties as the country’s new Minister of Ports and Shipping during a signing ceremony in Colombo yesterday. Ranatunga vowed to fight corruption and clean up Sri Lanka’s ports said to be rife with corruption. Govt seeks Tarique’s extradition By Mizan Rahman Dhaka Nepal’s lawmakers submit petition on charter vote Besides, he said that the High Court, on January 7, issued an order directing the government to take appropriate measures to prohibit print, electronic, and social media from publishing and broadcasting any statement by Tarique as long as he remains fugitive in the eyes of the law. The foreign secretary has also been instructed by the court to submit a compliance report with regard to the present immigration status of Tarique in the UK, he added. The BNP leader has been accused of being involved in terrorism, extremism, corruption, money-laundering, and suppression of the opposition, officials said. The foreign minister also mentioned that there is sufficient evidence that Tarique was ‘one of the masterminds’ behind the terrorist acts and violence in the run-up to and during the parliamentary polls on January 5, 2014, they said. Protester shot dead in Bangladesh A n anti-government protester in Bangladesh was yesterday shot dead by security forces which warned of tougher actions to contain the renewed surge of political unrest that has claimed 25 lives so far. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said they initially arrested the protester but his accomplices attacked the elite anticrime unit of police, sparking a shootout in northwestern Chapai Nawabganj district. The deceased was an arsonist who torched vehicles and threw crude bombs in the region to enforce the opposition BNP’s nationwide blockade, said a statement issued by RAB hours after the incident. BNP’s Chapai Nawabganj unit in a statement said the 35-year old protester, Motiur Rahman, was an activist of its youth front. The security forces’ action came a day after paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) chief Major General Aziz Ahmed warned of using guns against arsonists to protect lives of people as well as members of law enforcement agencies. “If someone is seen setting ﬁre on a vehicle we will use ours guns as one casualty will save lives of ﬁve (several) others ... and if they attack us with petrol bombs we will not chase them with batons, rather shoot them for self-defence,” Ahmed said in a in a press conference late on Thursday. Despite the warning, suspected opposition activists overnight set ablaze four trucks, injuring two drivers in northwestern Sirajganj and northeastern Feni. In one of the incidents in northwestern Pabna, unidentiﬁed activists last night stopped a potato-laden truck on a highway and torched it using petrol bombs. fter a three-year-long vacancy at its Mandi House embassy in New Delhi, Nepal has ﬁnally picked its envoy for India, a critical diplomatic mission for the Himalayan nation’s foreign relations. A cabinet meeting yesterday evening, chaired by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, decided to send senior Nepali Congress leader Deep Kumar Uphadhyay as Nepal’s new ambassador to India. The plum posting has been vacant since the past more than three years after the then government recalled ambassador Rukma Shukshere Rana after he was found serving as managing director of NepalIndia joint venture company Dabur Nepal. A central working committee member of the Nepali Congress, Uphadhyay is a former assistant ﬁnance minister and hails from the southern Kapilvastu district. He had lost the second elections to the constituent assembly in 2013. Though Uphadhyay does not have experience in working at the ministry of foreign affairs or in any prior assignment in a diplomatic position, as a staunch loyalist to Prime Minister Koirala, he enjoys good relations with Indian political leaders. The appointment came yesterday after ruling coalition partners Nepali Congress and CPN-UML decided to split the key ambassadorial positions in New Delhi and Washington DC, respectively. CPN-UML activist Arjun Karki was named ambassador to the US - a post lying vacant for more than a year. Both ambassadorial nominees have to face a parliamentary committee hearing before the respective agreements are sent for approval of the host country. 18 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 COMMENT Chairman: Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Attiyah Editor-in-Chief : Darwish S Ahmed Production Editor: C P Ravindran P.O.Box 2888 Doha, Qatar [email protected] Telephone 44350478 (news), 44466404 (sport), 44466636 (home delivery) Fax 44350474 GULF TIMES Renzi aiming for quick presidential election in Italy Italy’s last presidential election, in 2013, was a messy saga that crowned two months of political paralysis and exposed the inability of the political class to deal with it. Following inconclusive rounds of voting, party leaders failed to agree on a candidate who could muster a majority. To break the deadlock, they begged the incumbent to stay for a second term. Giorgio Napolitano would then go on to force the creation of a grand coalition government. Now that Napolitano has ﬁnally thrown in the towel - he resigned on Wednesday, ending almost nine years of presidential tenure - Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is determined to ensure a smooth succession. Some 1,000 national and regional lawmakers are due to cast their ballots, starting from late January. If Renzi’s prediction holds, the election could be resolved in a couple of days. Such an outcome would consolidate his leadership, which has been dented by waning popularity and an enduring economic crisis. It would also give him fresh political capital to invest on economic and political reforms, on which the European Union is demanding progress. Renzi is the key player in the election because he leads the biggest force in parliament, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD). To secure a presidential election, a two-third majority needs to be cleared in the ﬁrst three rounds of voting, which are usually inconclusive. The requirement falls to a simple majority of 50%-plus-one in the subsequent rounds. The PD on its own controls around 450 votes. But it could count on up to 700 if it is able to secure the support of centrists and Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia, which sits on the opposition but already cooperates with Renzi on key political reforms. Forza Italia is contributing to the drafting of a new electoral law that should reduce the risk of hung parliament, and to a bill that abolishes the requirement for all laws to be approved by both houses of parliament, in a bid to streamline the legislative process. The snag is that secret ballot voting rules in the presidential race give cover to backbenchers who do not want to toe the party line. There are concerns that rebel groups within the PD and Forza Italia will try to shoot down candidates endorsed by their leaders. The key hurdle for Renzi will be ensuring discipline within the PD. Several media outlets have suggested in recent days that Renzi could mollify left-wing critics in the PD by picking a candidate close to their hearts. As part of the deal, rebel party members would soften their opposition to the government’s labour and institutional reforms. The expectation is that Italy’s next president will hail from the centre-left, but with a consensual proﬁle that could be acceptable also to conservatives. Napolitano was such a ﬁgure when ﬁrst elected in 2006, even if Berlusconi’s party did not vote for him. Putin must shift priorities if he wants to save Russia’s economy Though the decision in December to abandon the South Stream gas pipeline is a step in the right direction, it is far from adequate By Anders Aslund Washington A s 2014 came to a close, an enormous ﬁnancial crisis erupted in Russia. World oil prices had fallen by almost half since mid-June, and the ruble plummeted in December, ﬁnishing the year down by a similar margin. Russia’s international reserves have fallen by $135bn, and inﬂation has reached double digits. Things are only going to get worse. The current oil price will force Russia to cut its imports by half – a move that, together with the continuing rise in inﬂation, will diminish Russians’ living standards considerably. Add to that everworsening corruption and a severe liquidity freeze and a ﬁnancial meltdown, accompanied by an 8-10% decline in output, appears likely. Russia’s ability to negotiate its current predicament hinges on its powerful president, Vladimir Putin. But Putin remains unprepared to act; in fact, so far, he has pretended that there is no crisis at all. In both of his major public appearances in December, Putin referred simply to the “current situation”. In his New Year greeting, he boasted about the annexation of Crimea and the successful Winter Olympics in Sochi, carefully avoiding any reference to the economy. But, with the economy in free fall, Putin cannot pretend forever. And when he ﬁnally does acknowledge reality, he will have little room for manoeuvre. Of course, Putin could withdraw his troops from eastern Ukraine, thereby spurring the US and Europe to lift economic sanctions against Russia. But this would amount to admitting defeat – something that Putin is not prone to do. Likewise, short of initiating a major war, Putin has few options for driving up oil prices. Moreover, even before the oil-price collapse, crony capitalism had brought growth to a halt – and any serious effort to change the system would destabilise his power base. In fact, Putin’s leadership approach seems fundamentally incompatible with any solution to Russia’s current economic woes. Russia faces serious – and intensifying – financial problems Though accurate and timely statistics on Russia’s economy – needed to guide effective measures to counter the crisis – are readily available to the public online, Putin claims not to use the Internet. Instead, the journalist Ben Judah reports, Putin receives daily updates on Kremlin politics, domestic affairs and foreign relations from his three key intelligence agencies. His actions suggest that he considers economic data to be far less important than security information – perhaps the natural attitude of a kleptocrat. To be clear, there is no dearth of economic expertise among Russian policymakers. On the contrary, Russia’s key economic institutions boast competent managers. The problem is that policymaking is concentrated in the Kremlin, where economic expertise is lacking. Indeed, the last of the economic heavyweights – all of them holdovers from the 1990s – in Putin’s personal circle was Alexei Kudrin, who resigned as ﬁnance minister in 2011. Unlike in the US, none of Russia’s top economic managers sits on the National Security Council. Putin has usurped authority not just from his more knowledgeable colleagues, but also from the prime minister, who has traditionally served as Russia’s chief economic policymaker. Indeed, since Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev has been all but irrelevant. In short, Putin – who is no economic expert – makes all major economic policy decisions in Russia, delivering orders to top managers of state-owned enterprises and individual ministers in ad hoc, one-on-one meetings. As a result, Russian economic policymaking is fragmented and dysfunctional. Nowhere is this lack of co-ordination more obvious than in the sensitive currency market. In Russia, unlike in most other countries, the central bank does not retain the exclusive right to intervene. When the ruble tumbled in December, the ﬁnance ministry – which holds almost half of Russia’s foreign reserves, $169bn, in two sovereignwealth funds – deemed the central bank’s intervention to be insufficient. So it announced that it would sell $7bn from its reserves to boost the ruble – a move that caused the exchange rate to overshoot on the upside. When the exchange rate plummeted again, the Kremlin urged the ﬁve largest state-owned exporting companies to exchange a portion of their assets into rubles, leading to another overshoot, followed by yet another sharp decline. Clearly, such unco-ordinated interventions are exacerbating currency-market turmoil, with the ruble’s value ﬂuctuating by 5% – and as much as 10% – in a single day. Russia’s ﬁscal situation, determined by Putin’s arbitrary budget management, is hardly better. Putin’s priorities are clear: ﬁrst come the military, the security apparatus,and the state administration; second are the major infrastructure projects from which he and his cronies make their fortunes; social expenditures (primarily pensions), needed to maintain popular support, come last. Suddenly, oil revenues are no longer sufficient to cover all three. As hard as the ﬁnance ministry may try to balance expenditures and revenues, it lacks the needed political weight. Last year, the central government delegated more education and health-care expenditures to regional bodies, without allocating more resources – and there was nothing anyone could do about it. If Putin wants to save Russia’s economy from disaster, he must shift his priorities. For starters, he must shelve some of the large, long-term infrastructure projects that he has promoted energetically in the last two years. Though the decision in December to abandon the South Stream gas pipeline is a step in the right direction, it is far from adequate. Likewise, Putin should follow Finance Minister Anton Siluanov’s sensible recommendation to cut public expenditure, including on social programmes and the military, by 10% this year. But experience suggests that Putin is unlikely to do so. Russia faces serious – and intensifying – ﬁnancial problems. But its biggest problem remains its leader, who continues to deny reality while pursuing policies and projects that will only make the situation worse. - Project Syndicate zAnders Aslund is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC. Renzi is the key player in the election because he leads the biggest force in parliament To Advertise [email protected] Display Telephone 44466621 Fax 44418811 Classified Telephone 44466609 Fax 44418811 Subscription [email protected] 2014 Gulf Times. All rights reserved Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev attending a meeting of the Security Council near Moscow yesterday. Russia’s ability to negotiate its current predicament hinges on Putin. But Putin remains unprepared to act; in fact, so far, he has pretended that there is no crisis at all. In both of his major public appearances in December, Putin referred simply to the “current situation”. Terror plots reignite security debate in Europe By Helen Maguire Brussels/DPA H ow do you ﬁght terrorism in a bloc that has no internal borders and a patchwork of national rules? This is the conundrum facing European security experts after a week of deadly attacks in Paris, arrests in Berlin and a foiled terrorist plot in Belgium. The issue is further complicated by deeply-rooted rights to privacy and cherished freedoms cemented in the European Union’s founding acts. “We must act quickly, but with calm and lucidity,” European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday during a visit to Paris. A number of EU safeguards already exist, including a system to share data on suspects within Europe’s borderfree Schengen zone, measures to curb the ﬁnancing of terrorism, and an anti-radicalisation network. But the ﬁght against terrorism is ﬁrst and foremost a national responsibility, making it harder to co-ordinate between capitals while suspects can move freely across many of the EU’s borders. Following last week’s attacks in Paris, several EU interior ministers agreed to step up security cooperation and revisit EU plans to gather airline passenger data. Proposals are also underway to tighten controls at the external frontiers of the Schengen zone. But fears are rife that measures to step up security could trample on cherished freedoms and privacy rights within the EU. Spain has proposed reintroducing border controls within Schengen, “We must act quickly, but with calm and lucidity” while groups such as France’s farright National Front and Italy’s Lega Nord have called for the system to be abolished entirely. “Our state must be able to decide over the control of our borders,” National Front leader Marine Le Pen told the European Parliament this week, calling free cross-border travel a “crazy idea.” Several European leaders have lashed out at such talk. “Suspending Schengen would be the end of Europe,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told EU lawmakers on Tuesday, adding that the bloc should be “bigger than fears and threats”. “We must not change our freedom of thought or revise downwards our values in the face of the violence of Kalashnikovs,” added EU Parliament President Martin Schulz. Opinions are also polarised over the proposals to introduce an EUwide system to collect and share information on people ﬂying in and out of the bloc, known as passenger name record (PNR) data. The initiative, dating back to 2011, has been blocked by the EU’s legislature over privacy concerns. Airlines based in the EU already share PNR information - which includes names, addresses and credit card numbers - with security forces in Australia, Canada and the United States. Diplomats say there is now a large degree of consensus among member states on the need to push through a deal with legislators. There are concerns that failure to act at a European level will prompt countries to go it alone. France announced on Tuesday that it will launch its own system in September. “National systems will be a patchwork of rules with holes,” Tusk warned, adding, “They would interfere with the privacy of citizens but not properly protect their security.” But several EU lawmakers remained sceptical. “Our consent cannot be unconditional,” said Sophie In ‘t Veld of the liberal ALDE group, urging member states to adopt updated data protection laws. “No new powers without new safeguards,” she said. It is not the ﬁrst time the EU has grappled to square security needs with privacy concerns. The issue is highly sensitive in countries such as Germany, where memories linger of state surveillance under both the Nazis and the East German communist regime. Last year, the EU’s top court scrapped an anti-terrorism law requiring telecoms ﬁrms to log private data for law-enforcement purposes, saying it breached citizens’ rights. In 2013, revelations about US surveillance practices by whistleblower Edward Snowden touched a raw nerve among many Europeans. But analysts argue that a lack of co-ordinated powers at the EU level makes the bloc reliant on US intelligence. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 19 COMMENT In search of new development goals A global partnership could spur investment in research and development and ease the ﬂow of information among scientists, business people and policymakers By Manish Bapna and Kitty van der Heijden Washington T he question of how the world can end extreme poverty and improve human wellbeing will take on new urgency in 2015, as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire and a new set of goals – the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – are ﬁnalised. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s “Synthesis Report”, outlining the main elements of the post-2015 agenda, provides strong guidance regarding what sustainable development should look like and what world leaders must do over the next 15 years to achieve it. After two years of crafting the “what” of sustainable development, the year ahead must focus on how to get it done. The central ambition is bold: the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030. To make that happen, the SDGs will need to shift away from the twentieth-century model of development, in which rich countries gave money to poor countries, mostly to feed the hungry and improve health and education. The MDGs were remarkably successful in several of these areas. But the picture has changed signiﬁcantly since then. A new set of emerging economies – including China, India, Brazil, and South Africa – is racing to modernise. The private sector is assuming a greater role in economic development. And environmental degradation is threatening the gains of recent decades. The SDGs will have to transcend the idea of a planet divided starkly between those who give aid and those who receive it. The new goals must account for a world undergoing rapid globalization, in which all countries have assets as well as needs. Today’s challenges go beyond health, food, and education. The SDGs will have to integrate these concerns with the demands of the growing global middle class, the effects of shifting political and economic power, and the challenges of environmental sustainability, including climate change. Three ingredients will be essential to achieving the goals: ﬁnancing mechanisms, trade, and partnerships. Forty years after rich countries promised to dedicate 0.7% of GDP to aid, their commitments remain at less than half that level. Though most emerging economies no longer rely on aid, it remains crucially important for low-income countries. That said, even if aid targets were met, the shift to sustainable development will cost much more than what aid alone can cover. We need to look for new sources of funds, ensure that government spending is aligned with the sustainable-development agenda, and target those areas where the money can do the most good. In much of the developing world, investing in sustainable development is complicated by the fact that tax revenues are too low to pay for what is needed. This is not always a matter of raising tax rates; it is also often a matter of collecting what people and companies owe. Closing loopholes and cracking down on evasion are two ways to ensure that taxes are collected. The OECD estimates that a dollar of aid spent on improving tax collection yields an average of $350 in revenue. A shared commitment that builds on initiatives by the G-8 would make tax evasion that relies on tax havens or money laundering harder to hide. Governments cannot deliver a sustainable future alone. The private sector also has an important role to play in energy, agriculture and urban development, including transport and water systems that can drive innovation and economic opportunity. While levels of private ﬁnance dwarf international public ﬁnance, directing these private funds to programs that reach the poorest and protect the environment requires the right policy incentives, such as a price on carbon, regulatory certainty, and the wise use of public money. Trade boosts domestic production and generates revenue that can help pay for development. There have been important gains in market access in the past 15 years: 80% of developing countries’ exports to developed countries are now tariff-free, while average tariffs are down overall. But non-tariff barriers can cost exporting countries more than tariffs do. What is needed is an international partnership that helps low-income countries integrate into the globalised marketplace while improving environmental and labor standards. The SDGs can create political momentum for these efforts, which could then be framed by the World Trade Organization in December 2015. Making development sustainable will also require accelerated innovation and diffusion of technology between now and 2030. A global partnership could spur investment in research and development and ease the ﬂow of information among scientists, business people and policymakers. Such new and creative partnerships can make progress on complex problems that governments, civil society, or the private sector cannot or will not solve alone. For example, the GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation), a partnership comprising international organisations, philanthropies, governments, companies, and research organisations, has immunised 440mn children since 2000 and helped avert more than 6mn deaths. We must improve and expand these types of partnerships to other challenges such as infrastructure, agriculture, and energy. Between now and September 2015, when heads of state will gather for the UN General Assembly, we have a historic chance to set the world on a more sustainable path that will eradicate poverty and enhance prosperity for all. Ambitious goals provide a ﬁrm foundation for a brighter future. Over the coming months, however, leaders must work together to set the world on the right course to realise this vision. Project Syndicate zManish Bapna is managing director of the World Resources Institute. Kitty van der Heijden is European director of the World Resources Institute. Weather report LEGAL HELPLINE Three-day forecast TODAY Disciplinary policies and procedures The ﬁnes collected may be utilised for the welfare of the workers such as cultural, sports and other activities By Nizar Kochery Doha QUESTION: We are preparing disciplinary procedures at our company. Could the employer decide the ﬁne payable? How are the ﬁnes utilised? Please advice on Ministerial Decision No 9 of 2005. SU, Doha ANSWER: Ministerial Decision No 7 and 9 of 2005 are on penalties. Article 58 of the Labour Law requires employers employing more than 10 employees to formulate appropriate disciplinary policies and procedures and the sanctions which will be applied to employees who breach them. A Penalties Register containing details on penalties imposed including the penalty, nature of violation, total amount of penalty etc. to be maintained by every such employer. The Ministerial Decision No 9 stipulates that a regulatory committee chaired by the employer or a nominee of the employer and members representing the workers shall decide on the penalties and disposal of cash ﬁnes collected from errant employees. The ﬁnes collected may be utilised for the welfare of the workers such as cultural, sports and other activities. Bills of exchange Q: In a contract for supply, our client is offering “bill of exchange” whereas we have asked for cheque or promissory note. What’s the difference between these? HT, Doha A: Bills of exchange are similar to cheques and promissory notes. They can be drawn by individuals or banks and are generally transferable by endorsements. The difference between a promissory note and a bill of exchange is that bill of exchange is transferable and can bind one party to pay a third party that was not involved in its creation. According to Article 552 of the commercial Laws, any legal action arising from a bill of exchange against its acceptor shall be statute barred upon the lapse of three years from the date on which payment was due. With regard to a legal action brought by the holder of a bill of exchange against the endorsers or drawer will lapse by limitations after one year from the date of a protest made within the legal time limit or from the date of maturity if the bill of exchange stipulates exemption from a protest being made. Limitations will not apply if a judgment conﬁrming a debt has been issued, or the debtor has admitted it in an independent instrument that causes the debt to be renewed. Gratuity payment Q: My service contract of two years expires after two months and I plan to resign from the job and leave the country after that. I would like to know about my service settlement. MI, Doha A: The employee shall be entitled for gratuity, payment against prorate annual leave and repatriation travel beneﬁts. Article 54 provides that gratuity shall be payable to those employees with one or more years of continuous service. The gratuity shall be calculated at the rate of three weeks’ basic salary per year and prorate unless otherwise a higher rate is agreed by the parties. claim for the rent and termination of the contract. Tenant refusing to pay rent Transfer of sponsorship Q:I had rented a ﬂat for my personal use when my family was in Doha for a an expected period of ﬁve years. Later because of our children’s education needs, the family left after two years. When I went to cancel the contract, the landlord refused to accept it and asked rent for three more years. But he allowed me to sublet the ﬂat and I rented it to another family under a contract. They have not paid rent for the past ﬁve months. How could I vacate them? The electricity bills are in my name. Do I have the right to disconnect the ﬂat’s electricity connection? HM, Doha Q: I had transferred my sponsorship from my old company to a new one two years ago. I have ﬁnished the two-year contract stated in my offer letter and wish to join yet another company. But my present employer is refusing to give a no-objection certiﬁcate for me to join another company. Is there any legal way for me to get the transfer? OA, Doha A: When there is lease contract and tenant residing therein, you have no right to cut the electricity connection for any reason even when electricity connection is in your name. In the event of non-payment the lessor can ﬁle a rental case before the Rental Disputes Settlement Committee to A: Transfer of sponsorship is not a matter of right and there is no waiver or privilege for any category of workers including those who employed locally. Except with the written consent of the current sponsor, the prevailing Laws and regulations prohibits the granting entry for work to one who earlier resided in the country to work only two years after the date of departure. This also will require accord of appropriate authorities. High: 24 C Low: 14 C Misty to Foggy at places becomes modertate temperature daytime and partly cloudy with chance of scattered rain at places and cold by night SUNDAY High: 22 C Low : 16 C Clear MONDAY High: 22 C Low : 15 C P Cloudy Fishermen’s forecast OFFSHORE DOHA Wind: NW-NE 05-15 KT Waves: 1-3/4 Feet INSHORE DOHA Wind: NW-NE 03-12 KT Waves: 1-2/ Feet Around the region Abu Dhabi Baghdad Dubai Kuwait City Manama Muscat Riyadh Tehran Weather today Clear Clear Clear P Cloudy P Cloudy P Cloudy Clear P Cloudy Max/min 24/16 16/04 26/17 20/08 27/17 24/18 22/13 12/02 Weather tomorrow Clear Clear P Cloudy Clear P Cloudy P Cloudy Clear P Cloudy Max/min 25/16 14/04 26/18 19/06 21/16 24/19 21/10 09/01 Weather tomorrow Clear P Cloudy Clear C Rain C Showers Clear M Cloudy P Cloudy Clear Clear C Storms Clear C Showers P Cloudy Cloudy Clear P Cloudy Clear P Cloudy Clear C Storms Clear Clear Max/min 15/07 16/11 31/19 05/02 19/09 27/17 30/23 26/15 18/12 08/04 30/26 27/11 06/00 29/21 -1/-2 16/07 -3/-3 07/04 36/22 00/-6 28/24 33/19 12/01 zPlease send your questions by e-mail to: [email protected] LEGAL SYSTEM IN QATAR Under Article 1181, sums due to a hotel operator by a hotel guest for accommodation, food and expenses incurred for his account, are secured by a privilege over the effects brought by the guest to the hotel or its annexes. Unless it can be proved that the hotel operator knew of the existence of a third party’s rights over these effects at the time they were brought on to the premises, this privilege may be enforced on these effects, even if they do not belong to the guest, provided that they are not lost or stolen property. A hotel operator may, if he has not been paid in full, object to the removal of these effects, and if they are removed notwithstanding his objection or without his knowledge, the privilege continues to be enforceable on them. An hotel operator’s privilege has the same rank as a lessor’s privilege. Should the effects in question be subject to both claims, the ﬁrst in date will have priority, unless it is enforceable as against the other. Sums due to the vendor of a movable for the price and accessories are secured by a privilege over the movable sold. This privilege is enforceable as long as the movable sold preserves its identity subject to the rights acquired in good faith by third parties and subject to the special provisions applicable in commercial matters. This privilege follows in rank privileges referred to in the preceding articles. It operates, however, as against the lessor and hotel operator, if it can be proved that they had knowledge of such privilege at the time the thing sold was brought onto the leased property or into the hotel. Co-owners who have partitioned a movable have a privilege over this movable in respect of their remedies against each other resulting from the partition, and for payment of any difference reverting to them in the partition. The privilege of a co-partitioner has the same rank as a vendor’s privilege. Should the movable in question be subject to both rights, the ﬁrst in date will have priority. The price and accessories due to the vendor of an immovable are secured by a privilege over the immovable sold. Such privilege must be inscribed, notwithstanding the transcription of the sale, and its rank is ﬁxed by the date of inscription. Sums due to contractors and architects who have been entrusted with the erection, reconstruction, repair or maintenance of buildings or other works, have a privilege over such works but only in respect of the increase in value resulting from such works as at the time of the sale of the immovable. Such a privilege must be inscribed: its rank is ﬁxed by the date of its inscription. Co-owners who have partitioned an immovable have a privilege over this immovable in respect of their respective remedies against each other resulting from the partition, including their right to claim payment of any difference reverting to them in the partition. Such a privilege must be inscribed: its rank is ﬁxed from the date of its inscription. Around the world Athens Beirut Bangkok Berlin Cairo Cape Town Colombo Dhaka Hong Kong Istanbul Jakarta Karachi London Manila Moscow New Delhi New York Paris Sao Paulo Seoul Singapore Sydney Tokyo Weather today Clear C Showers Clear Cloudy P Cloudy C Showers P Cloudy Clear P Cloudy P Cloudy T Storms Clear C Showers C Rain P Cloudy P Cloudy P Cloudy P Cloudy C Storms C Snow C Storms C Showers Clear Max/min 15/04 17/11 31/18 09/04 19/09 23/16 31/23 27/16 19/12 07/03 30/25 27/12 07/-2 31/22 -2/-4 17/09 01/-9 08/04 34/22 07/-6 29/24 29/18 12/03 20 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 QATAR Doha Book Fair records impressive turnout of visitors By Ayman Adly Staff Reporter T he 25th edition of Doha International Book Fair (DIBF) will be concluding today having recorded an impressive turnout of visitors in the last few days. “It is good that the fair has expanded to a much larger area this year,” said Nour, an exhibitor of children and education books. He suggested that it would have been better if the stalls were distributed on the basis of category so it would give all exhibitors equal chance to be seen by potential customers. I almost sold out 95% of my collection, which encourages me to come back again to Doha next year with a new collection of rarities” “For example, there are children’s and educational books and toys at the middle and both at the far ends of the venue,” he explained. Nizar, an exhibitor of interior design catalogue books and magazines, said his targeted customers are architects and those working in decoration in addition to the amateurs from the ﬁeld. One of his customers said such category of books if available at local bookstores are much expensive. Nizar, like a considerable number of other exhibitors, tried to improve his sales by giving special offers on his books that amounted to more than 50% of the tag price. While the rare antiquity books and manuscripts where on display at the exhibition for a tag price of hundreds of thousands of Riyals, there were also some other stalls that displayed copies of popular Arabic newspapers and magazines, mostly Egyptian, from the early 1910s and onwards for tens or hundreds of Riyals. Both such categories were of particular interest to Qataris rather than expatriates. “Young Qataris were very keen to own a great number of my rare collection of antiquity books and they showed immense interest in the books that were printed centuries ago with their exquisite paintings. I almost sold out 95% of my collection, which encourages me to come back again to Doha next year with a new collection of rarities,” said Badr al-Hajj, owner of Folios limited, who displays limited edition of books that were printed more than 400-500 years ago. He said that some of these were sold for as much as $140,000, and consider that value of a book as a good and guaranteed asset better than money in the bank. DIBF also featured a number of sophisticated software educational programmes, mostly in Arabic. The majority of visitors have been Arab expatriates and locals, as the vast majority of books on display were in Arabic with some in English and some other languages. A considerable number of exhibitors expressed their admiration of the smooth co-ordination at the fair and stressed that locals were very keen to buy books, especially women, some of whom even bought a large number. Some of the participants in the young falconer event for six to 10 year-olds. All set for an exciting day at falcon festival I t will be an action-packed day today at the sixth Qatar International Falcons and Hunting Festival at Sabkhet Marmi in the Sealine area of Mesaieed. The fourth round of Tala’a competition will be held in the morning, while the Young Falconer event for participants aged 11 to 15 takes place in the afternoon, in parallel with the 12th round of the Hudud al Tahaddi challenge. Visitors observing a calligraphy artist at work at the book fair yesterday. PICTURES: Nasar T K. “The event includes some oral questions about falcons and falconry, covering the different kinds of falcons and how to take care of falcons and train them” Children enjoying drawing and colouring at the book fair. The Tala’a event tests the falcon’s speed and ability to identify the location of its prey, and involves an electronic Habari bird (or bustard) which is placed at a distance of 1km; qualifying time is then counted from the moment the falcon is released. In the Hudud al Tahaddi challenge, falcons seek to obstruct the ﬂight of homing pigeons especially trained to ﬂy away, and instead causing them to land. Non-competitive rounds of Hudud al Saluki, in which salukis or Arabian greyhounds race at high speeds for a distance of 2km will be held to entertain the large audience that tends to gather to watch the festival’s events especially over the weekend. Yesterday’s results saw three qualifying participants in the Tala’a event, namely Abdulhadi Hamad al-Hadwan al-Marri, Saleh Ubaid al-Mahran al-Marri and Hadi Mohamed Faisal alMusafra al-Hajri. The Hudud al-Tahaddi round resulted in the qualiﬁcation of Jaber Ayed al Ethba al-Marri for the ﬁnal round, in addition to winning QR100,000 after his falcon, Marmi, caused the homing pigeon to land in the event’s arena. The Young Falconer event for six to year old competitors saw 36 participants, in addition to a large turnout of spectators and parents. The event aims to promote the practice of falconry among the young, which in turn serves to maintain this heritage sport with its noble ideals through the generations. Saleh Mohamed al-Kuwari, a member of the event’s organising committee, was pleased with the level of performance of the young falconers. “The event includes some oral questions about falcons and falconry, covering the different kinds of falcons and how to take care of falcons and train them,” he explained. The festival, being organised by the Gannas Society under the patronage of HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, runs until January 31. Qatari national Mohamed al-Naimi with his sons who participated in the young falconer competition. Fenced-off Rumailah Park continues to draw visitors By Peter Alagos Business Reporter D ay trippers continue to ﬂock to Doha’s Al Rumailah Park after it was closed for renovation twoand-a-half months ago but their number has signiﬁcantly dropped due to the fence covering at least 98% of the area. “As long as these ‘gates’ are still open, I see no reason why I shouldn’t enjoy the park with my family,” an Asian expatriate told Gulf Times yesterday, referring to four small sections of the fence that are yet to be sealedoff completely by authorities concerned. The Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP) officially declared the park closed on November 1, 2014 to make way for rehabilitation works. It was initially barricaded with nylon cord and ribbons but the makeshift fence did not prevent visitors from entering. Succeeding weekends after the MMUP made the announcement saw more visitors taking advantage of the park’s wide, grassy area complemented by several shady trees where many families and group’s gather for picnics and even parties. The celebration of Qatar National Day also helped extend the park’s “usefulness” to its patrons, mostly couples, families, and children. Immediately after the event, authorities gradually started fencing off the park with corrugated metal sheets. One of the park’s security guards said the metal trusses and industrial grade plastic seats of the grandstand used for the Qatar National Day celebrations that remain at the back of the park has stalled fencing work, thus “prolonging the life” of Rumailah Park. As of yesterday, two small sections of the fence along the Corniche remain open, including a couple of other “entrances” at the back of the park are being used by visitors to gain access to the area. Compared to previous weeks, the number of visitors to the park yesterday has dwindled; tell-tale signs that the public has ﬁnally come to terms with the closure of one of Qatar’s enduring destinations. One of the visitors noted that the grassy sections of the park have not been watered causing it to wither. “Also, you can now get more parking at the back of the park unlike before when throngs of people frequent the park, especially during weekends,” he added. Visitors of nearby Corniche and the Museum of Islamic Art Park have signiﬁcantly increased and will continue to grow in number when Rumailah Park is ﬁnally sealed-off, one observer noted. Earlier in the week local Arabic daily Al Sharq reported that the company tasked to rehabilitate the park has started the ﬁrst stage of construction work for underground parking lots. Visitors continue to hold weekend picnics at Rumailah Park even after its closure. RIGHT: Families enjoy the park’s concrete slide. PICTURES: Peter Alagos. BOND DEFAULT | Page 2 CAPITAL BOOST | Page 5 China freezes projects in two cities StanChart eyes bank stakes sale Saturday, January 17, 2015 Rabia I 26, 1436 AH GULF TIMES MAJOR GREEK LENDERS : Page 11 Eurobank and Alpha apply for emergency funds BUSINESS IEA cuts non-Opec output estimate; sees oil recovery Bloomberg London N on-Opec oil producers will increase output this year at a slower rate than previously forecast, aiding a recovery in crude prices, the International Energy Agency said. The adviser lowered its nonOpec supply growth estimate by 350,000 barrels a day, the ﬁrst cut since the 2015 forecast was introduced in July. Half the cut is from Colombian output while effects on US production are so far “marginal,” it said. The slow-down in non-Opec output will lead to a “rebalancing” of currently over-supplied global markets in the second half, reviving prices, the agency said. “Companies have been taking an axe to their budgets, postponing or cancelling new projects,” the Paris-based IEA, which advises 29 nations on energy policy, said in its monthly market report. “A price recovery, barring any major disruption, may not be imminent, but signs are mounting that the tide will turn.” Oil prices have collapsed almost 60% from last year’s peak, as the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries resolved to defend market share against the fastest US production in more than three decades. Opec’s decision is testing the ability of rival producers to keep pumping as prices slump to a 5 1/2-year low. Brent futures traded near $49 a barrel yesterday. Non-Opec supply still will increase 950,000 barrels a day this year to 57.5mn a day, the IEA said. Colombia’s supply will be about A view of the the Ecopetrol oil refinery in Cartagena on the northern coast of Colombia. The International Energy Agency lowered its non-Opec supply growth estimate by 350,000 barrels a day, the first cut since the 2015 forecast was introduced in July. Half the cut is from Colombian output while effects on US production are so far “marginal,” the IEA said. 175,000 lower than previously anticipated, about the same as Canada and the US combined. Any stimulus for demand from lower prices remains “elusive” because of underlying weakness in the global economy, said the agency, which kept its global oil consumption forecast for 2015 unchanged. The surplus in oil inventories in developed economies in December was the highest for the time of year since 2010, its preliminary data show. A higher level of supply from Opec will be required than previously expected because of slower non-Opec growth, according to the report. The organisation will need to provide 29.2mn barrels a day this year, about 300,000 a day more than last month’s forecast. That’s still about 1.3mn a day less than its 12 members pumped in December, when Iraqi supplies rose to a 35-year high of 3.7mn barrels a day. Swiss central bank under fire as franc move wreaks havoc AFP Zurich Switzerland’s central bank came under fire at home and abroad yesterday after scrapping its bid to stop the franc rising, which wreaked havoc on global markets and bankrupted several foreign exchange traders. A brokerage firm in Britain and another in New Zealand declared insolvency while at home in Switzerland, exporters warned that they too could be put out of business by the Swiss National Bank’s sudden decision. “From an economic standpoint, this move is incomprehensible at the current time,” the Swiss Business Federation said in a statement, warning that the country’s vital export and tourism industries would be hurt. Swiss newspaper Le Temps charged in an editorial that the central bank was “guilty of naivety” and questioned if it had forgotten the stabilising role it should play on the markets and the economy. The SNB had “put its credibility at risk”, the newspaper said, while the Tribune de Geneve said the bank was “sinking the Swiss economy”. A rout on Swiss stocks continued yesterday, with shares tumbling more than 4%, after having already plunged 8.7% on Thursday. The SNB had caught markets off guard on Thursday with its shock announcement that it was abandoning the minimum rate of 1.20 francs against the euro that it had been defending for more than three years. The Swiss currency immediately gained nearly 30% against the euro, before stabilising at around parity — which is still 15% higher than Wednesday’s rate. The yield on the Swiss 10-year bond entered negative territory yesterday, slipping to -0.031% around midday, meaning lenders will now have to pay to lend money to Switzerland. The boss of a small watchmaking company H Moser & Cie underlined the impact of the SNB’s move in an open letter addressed to central bank chief Thomas Jordan, warning that he may have to move his business out of Switzerland. “Over 95% of our watches are sold to people outside of Switzerland, and the first retailers called the same day to cancel orders,” Edouard Meylan wrote. “In fact, one thought crossed my mind: why not just move two kilometres into Germany and continue business as usual in the EU?,” wrote Meylan, whose company employs 55 people. Watchmakers are particularly jittery as the SNB’s decision comes just ahead of the luxury industry’s annual trade show, when buyers travel to Switzerland to place orders for the entire year. An organisation representing the Swiss textile industry, which exports 75% of its production to the European Union, also voiced alarm. “If the overheating of the Swiss franc continues ... many of our exporters will be in trouble, and that could have consequences for the labour market,” Swiss Textile warned in a statement. Exporters are not the only ones fretting. Domestic retailers could also be hurt as consumers flock to neighbouring countries like France and Germany to shop for cheaper goods, including daily necessities. In the northern city of Basel, local authorities announced extra trains running to Germany on Saturday, anticipating a rush of crossborder shoppers. Switzerland’s employers organisation cautioned that such “purchase-tourism” would likely skyrocket. “It’s like Christmas all over again!” Vanessa, a 28-year-old hospital orderly, told AFP outside a Geneva exchange office, while contemplating whether to swap all her Swiss franc savings into euros. Swiss banking giant UBS estimates that the SNB’s decision would deliver a severe blow to economic growth, and slashed its output forecast to just 0.5% this year from its previous estimate of 1.8%. Casualties were also piling up outside Switzerland, with broker Alpari UK declaring insolvency after clients’ losses linked to the sharp rise in the Swiss franc were passed on to the company. New Zealand foreign exchange broker Global Brokers NZ also said it was closing since “a majority of clients in a franc position were on the losing side and sustained losses amounting to far greater than their account equity.” Another forex trading firm FXCM in New York warned it may not be able to meet certain regulatory capital requirements as clients chalked up losses totalling some $225mn - a sum that the company could be left with. In Poland, where 700,000 mortgages, or 40% of the total, are denominated in the franc, homeowners were meanwhile facing sharply higher monthly repayments. And in Croatia, an association of people with loans in Swiss francs requested a temporary freeze on the exchange rate. Pages 4, 9 & 10 Production from Saudi Arabia, Opec’s biggest member, remained steady in December at 9.6mn barrels a day, the IEA said. Opec itself reduced estimates for the crude it will need to provide in 2015 by 100,000 barrels a day to 28.8mn a day in its monthly market report on Thursday. A M Best affirms ‘excellent’ rating of Qatar General Insurance and Reinsurance Co Global insurance rating agency A M Best has affirmed the financial strength rating of ‘A-’ (excellent) and the issuer credit ratings of ‘a-’ of Qatar General Insurance and Reinsurance Company with “stable” outlook. The ratings reflect the country’s second largest insurer’s strong risk-adjusted capitalisation, sound track record of operating performance and enhanced enterprise risk management (ERM) capabilities. “An offsetting rating factor is the company’s high concentration in Qatari real estate and equity assets,” the agency, however, said. The company’s prospective risk-adjusted capitalisation is expected to remain strong and supportive of the company’s projected growth over the medium term, it said. Capital requirements are driven by its investment risk, with over 90% of its portfolio held in real estate and equities at yearThe ratings reflect the end 2013. However, country’s second largest the insurer has sufinsurer’s strong risk ficient shareholders’ adjusted capitalisation, equity to absorb this sound track record of concentrated investoperating performance ment profile and has and enhanced proven its ability to enterprise risk prudently manage its management (ERM) exposures. “The incapabilities vestment profile may be a source of future volatility to both its capital position and its operating results,” A M Best cautioned. Qatar General’s technical performance for conventional business weakened in 2014, largely stemming from greater competition and poor performance on tariffed motor third party liability business. “It is expected to produce a breakeven underwriting result for 2014,” it said. The insurance company has implemented strategic initiatives to improve technical performance, focusing on risk selection and enhancing distribution channels. Operating performance continues to be bolstered by investment income, with significant rental income generated through real estate holdings. Qatar General has strengthened its ERM capabilities in recent years, developing an internal capital model and applying stress tests on the company’s balance sheet, incorporating both underwriting and asset related scenarios. US consumer prices post biggest drop in six years Reuters Washington U S consumer prices recorded their biggest decline in six years in December and a gauge of underlying inﬂation held steady, which could bolster the case for delaying the ﬁrst interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve. The Labour Department said yesterday its Consumer Price Index fell 0.4% last month, the largest drop since December 2008, after sliding 0.3% in November. In the 12 months through December, CPI increased 0.8%. It was the weakest year-onyear reading since October 2009, and followed a 1.3% rise in November. Last month’s readings were in line with expectations. US Treasury debt prices held gains, while the dollar trimmed gains versus the euro and US stock index futures pared losses. “It seems nearly certain that further declines in headline inﬂation rates will be seen in coming months. What is important though is that core inﬂation rates are not necessarily immune to declines in oil and gasoline,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at BTIG in New York. While Fed officials have viewed the energy-driven inﬂation weakness as transitory, a strong dollar is taming underlying price pressures, which could cause some discomfort. The so-called core CPI, which strips out food and energy, was unchanged in December. It was only the second time since 2010 that it did not increase. The core CPI had nudged up 0.1% in November. “It seems nearly certain that further declines in headline inflation rates will be seen in coming months. What is important though is that core inflation rates are not necessarily immune to declines in oil and gasoline” Inﬂation is running below the Fed’s 2% target, despite a strengthening labour market and overall economy. A second report from the Fed showed factory output rose 0.3% last month, rising for the fourth straight month. Darkening prospects for the global economy could also complicate policy decision for the US central bank. Many economists have been expecting the central bank to raise interest rates by June. However, following December’s surprise declines in retail sales and average hourly earnings, rate futures have pushed back bets for a hike to the second half of the year. In the 12 months through December, the core CPI rose 1.6%, the smallest gain since February, after increasing 1.7% in November. Slower global demand and increased shale production in the US have caused an oil glut, sending crude prices tumbling. Brent crude prices approached a six-year low this week, a sign that overall inﬂation pressures will remain subdued in the months ahead. Gasoline prices tumbled 9.4% last month, the biggest drop since December 2008, after declining 6.6% in November. Gasoline has now declined for six straight months. Energy prices recorded their biggest decline since 2008. Food prices rose 0.3% after rising 0.2% the prior month. Away from food and energy, shelter costs increased 0.2% last month after rising 0.3% in November. Apparel prices recorded their biggest decline since September 1998. There also declines in airfares and new motor vehicle price. The cost of used cars and trucks dropped 1.2 % last month. 2 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 BUSINESS India’s oil imports from Iran jump sharply in ’14 Singapore should brace for slower growth: PM Reuters New Delhi I ndia imported 42% more Iranian oil last year over 2013 levels as its reﬁners increased purchases to take advantage of an easing in sanctions targeting Tehran’s nuclear programme. The jump came with an end-of-theyear boost as imports in December surged 84% from a year ago to 348,400 barrels per day (bpd), the highest since March. Iranian and US officials are meeting in Geneva this week ahead of talks between Tehran and world powers tomorrow focused on reaching a ﬁnal deal to end the sanctions against Iran in return for curbs to its nuclear programme. Diplomatic efforts to reach a ﬁnal agreement last year failed for a second time in November, and a self-imposed deadline was extended to June 30 this year. Tehran says its uranium enrichment programme is for peaceful purposes only and not aimed at building a weapon. India – Iran’s top oil customer after China – imported 276,800 bpd of oil and condensate last year, compared with 195,600 bpd in 2013, according to tanker arrival data obtained from trade sources and Thomson Reuters Oil Research & Forecasts. Indian reﬁners bought about 39% more Iranian oil in December compared with November, the data also showed. Annual imports of Iranian oil rose sharply last year as reﬁners ramped up purchases in the ﬁrst quarter to make up for a big decline in shipments in 2013 as insurers had not extended coverage for processing oil from the sanctionshit nation. Private-reﬁner Essar Oil was the biggest Indian client of Iran in 2014, followed by Mangalore Reﬁnery and Petrochemicals Ltd and Indian Oil Corp. Lee: Optimistic. Reuters Singapore S ingapore will do well if it manages to achieve an annual economic growth of 2 to 3% for the next ﬁve years, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was quoted as saying yesterday. The economy has reached a stage of its development where it is no longer possible to expand by 5 to 6% each year, Lee said in an interview with tdomestic media. His comments came after data earlier this month showed that full-year growth for 2014 slowed to 2.8% from 3.9% in 2013, tempered by an uneven global recovery and lacklustre exports. An Indian Oil petrol pump is seen in Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat. India, Iran’s top oil customer after China, imported 276,800 bpd of oil and condensate last year, compared with 195,600 bpd in 2013. Iran remained the seventh-biggest oil supplier to India in 2014, while its share in overall purchases rose to 7.3% last year, compared with 5.1% in 2013, the data showed. The current sanctions allow Iran access to some of its frozen oil revenue overseas and restrict its oil sales at about 1mn to 1.1mn bpd. Overall, India imported 3.84mn bpd of oil in December, up 9.4% from a year earlier. Imports for the full year fell 1.4% to 3.81mn bpd. In the January-December period India imported about 3.9% more oil from Latin America, with the region accounting for about 20.1% of overall imports, up from about 19.1% a year ago. The Middle East region supplied about 59% of India’s oil imports in January to December, compared with 62.3% a year ago. Africa’s share jumped to 16.7% from 15.4%. In the ﬁscal year to March 31, 2014, India cut its imports from Iran by 15% to 220,000 bpd to get a waiver from US sanctions on the Islamic republic. India’s annual oil contracts with Iran follow the country’s April-March ﬁscal cycle. In the ﬁrst nine months of the year to end March 31, 2015, Indian reﬁners have shipped in about 250,200 bpd of Iranian oil, up 41% from the same period a year ago. Modi says committed to achieving budget deficit goal Reuters New Delhi Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said yesterday he was committed to meeting this year’s budget deficit target, welcoming a cut in interest rates by the Reserve Bank of India on the back of falling inflation. In a speech, Modi said his government would cut wasteful spending, streamline the payment of welfare benefits and raise investment in roads and railways to boost economic growth in Asia’s third-largest economy. Modi’s comments signalled his assent to RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan’s call for “sustained high quality fiscal consolidation” as a condition for further monetary easing after a surprise quarter-point cut on Thursday. “We are committed to achieving the fiscal deficit target announced in the budget,” Modi told an Economic Times event. “We have worked systematically in this direction.” The government is struggling to contain the deficit at 4.1% of gross domestic product in the year to March 31. It is still looking to raise funds through asset sales and has taken advantage of weak oil prices to hike fuel levies. The 64-year-old prime minister said it would be difficult to revive economic growth but promised to deliver a combination of big-bang and incremental reforms. “The objective must be to improve the welfare of the people,” Modi told business leaders. These included reforms to the power sector to ensure round-the-clock supply, and following up on a shakeup of the coal sector that would open up mining and marketing to private-sector and foreign players. Addressing the same event, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said earlier that the RBI’s quarterpoint cut in its main policy rate, to 7.75%, marked an important turning point for the economy. “Hopefully, it will add to growth, add to investment,” said Jaitley, who has called repeatedly for lower interest rates. He said the government was keeping its options open on pushing its reform agenda through parliament and did not rule out calling a joint session of both houses to enact key legislation. Modi has resorted to issuing a string of temporary executive orders to keep his reform drive on track because he does not command a majority in the upper house of parliament. To permanently enact these orders he could call a joint session in which his nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies would command an overall majority. Jaitley said he doubted that the political opposition could be persuaded to back the government’s reforms but said it faced defeat at the polls if it failed to do so. Delhi holds a regional election on February 7. Singapore introduced a series of property cooling measures over the past few years, triggering a 4% decline in private residential property prices in 2014, the first annual decline since 2008 “Domestically, we have to get used to what that means. Three per cent (growth) per year means wages will go up correspondingly, gradually, year by year,” the Business Times quoted Lee as saying. “Maybe not every year, but over four to ﬁve years you will see improvements if we are successful in our policies,” he said. While Singaporeans have to accept a slower pace of growth, the government would do all it could to help people through this period of economic restructuring, Lee said. The government has pushed to reduce a politically unpopular reliance on foreign workers, leading to a tight labour market which is affecting construction and retail sectors. Singapore also introduced a series of property cooling measures over the past few years, triggering a 4% decline in private residential property prices in 2014, the ﬁrst annual decline since 2008. China authorities freeze property projects in 2 cities Dow Jones Shanghai C hinese housing-market uncertainties that contributed to a closely watched bond default appear to be spreading, as authorities in one city froze transactions related to multiple developers’ properties and a second moved to freeze a troubled company’s apartments. It wasn’t clear whether the moves were related, and authorities in one city cautioned the public against reading too much into the moves. But the lack of details has spooked investors and added to worries over a property market more broadly hit by a sales slump and slowing economic growth. In the eastern city of Hangzhou, authorities froze nearly all of the apartments in a 749-unit project called Xixi Puyuan built by Kaisa Group Holdings, according to local property portal Touming Soufang. The reason for the move wasn’t clear, and it also wasn’t clear whether other companies were affected. A Kaisa spokesman declined to comment, and Hangzhou authorities didn’t respond to requests for comment. In China, local authorities have broad authority to block properties from being sold or transferred for a variety of reasons. The move came after Kaisa missed $23mn in interest payments due last week on its offshore bonds and defaulted, putting a focus on the company and the rights of investors to recoup losses. The default also led to more than 20 Chinese companies to ask a court in Kasia’s hometown, the city of Shenzhen, to freeze its assets. Its projects in Shenzhen were blocked by the government late last year, and some senior executives have left the company. Financial services ﬁrm Shanghai AJ Corp’s trust unit said it has applied to a court in Shanghai to freeze the deposits and other assets of Kaisa’s Hangzhou unit. “We’re now waiting for the court to process our petition,” said a spokeswoman from the ﬁnancial ﬁrm, who declined to give further details. The basis of the company’s claim against Kaisa wasn’t clear. Meanwhile, authorities in Shenzhen blocked thousands of properties owned by a number of Chinese property companies, including China Overseas Land Investment Ltd and China Merchants Land Ltd Authorities didn’t give a reason, and it wasn’t clear whether the move was connected to Kaisa. State-run China Overseas, which saw more than 2,000 units in an affordable housing project blocked, said the apartments had already been sold and that the temporary suspension was due to a normal administrative measure, not any wrongdoing on its part. The project, called Yuejing Garden, is in the same district where Kaisa projects were earlier blocked. China Merchants Land didn’t respond to a request for comment. China Overseas shares fell 2.8% to HK$24.55 in Hong Kong yesterday, while China Merchants Land fell 5.1% to HK$1.11. A Hong Kong index of real-estate stocks listed on the mainland was down 0.6% compared with a broader market gain of 0.9%, according to FactSet. In a statement on its Weibo social-media account yesterday, Shenzhen’s Urban Planning Land and Resources Commission said it occasionally blocks sales of apartments to help judicial authorities, but also to manage affordablehousing projects and to make the market more orderly. “Authorities could also temporarily lock up the relevant properties and unlock them after those issues are resolved,” it said, adding “we suggest no “overreading,” in order to maintain a good market environment.” It didn’t disclose details or name speciﬁc companies. Chinese housing-market uncertainties that contributed to a closely watched bond default appear to be spreading, as authorities in one city froze transactions related to multiple developers’ properties and a second moved to freeze a troubled company’s apartments yesterday. The freezes have worried buyers and potential buyers in those developments. “When I spoke to sales staff, they were unsure if they could even get their salaries this month,” said a home buyer surnamed Zhou, whose family bought two homes in Kaisa’s Yufeng project, which is still under construction. “How can I be conﬁdent that Kaisa will complete the construction of my home?” Shenzhen-based lawyer Zhang Xiang said the apparently arbitrary nature of the freezes has given the investment community jitters. “It’s very rare for thousands of properties from a single developer being locked up by authorities at once,” he said, adding that the reasons could range from a legal dispute to official scrutiny to other matters. The freezes come as China’s broader housing market deals with a slowdown amid high inventories of unsold homes in many cities. Year over year, average new-home prices fell about 2.7% in December, according to data provider China Real Estate Index System. But the problems haven’t hit more affluent cities like Shenzhen as hard. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 3 BUSINESS Weak oil dictates mutual fund winners and losers Reuters New Delhi/London W eak oil prices shaped the performance of mutual funds in 2014 and investors expect the trend to continue, meaning last year’s star, India, is likely to keep shining in the months to come. Equity funds were led by those specialising in India – an energy importer – while funds focused on oil exporter Russia dominated the bottom of the league, according to Lipper, a fund ratings, ranking and information company belonging to Thomson Reuters, and the data relates to funds sold in Britain. Investors attribute some of the growth in Indian stocks, that saw Mumbai’s benchmark BSE index rise nearly a third in 2014, to the election of a pro-business government in May, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, Avinash Vazirani, manager of Jupiter Asset Management’s India fund, which grew more than 50% over the year, ranking sixth out of 3,380 equity funds, said the real lift came from an unexpected positive terms-of-trade number on the back of a falling oil price. Crude prices have roughly halved in the last six months of 2014. “Oil prices come off, it means (India’s) import bill comes down, their subsidies go down... If you assume a 40% drop in crude oil, and crude is down more than 60%, GDP goes up 1%, inﬂation comes down 3.2% to 4%,” he said, noting that Indian markets looks set to stay strong throughout 2015. Some managers caution however that Indian equities may start to lose some of their momentum in the coming year. “There is a disconnect between the market’s expectations and the performance of the real economy and that disconnect has to close,” said David Cornell, fund manager at Ocean Dial which runs an India-themed fund that ranked 11th in the Lipper survey. In contrast, funds focused on Russia were particularly hard hit because of the combined effect of oil, Western sanctions and the war in Ukraine. Russia’s dollar-denominated RTS equities index dropped more than 40% last year while the rouble has lost more than three-quarters of its value against the dollar since early 2014. Russian central bankers hiked interest rates to defend the currency late last year, which analysts say bodes ill for assets in the year ahead. “On balance, we think that much tighter monetary policy and lower oil prices will push Russia into a signiﬁcantly deeper recession than was previously expected,” Barclays analysts said. Among bond funds, the top ranks were dominated by specialists in longer-duration European and UK debt, which investors also attributed in part to the falling oil price and its disinﬂationary effects. Schroders’ Alix Stewart who manages a fund ranked ninth out of 1,490 bond funds available in Britain, said expectations that the US Federal Reserve would start tightening monetary policy had made “duration risk” unpalatable at the start of the year. China unveils new support steps for slowing economy Reuters Beijing C hina announced fresh support measures yesterday for its slowing economy after data showed a worrying drop in bank lending and foreign investment growth falling to a two-year low. The central bank said it would lend 50bn yuan ($8.1bn) to banks at discounted rates to allow them to re-lend the money to farmers and small businesses – areas of the economy that are usually short of cash. The latest attempt to ease policy in a “targeted” manner to help the most vulnerable sectors came as data showed that foreign direct investment (FDI) in China rose just 1.7% in 2014, the slackest pace since 2012. The world’s second-largest economy drew a record $119.6bn worth of FDI last year, slowing markedly from growth of 5.3% in 2013, the Ministry of Commerce said. Investment ﬂows into China are an important gauge of the health of the world economy, and are also a good indicator of where capital is ﬂowing within the Chinese economy. “The priorities of macro policy this year is to let the economy shift its gears without losing its growth speed,” said Zhu Zhixin, a vice director at China’s powerful economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said. Hurt by a housing slump and waning investment and manufacturing growth, China’s economy likely expanded 7.2% in the October-December quarter from a year earlier, its weakest rate since the depths of the global ﬁnancial crisis, according to a Reuters poll of economists. That means China’s full-year growth may have undershot the government’s 7.5% target in 2014 and would mark the country’s worst economic performance in 24 years. China is scheduled to release its fourth-quarter growth report on January 20. With analysts betting on more gloom in 2015, with growth possibly dipping below 7%, China is widely expected to loosen policy further in coming months to stoke activity. “We expect this kind of targeted easing to continue,” said Ting Lu, an econ- China-made ductile iron pipes are displayed in Lianyungang port before being exported to Lianyungang. The China central bank said yesterday it would lend $8.1bn to banks at discounted rates to allow them to re-lend the money to farmers and small businesses – areas of the economy that are usually short of cash. omist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong. “We expect three cuts in the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) this year, totalling 150 basis points.” The RRR refers to the amount of deposits that banks must set aside as reserves at the central bank and is adjusted by the PBoC to control the level of liquidity in the banking system. A cut in a reserve ratio cut would give banks greater capacity to lend, but many market watchers question if businesses will want to borrow more money as economic conditions deteriorate and if banks want to risk more bad loans. The downbeat investment report came a day after data showed Chinese banks issued far fewer loans in December than expected. That suggested a surprise interest rate cut in November, the ﬁrst in over two years, has not spurred demand for credit, and that banks remained reluctant to lend. Lu from Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said he believed RRR cuts are imminent because bets for a weaker yuan this year have led fewer ﬁrms to sell their dollars to the central bank for yuan, thereby reducing the supply of yuan and liquidity in the market. The PBoC did not comment on China’s liquidity conditions yesterday, saying only that its re-lending exercise was aimed at lowering ﬁrms’ ﬁnancing costs, and that it had pumped a record 99.4bn yuan into the economy via “relending” last year. The focus on weaker parts of the economy was echoed by the NDRC, which said in a statement that the country must “unleash its consump- tion potential” this year. Even as it vowed to stoke demand, the NDRC said it had approved 53.1bn yuan of new railway projects, indicating that authorities were still counting on investment to remain a mainstay driver of the economy. “China has very big volumes of retail sales, but the per capita ﬁgure is quite small,” Zhong Shan, a vice minister at China’s trade ministry, told reporters at a brieﬁng. “So China still has great potential in expanding domestic consumption.” Foreign investment surges past $100bn in ’14 AFP Beijing Chinese overseas investment surged past $100bn for the first time last year, official figures showed yesterday, but remained below investment into the country. Overseas direct investment (ODI) rose 14.1% to $102.9bn in 2014, vice commerce minister Zhong Shan said at a briefing, as Chinese firms continued to buy up assets, particularly energy and resources, to power the world’s number two economy. Foreign direct investment (FDI) into China rose to $119.6bn, the second consecutive increase, although that is only 1.7% higher, representing a marked deceleration. Although the outbound figure did not overtake the incoming total, as some officials had expected early last year, Zhong said the long-term trend was clear. “On current trends, China’s outward investment will continue to grow faster than its utilisation of foreign investment, which will make China a net investor in no time... making a historic turning point,” he said. In 2013 Chinese ODI rose 16.8% to $90.17bn, while FDI rebounded 5.3% to $117.59bn after declining the previous year in the face of economic weakness in developed markets and a growth slowdown at home. Both ODI and FDI exclude financial sectors. The ministry did not provide complete country and regional breakdowns for Chinese investment destinations in 2014, other than saying – without giving totals – that investment to the European Union nearly tripled while that to the US increased 23.9%. The slowdown in FDI growth came as Chinese authorities last year launched anti-monopoly, pricing and other inquiries into foreign firms - in sectors from auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals to baby milk fuelling fears Beijing was targeting them. The commerce ministry has repeatedly denied the charges. Recent years have seen China’s appeal as an investment destination decline owing to increasing land and labour costs and competition for investment from other Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam. Officials have also blamed source country factors, such as Washington’s drive to move industrial production back to the US. Investment from the 28-member EU fell 5.3% to $6.85bn in 2014, the ministry said, while investment from the 10-member Asean group of Southeast Asian nations declined 23.8% to $6.51bn. Investment from the US also declined 20.6% to $2.66bn. But South Korean investment into China jumped 29.8% to $3.97bn, while that from Britain rose 28% to $1.35bn. Investment from Japan, meanwhile, slid 38.8% to $4.33bn as geopolitical tensions between the region’s top two economies continue. The ministry did not immediately provide figures for FDI from Hong Kong and Taiwan, two of the largest inbound investors. An employee counts yuan banknotes at a bank in Beijing. Chinese overseas investment surged past $100bn for the first time last year, official figures showed yesterday. Rajan’s rate-cut surprise prompts bullish forecast shift Bloomberg Mumbai A surprisingly early start to India’s rate-cutting cycle prompted at least four global banks to step up forecasts for further easing this year. Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan lowered the repurchase rate to 7.75% from 8% on Thursday in the ﬁrst cut since May 2013. Barclays sees the benchmark at 7.25% by June, 25 basis points lower than its earlier forecast. Morgan Stanley, Commerzbank AG and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group also shifted outlooks. The one-year interest-rate swap rate extended declines after dropping the most since October on Thursday. While signalling that the RBI is conﬁdent of achieving its target to limit consumer-price gains at 6% by January 2016, Rajan also said the government needs to stick to ﬁscal goals to justify more easing. The 10-year sovereign bond yield will fall 44 basis points to 7.25% by December 31, according to the median estimate of 10 banks and money managers in a Bloomberg survey. The repo rate is seen dropping to 7%. “Given the huge improvement in India’s inﬂation dynamics, driven by a collapse in oil prices, the central bank will have more room to cut,” Charlie Lay, a strategist at Commerzbank in Singapore, said in a phone interview on Thursday. “On the back of reduced rates, we expect the rupee to be stable and yields to come off more.” The rupee climbed to its strongest level since November 13 on Thursday amid conﬁdence the government will complement Rajan’s action by addressing infrastructure bottlenecks that boost living costs and act to spur Asia’s third-largest economy. The currency rose 0.3% to 61.8625 a dollar yesterday. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, likely to present the budget next month, has pledged to narrow the ﬁscal deﬁcit to a seven-year-low of 4.1% of gross domestic product. “Key to further easing are data that conﬁrm continuing disinﬂationary pressures,” Rajan said in a statement. “Also critical would be sustained ﬁscal consolidation as well as steps to overcome supply constraints and assure availability of inputs such as power, land, minerals and infrastructure.” Rajan’s move came after a January 12 report showing consumer prices rose 5% in December, holding below the RBI’s 6% target for a third straight month. India, which imports about 80% of its oil, beneﬁted from a 48% slump in Brent prices last year. Rajan raised the repo rate three times since taking office in September 2013. Morgan Stanley expects the RBI to cut the repo rate by another 125 basis points over the next 12 months, compared with an earlier estimate of 50 basis points. Commerzbank sees a 100-basis point reduction in 2015 from 50 earlier. ANZ, which previously saw the rate dropping 25 basis points this year, is now predicting a decrease of up to 75 basis points more. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has scrapped controls on diesel prices, raised natural gas tariffs and allowed more foreign investment in sectors such as defence since taking power in May. It last month decided against extending a tax break for the local automobile industry in a bid to bolster revenue and meet its deﬁcit goal. While the RBI cited the government’s commitment to meeting the target in its statement on Thursday, the shortfall had reached 99% of the full-year target in just eight months, data showed on December 31. Growth in the $1.9tn economy slowed in the July-September period for the ﬁrst time in three quarters. “The RBI will be enamoured towards substantial easing only when the government is able to show meaningful progress on cutting the deﬁcit and removing supply constraints that push prices higher,” Kunal Kundu, an economist at Societe Generale SA in Bengaluru, said in a phone interview on Thursday.Investors are predicting more gains for Indian sovereign debt, which returned 16.5% in 2014, the most among the largest emerging markets including Brazil, Russia and China. Barclays forecasts the 10-year sovereign yield at 7.25% by year-end, compared with an estimate of 7.40% earlier. The rate was little changed at 7.69% yesterday, after slumping eight basis points on Thursday, the most since December 2. It tumbled 97 basis points, or 0.97 percentage point, last year, the most since 2008, as calls for easing intensiﬁed. 4 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 BUSINESS Hedge funds, speculators face big losses on Swiss franc rally Reuters New York/London Rupee rises to over one-month high The Indian rupee yesterday appreciated for the second straight session and rose 19 paise to log its over one-month closing high of 61.87 against the greenback following sustained dollar selling by exporters and capital inflows in local shares. However, a strong dollar overseas after Switzerland’s unexpected move to lift its currency restriction, capped the rupee’s gains. The dollar index was up 0.41% against its major global rivals while the euro hit over a decade low. At the Interbank Foreign Exchange (Forex) market, the domestic unit commenced slightly lower at 62.08 a dollar from previous close of 62.06. It then declined further to a low of 62.20 on some hesitancy in local equities in early trade. However, rupee bounced back on a late rally in domestic stocks to a high of 61.79 before settling at 61.87, showing a rise of 19 paise or 0.31%. On Thursday, it had risen by 12 paise or 0.19%. This its strongest close since 61.83 on December 8, 2014. The stock benchmark S&P BSE Sensex yesterday improved further by 46.34 points, or 0.17%. FPIs bought shares worth USD 274.03mn yesterday, as per Sebi data. Pramit Brahmbhatt, Veracity Group, CEO said,” Rupee appreciated taking cues from strong local equities. Also, the FIIs buying in debt market helped rupee to trade strong against the mighty dollar index which is heading towards to post its fifth weekly gain in a row.” The trading range for the spot USD/INR pair is expected to be within 61.40 to 62.40, he added. “The Indian rupee opened the session on almost flat note. The domestic currency continued to gain as trade deficit narrowed to its 10-month low levels,” according to Forex Advisors. A visitor looks at a table showing exchange rates at a currency exchange office in Warsaw yesterday. Currency speculators and global macro hedge funds with large short positions in the Swiss franc are staring massive losses in the face after the Swiss National Bank shocked markets on Thursday by removing a three-year-old cap on the currency. result of this move have dramatically increased. Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, on Thursday closed its ‘top trade’ recommendation of a short position on the Swiss franc against the Swedish crown, with a potential loss of around 16.5%. It added that its current forecast for the euro against the Swiss franc is under review. The euro dropped as much as 30% below the 1.20 cap to 0.8500 franc per euro at one point Thursday before rebounding to roughly 1.00, down 16%. The dollar plunged to 0.736 franc, its lowest since 2011, before paring losses. It was last trading at 0.8682 franc, down 15%. London-based money manager Insight Pareto, with assets under management of about $475bn, closed its short position against the franc late last year. “We didn’t like how the Swiss franc behaved when the SNB moved to negative rates ... the franc was not able to sustain any kind of sell-off in the market,” said Paul Lambert, Insight’s head of foreign exchange. Insight converted its short Swiss franc trade into cash. Similarly, a forex options trader at a large brokerage who trades on the CME ﬂoor in Chicago said his ﬁrm stopped trading options in the Swiss franc a few weeks ago because overall volumes were increasing, leading the ﬁrm to think something was imminent. CME volume in Swiss franc futures in De- cember was 1.15mn contracts, up 38% from November and 64% greater than December 2013. One of the winners was Sunny Dhonsi, a former JP Morgan trader who left last year to set up Govardhan, primarily an opportunistic equity hedge fund. He had bought puts on the euro against the Swiss franc with a 1.20 strike price. These puts, a bet on the euro falling against the franc, were cheap because of how aggressively the Swiss had defended their currency. He said with the European Central Bank poised to boost its own monetary policy, the SNB was looking at having to purchase even more euros in order to defend the franc. “We didn’t put on the trade think- Indian shares post biggest weekly gain in two months Bloomberg Mumbai I Reuters Tokyo A C urrency speculators and global macro hedge funds with large short positions in the Swiss franc are staring massive losses in the face after the Swiss National Bank shocked markets on Thursday by removing a three-year-old cap on the currency. The move sent the safe-haven franc soaring against the euro and the US dollar at a time when more than $3.5bn was betting on more franc weakness, the largest such position in more than a year and a half. The damage from the Swiss franc’s sharp moves comes as a blow for macro hedge fund managers nursing wounds from nearly four years of mediocre performance. Only days ago, the SNB termed the 1.20 francs per euro cap the cornerstone of its monetary policy. “You have these massive policies which forced all investors to invest with the policy and then they remove the policy and everyone is left high and dry,” said Chris Morrison, strategist for the $550mn Omni Macro Fund, which proﬁted from the move. Data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission released Friday showed net short positions of 24,171 contracts on the Swiss franc, the largest since June 2013. Adding in 662 short option contracts gives a combined position of 24,833 contracts or $3.5bn at the current rate of around 0.87 franc to the dollar. Global macro hedge funds that use fundamental analysis to bet on the ﬁnancial markets and represent $288bn in assets on the Lyxor platform had a net short position of 2.6%, indicating a loss given the currency move. “Yesterday, we were doing ﬁne. We were up 2% this month, but with the SNB move, our gains have been wiped out,” said Axel Merk, president of Merk Investments in Palo Alto, California, which has mutual fund assets of about $300mn. Merk said his funds were hurt by the SNB move, with two short positions on the franc, one against the euro and the other against a currency basket. He has since closed the short position on the franc against the euro. But Merk further increased his shorts on the Swiss unit against a currency basket because he believes the risks on the franc and the Swiss economy as a Asian stocks stumble ndian stocks climbed, with the benchmark gauge completing a weekly advance, as industrial and consumer companies rose after the central bank cut borrowing costs in an unscheduled move on Thursday. Sesa Sterlite, the largest Indian copper maker, climbed the most in two weeks, while Hindustan Unilever, the biggest home-products maker, increased to a record. Mahindra & Mahindra, a tractor maker, rose for a second day. Tata Consultancy Services fell after reporting profit that missed estimates. The S&P BSE Sensex added 0.2% to 28,121.89 at the close, taking the weekly gain to 2.4%, the most in more than two months. The gauge changed directions at least 12 times amid a slide in Asian stocks after the Swiss National Bank’s decision on Thursday to abandon the franc’s cap against the euro roiled markets worldwide. The Reserve Bank of India cut the main rate as a slide in inflation offered scope to boost an economy growing at little more than half the pace of four years ago. “Global factors are a constant worry for investors, but our market will not go down much because macros are improving and the RBI has signaled the start of the easing cycle,” RK Gupta, managing director of Taurus Asset Management Co, which has about $600mn in assets, said by phone from New Delhi. The Sensex is climbed 2.3% so far this year and is valued at 15.5 times projected 12-month earnings, compared with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index’s multiple of 10.6. ing they would lift the cap so soon, just that the options were too cheap and totally mispriced,” he said. However, other computer-driven funds that base their models on historic volatility may have been exposed because the cap has dampened volatility in the franc for the last few years. Commodity trading advisors returned nearly 10% last year, according to data from industry tracker Eurekahedge, nearly three times the average gains in global macro hedge funds. “CTAs will win from today’s move, global macro may lose and that will be a repeat of the developments that we have had in recent quarters,” said Philippe Ferreira, head of research at Lyxor Asset Management. sian shares stumbled yesterday and the dollar skidded against the safe-haven yen after Switzerland’s central bank unexpectedly scrapped its currency cap – jolting markets already roiled by plunging commodities prices. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Paciﬁc shares outside Japan shed about 0.4%. A resurgent yen pressured exporter shares and helped push Japan’s Nikkei stock average down 1.4%, off steep session lows but still down 1.9% for the week. The greenback touched a fresh one-month low of 115.85 yen, but was last 0.3% higher on the day at 116.53 yen. “Investors will likely stay cautious against overseas developments for two to three weeks given weak oil prices and commodity price as well as the global economic concern,” said Chisato Haganuma, chief strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. Chinese stocks were one bright spot in Asia, with the Shanghai Composite Index gaining 0.9%. Sentiment got a lift from the central bank’s announcement that it would increase relending quotas to banks by $8.1bn, to support agriculture and small companies. But the mood was kept in check by data showing China’s foreign direct investment rose at its slowest pace in two years in 2014, underscoring a cooling economy. Brent and US crude were higher in Asian trade, up 0.3% and 0.5% respectively, but both remained under $50 a barrel. Copper added about 0.4% to $5,652 a tonne, but was still at risk of notching its worst week since 2011. The Swiss currency surged as much as 30% on Thursday to a high of 0.8500 franc per euro after the Swiss National Bank (SNB) suddenly ditched its commitment to cap the franc at 1.20 per euro. The euro took back some of its biggest one-day drop against the Swiss franc in history, and was last up 2.9% on the day at 1.0196 francs. Spain’s Isolux Corsan plans listing Reuters Madrid Spanish energy and construction company Isolux Corsan said yesterday it planned to list on the Spanish stock exchange to raise around €600mn ($698mn) to reduce debt and fund growth. This marks the third Spanish stock market listing to be announced over the past few days. Builder ACS said on Thursday it would float a stake in its renewable energy business and the government said on Wednesday it would relaunch a delayed listing for airports operator Aena in the next few weeks. A period of market volatility resulted in some deals being pulled at the end of last year, but low oil prices and hopes of a recovery in euro zone economies has increased confidence among Spanish companies. Isolux Corsan reported revenues of €3.2bn in 2013, of which more than 80% was generated outside Spain through projects such as power transmission in India, Brazil and the US and building and managing toll road networks in India and MexiCo. One of the group’s most high-profile operations is a 1bn-euro project to build two pylons the height of the Eiffel Tower to string electricity cables over the Amazon river to connect the Brazilian cities of Manaus and Macapa to the grid. The company also intends to make available an over-allotment of shares no greater than 15% of the size of the offering, it said in a statement. Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Santander will be the joint global coordinators for the initial public offering, the company said. The operation needs approval by the Spanish stock market regulator. German bond yields hit record lows after Swiss cap shock Reuters London G Traders at the Bombay Stock Exchange. The Sensex added 0.2% to 28,121.89 yesterday. erman bond yields hit new lows yesterday as investors parked money in safe, toprated debt as the shock of the Swiss National Bank scrapping its currency cap continued to wash over markets. The 10-year benchmark dropped below 0.40% for the ﬁrst time, while yields on US Treasuries and UK Gilts also fell after the SNB stunned markets on Thursday by abandoning its pledge to keep the franc above 1.20 per euro. Bond brokers said police raids against suspected Islamist militants in Belgium and a request from two Greek banks for emergency funding had also rattled investors, forcing them to take refuge in risk-free assets. There was little sign of stress on low-rated eurozone government bonds, however, with analysts suggesting the Swiss move meant it was almost certain the European Central Bank would ease monetary conditions via quantitative easing next week. “The SNB’s shock decision... has triggered a wave of repricings,” said Commerzbank analyst Markus Koch, adding that the uncertainty should remain positive for Bunds. In the wake of the SNB’s decision, yields on all Swiss government bonds out to nine-year maturities have fallen below zero. Analysts said this should also ﬁrm interest in Bunds and other top-rated bonds, as investors look to swap their Swiss bond holdings for higher-yielding alternatives. Yields on 10-year Dutch, Finnish and Austrian bonds also fell to new record lows yesterday, as did Belgium and French equivalents after a brief sell-off on Thursday. Market experts said the SNB has tended to buy “semi-core” French and Belgium bonds as part of an initiative to protect its currency cap, raising speculation that its demand for this debt would now waver. Italian and Spanish yields also edged lower as bets ﬁrmed that the ECB was preparing to print money to start buying sovereign bonds next week. The view among traders was that the SNB abandoned its currency cap because it could not hold out against the tide of money coming its way from the ECB stimulus. Italian 10-year yields were down 2 bps at 1.72%, while Spain’s were 1 bps lower at 1.57%. A Reuters poll of economists on Thursday showed there was a 90% chance the ECB conducts QE, and a 70% chance it is delivered this month. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 5 BUSINESS StanChart eyeing bank stake sales as it tries to slim down Reliance reports ﬁrst proﬁt decline in 9 quarters Reuters Hong Kong Bloomberg Mumbai S tandard Chartered’s abrupt move to shut its global equities business last week could be a prelude to the lender selling off stakes in a number of Asian banks as it looks to boost capital, people familiar with the lender’s thinking said. The most likely potential sale is Standard Chartered’s $621mn holding in Agricultural Bank of China Ltd (AgBank), a person with direct knowledge of the situation said. The bank’s 45% stake in Indonesia’s PT Bank Permata, valued at around $638mn, could also be sold, though that deal would probably come after an AgBank stake sale, people close to the bank said. Early this month Standard Chartered moved aggressively to reverse its ﬂagging fortunes by closing the bulk of its global equities business and axing 4,000 jobs in retail banking. . But Chief Executive Peter Sands is under pressure to cut costs and bolster capital levels further, as the bank grapples with potential losses from commodities loans that could mean it needs $4.4bn in extra provisions. “It was an easy decision to get rid of the equities business but there are other things the bank could be doing,” said a former Standard Chartered executive. The change in the banks fortunes reﬂects the fact its focus on emerging markets and commodities has ﬂipped from being a strength to a weakness in the current economic climate. “The tailwinds that beneﬁted Standard Chartered from 2008-2013 became headwinds in 2014,” Jefferies analysts said in a note this week. Having minority stakes in other banks has become less attractive to lenders like Standard Chartered as new rules mean they now have to hold more capital against those holdings. Bankers cautioned though that there is no active sale process for any of these assets. A spokeswoman for Standard Chartered declined to comment. Sources were not authorised to speak publicly about the matter due to client conﬁdentiality. The stake in Indonesia’s Bank Permata could attract interest from Asian banks, especially Japanese lenders, bankers who have worked on similar deals told Reuters. Japanese banks have been aggressively expanding into Indonesia amid sluggish growth at home. Standard Chartered teamed up with R Standard Chartered is planning to sell stakes in a number of Asian banks as it looks to boost capital, sources said yesterday. Indonesian trading ﬁrm Astra International to buy a controlling stake in Permata in 2004. Any sale could be complicated though by the agreement that binds Standard Chartered with Astra. Standard Chartered also owns a 15.4% stake in Vietnam’s Asia Commercial Joint Stock Bank valued at about $105mn, while in China it holds a 20% stake in unlisted China Bohai Bank for which it paid $123mn in 2005. Xiaomi to invest in India start-ups Reuters Beijing C hina’s Xiaomi plans to invest in Indian tech start-ups and overseas media content, as the world’s No.3 smartphone maker looks to dominate homes with its own TVs and appliances. Just three years after selling its ﬁrst handset, a $1.1bn round of fund-raising announced in December valued the privately held company at $45bn, making it the world’s most valuable tech start-up. With Samsung Electronics Co and Apple Inc in its sights in the handset market, Xiaomi is now expanding into home appliances and television. The Beijing-based company has already reserved $1bn for Internet TV content. “Where we really want to make signiﬁcant investments is in content, particularly in the Chinese market to start with but beyond that in other markets as well,” Hugo Barra, vice president of Xiaomi’s global division, said in an interview yesterday. Taking a leaf from Samsung’s book, Xiaomi’s recent investments include a Chinese electronics maker as part of a strategy to build an Internet-of-things environment, where devices can be controlled by smartphones. “One area that we are also looking to make some investments in is start-ups in India. India is already the largest market for us outside of mainland China,” Barra said, without elaborating on the types of start-ups. Xiaomi has had mixed success in India. Sales of its handsets were suspended there after telecoms equipment maker Ericsson ﬁled a complaint alleging infringement of intellectual property rights. Partial sales were permitted from December though the case is yet to be settled. Barra dismissed concern that overseas expansion could be stalled by allegations of IP violation, and said Ericsson’s lawsuit doesn’t affect day-to-day operations. “We have licensed a lot of intellectual property already,” he said. Xiaomi licenses others’ intellectual property, but some claims made against the company are illegitimate and Xiaomi will ﬁght those, Barra said. Critics say Xiaomi is unwilling to expand into Western markets because it still has too few patents to compete. “It doesn’t have anything to do with intellectual property,” said Barra. “It has to do with the fact that we have much more signiﬁcant opportunities in developing markets, where our model of selling very high speciﬁcation devices at really aggressive prices is much more powerful.” “These are larger populations when you add them together than the Western world.” On Monday, Reuters exclusively reported that Chief Executive Lei Jun and Facebook Inc counterpart Mark Zuckerberg discussed a potential investment by Facebook in China’s top smartphone maker ahead of last month’s fundraising, but a deal never materialised. Barra declined to comment on Xiaomi’s co-operation with Facebook, beyond saying they had a very good relationship. However any sale of stakes in Chinese banks are likely to be handled discreetly for fear of upsetting the authorities and giving off the impression the bank is exiting the country. That means Standard Chartered may choose to exit Bohai Bank by listing it on the stock market, the people familiar with the bank’s thinking added. Other divestment, aside from bank stakes, could also be on the cards. Standard Chartered has already sold a bundle of investments made by its private equity arm worth about $530mn, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said. That deal was concluded at the end of last year, the source added, declining to be identiﬁed as the deal was not public. Standard Chartered’s leasing unit Pembroke, which it bought in 2007 and which operates a ﬂeet of 98 aircraft according to the company website, could also be put up for sale. The bank’s aircraft and ship leasing portfolio was worth $4.9bn at the end of 2013, according to the bank’s annual report. Selling more sizeable units such as the proﬁtable aircraft leasing business would be painful for Standard Chartered, but may ultimately prove necessary. eliance Industries, operator of the world’s biggest oil reﬁning complex, reported its ﬁrst proﬁt decline in nine quarters as crude’s slump drove down the value of stockpiles and narrowed its reﬁning margin. Net income fell 7.6% to Rs50.9bn ($823mn) in the three months ended December 31, compared with the same period a year earlier, Mumbai-based Reliance said in a stock exchange ﬁling yesterday. That matched the Rs50.8bn median estimate of 24 analysts compiled by Bloomberg. Net sales fell 23% to Rs802bn. China’s slowest economic growth in almost three years is reducing global demand growth for oil. The weakness is holding back Reliance’s reﬁnery business even as its natural gas production continues to lag behind estimates. Reliance shares dropped 0.5% last year, the ﬁrst annual decline in three years, compared with a 30% gain in the benchmark S&P BSE India Sensitive Index. The stock has extended its decline by another 2.4% this year, while the benchmark index has increased 2.3%. The company operates two reﬁneries that can together process 1.24mn barrels of crude everyday, the world’s biggest. The plants are located next to each other at Jamnagar in the western state of Gujarat and have the ability to process cheaper, lower grades of crude into high-value products for sale in Europe and the US. Proﬁt from making diesel in Singapore, an Asian benchmark, averaged $15.57 a barrel in the quarter ended December 31, compared with $17.47 a year earlier and $14.54 a barrel in the preceding three months, according to data from PVM Oil Associates Ltd in London. The decline in oil prices also results in the value of stockpiles falling. The losses can reduce proﬁts at reﬁners such as Reliance and Indian Oil Corp that have to maintain reserves. Alibaba to court China consumer for US retailers Reuters Beijing/San Francisco China’s Alibaba Group Holding plans a major move to win US business this year, by offering American retailers new ways to sell to China’s vast and growing middle class. Anchored by Alipay, the dominant Chinese electronic payments system that works closely with Alibaba and is controlled by its executives, the world’s largest Internet retailer is using the calling card of China’s consumers to attract US partners, two sources close to the company told Reuters. Long seen as the most potent threat to Amazon.com Inc with $300bn in global sales, the moves add up to a conservative approach to expanding in the US, contrary to industry speculation that the company may be plotting a direct assault on US soil. That considered strategy, outlined to Reuters for the first time by the sources and executives who work directly with the Chinese company, is intended to heighten awareness in the US of what Alibaba does, gain goodwill in an important Western market, and lay the groundwork for a longer-term play. At the heart of its push are Alibaba’s and Alipay’s trial deals to handle Chinese sales, payment and shipping for some of the biggest names in US retail from Neiman Marcus Group to Saks Inc. Both confirmed the agreement but would not talk about how the pilots are faring. The Chinese companies will also work with US startup Shoprunner, an online mall for US retailers in which it owns a stake, and retail services provider Borderfree Inc to court Chinese consumers. And Alibaba is preparing a marketing campaign to raise awareness among US businesses of its global business-to-business wholesale platform, Alibaba.com, so they can buy and sell to and from global suppliers. “They own the toll road into China,” said Michael DeSimone, Chief Executive Officer of Borderfree. “What really puts the jetpack on things when you deal with an Alipay is, they’re on the ground and they know the Chinese consumer so well.” Industry insiders point to just $15bn in annual US-toChina, cross-border consumer sales now. But Daiwa estimates cross-border purchases, which exclude sales of American products within the country, can grow to 1.8tn yuan ($291bn) by 2020. “It’s not a big thing right now, but within the next 12 to 18 months what you’ll see more of is bringing 300mn Chinese consumers to retailers in the US,” Alibaba Vice Chairman Joseph Tsai said in an interview with Reuters last year. He laid out the broad plan, and sources have now described details. Still, there’s no guarantee of success. China’s middle class is over 250mn strong and growing, spurred by government policy to create a more consumer-driven economy. Apple iPhones and General Motors cars have become big-selling status symbols, but the market remains a challenge for Western companies, especially those lacking a global footprint. Home Depot Inc decided in 2012 to shut all seven of its big box China stores, while in December, Best Buy said it will sell its struggling China business. And Alibaba’s 10-month-old effort to help foreign retailers set up shop in China, Tmall Global – its business-to-consumer website, has had muted success. Of 5,000-plus brands and 650 merchants that now sell on that site, just 30 have accumulated more than 10mn yuan in sales, according to the company. But there are signs of traction. Costco Wholesale Corp, which began selling on Tmall Global in November, saw sales of more than 40mn yuan in its first month of operations, according to data Alibaba provided to Reuters. And the site has attracted some 90mn unique visitors since launch, buying from 90% of listed merchants. Part of Alibaba’s aim is to counter official concerns about Chinese mega-Corps. In 2014, Alibaba hired former Treasury chief of staff James Wilkinson to help tailor its international strategy, and it has enlisted Korn Ferry to search for a Washington-based international government affairs chief. Alipay and a logistics-partner network that took years to assemble are central to Alibaba’s US effort. Major brands, such as Nike, that have a large physical presence in China already sell directly on Tmall. But Alipay’s effort directly connects American merchants with China, without the need for investment in a physical presence. It also allows US retailers and Chinese consumers to avoid difficulties associated with foreign exchange. Chinese consumers pay in yuan; US companies get paid in dollars. Alibaba’s and Alipay’s programme for US companies is called ePass. It includes a customs pre-approval process, a sort of “fast lane” that shaves days off delivery. Daiwa analysts John Choi and Alex Liu call that capability Alibaba’s biggest advantage over rivals such as JD.com. Alibaba and Alipay have made pilot agreements to handle payments and shipping to China for department stores Neiman, Saks, Macy’s Inc, Macy’s Bloomingdale’s chain, Ann Taylor, luxury fashion site Gilt, and apparel label Aeropostale, according to Borderfree. The companies declined to comment, although Neiman, Saks and Ann Taylor confirmed the deal. If a Chinese consumer bought a pair of shoes from Saks, for instance, Alipay would handle the financial transaction. The shoes go to a US-based Alipay facility that handles the transfer to China. After clearing customs, a local partner typically would handle final delivery. Alibaba has even taken on a role akin to a cultural liaison for US retailers. Tracey Weber, chief operating officer of online retailer Gilt, said that as their Alipay trial progressed, the Chinese company began increasingly to help with marketing and even product selection: advising them to use more red for instance, or to more prominently display cross-body handbags popular in China. “It is such a different environment,” she said. Shoprunner, meanwhile, hired an ex-Amazon executive to head up a new Shanghai office last year, and Chief Executive Scott Thompson said the startup is preparing a major marketing campaign in China in 2015. Alibaba also aims to draw in more US businesses to its Alibaba.com portal, as buyers and sellers. One strategy is to reduce the number of counterfeit goods, a major problem in China and a concern for companies considering sharing intellectual property such as technology and designs. To that end, Alibaba has enlisted data company Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp, among others, to beef up a supplier-certification program it hopes will help draw in many of the estimated 27mn small-time American businesses and manufacturers that now operate mostly offline. Validation could allow both sides to assure themselves that they are working with legitimate partners. Jeff Stibel, who is heading up Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp’s effort with Alibaba, said integration was starting, and it will launch its certification program early this year. Alibaba also has some plans to sell to Americans. Alibaba has a small US-based portal, 11Main.com, a collection of Internet storefronts for smaller businesses and products from yoga mats to scented candles. While it focuses on US consumers, a quarter of its 1.4mn listed products can already be shipped to Asia. It hopes eventually to help sellers gain access to Alibaba’s US-Chinese corridor, 11Main President Mike Effle told Reuters. Alibaba.com itself is an avenue to sell to Americans, as businessman Michael Sorrentino found at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year. The chief executive of smartphone case maker Eyepatch estimates about 20% of US retailers he spoke with asked if they could buy his gear through Alibaba. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 6 BUSINESS DJIA WORLD INDICES Company Name Exxon Mobil Corp Microsoft Corp Johnson & Johnson Wal-Mart Stores Inc Procter & Gamble Co/The General Electric Co Jpmorgan Chase & Co Pfizer Inc Verizon Communications Inc Chevron Corp Coca-Cola Co/The Merck & Co. Inc. Intel Corp At&T Inc Walt Disney Co/The Visa Inc-Class A Shares Intl Business Machines Corp Cisco Systems Inc Home Depot Inc United Technologies Corp 3M Co Unitedhealth Group Inc Boeing Co/The Mcdonald’s Corp American Express Co Goldman Sachs Group Inc Nike Inc -Cl B Du Pont (E.I.) De Nemours Caterpillar Inc Travelers Cos Inc/The Lt Price 90.60 45.80 103.38 87.32 89.81 23.79 55.68 32.33 47.08 103.01 42.29 62.25 36.63 33.29 94.80 253.24 155.11 27.48 102.04 114.84 160.59 103.96 130.92 91.44 87.08 180.11 92.65 73.53 83.58 105.66 % Chg 1.84 0.70 0.87 0.81 -0.20 0.02 -1.99 -0.47 0.23 -0.86 -0.65 -0.62 0.77 -0.12 0.60 -0.91 -0.44 0.26 1.02 1.16 0.47 0.61 0.41 -0.11 0.01 -0.07 -0.17 0.51 -0.88 1.39 6,439,984 12,648,703 4,020,649 2,854,542 1,557,939 9,115,161 11,498,018 6,711,417 3,127,764 2,900,195 3,625,479 2,169,517 10,245,310 7,155,953 1,653,712 934,011 1,000,749 9,862,605 1,991,174 1,466,685 540,935 1,132,045 1,029,678 2,044,180 1,699,334 1,120,887 916,109 859,200 2,967,408 601,281 FTSE 100 Company Name Wpp Plc Wolseley Plc Wm Morrison Supermarkets Whitbread Plc Weir Group Plc/The Vodafone Group Plc United Utilities Group Plc Unilever Plc Tullow Oil Plc Tui Ag-New Tui Ag-Di Travis Perkins Plc Tesco Plc Taylor Wimpey Plc Standard Life Plc Standard Chartered Plc St James’s Place Plc Sse Plc Sports Direct International Smiths Group Plc Smith & Nephew Plc Sky Plc Shire Plc Severn Trent Plc Schroders Plc Sainsbury (J) Plc Sage Group Plc/The Sabmiller Plc Rsa Insurance Group Plc Royal Mail Plc Royal Dutch Shell Plc-B Shs Royal Dutch Shell Plc-A Shs Royal Bank Of Scotland Group Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc Rio Tinto Plc Reed Elsevier Plc Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc Randgold Resources Ltd Prudential Plc Persimmon Plc Pearson Plc Old Mutual Plc Next Plc National Grid Plc Mondi Plc Meggitt Plc Marks & Spencer Group Plc London Stock Exchange Group Lloyds Banking Group Plc Legal & General Group Plc Land Securities Group Plc Kingfisher Plc Johnson Matthey Plc Itv Plc Intu Properties Plc Intl Consolidated Airline-Di Intertek Group Plc Intercontinental Hotels Grou Imperial Tobacco Group Plc Hsbc Holdings Plc Hargreaves Lansdown Plc Hammerson Plc Glencore Plc Glaxosmithkline Plc Gkn Plc G4s Plc Friends Life Group Ltd Fresnillo Plc Experian Plc Easyjet Plc Dixons Carphone Plc Direct Line Insurance Group Diageo Plc Crh Plc Compass Group Plc Coca-Cola Hbc Ag-Cdi Centrica Plc Carnival Plc Capita Plc Burberry Group Plc Bunzl Plc Bt Group Plc British Land Co Plc British American Tobacco Plc Bp Plc Bhp Billiton Plc Bg Group Plc Barratt Developments Plc Barclays Plc Bae Systems Plc Babcock Intl Group Plc Aviva Plc Astrazeneca Plc Associated British Foods Plc Ashtead Group Plc Arm Holdings Plc Antofagasta Plc Anglo American Plc Aggreko Plc Admiral Group Plc Aberdeen Asset Mgmt Plc 3I Group Plc Lt Price 1,384.00 3,624.00 193.00 4,766.00 1,682.00 228.40 964.50 2,744.00 364.30 1,085.00 1,114.00 1,777.00 218.30 125.00 386.00 895.10 799.50 1,480.00 712.00 1,080.00 1,166.00 920.00 4,645.00 2,102.00 2,634.00 255.00 466.40 3,389.00 441.80 432.20 2,120.50 2,058.00 362.10 853.00 2,829.00 1,100.00 5,380.00 5,230.00 1,511.00 1,452.00 1,199.00 190.90 6,890.00 910.70 1,076.00 516.00 455.20 2,249.00 73.80 248.00 1,223.00 318.00 3,453.00 218.90 342.00 488.10 2,281.00 2,600.00 2,841.00 594.00 938.50 641.00 239.80 1,406.50 355.00 276.20 381.30 851.50 1,120.00 1,643.00 433.00 305.30 1,880.00 1,493.00 1,089.00 1,083.00 264.90 2,995.00 1,049.00 1,681.00 1,816.00 399.60 798.50 3,576.50 411.95 1,386.50 850.00 425.60 227.65 477.40 1,015.00 505.00 4,711.00 3,138.00 1,033.00 994.00 669.00 1,054.50 1,511.00 1,431.00 409.10 434.10 % Chg 0.07 -1.92 2.60 -0.15 1.57 0.22 1.42 0.44 2.65 -0.46 -0.98 0.17 2.01 0.73 2.01 1.02 2.43 -0.54 1.71 1.60 1.57 0.05 3.22 1.50 1.19 4.90 0.97 2.68 1.52 -0.48 3.34 2.49 -0.17 0.06 0.87 -0.36 2.38 5.66 3.25 -1.09 1.01 1.92 -0.36 0.63 2.28 0.68 0.86 1.67 1.23 2.06 1.75 -3.40 1.11 -0.05 2.55 0.85 1.65 -0.61 -3.10 0.66 2.62 1.58 -1.72 0.79 2.01 1.28 2.72 4.35 5.16 1.48 -2.48 0.89 2.82 0.47 -1.45 1.31 1.46 -0.20 0.38 2.38 1.34 -0.45 0.38 -0.36 4.93 2.86 3.61 0.14 1.83 1.88 2.06 2.77 0.66 3.39 0.00 0.96 -0.89 1.15 2.30 2.95 0.91 2.26 Volume 2,520,804 1,085,958 9,863,597 268,847 754,213 52,806,872 1,657,042 2,464,221 5,881,882 717,733 585,717 535,580 24,731,012 13,140,839 4,352,188 11,727,987 1,604,203 3,670,487 1,428,496 718,156 2,477,135 2,518,689 2,338,603 443,209 469,011 8,482,009 1,420,539 2,106,576 2,534,138 2,363,973 5,198,515 10,788,722 13,309,631 7,788,151 6,173,859 3,981,566 1,269,947 688,627 4,171,776 1,260,051 2,917,281 8,868,462 387,911 7,285,363 1,097,716 1,697,524 5,911,759 555,759 84,088,534 10,084,125 1,636,035 8,154,045 451,145 8,338,722 1,764,635 11,075,363 521,188 830,478 3,050,658 28,910,538 1,072,944 4,964,853 49,071,006 9,691,840 6,440,559 3,435,322 6,876,401 2,592,896 2,918,813 1,062,855 4,202,999 4,030,095 4,304,008 2,026,791 5,961,647 717,749 9,491,020 704,689 1,558,365 1,931,769 399,629 14,593,817 2,615,467 2,620,004 45,458,533 8,077,441 12,598,685 2,984,278 40,161,611 4,629,397 1,100,100 15,454,751 2,995,994 980,942 3,390,089 2,614,969 3,540,469 6,308,817 788,976 649,802 4,085,215 1,408,923 TOKYO Company Name Inpex Corp Daiwa House Industry Co Ltd Sekisui House Ltd Kirin Holdings Co Ltd Japan Tobacco Inc Seven & I Holdings Co Ltd Toray Industries Inc Asahi Kasei Corp Sumitomo Chemical Co Ltd Shin-Etsu Chemical Co Ltd Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Kao Corp Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd Astellas Pharma Inc Eisai Co Ltd Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd Fujifilm Holdings Corp Shiseido Co Ltd Jx Holdings Inc Lt Price 1,235.50 2,205.50 1,539.50 1,457.00 3,159.50 4,150.50 957.30 1,096.50 448.00 7,644.00 568.70 4,871.50 5,194.00 1,744.00 5,075.00 1,574.50 3,716.50 1,691.50 425.60 % Chg -0.56 -1.65 -0.74 -1.19 1.27 -2.49 -0.85 -2.19 -3.45 -1.60 -2.87 -1.18 0.19 -0.54 0.00 -0.54 -0.46 -2.39 -0.12 Indices Volume Volume 4,686,700 2,106,600 5,364,000 4,936,100 6,318,500 3,995,500 9,232,000 4,802,000 11,789,000 1,562,100 6,527,200 2,659,200 3,072,500 9,089,600 1,978,700 6,038,900 3,097,400 2,267,300 17,076,600 Lt Price Change Dow Jones Indus. Avg S&P 500 Index Nasdaq Composite Index S&P/Tsx Composite Index Mexico Bolsa Index Brazil Bovespa Stock Idx Ftse 100 Index Cac 40 Index Dax Index Ibex 35 Tr 17,373.59 2,004.48 4,598.82 14,199.03 41,118.69 49,084.76 6,543.16 4,378.30 10,150.48 10,048.10 +52.88 +11.81 +27.99 +157.21 +119.92 +1,058.45 +44.38 +55.10 +117.87 +65.60 Nikkei 225 Japan Topix Hang Seng Index All Ordinaries Indx Nzx All Index Bse Sensex 30 Index Nse S&P Cnx Nifty Index Straits Times Index Karachi All Share Index Jakarta Composite Index 16,864.16 1,363.73 24,103.52 5,278.78 1,131.51 28,121.89 8,513.80 3,300.68 24,446.87 5,148.38 -244.54 -12.87 -247.39 -31.82 -4.34 +46.34 +19.65 -38.16 -58.47 -40.33 TOKYO Company Name Bridgestone Corp Asahi Glass Co Ltd Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Meta Sumitomo Metal Industries Kobe Steel Ltd Jfe Holdings Inc Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd Sumitomo Electric Industries Smc Corp Komatsu Ltd Kubota Corp Daikin Industries Ltd Hitachi Ltd Toshiba Corp Mitsubishi Electric Corp Nidec Corp Nec Corp Fujitsu Ltd Panasonic Corp Sharp Corp Sony Corp Tdk Corp Keyence Corp Denso Corp Fanuc Corp Rohm Co Ltd Kyocera Corp Murata Manufacturing Co Ltd Nitto Denko Corp Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nissan Motor Co Ltd Toyota Motor Corp Honda Motor Co Ltd Suzuki Motor Corp Nikon Corp Hoya Corp Canon Inc Ricoh Co Ltd Dai Nippon Printing Co Ltd Nintendo Co Ltd Itochu Corp Marubeni Corp Mitsui & Co Ltd Tokyo Electron Ltd Sumitomo Corp Mitsubishi Corp Aeon Co Ltd Mitsubishi Ufj Financial Gro Resona Holdings Inc Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdin Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Gr Bank Of Yokohama Ltd/The Mizuho Financial Group Inc Orix Corp Daiwa Securities Group Inc Nomura Holdings Inc Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Holdin Ms&Ad Insurance Group Holdin Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Tokio Marine Holdings Inc T&D Holdings Inc Mitsui Fudosan Co Ltd Mitsubishi Estate Co Ltd Sumitomo Realty & Developmen East Japan Railway Co West Japan Railway Co Central Japan Railway Co Ana Holdings Inc Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Kddi Corp Ntt Docomo Inc Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc Chubu Electric Power Co Inc Kansai Electric Power Co Inc Tohoku Electric Power Co Inc Kyushu Electric Power Co Inc Tokyo Gas Co Ltd Secom Co Ltd Yamada Denki Co Ltd Fast Retailing Co Ltd Softbank Corp Lt Price 4,538.00 591.00 281.30 0.00 188.00 2,393.50 1,637.00 1,446.00 30,605.00 2,466.00 1,652.00 7,721.00 880.70 476.60 1,375.00 7,848.00 356.00 586.70 1,338.50 252.00 2,384.00 7,340.00 52,000.00 5,276.00 19,035.00 7,410.00 5,155.00 13,540.00 6,753.00 643.30 987.70 7,514.00 3,589.00 3,632.00 1,458.00 4,045.50 3,757.50 1,159.00 1,017.00 11,930.00 1,209.50 661.50 1,492.00 8,263.00 1,136.00 2,030.50 1,157.00 614.70 581.10 421.90 4,036.00 621.50 194.30 1,375.00 870.80 620.40 2,867.00 2,711.50 1,562.00 3,806.00 1,299.50 3,101.50 2,399.50 3,875.00 9,003.00 5,784.00 18,590.00 304.40 6,475.00 7,878.00 1,913.00 472.00 1,342.50 1,113.00 1,354.00 1,090.00 658.10 6,666.00 386.00 41,370.00 6,836.00 % Chg 0.63 -1.50 -0.88 0.00 -1.57 -0.66 1.90 -0.86 -0.42 -0.84 -0.36 -0.94 0.08 -1.12 0.88 -1.60 0.56 0.22 -0.37 -1.95 -4.64 -0.81 -2.13 -1.44 -0.26 -0.13 -3.12 -1.02 -1.26 -2.74 -0.49 -0.16 -0.07 -1.82 -2.34 -0.86 -1.18 0.35 -2.12 -1.28 0.50 -0.79 0.07 -0.98 -1.43 -0.32 -2.03 -0.66 -0.55 -0.33 0.34 -0.29 -0.05 -0.79 -2.07 -1.01 -0.73 -3.35 -3.25 0.82 -1.03 0.00 0.54 -1.36 -0.07 0.36 -1.48 -1.39 -0.29 -0.18 -0.05 -1.67 -0.04 0.91 -0.07 0.00 0.12 -1.32 0.26 -3.67 -2.51 Volume 6,665,200 4,675,000 52,583,000 34,352,000 3,852,300 7,480,000 5,926,000 228,700 5,355,900 6,083,000 1,582,000 20,154,000 35,060,000 11,267,000 1,826,600 34,573,000 20,234,000 10,131,000 20,183,000 15,055,500 1,540,200 222,600 2,350,700 1,594,600 537,800 2,477,500 1,108,700 1,765,800 25,691,000 18,029,900 12,784,600 7,174,100 2,750,700 4,975,700 1,259,800 3,659,900 5,292,400 2,082,000 617,400 9,112,300 16,645,300 15,548,600 1,252,000 8,116,000 6,705,900 6,243,400 52,009,300 10,189,400 30,036,000 7,556,600 5,263,000 139,028,500 10,855,600 14,086,000 34,158,600 1,413,500 3,351,300 9,742,900 3,692,400 4,107,400 7,500,000 6,289,000 4,190,000 1,171,400 778,000 576,500 25,683,000 3,178,800 3,927,300 6,345,800 29,619,800 1,941,900 3,432,800 1,511,600 3,224,900 7,016,000 1,051,100 8,685,700 1,251,300 15,190,800 SENSEX Company Name Zee Entertainment Enterprise Wipro Ltd Ultratech Cement Ltd Tech Mahindra Ltd Tata Steel Ltd Tata Power Co Ltd Tata Motors Ltd Tata Consultancy Svcs Ltd Sun Pharmaceutical Indus State Bank Of India Sesa Sterlite Ltd Reliance Industries Ltd Punjab National Bank Power Grid Corp Of India Ltd Oil & Natural Gas Corp Ltd Ntpc Ltd Nmdc Ltd Maruti Suzuki India Ltd Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd Lupin Ltd Larsen & Toubro Ltd Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd Jindal Steel & Power Ltd Itc Ltd Infosys Ltd Indusind Bank Ltd Idfc Ltd Icici Bank Ltd Housing Development Finance Hindustan Unilever Ltd Hindalco Industries Ltd Hero Motocorp Ltd Hdfc Bank Limited Hcl Technologies Ltd Grasim Industries Ltd Gail India Ltd Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Dlf Ltd Coal India Ltd Cipla Ltd Cairn India Ltd Bharti Airtel Ltd Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd Bharat Heavy Electricals Bank Of Baroda Bajaj Auto Ltd Axis Bank Ltd Asian Paints Ltd Ambuja Cements Ltd Acc Ltd Lt Price 385.85 555.05 3,070.10 2,816.95 383.40 82.70 525.75 2,532.15 849.75 315.45 193.25 869.70 205.05 147.35 347.10 140.40 135.40 3,616.60 1,304.60 1,428.05 1,591.75 1,395.35 150.85 360.10 2,118.30 831.85 166.35 353.85 1,194.55 941.05 138.55 2,897.70 1,001.35 1,639.00 3,636.50 424.95 3,285.80 146.25 379.05 647.35 231.85 342.85 659.30 273.85 1,080.85 2,420.15 514.80 843.45 239.35 1,518.35 % Chg 4.45 -0.80 -0.42 1.26 -0.35 1.22 -1.35 -0.27 2.89 -1.51 1.87 0.63 -2.38 3.08 0.17 0.86 1.23 -0.25 2.07 -0.63 1.15 -0.36 -0.63 0.61 -0.75 0.18 -0.92 0.28 -0.67 2.12 -2.36 -1.79 0.83 2.87 -0.86 -0.67 1.40 -1.05 2.88 1.46 -2.17 -1.86 -0.55 1.82 -1.58 0.09 0.15 0.49 -0.46 0.26 Volume 2,796,150 1,683,455 402,741 979,172 5,290,279 4,004,577 4,483,028 2,830,651 2,181,687 23,231,590 7,189,633 4,768,502 4,657,876 5,049,050 3,046,648 5,357,562 3,366,107 472,918 1,127,623 254,322 3,044,380 1,383,527 5,698,514 7,414,129 1,740,854 1,228,554 10,913,017 13,849,190 3,689,000 2,236,237 10,938,370 474,324 2,130,187 834,471 87,164 1,430,860 725,919 14,834,656 2,239,600 1,332,022 2,243,038 9,322,594 1,258,124 4,399,332 648,190 1,453,107 7,596,765 1,712,955 1,266,434 370,755 A trader reacts in front of the German share price index DAX board at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The index rose 1.35% to a record close of 10,1677 points yesterday. ECB stimulus speculation lifts Europe stock markets AFP London E uropean stocks pushed higher yesterday on fresh signals the ECB will launch a bond-buying stimulus programme next week, while the euro crashed below $1.15 for the ﬁrst time in more than 11 years. Frankfurt’s DAX 30 rose 1.35% to a record close of 10,1677 points and hit an intra-session record high of 10,207.97, while the CAC 40 in Paris gained 1.31% to 4,379.62. London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index rose 0.79% to 6,550.27 points. Meanwhile Switerzerland’s SMI tumbled 5.96%, still reeling from the Swiss National Bank (SNB) abruptly ending Thursday its policy to hold down the value of the franc, which saw the currency soar. The SNB came under ﬁre yesterday for its surprise withdrawal of the ﬂoor of 1.20 francs to the euro, as the sharp rise of the currency threatens causing a slump in the export-dependent economy and has bankrupted several foreign exchange broker ﬁrms worldwide. A brokerage in Britain and another in New Zealand declared insolvency yesterday as they were caught out by the swift rise in the franc, while the shares of a US brokerage were suspended. On Thursday, the Swiss unit had rapidly strengthened 30% to 0.8517 before ending the day at 1.0035, a gain of around 15%. The franc stabilised around parity with the euro, trading at 0.9818 Swiss francs to the euro late yesterday. The SNB had been defending the exchange rate ﬂoor since September 2011 in an effort to protect the country’s vital export and tourism industries, even buying massive quantities of foreign currencies to do so. The rate was introduced as the eurozone crisis sent investors ﬂocking to the haven currency. More recently, the Russian ruble crisis put renewed pressure on the franc. But the bank said Thursday it was no longer needed. Focus was also firmly on the European Central Bank, which will decide on the scale of a planned sovereign debt purchase at next week’s meeting, a board member said Friday, in the clearest sign yet that the ECB will launch the controversial stimulus measure. “We will take the American and British experiences into account in order to determine the amount of debt to buy so as to reestablish conﬁdence and bring inﬂation back to a level close to and lower than 2%,” Benoit Coeure told the French newspaper Liberation. It comes as official data on Friday revealed that inﬂation in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, slowed to just 0.2% in December, its lowest level in more than ﬁve years, and averaged 0.9% for the whole of 2014. The chronically low level of inﬂation across the single currency bloc has HONG KONG HONG KONG Company Name Aluminum Corp Of China Ltd-H Bank Of East Asia Bank Of China Ltd-H Bank Of Communications Co-H Belle International Holdings Boc Hong Kong Holdings Ltd Cathay Pacific Airways Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd China Coal Energy Co-H China Construction Bank-H China Life Insurance Co-H China Merchants Hldgs Intl China Mobile Ltd China Overseas Land & Invest China Petroleum & Chemical-H China Resources Enterprise China Resources Land Ltd China Resources Power Holdin China Shenhua Energy Co-H China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd Citic Ltd Clp Holdings Ltd Cnooc Ltd Cosco Pacific Ltd Esprit Holdings Ltd Fih Mobile Ltd Hang Lung Properties Ltd Hang Seng Bank Ltd Henderson Land Development fuelled concern the region could slip into deﬂation - a sustained and widespread drop in prices. Britain too risks falling into deﬂation later this year. While falling prices may sound good for consumers, deﬂation can trigger a vicious spiral in which businesses and households delay purchases, throttling demand and causing companies to lay off workers. Such concerns have fuelled speculation that the ECB could launch a programme of sovereign bond purchases known as quantitative easing or QE when it holds its ﬁrst policy meeting of the year next Thursday. The Swiss central bank’s decision to abandon the currency cap “is a major move and has several consequences not least of which is to inject a fresh deﬂationary shock into the system”, noted Neil MacKinnon, economist at VTB Capital ﬁnancial group. “Now the markets expect the ECB to announce QE at next week’s meeting. If they don’t the markets will understandably be very disappointed and this will just create fresh volatility and downward pressure on the major equity markets.” US stocks pushed upwards, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 0.16% to stand at 17,347.94 points in midday trading. The broad-based S&P 500 climbed 0.51% to 2,002.78, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.41% to 4,589.43. Lt Price 3.85 31.15 4.44 6.91 9.10 26.45 17.40 141.10 4.55 6.38 31.75 26.55 97.85 24.55 6.19 15.66 20.70 20.35 21.90 11.54 13.62 68.15 10.42 11.02 8.74 3.61 21.25 130.60 54.05 % Chg -1.03 -0.16 -0.67 0.58 -0.55 -0.56 -1.47 -1.05 -1.09 -1.09 0.32 -2.03 -0.10 -2.77 -1.43 -0.89 -3.94 0.99 -2.01 -0.86 -1.30 0.29 -0.38 -1.25 -4.59 -0.82 0.24 -0.15 0.00 Volume 9,574,207 3,142,015 331,817,645 42,359,062 13,963,967 7,572,874 3,760,241 5,834,373 20,666,373 212,085,724 64,495,112 3,002,603 21,738,361 68,902,367 119,090,970 3,031,853 20,328,964 3,797,935 18,622,074 32,922,760 7,933,733 3,232,723 56,180,261 4,890,000 7,966,824 3,869,999 3,391,038 1,217,277 3,491,403 Company Name Hong Kong & China Gas Hong Kong Exchanges & Clear Hsbc Holdings Plc Hutchison Whampoa Ltd Ind & Comm Bk Of China-H Li & Fung Ltd Mtr Corp New World Development Petrochina Co Ltd-H Ping An Insurance Group Co-H Power Assets Holdings Ltd Sino Land Co Sun Hung Kai Properties Swire Pacific Ltd-A Tencent Holdings Ltd Wharf Holdings Ltd Lt Price 17.64 177.40 70.20 97.15 5.68 7.22 33.15 9.09 8.72 88.30 77.95 12.50 121.30 102.70 121.90 60.10 % Chg -0.56 -0.45 -0.57 -1.17 -1.05 -1.90 -0.60 -1.09 -1.58 1.90 -0.57 0.00 -0.74 -0.39 -3.94 -1.39 Volume 9,926,356 2,603,830 27,842,543 7,360,406 210,096,303 17,703,077 3,142,522 18,136,793 99,399,025 61,535,530 2,636,798 3,577,337 2,235,371 661,413 25,227,234 2,769,383 GCC INDICES Indices Doha Securities Market Saudi Tadawul Kuwait Stocks Exchange Bahrain Stock Exchage Oman Stock Market Abudhabi Stock Market Dubai Financial Market Lt Price 11,862.51 8,458.72 6,598.67 1,428.46 6,518.82 4,481.36 3,842.60 Change -14.92 -93.21 +10.96 +2.40 +86.02 -24.96 +28.55 “Information contained herein is believed to be reliable and had been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. The accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. This publication is for providing information only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for a purchase or sale of any of the financial instruments mentioned. Gulf Times and Doha Bank or any of their employees shall not be held accountable and will not accept any losses or liabilities for actions based on this data.” CURRENCIES DOLLAR QATAR RIYAL SAUDI RIYAL UAE DIRHAMS BAHRAINI DINAR KUWAITI DINAR Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 7 BUSINESS/LEISURE Adam Pooch Cafe Workers push carts full of merchandise at the Amazon.com centre in Phoenix, Arizona. The European Commission yesterday said its preliminary view is that a tax ruling by Luxembourg in favour of Amazon constitutes state aid. EU charges Amazon tax deal with Luxembourg was illegal Garfield AFP Brussels E U regulators charged Luxembourg yesterday with giving illegal tax breaks to Internet shopping giant Amazon, putting European Commission chief JeanClaude Juncker back in the spotlight over deals made when he was the duchy’s premier. The European Commission’s preliminary ﬁndings into Amazon’s deals with the tiny country were the latest in a widening probe by Brussels into sweetheart tax arrangements between major companies and several countries. They follow last year’s “Luxleaks” scandal which revealed details of tax breaks given to dozens of major ﬁrms during Juncker’s 19 years as Luxembourg premier. The Commission, the EU’s powerful executive arm responsible for policing its competition rules, said its “preliminary view is that the tax ruling... by Luxembourg in favour of Amazon constitutes state aid.” “The Commission has doubts at this stage as to that ruling’s compatibility with” European Union internal market rules, which are meant to ensure a level playing ﬁeld for companies and to protect consumers, it said. Bound And Gagged Cryptic Clues Sudoku Sudoku is a puzzle based on a 9x9 grid. The grid is also divided into nine (3x3) boxes. You are given a selection of values and to complete the puzzle, you must fill the grid so that every column, every row and every 3x3 box contains the digits 1 to 9 and none is repeated. Weekly’s Solutions ACROSS 1. Arm a domineering woman (6-3) 8. Love to go to the museum for eggs (3) 9. Former prime minister had lain next to the room (11) 11 and 18Ac. Author writing about children’s cakes (7,7) 12. Took a scarf (5) 13. Henry returns with a mineral from a Pakistan city (6) 15. Broken nose I’d given to the inventor (6) 17. Tale of a holy man or youth leader (5) 18. See 11 Ac. 20. I’m Peter Dell and I’m awfully irritable (3-8) 22. Animal found on a ship (3) 23. Time for a Beatles record (9) Accordingly, the arrangement may have given the company an unfair advantage over competitors and would therefore be illegal. Luxembourg said it “is conﬁdent that the allegations of state-aid are without merit ... and it will be able to show that its tax arrangements were legitimate and afforded no unfair advantage.” Luxembourg was fully co-operating with the Commission probe and had supplied all the information requested, it added. The EU has opened similar investigations into US tech icon Apple’s deals with Ireland, coffee-shop chain Starbucks with the Netherlands and Italian automaker Fiat, also with Luxembourg. If found at fault, a country would have to recover the amount granted in illegal state aid, potentially a huge amount of money given that some of the tax deals date back many years. Such tax arrangements are widespread in practice and are not strictly illegal in themselves, constituting tax avoidance rather than tax evasion which does breach the law. However, critics say they allow companies too much leeway, minimising their tax burden at the expense of ordinary citizens who have had to suffer through tough austerity programmes imposed by EU governments desperate to balance the public books. The fallout from the 2008 global ﬁnancial crash, which brought the EU economy to its knees, put tax policy at the top of the agenda, with member states pledging to make the system fairer and more transparent. Tax policy, however, remains a member state prerogative in the EU so the Commission has taken up the cudgels on competition grounds. The revelations have proved embarrassing for Juncker who in response has led the charge for a full investigation and efforts to establish common tax standards for the 28-nation bloc. Many remain dissatisﬁed with his stance however and on Wednesday, the Greens Group said it had collected enough votes to force the European Parliament to launch a probe of its own. In November, Juncker survived a no conﬁdence vote in Parliament as the scandal overshadowed his ﬁrst days in office, with some even calling for him to stand down. Juncker suggested that the scandal had been used as a way to attack him and insisted he was not personally involved in the deals. At his swearing in, he promised that tackling tax avoidance would be a priority for his 5-year term. “For tax harmonisation, the coordination and bringing together of tax policies is an absolute necessity. I will do it,” Juncker said. Quick Clues DOWN 2. Has destroyed a tree (3) 3. Artist leaving the party gives a reason to sue (5) 4. Stop for a b-breather (6) 5. Awfully pleased to have passed (7) 6. Sure no coins can fool the expert (11) 7. Wine turns up with ease (9) 10. Monarch is an awful person from another time (11) 11. Heavenly tiles Alec makes (9) 14. Two men get extremely touchy with the Queen’s family (7) 16. Dreads discovering snakes (6) 19. Scope to changed the thicket (5) 21. Are going back in time (3) ACROSS 1. Impartial (9) 8. Flee (3) 9. Derange (5,6) 11. Unscrambler (7) 12. Earlier (5) 13. Buccaneering (6) 15. Nullify (6) 17. Rule (5) 18. Designate (7) 20. Impassive (11) 22. Baton (3) 23. Insipid (9) DOWN 2. Taboo (3) 3. Dogma (5) 4. Disregard (6) 5. Specimen (7) 6. Fear (11) 7. Experienced (9) 10. Doubt (11) 11. Leaving (9) 14. Satisfied (7) 16. Renowned (6) 19. Cost (5) 21. Donkey (3) Weekly’s Solutions QUICK Across: 7 Grotto; 8 Colour; 10 Operate; 11 Force; 12 Laud; 13 Guard; 17 Topic; 18 Roar; 22 First; 23 Ruinous; 24 Inform; 25 Patron. Down: 1 Ignoble; 2 Hopeful; 3 Steal; 4 Comfort; 5 Board; 6 Brief; 9 Pecuniary; 14 Contort; 15 Sojourn; 16 Present; 19 Affix; 20 Craft; 21 Final. CRYPTIC Across: 7 Exacts; 8 Moment; 10 Console; 11 Devil; 12 Oath; 13 Broth; 17 Lambs; 18 Take; 22 Locks; 23 Tallies; 24 Forage; 25 Tennis. Down: 1 Reactor; 2 Magnate; 3 Stool; 4 Cordite; 5 Leave; 6 Stole; 9 Reprobate; 14 Massage; 15 Patient; 16 Persist; 19 Bluff; 20 Score; 21 Fleet. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 9 BUSINESS Who wants to buy a hotel? Swiss Alps in shock over franc’s rise Reuters Geneva/Zurich T he Swiss Alps already looked pricey before the Swiss National Bank dropped its currency bombshell yesterday. Now Swiss tourism fears being frozen out altogether. As the central bank’s shock decision to scrap a cap on the Swiss franc pushed the currency up nearly 30%, some businesses were already reporting cancellations as visitors rushed to rearrange their plans for the busy winter season. Swiss hoteliers vented their fury on social media and politicians urged the Swiss to support the country’s tourism industry, while resorts across the French border cheered a “Godsend” as they looked forward to new Swiss clients. “Swiss people! Take your holidays in Switzerland!,” said Swiss tourist ofﬁce chief Juerg Schmid on a twitter account. In Gstaad, hotelier Thomas Frei tweeted: “Great, ﬁrst rejections, wanting to know the euro rate and whether we can do a better rate. While I’m at it, does anyone want to buy my hotel?” Tourism contributes 3% of Swiss GDP and hotels and restaurants em- ploy 5% of the labour force. The franc’s abrupt surge, which sent the Swiss stock market down 9% on Thursday, comes weeks before European school half-term breaks which mark the height of the ski season, and a week ahead of the World Economic Forum, the annual meeting of rich and powerful in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. It is unlikely to dampen the spending of the many well-heeled attendees at Davos, although it will be noticeable. Anyone wanting to pick up a copy of the Economist magazine during their stay in Davos, for example, will ﬁnd they have to part with 10 Swiss francs, 70% more than in Germany where it sells for €5.80. The main worry of Swiss tourism officials is that a country already struggling with a reputation for being expensive will ﬁnd it harder to attract visitors further down the scale, delaying a recovery in the sector. “The original forecasts predicting growth once again in the Swiss tourism industry over the next two years probably won’t stand up any more,” Christoph Juen, CEO of the Swiss hotel association hotelleriesuisse, told Reuters. That is an “existential threat” to some hoteliers, he said. Tourists from Europe accounted for 37% of overnight stays in 2013, according to latest data from the Swiss statistics office, but the country will be out of reach for many after ‘SNB Day’. The price of a six-day ski pass in Verbier, a resort popular with Europeans, rose to €347 on Thursday, from 296 before the franc’s surge. A cordon bleu schnitzel in Zurich’s Zeughauskeller, a popular tourist hangout, costs an extra €4 at €27.9 and a beer is now €6.3. “I’m glad I’m just here for one day,” said Amit Raj, 29 from Seville in Spain, admiring the watches in the shop Beyer on Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s luxury shopping street. “I’m deﬁnitely going to be a lot more cautious tonight and won’t withdraw any more money,” he said. Even before the decision to allow the franc to surge, Europe’s economic woes had seen the number of German travellers to Switzerland drop 19% over ﬁve years to 1.9mn by 2013, according to the latest available German tourism association data. In Alpine ski resorts, the economic chill has worsened in the past year as the number of Russian visitors fell sharply due to Moscow’s standoff with the West over Ukraine and because of a weaker Russian rouble. Tourism from Japan has also been hit as the yen weakened. An even bigger test for the mainly small businesses in the hotel and restaurant industry could come during the summer. In the busiest summer months 2.5mn nights per month are booked by foreigners at Swiss hotels, 70% more than during the peak ski season, says Eurostat. Not everyone, though, is feeling sore about the SNB’s decision. In Geneva, long queues formed outside foreign exchange bureaux as foreign workers and others sought to cash in their francs. “For me, it’s good news: it is giving me the opportunity to have more euros for the same amount in Swiss francs,” said Alexandre, a Frenchman who works in the watchmaking industry, adding he was nonetheless worried about what the future held. Over in France, Clement Marie, comanager of the Savoyarde Hotel in Val d’Isere, a ski resort less than three hours by car from Geneva, saw the franc’s appreciation as a chance to attract Swiss customers. “This could be great for business,” he said. “Considering how little snow and how few customers we have had this January, this could be a Godsend.” A clerk exchanges Swiss francs into euros at a counter in a Swiss post office in Bern. As the central bank’s shock decision to scrap a cap on the Swiss franc pushed the currency up nearly 30%, some tourism businesses were already reporting cancellations. 10 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 BUSINESS Ukraine’s effort to cut reliance on Russian gas sees explorers exit Bloomberg Prague U People queue outside a currency exchange office in Geneva. The Swiss franc rose nearly 30% against the Polish zloty yesterday. Soaring Swiss franc stirs mortgage fears in Croatia and Poland AFP Zagreb S witzerland’s shock decision to remove the cap on its currency spread panic on Thursday among Croatian and Polish homeowners with mortgages in the franc who will see their monthly payments jump, while nearby Austria and Hungary downplayed the impact. The Swiss central bank on Thursday ended its bid to artiﬁcially hold down the value of its currency, sending it rocketing almost 30% against the euro. It also rose nearly 20% against the Polish zloty — bad news for some 700,000 Polish households with mortgage loans in Swiss francs — while the main index on the Warsaw stock exchange slumped by around 3%. Around 40% of Polish mortgage loans are in Swiss francs, or the equivalent of around €31bn ($36bn), according to Poland’s Financial Supervision Authority (KNF). “This is going to be painful,” said Piotr Andrzejewski, a 45-year-old Warsaw media executive who has a loan of 120,000 Swiss francs, adding that his monthly payment will go up by €70-95 if Thursday’s rate holds. “It’s worse for those who have to sell their apartment today while still paying off the mortgage. It’s possible that in some cases the value of the loan will exceed the value of the property,” he told AFP. Swiss franc loans were for a long time the best credit deal around. The craze swept across Poland, as well as Croatia and Hungary, in the early 2000s when the franc was weak and interest rates were lower than those for loans in local currencies. The KNF recommended lim- iting their number in June 2013, however, after sensing potential trouble down the line. Polish psychotherapist Roman Kwiatkowski took the currency news in stride: “What can you do? There’s no choice but to accept it.” “I took out the loan because it was a much better deal than the ones in zloty. I knew it was a risk. Who knows if in the end I beneﬁted or lost out because of it,” he told AFP. “My monthly payments will go up by €50 ($60). Given my salary, it’s not a disaster.” The Franak association of Croatians with loans in Swiss francs, however, labelled the currency’s rise exactly that — a “disaster” — and were to urgently meet with the government over the issue. Croatia’s kuna currency fell by nearly 17% against the Swiss franc. Some 60,000 Croatians have loans in Swiss francs and the Franak association estimates that the soaring of the currency could affect lives of up to 300,000 people in the country of 4.2mn. Austria’s monetary authorities for their part expressed relief that Vienna had banned new loans in foreign currency in 2008. The Swiss decision “conﬁrms our strategy of limiting risks associated with loans in foreign currencies for both banks and individuals”, said Klaus Grubelnik, spokesman for Austria’s Financial Market Authority (FMA). Hungary downplayed the impact despite the fact that around one million Hungarians took out some €10bn in foreign-currency mortgages — mostly in Swiss francs — before the 2008-9 global ﬁnancial crisis. After the crisis the Hungarian government moved to help the loan-holders, who had seen their repayment rates soar as the Swiss franc rose and the Hungarian forint plunge. “The appreciation of the Swiss franc will not have a signiﬁcant impact on the debt level,” the Hungarian economy ministry said. “Today’s step by the Swiss central bank conﬁrms the government’s efforts to reduce FX debt, which have in the past years signiﬁcantly reduced the country’s vulnerability.” The government decision to lock in the conversion rates had saved borrowers more than 500bn forints (€1.6bn, $1.9bn), it added. “The sharp rise in the Swiss franc (...) would have been a cause for panic in ﬁnancial markets in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) a few years ago,” said William Jackson, an analyst with the London-based Capital Economics. “But there are reasons to think that the fallout now should be more manageable.” kraine’s ambition to wean itself off gas supplies from a hostile Russia has never seemed so distant. Foreign explorers that are key to Ukraine’s future energy independence are ﬂeeing the nation as a war against proMoscow insurgents in eastern regions sends the economy into freefall. Even government measures aimed at shrinking consumption of Russian gas have helped drive some international companies away. JKX Oil & Gas Plc halted investment last week, citing a 55% tax imposed on gas production and a government decision to secure supplies for households by imposing restrictions on sales to industrial customers. The company joined Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp and Eni, which quit Ukraine or froze projects in the past year. Others are set to follow, according to Bloomberg Industries. “JKX’s decision to suspend its planned natural gas ﬁeld development investments in Ukraine may be followed by peers also active in the country,” Philipp Chladek, an analyst at the London-based researcher, said on January 7. With the state’s curb on sales to industry and gas production tax, “economic parameters appear insufficient to justify further drilling.” The Parliament, sworn in six weeks ago, has passed a draconian budget to unlock the next tranche of a $17bn International Monetary Fund-led bailout and prevent a default. At the same time, Ukraine is trying to reduce dependence on gas from Russia’s OAO Gazprom, which until last year supplied more than half of demand. A 48% slump in Ukraine’s currency against the dollar in 2014 also cut its ability to fund imports. “It’s very difficult for us but we’re repaying our foreign debts,” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said in Kiev on Janu- ary 9. “If the world sees that Ukraine is repaying debts, then investors will be back.” The government didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg calls seeking comment. The Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March dealt a ﬁrst blow to hopes of energy self-sufficiency. Ukraine lost control of the potentially gas-rich offshore ﬁelds in the Black Sea it had planned to explore with Exxon and Eni. The conﬂict that followed in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk provinces has claimed more than 4,700 lives, crippled transport infrastructure and prevented coal production. It forced Shell to recall all personnel from operations at the Yuzivska ﬁeld in June and abandon plans to drill 15 exploratory wells. “The government is in an impossible position,” Otilia Dhand, an analyst at political risk adviser Teneo Intelligence, said in Brussels. “It’s hard to convince investors that the economy will improve when you have a war raging.” Even away from the violence, international producers have left. Chevron pulled out of an agreement to explore the Oleska ﬁeld in western Ukraine, more than a thousand kilometres (620 miles) from the ﬁghting as economic conditions worsened. The economy is expected to shrink 6% this year, according to Moody’s Investors Service, after tumbling 7.5% in 2014. The withdrawals mean Ukraine will struggle to add to its 15bn cubic meters a year of conventional gas output or beneﬁt from shale deposits that the US Energy Information Administration estimates may be Europe’s third largest. While Ukraine is doing what the IMF and European Union asks of it by paying off bondholders and the country’s debts to Russia, its currency reserves are being depleted and capital ﬂight is accelerating, Timothy Ash, chief emerging-market economist at Standard Bank Group Ltd, said by e-mail. Men repair a gas pipeline in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. Foreign explorers are fleeing the nation as a war against pro-Moscow insurgents in eastern regions sends the economy into freefall. At Davos this year hottest emerging market is spelled U-S-A Bloomberg Paris T he World Economic Forum has long been something of a coming-out party for emerging economies, with developing countries dispatching politicians and executives to the Swiss resort of Davos to drum up interest. This year, the big magnet for investment looks to be an older player on the global stage: the US. While Brazil stagnates, Russia enters a recession, and India struggles to implement economic reforms, the US is booming as energy prices plummet and Silicon Valley dominates global tech. Though Wednesday’s retail sales report damped enthusiasm about the scale of the US rebound, the American economy grew at its fastest pace in over a decade in the third quarter of 2014, reaching an annualised rate of 5%. “The pendulum has shifted,” said Jacob Frenkel, chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co’s international arm, who’s been attending Davos since the mid1980s. “The US is now regaining its position in the world economy. It is the place where the recovery took hold in the most robust way.” The Davos agenda continues to focus more on emerging markets than on the US, but the tone at this year’s meeting, which takes place from January 21-24, is less upbeat about prospects in the developing world. The 2014 programme featured sessions such as The logo of World Economic Forum (WEF) logo is seen in front of snow-covered trees in Davos. The Davos agenda continues to focus more on emerging markets than on the US, but the tone at this year’s meeting, which takes place from January 21-24, is less upbeat about prospects in the developing world. “Fulﬁlling North Africa’s Promise” and “Eurasia: The Next Frontier?” This year, a panel titled “Achieving Africa’s Growth Agenda” will weigh the impact of falling commodity prices. Another, “The Arab World Context,” will address rising youth unemployment and escalating social tensions. Beyond the podium at Davos — in the corridors, cafes, and bars — much of the talk will be about America’s remarkable resilience, said Martin Reitz, who oversees the German business of investment bank Rothschild. Companies “not present in the US or who are sub-scale in the US are thinking about how to address this.” Stuck in a small ski town surrounded by snow, forests, and mountains for the better part of a week, top CEOs use the conference to catch up with other executives, and the talk often turns to acquisitions. That could lead to more deals like the $259bn in foreign takeovers of US companies that took place in 2014, more than double the previous year’s total and the highest since 2007. Germany’s Merck KGaA’s made the biggest of last year’s bunch, with a proposed $17bn takeover of SigmaAldrich, a producer of chemicals used in laboratories. “If you want to participate in innovation, you have to be in the US,” says Merck Chief Executive Officer KarlLudwig Kley. “No country on earth is investing as much in innovation.” The interest is global. In May, Japanese distiller Suntory completed a $16bn acquisition of 219-year-old bourbon producer Jim Beam. A few months later, Calgary-based Encana made a $5.9bn bet on the Texas oilpatch with its purchase of Athlon Energy, the largest-ever US oil and gas deal by a Canadian company. And in March, Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund joined a group of investors that agreed to buy half of American Express’s businesstravel unit for $900mn. The American uptake of some products sold by foreign ﬁrms remains small. Franck Riboud, chairman of French yogurt-maker Danone, often describes the US as an “emerging market” for the dairy product; only 6% of households buy it monthly. For big companies, “the US is the safest and best harbor,” says Manuel Falco, the head of corporate and investment banking for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Citigroup. Despite the shift in sentiment, the Davos crowd is a long way from writ- ing off Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Based on purchasing power, China last year overtook the US as the world’s largest economy, according to the International Monetary Fund, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking broad reforms to increase growth. “Most companies I meet with believe these are going to be important markets for a long time,” said John Veihmeyer, global chairman of consultancy KPMG, who will be in Davos next week. “You don’t want to make decisions today you will look at in 10 years and regret.” Still, the atmosphere in Davos will be markedly different from 2006, when India’s government and companies sponsored parties and dinners with a campaign called “India Everywhere,” or three years later when Vladimir Putin took the stage to promote Russia as an island of economic stability in the global ﬁnancial crisis. The World Bank this month cut its forecast for global growth while noting that the US is pulling away from other major economies. It expects the American economy to expand 3.2% this year — faster than the global average of 3%. While the lender said China will grow by 7.1%, that’s down from the 7.5% pace it projected in June. This year, “the strength of the US is deﬁnitely going to be a major theme in Davos,” said Dominic Barton, global managing director at consultant McKinsey & Co “The US is very economically dominant and powerful, and I think it’s just going to get better.” Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 11 BUSINESS Unwinding crisis loans add to pressure for ECB bond buying ECB wants to expand its balance sheet to deploy stimulus; balance sheet dynamics raise pressure for QE next week Reuters Frankfurt A fresh repayment of crisis loans next week will have a tightening effect on the European Central Bank’s policy stance, bolstering the case for it to deliver a broad bond-buying plan at a crunch January 22 meeting. The repayments have a shrinking ef- fect on the ECB’s balance sheet — just the opposite of what the central bank wants to achieve — and leave it swimming against the tide of its own past policy measures as they unwind. The ECB said yesterday banks would repay €13.864bn next week in loans they took at the height of the eurozone crisis in late 2011 and early 2012. Some 196bn remains to be paid before they mature later this month and next. That means the ECB’s balance sheet, which fell to €2.169tn last week as banks took less in weekly ECB loans, might even dip below €2tn in the coming weeks as the remainder of the socalled LTRO 3-year crisis funds are repaid. The direction of travel is wrong for the ECB, which wants to grow the balance sheet towards €3tn by injecting money into the ﬂagging economy with a view to stimulating demand and buoying inﬂation, which has turned negative. A batch of asset purchase plans and new loans the ECB launched last year have failed to prevent the balance sheet shrinking, effectively leaving the ECB with only one tool to hit its target: a broad sovereign bond-purchase plan. The ECB’s policymaking Governing Council meets next Thursday, with market expectations high that it will announce just such a programme of so- called quantitative easing (QE) — essentially money printing to buy sovereign bonds. Intervening in the large, liquid government bond market would allow the ECB to achieve the scale of impact it has failed to have with other stimulus measures. ECB Executive Board member Benoit Coeure said the scale of such a plan was key. “For it to be efficient, it has to be big,” he told the Irish Times in an interview published on Friday. Another Governing Council member, Ewald Nowotny, said earlier this week the shrinking balance sheet effect risked tightening policy and that “it would make sense to act on the monetary policy front”. The balance sheet may have dipped again this week, as banks took a similar amount in weekly funds but repaid some €14bn in LTROs this week. Other stimulative measures the central bank began deploying last year have proven to be small-scale so far. A covered bond buying programme has amassed a volume of €31bn, and the ECB’s purchases of bundled loans known as asset-backed securities amount to less than €2bn. Banks took just over €200bn in two shots of cheap, four-years the ECB offered last September and December — far less than the €400bn on offer last year. The combined effect of those stimulus plans still leave the ECB with much to do if it is to buoy prices in the eurozone, where inﬂation is running at -0.2% — far below the ECB’s target of just under 2%. “The aim of a QE is to ensure trust in the capacity of a central bank to stabilise inﬂation,” Coeure told French newspaper Liberation in another interview. “We will take the US and British experiences into account to determine the amount of bonds to buy in order to restore conﬁdence in the fact that inﬂation will come back to a level close to and below 2%.” Austrian banks count cost of eastern troubles Reuters Vienna People are seen outside a Eurobank branch in Athens yesterday. Two major Greek lenders applied to tap the national central bank’s emergency funding yesterday, a year after ending their reliance on it. Eurobank, Alpha apply for emergency funding Reuters Athens T wo major Greek lenders have applied to tap the national central bank’s emergency funding a year after ending their reliance on it, bankers said yesterday, as Greeks withdraw cash before a snap election on January 25. Liquidity has also been squeezed by a lack of foreign buyers at recent government Tbill issues. Executives at both Eurobank and Alpha said the funding re- quests were precautionary and related partly to their exposure to Swiss franc mortgages. Both had yet to make use of emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) funds. “We are not making use of ELA funding currently and do not foresee that we will need to in the immediate future as we have sufficient collateral to tap funds from the European Central Bank,” a Eurobank executive told Reuters, declining to be named. “Swiss franc loan exposure is part of the reasons but not the main one,” the executive said. The franc soared after the Swiss central bank stopped capping it on Thursday. Greek banks’ exposure to Swiss-franc denominated loans, mostly mortgages, ranges from 2 to 4% of their gross loans. Eurobank has a higher exposure of about 11%, or €5.7bn, according to Euroxx Securities. Eurobank, where Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis worked as chief economist before joining the coalition government in June last year, still has available ECB-eligible collateral for funding but acted pre-emptively, the executive said. National Bank, Greece’s largest lender, has no plans to seek emergency funding at the central bank, a spokesman said yesterday. “We have no such need,” he said. ELA is effectively emergency loans from national central banks to commercial banks. Greek banks relied on it heavily at the peak of the debt crisis in 2012 but had repaid it by early last year. Eurobank shares tumbled 8% and Alpha Bank fell 7% yesterday, pushing the Athens bourse’s banking index down 7%. Greek banks have been putting up collateral to tap ECB funds, with their total borrowing rising 2.3% to €44.9bn ($52.5bn) in November. It is expected to top €50bn in December. ELA funding is more costly than borrowing from the ECB and needs its approval. “We want to have the ELA credit mechanism available as a precaution,” an Alpha Bank executive told Reuters. One executive said Greek banks now need more collateral on the unhedged part of francdenominated mortgage portfolios which they had swapped with counterparties. Austrian banks’ longstanding ties with central and eastern European neighbours provided years of profits when they moved in quickly after the fall of the Soviet Union. But Ukraine’s descent into chaos, Russia’s economic crisis, political turmoil in Hungary and sluggish Romanian growth caught them out and led to a series of profit warnings, exposing risk management failings and a culture of hoping for the best. Some banks are now retrenching in the region. UniCredit Bank Austria, the Austrian bank with the biggest exposure to CEE, booked a €1.6bn loss in 2013 after big goodwill impairments for exposure in the East, where it is trying to sell its Ukraine business after ending an illfated foray into Kazakhstan. “We are drawing consequences and have begun years ago to optimise our portfolios gradually,” chief executive Willibald Cernko said of the sector. Raiffeisen Bank International said this month all its businesses were under review and it will decide by mid-2015 whether to exit a market or two. Raiffeisen ratcheted higher estimates for bad loan provisions due to increasing violence in Ukraine, pushing shares to record lows this month and spooking investors. It said its 2014 loss could exceed the €500mn forecast if it needs to write down its business in Russia. The situation in Ukraine took some Austrian bankers by surprise. “I didn’t think what happened in the Arab Spring would happen in Ukraine,” one senior banker told Reuters for this story on the condition he not be identified. Raiffeisen, whose former Chief executive Herbert Stepic remains a key source of information given his extensive contacts in the region, hired former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as an adviser. But the bank was still late in seeing the danger from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine, a market it had already mulled quitting given corruption, political turmoil and a broken justice system. The co-heads of Austria’s Financial Market Authority watchdog say they prevented major losses at some banks by blocking eastward expansion plans that were simply too risky. For some banks, however, the restraint came too late. Hypo Alpe Adria, which used state debt guarantees to fuel a decade of breakneck expansion at home and in the Balkans, was nationalised in 2009 to prevent a collapse that would have sent shock waves through the region. Some bankers say an independent report looking into the nationalisation captures an Austrian culture that rewards a softly-softly approach to tackling a problem. The senior banker acknowledged some of the criticism. “It is (typically) Austrian — unlike Anglo Saxons — that one sticks too much to past decisions,” he said. Banks tend to mark down loans with a view to fixing the problem over years. “But this approach of saying ‘OK, we have a problem. I will take a practically complete writedown and sell the position, the problem is gone’ — this is not the Austrian approach.” Erste Group foresaw problems in Ukraine, selling its unit there in 2012. “You have to have the guts to take a loss on an investment,” chief finance officer Gernot Mittendorfer said, noting Erste saw that Ukraine was not making the gradual move towards the European Union that the bank had expected. While Erste’s cumulative profits are greater than the write offs it has had to take in the region, it has forecast a record 2014 loss of up to €1.6bn amid fresh hits from Romania and from Hungary, a market where banks have suffered under unorthodox economic policies. Mittendorfer said Erste decided not to enter the Russian market given the political risk even though this angered some investors given the profits that rivals Raiffeisen and Bank Austria were making there. Bank Austria’s Cernko told Reuters: “Russia remains a core market of our banking group. At the beginning of last year we put measures in place to safeguard our earnings, thus the impacts from rouble depreciation should be limited.” More time to repay debt seen best eurozone can offer Greece Eurozone rules out Greek debt write-off; extension of maturities on loans seen as best offer; officials hope Syriza’s campaign stance softens after poll Reuters Brussels S yriza will have to honour all Greek debts and continue reforms if it takes power but the eurozone might agree to wait longer to be repaid, officials in Brussels say. The left-wing party led by Alexis Tsipras, which heads opinion polls nine days before elections, is pledging to negotiate a debt reduction and an end to budget austerity but says it is committed to keeping Greece in the eurozone. “We are not considering debt writeoffs,” European Commission vice- president Valdis Dombrovskis told Reuters. Officials said a new Greek government can discuss changes to economic policies but room for negotiation was limited. “If Tsipras wants to survive, be accepted in Europe, he will have to show a degree of realism,” one eurozone official said. The best Syriza can hope for is an extension to the maturity dates of Greece’s loans and possibly the scrapping of the remaining tiny interest margin on a small portion of those loans - an option under consideration for some time already. “The eurozone would certainly be prepared to do a maximum of what it can to meet some of the political agenda of Syriza, but there are clear limits: a debt write-off is not acceptable,” the official said. “And Greece has to follow reforms and ﬁnancial improvement, that will be part of any deal.” Officials believe striking a deal with Tsipras may be possible, hoping Syriza’s tough talk is for campaign purposes — as are the warnings from Greece’s current ruling parties that voting for Syriza could mean an exit from the eurozone. “Today we are in election mode. All sides are sending signals to get as many votes as possible,” the eurozone official said. The question is whether Tsipras can, or is willing to, shift position quickly enough to avert a new Greek crisis. He has moderated some of his antibailout rhetoric but has repeatedly said he will cancel austerity terms in the programme irrespective of the outcome of talks with lenders on debt. Analysts say Syriza is unlikely to make a quick retreat from that pledge once it takes power, especially since it has suggested Greece has enough funds on hand to survive for a few months without the help of lenders. Syriza has also suggested an extension to the bailout programme that is due to end in February to give itself more room to renegotiate the whole programme. The European Central Bank ﬁred a warning shot last week saying that unless Athens was under a programme with the eurozone, the ECB could no longer provide liquidity for Greek banks. That would give Greece only a month to negotiate a new deal that would keep the ECB on board. Unlike in 2010 when Athens sparked the sovereign debt crisis, the eurozone now has the experience and institutions to prevent contagion and is convinced it could withstand renewed economic turmoil in Greece or even its exit from the euro. “Should Greece default or get out of the eurozone or pursue some antagonistic scenario, they would be shooting themselves in both feet,” a second eurozone official said. “There is going to be change, but the likelihood of a catastrophic scenario is extremely unlikely.” Eurozone ﬁnance ministers agreed in late 2012 that once Greece reached a primary surplus, as it did last year, they would ﬁnd ways to ease the debt burden for Athens to help bring it down from 177% of GDP to below 110% by 2020. They also agreed they might cut the 50 basis point margin that Athens pays on €53bn of loans it received from the ﬁrst of its two bailouts. But the biggest relief would come from extending loan maturities and smoothing repayment humps. “The maximum that can be done are the measures mentioned in the No- vember 2012 statement: the extension of maturities and the reduction of the margin on the ﬁrst bailout package. I have not seen anything else being discussed,” the ﬁrst official said. The maturities of the loans have already been extended to an average of 30 years and Athens has a grace period of 10 years on nearly three-quarters of all its borrowing. If the loans were extended to an average of 50 years, as suggested by Greece, the annual cost of debt servicing would fall sharply, leaving more money for growth or debt repayment. Klaus Regling, the head of the eurozone bailout fund, said the November 2012 blueprint could still be considered. “I am sure that the Eurogroup (eurozone ﬁnance ministers), if (Greek) reforms continue, will take another look,” he told Portuguese paper Diario Economico on Wednesday. Saturday, January 17, 2015 BUSINESS GULF TIMES Halal business high on agenda in South Korea, Singapore By Arno Maierbrugger Gulf Times Correspondent Bangkok The awareness of opportunities to develop successful business lines in the halal industry seems to be spreading across East Asian countries. Not just the Philippines and Thailand beefed up their halal food production and export lately, now it is South Korea that wants to dig deeper into the global halal food business, and Singapore combines this with halal tourism. According to South Koreas Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the country sees “good potential” in the global halal food market which is expected to grow from $1.08tn in 2012 to $1.62tn in 2018, or to close to 18% of the entire food market worldwide. The ministry has earmarked Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East as primary target countries, saying that halal food comes at 80% from non-Muslim countries and big global food companies which would open South Korea big opportunities. The country — with a Muslims population of just 140,000 — has turned its attention to the halal business after the 2014 World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Foundation Roundtable in December was held in South Korea for the first time and local politicians and business people pledged support for the halal industry. Province governor Moon Soon Choi of the huge northeastern Gangwon province proposed setting up a Muslim village and a halal industry network for food and tourism. There are also plans by the South Korean tourism ministry to introduce halal restaurants in the country and provide halal facilities for Muslim tourists. There are also initiatives to bring together South Korean producers of halal products and link them to Jakim, a recognised halal certification authority in Malaysia, to receive the necessary product certifications. South Korean companies that already have obtained the halal certification are food giants CJ CheilJedang, Namyang Dairy Products, Nongshim, Pulmuone, Orion and Lotte Confectionary. That said, it is easily thinkable that South Korea will play a role in a new smartphone application that specifically targets Muslims and their special needs when travelling. A Singaporean company earlier this month has launched “HalalTrip”, an app that allows users to share and rate halal food and restaurants across the world. It has been developed by CrescentRating, a Singapore-based company that focuses on halal travel and destination marketing for the halal tourism industry. The “HalalTrip” app also features prayer times and indicates the direction to Makkah, and features such as city guides and hotel-booking will be added shortly. The free app is available for Android and Apple smartphones at their respective online stores. “Halal food is one of the most important aspects for Muslim travellers. We have seen a huge increase in the industry as restaurants want to become halal and more Muslim-friendly,” said Fazal Bahardeen, founder and CEO of CrescentRating. “We have launched the app in response to this global trend.” Bahardeen said that over the last year, CrescentRating has seen a surge in restaurants across the world wanting to certify their food as halal. The company has also recently launched its own halal rating and accreditation system that not only encompasses halal restaurants, but also hotels, airlines, hospitals, shopping malls, spas and wellness centres, travel and tour operators, cruises, convention centres, theme parks and even railway stations. Unfazed by market swings, Fed sticks to mid-2015 hike scenario Reuters New York G Sees economy ripe for modest tightening in some 6 months; little alarm over volatile markets inside central bank; oil slide seen helping US economy, no barrier to liftoff Reuters New York/San Francisco T umbling oil prices have strengthened rather than weakened the Federal Reserve’s resolve to start raising interest rates around midyear even as volatile markets and a softening US inﬂation outlook made investors push back the timing of the “liftoff.” Interviews with senior Fed officials and advisers suggest they remain conﬁdent the US economy will be ready for a modest policy tightening in the June-September period, while any subsequent rate hikes will probably be slow and depend on how markets will behave. While they are hard-pressed to explain why bond yields have fallen so low, their conﬁdence in the recovery stems in part from in-house analysis that shows falling oil prices are clearly positive for the US economy. Internal models also suggest that a decline in longer-term inﬂation expectations probably does not signal a loss of faith in the Fed’s 2% inﬂation goal. Instead, the models attribute much of the recent decline in market-based measures of inﬂation expectations to increased investor conﬁdence that prices will not spiral out of control, ofﬁcials say. Policymakers’ public comments reﬂect that, as they sound unperturbed by what has been a steep drop in recent months. “I am watching the inﬂation expectation numbers but not drawing a conclusion that they call for any action or that they change in any serious way my outlook,” Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart told reporters earlier this week. Some of those interviewed stressed that in the light of last year’s strong jobs gains waiting until mid-year represented a cautious approach rather than an aggressive one, allowing the Fed to delay the rate liftoff if needed, particularly if inﬂation expectations turned sharply down. However, with markets increasingly gripped by fears of global deﬂation and economic stagnation, futures traders now are betting the Fed will stay pat at least until October, possibly until December. Yet interviews with the Fed insiders reveal that while they keep an eye on volatile markets they remain conﬁdent that unexpected overseas headwinds will not derail the US economy. So far, signs of domestic price weakness, such as slow-growing wages, Goldman Sachs proﬁt hit by weak ﬁxed income trading The Federal Reserve building in Washington DC. Interviews with senior Fed officials and advisers suggest they remain confident the US economy will be ready for a modest policy tightening in the June-September period. have not shaken the central bank’s faith that inﬂation will rebound once energy markets stabilise, the interviews showed. In fact, cheaper gasoline and the boost it gives particularly to lowerand middle-income households could be just the shot of economic conﬁdence the Fed needs to tighten policy after six years of near-zero rates. “We’ve been through enough of these energy price swings...and this volatility can’t go on forever,” Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker told Reuters in an interview on Monday. “I don’t think we’d have trouble looking through that transitory phenomenon,” of slightly low inﬂation, and raise rates, he said. “I don’t think we’d have trouble selling that.” Lacker has long criticised the Fed’s exceptional monetary stimulus and advocated ending it, but his comments on inﬂation reﬂect the thinking of more centrist Fed policy makers on the subject. A sharp drop in unemployment to 5.6% and solid economic growth have led most Fed policymakers to pencil in a rate rise this year, with many eyeing a move sometime in the summer. Most Wall Street economists agree with such timing. Inﬂation remains a half-percentage point below the Fed’s 2% target, and could slip more on plunging oil prices and the soaring dollar. But the Fed expects oil prices to eventually stabilise, the US economy to keep growing despite weakness in Europe and elsewhere, and inﬂation to rebound in com- ing years. The interviews also showed Fed officials were not overly alarmed by weakness in some market-based measures of inﬂation. Some believe the sharp drop in longer-term borrowing costs, rather than a matter of concern, may be an added reason not to delay a tightening beyond mid-2015, especially if a “rush to safety” is driving demand for US Treasuries. With central banks in Europe and Japan looking to ease policy in the face of deﬂation threat, investors have sold stocks and commodities and snapped up US debt, driving yields on 10-year and 30-year bonds to or near record lows. Such low borrowing costs make for exceptionally easy ﬁnancial conditions in the US, even with the Fed looking to end the era of near-zero interest rates. “I think it’s important that the Fed not be so intent on every little movement in these asset market prices that they don’t take strong enough action,” said former Fed vice-chairman Donald Kohn, who is now a member of the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee. “I certainly expect them to be pretty cautious right after liftoff,” he told Reuters. The Fed took a small step toward its ﬁrst rate rise in nearly a decade last month, when rather than saying it would wait a “considerable time” with tightening it said it would be “patient” — a term Fed chair Janet Yellen suggested meant it might move in April at the earliest. oldman Sachs Group reported a 7% drop in fourth-quarter proﬁt as an unexpected bout of market volatility in December hit its bond-trading business. Fixed-income trading, long a strength for the bank, came under pressure last year due to stricter capital rules in the aftermath of the ﬁnancial crisis and relatively calm markets that discouraged clients from trading. Just when it seemed things were picking up, a burst of volatility last month caused by factors ranging from plunging oil prices to weak global economic data, spooked investors again. Goldman said revenue from trading ﬁxed-income securities, currencies and commodities (FICC) fell 19% in the quarter, excluding gains from repayment of debt and the sale of most of its European insurance business in 2013. Overall, FICC revenue fell 29% to $1.22bn in the quarter, mainly due to low levels of activity in debt products and mortgages, partially offset by signiﬁcantly higher net revenue from trading commodities and currencies. The business, which once contributed about 40% of Goldman’s revenue, has been on a decline since 2009 as new rules also discourage banks from trading on their own account and it accounted for only about 16% of revenue in the quarter. JPMorgan Chase & Co’s FICC revenue fell 14% in the quarter, Citigroup’s 16% and Bank of America Corp’s 30%. Goldman’s shares were down 1.6% before the bell as investors also reacted to a 16% fall in investment banking revenue to $1.44bn. The bank said net revenue dropped for both equity and debt underwriting. Overall net income fell to $2.17bn, or $4.38 per share, in the fourth quarter from $2.33bn, or 4.60 per share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected earnings of $4.32 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Of the big US banks reporting this week, only Wells Fargo & Co managed a rise in proﬁt, largely because it is more focused on retail and commercial banking. Revenue in Goldman’s investing and lending division, which puts the bank’s own capital to work by investing in companies and lending to them, fell 26% to $1.53bn. QSE WEEKLY REVIEW Foreign institutions continue to be bearish, but with lesser vigour By Santhosh V Perumal Business Reporter Plunging crude, which hit a new six-year low, had its severe spell on 18% fall in Industries Qatar (IQ), leading the Qatar Stock Exchange slip throughout the week to settle 443 points lower at below the 12,000 mark. Foreign institutions continued to be bearish but with lesser vigour as the main 20-stock index fell 3.6% during the week that saw Amwal forecast that Qatar could end up in small budgetary deficit of $5bn to $10bn if oil prices remained below $50 for the whole of 2015. Domestic institutions’ reduced net buying were also seen exacerbating the bearish spell in the market during the week that witnessed report that Qatar and Shell not to proceed with the Al Karanaa project in view of weak oil prices, which according to various estimates may well drop to as low as $40 a barrel in the short term. “For IQ, we estimate a 10% decline in product price would result in a 24% decline in net profit,” said Afa Boran, Head of Asset Management in Amwal, which manages assets worth QR400mn. More than 71% of the stocks were in the red during the week that saw Amwal being “cautiously selective” in Qatar’s bourse; given the low oil price scenario. Crude oil prices have corrected by over 50% from their highs in 2014 owing to excess supply, driven by higher US shale oil output and a fall in demand because of slowdown in many major economies. Both Qatari and foreign retail investors were seen reducing their exposure in the market, where real estate, industrials and banking stocks dominated the trading ring with them constituting about 83% of the total trade volume. Substantial selling was also seen in telecom, realty and transport sectors during the week that saw the index that tracks Shariah-principled stocks melt faster than the other indices. The industrials stocks shrank 9%, telecom (2.33%), transport (2.16%), real estate (2.05%), banks and financial services (1.48%), insurance (1.44%) and consumer goods (1.07%) during the week that saw Qatar’s intention to allow dual listing of German companies as part of efforts to attract more German institutional investments into its bourse. The 20-stock Total Return Index shed 3.6%, All Share Index (comprising wider constituents) by 3.29% and Al Rayan Islamic Index by 3.62% during the week. Of the 43 stocks, only 12 gained, while 30 declined and one was unchanged during the week. Seven each of the 12 banks and financial services and the nine industrials; six of the eight consumer goods; four each of the five insurance and the four realty; and all of the two telecom stocks close lower during the week. Major shakers included IQ, QNB, Aamal Company, Mesaieed Petrochemical Holding, Barwa, Ezdan, Mazaya Qatar, Vodafone Qatar, Ooredoo, Commercial bank, al khaliji, Doha Bank and Widam Food; even as Qatar Islamic Bank, Masraf Al Rayan, Nakilat and Gulf Warehousing bucked the trend. Market capitalisation eroded 4.38% or about QR30bn to QR647.79bn during the week. Foreign institutions’ net selling fell to QR133.29mn compared to QR212.27mn the previous week. Domestic institutions’ net buying weakened to QR187.18mn against QR3202.7mn the week ended January 8. Local retail investors’ net profit taking plummeted to QR55.61mn compared to QR113.74mn the previous week. Non-Qatari retail investors’ net buying fell to QR2.01mn against QR5.99mn the week ended January 8. A total of 47.73mn shares valued at QR2.87bn changed hands across 32,261 transactions. The real estate sector saw a total of 18.68mn equities worth QR582.69mn change hands across 7,157 deals. As many as 10.72mn industrials stocks valued at QR1.1bn trade across 11,165 transactions. The banks and financial sector witnessed as many as 10.16mn shares worth QR878.91mn change hands across 8,443 transactions. The telecom sector saw 4.27mn equities valued at QR108.69mn trade in 2,564 deals. The market saw a total of 1.57mn consumer goods stocks worth QR95.91mn change hands across 1,584 transactions. The transport segment recorded 1.86mn shares valued at QR63.4mn trade in 905 deals. The insurance saw a total of 0.47mn shares worth QR33.4mn trade across 343 transactions. The debt market witnessed a total of 58,500 government bonds valued at QR597.47mn change hands across mere three deals deal; while there was no trading of treasury bills during the week. MOTORSPORT | Page 7 NBA | Page 8 FOOTBALL | Page 10 Senna’s old rival is still a karting king Bucks hand Knicks 16th straight loss Barca hope calm continues in pursuit of Madrid Saturday, January 17, 2015 Rabia I 26, 1436 AH GULF TIMES FOCUS Defending champs Spain start with win over Belarus ‘We were never behind Belarus, but we certainly have our problems, especially in defence’ Spain’s Julen Aguinagalde (right) in action against Belarus during their 24th World Men’s Handball Championship match at the Duhail Sports Hall yesterday. Aguinagalde and team-mate Jorge Maqueda scored six goals each in Spain’s 38-33 win over Belarus. PICTURES: Othman al-Samaraee By Yash Mudgal Doha D efending champions Spain launched their campaign in the 24th World Men’s Handball Championship with a hard-fought 38-33 victory over Belarus at the Duhail Sports Hall yesterday. The all-European duel unfolded at almost breakneck speed as both the teams showed determination to dominate. They exchanged opening goals within 90 seconds and in ﬁve minutes the score was 4-4. Spaniards demonstrated more quality in their scoring prowess against their rivals, who failed to score at the crucial moments, and earned two points. Spanish defence struggled throughout the game but found their rhythm in the last 10 minutes of the game and overcame ﬁghting Belarussians. The defending champions’ cause was also helped by two red cards to Belarus. Not very satisﬁed with his team’s performance, Spain coach Manuel Cadenas said: “I think we are lucky to earn two points in our ﬁrst outing. It was a good game although we were not very good in defence. We were never behind Belarus, but we certainly have our problems, especially in defence.” He also gave credit to their opponents by saying, “They played a very good game. They were also in their ﬁrst game of the championship, but I must admit they were good in speed and attack.” The second half started just like the ﬁrst one, with a fast and furious exchange of goals between the teams. Collective efforts by the Spanish ensured they kept a healthy lead over Belarus. It seemed that every time the Belarus players were scoring, the Spanish were scoring one back. Yet the Belarussians were showing their ‘never-say-die’ attitude trou- Referee shows a red card to one of the Belarussian players yesterday. bling the Spanish defence with their daring attacks, at times reducing Spain’s lead to just a single point. Spain’s Jorge Maqueda was on top of his game scoring four goals in the ﬁrst period and ﬁnished the game with two more in 10 attempts. Belarusians gave Spaniards, the best in the group, a hard time in both defence and attack mainly through the efforts of Aliaksandr Tsitou (ﬁve goals) and Maxim Babichev (four goals). “We lost two important players to red cards, but we still showed a great performance against the world champions. We played on a high level until the last ten minutes. We can take conﬁdence from this performance. Our goal is to reach pre-quarterﬁnals, so we need to take the points against other opponents,” Belarus’ veteran left winger Ivan Brouka, the highest goal (510) scorer for his team, said. Commenting over the red cards Belarus coach Yuri Shevtsov said: “I cannot discuss the referee’s decision. I just accept the decision although I think the decision inﬂuenced the game.” Spain’s centre-back Joan Canellas also lauded Belarus’ efforts and admitted that they have problem in defence. “I am satisﬁed with the game. Clearly Belarus is improving in many areas. The game was very fast, especially the second-half. Belarus was hitting us on fast breaks so it was very dangerous but we have coped with it well. We will have to improve in defence above all.” Spain will take on Brazil, Qatar will meet Chile and Belarus will lock horns with Slovenia in a busy Group A day today. 2 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 24TH MEN’S HANDBALL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT FOCUS Our goal is to win each match, says Qatar’s Saric France win opener in quest for triple crown The goalkeeper was outstanding in the opening match making 20 saves By Yash Mudgal Doha T here is no doubt that the limelight in the opening match of the 24th Men’s Handball World Championship in Doha was stolen by Qatari goalkeeper Danjel Saric. With 20 saves in all, the 37-year-old Barcelona goalkeeper was outstanding in between the posts for the hosts. Saric provided Valero Rivera’s outﬁt with the composure needed to see out a 28:23 victory over Brazil at Lusail Multipurpose Arena. France’s Nikola Karabatic (right) in action against Czech Republic yesterday. PICTURE: Othman al-Samaraee By Yash Mudgal Doha F How was the opening match for you against Brazil? Saric: It was a tough game for us, and taking in consideration that it was the first of the tournament, we were under huge pressure. Now that we have rid ourselves of the pressure, we can throw on and focus on the next few games. Our defence was good, our attack wasn’t, but that happens from time to time. Brazil are behind us and Chile are our focus now. I just hope and wish that our injured players can recover in time for the next match. How do you think the squad is performing? Saric: We can do a lot better, that’s for sure. These guys have spent the last four months together, but still there are a lot of things to be improved. Hopefully, after a day of rest we can lift our performance against Chile to the next level. How much of a role will your schedule play in helping you to qualify for the eighth-ﬁnals? Saric: Brazil and Chile are on our level. Chile could be very dangerous if we don’t take them seriously. Firstly, we have to try and compete with teams from “our league”, and then think about the others. We will keep both feet ﬁrmly on the ground and only think about the next match. Honestly, I don’t think about how far we could go at this moment. Our goal is to win each match and ﬁght until the ﬁnal whistle. After that performance it is understandable why you have been on the top of Valero Rivera’s wish list… Saric: Qatar 2015 is a huge motivation for me. I haven’t been on the international stage for a while, so I want to show that I can still play on the highest level. My aim is to play among the best despite my age. Top players and goalkeepers are always the heroes at events like these and I am aware that this is my role here. Qatar’s goalkeeper Danjel Saric celebrates after the hosts won their opening 24th Men’s Handball World Championship match against Brazil in Doha on Thursday. PICTURE: Mamdouh Do you feel extra pressure due to the amount of time, money and energy which was invested in this team? Saric: This is a very speciﬁc situation, but pressure is normal for professional athletes and I believe it can only make things better. If you aren’t on the necessary level, it doesn’t matter how big the expectations are. Who are the favourites in your group? Saric: Spain and Slovenia. Did you have a chance to take a look at the Opening Ceremony? Saric: I have just heard that it was an amazing experience. I would like to see sold-out halls in the upcoming days handball on this level deserves that. rance started their campaign to clinch the ‘triple crown’ on a winning note in the 24th Men’s World Handball Championship at Duhail Sports hall yesterday. Olympic and European champions France defeated Czech Republic 30-27 in a keenly-fought game, while Argentina came back from behind to hold twice runners-up Denmark 24-24. Luka Karabatic and Michael Guigou were the joint top scorers for the Olympic champions with seven goals each. The most proliﬁc scorer in the Czech team was Horak with eight. Former champions Germany and Russia also scored victories against Poland and wild card entrant Saudi Arabia respectively on a day when 11 matches took place across three venues. Former semiﬁnalist Slovenia also secured an easy 36-23 win over Chile in Group A. Slovenia, who made to their ﬁrst-ever world championship semi-ﬁnal in Spain two years ago, need this win to springboard themselves to the top half of the table. Slovenia found it tough only for the ﬁrst 25 minutes against the Chileans who have shown some improvement in comparison to their two last championships during which they won only twice against Australia. The second match of the Group A began with weak defensive performances on both sides, which helped the outsiders from Chile to get into the game, leaving Slovenia with a tight encounter up until the half-time break at 16-14. Two speedy players from the Chilean back court, Frelijj and Salinas created a lot of problems for a powerful, but slow Slovenian defense in Kozlina and Gaber. Left-handed Rodrigo Salinas (top scorer of the match with 10 goals) put the South Americans into the lead at 5-4 after seven minutes, and Chileans maintained this tempo for the next ten minutes, until the Slovenian head coach Boris Denic ﬁnally found a way to wake his players up for the end of the ﬁrst-half. Slovenian right wing Dragan Gajic showed why he was the top scorer in the French League in the previous season. Scoring eight goals in the ﬁrst 30 minutes (nine in total), Gajic gave his team a slight advantage going into the break. It took only seven minutes of the second-half for Slovenians to wear down the Chileans, forcing coach Fernando Capurro to take a time-out to put a stop to the 5-0 run from the strong European side (21-14). Slovenia was particularly strong from counter attacks with Gajic, Spiler and Dolenec coming up with the goods. “We didn’t perform well in the ﬁrst-half, but we improved our game in the second. We have a lot of quality and I am looking forward to playing much better in the competition,” Slovenia coach Boris Denic said. Results Group A Slovenia 36 Chile 23 Spain 38 Belarus 33 Group B Bosnia-Herzegovina 30 Iran 25 Macedonia 33 Tunisia 25 Croatia 32 Austria 30 Group C France 30 Czech Republic 27 Algeria 20 Egypt 34 Sweden 24 Iceland 16 Group D Russia 27 Saudi Arabia 17 Poland 26 Germany 29 Denmark 24 Argentina 24 Q&A WITH INTERNATIONAL HANDBALL FEDERATION PRESIDENT DR HASSAN MOUSTAFA Qatar has done a very, very good job: IHF president Everyone knows about the games that will take place here in Qatar but what else is happening at this festival of handball? IHF president Dr Hassan Moustafa: It is the ﬁrst time that we have invited all of our ‘handball family’ to a World Championship. We have invited Presidents from 200 countries, all of the Secretaries General for the Secretaries General administrative course, as well as all of our referee trainers who will be running courses with the international referees and coaches. We are also organising a conference [New Sports Medicine Concepts in Handball] so all of those in the medical profession involved in handball will be here too. The handball family are all here in Doha and, like everyone at the IHF, I am very happy to be here. Q: World Championships cannot take place without the local organising committee and local Government support. Tell us about the support you have received from Qatar Handball Association and the Qatari Government. Dr Moustafa: The Qataris have done a very, very good job. We have had a very positive and long-term co-operation with His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani who is a fan of handball and has really supported it. I am very satisﬁed and express my gratitude towards them. We have new venues for this World Championship and after it ﬁnishes the Qatar Handball Association will be using them, so in addition to the existing hotels and athletic facilities that the national team use to train, they have everything covered to organise tournaments, training camps - all possibilities. After this tournament I am sure a lot of countries from this region will be asking to organise an event like this and will be increasing their performance levels - Qatar 2015 is set to be a big beneﬁt for our sport in this region. sport here, but the top sport in terms of results. Qatar’s handball teams are one of the leading teams in Asia as shown by their men’s team who are Asian Champions not only at the senior level, but at a junior level. They want to continue and be handball pioneers in this region. I hope that the countries around Qatar can follow them in organising big events and being well prepared for World Championships or Olympic Games - it will beneﬁt us all. Q: What does hosting this World Championship mean for Qatari handball? Dr Moustafa: This is not the ﬁrst time that Qatar has organised a World Championship - they organised the Men’s Youth World Championship in 2005 and for the past ﬁve years they have organised the IHF Super Globe for clubs, but this is the ﬁrst time that there has been such a big handball event like a senior World Championship here in the Gulf area. Even though this is the ﬁrst time, you can see that the standard of organisation and venues here is more than an Olympic Games standard. Since 2000 I have been the IHF President and before that I was Chairman of the Commission of Coaching and Methods, so I have been involved with organising a lot of World Championships and attended many Olympic Games. I can honestly say these venues and infrastructure here in Doha are the best I have seen. A lot of fans in Qatar come and support handball which is now the second Q: You met with the Qatar Government and Ministry of the Interior upon your arrival in Doha this week; what did you discuss? Dr Moustafa: After the attacks in Paris we had to be sure of the security here so we met with His Excellency the Prime Minister to discuss this and they had already prepared everything. We wanted to be sure of security and I am certain that there will be no problems; security will be of an extremely high standard like everything else is at this World Championship. Q: What are your expectations for the tournament itself? Dr Moustafa: I am sure that it will be one of the best World Championships we have ever had - everything is of such a high standard; accommodation, venues, transport, security - if the players play to their high standard of performance and the referees, players and coaches all cooperate well then it will be the best ever World Championship. (ihf.info) International Handball Federation president Dr. Hassan Moustafa speaks during the opening ceremony of the 24th Men’s Handball World Championship in Doha on Thursday. PICTURE: Mamdouh Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 3 24TH MEN’S HANDBALL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PICTURE PERFECT Egypt’s Islam Hassan (left) and Algerian goalkeeper Abdelmalik Slahdji in action during their match yesterday. Hassan scored five goals in his team’s 33-21 win. PICTURE: Jayaram Fahed, the mascot of 24th Men’s Handball World Championship, at the Spain vs Belarus match yesterday. PICTURE: Othman al-Samaraee Algerian fans ahead of the match against Egypt. PICTURE: Jayaram Macedonia’s Kiril Lazarov (second from right) rises to score past Tunisia’s Mosbah Sanai (right) and Abdelhak Ben Salah (second from left) during their match yesterday. Lazarov scored 10 goals in his team’s 33-25 win. PICTURE: Shemeer Rasheed Bosnia’s Ivan Karacic (centre) tries go past Iranian goalkeeper Saeid Heidarirad during their match yesterday. Bosnia won 30-26. PICTURE: Shemeer Rasheed Croatian fans cheer their team in the match against Austria yesterday. PICTURE: Othman al-Samaraee Sweden’s Kim Andersson (right) grabs an Iceland player during their match yesterday. Sweden won the match 24-16. PICTURE: Jayaram Austria’s Janko Bozovic (left) is blocked by Croatia’s Zeljko Musa during their match yesterday. Croatia’s Ivan Cupic scored 11 goals in the team’s close 32-30 win. PICTURE: Othman al-Samaraee A Polish player (fourth from right) tries to get past his German counterpart to score a goal during their match yesterday. Germany won the match 29-26. PICTURE: Shemeer Rasheed Denmark’s Anders Eggert (left) tries to go past an Argentinian player during their match yesterday. Eggert scored five goals as the two teams played out a 24-24 draw. PICTURE: Shemeer Rasheed Russia’s S Aslanyan (left) gets ready to shoot past Saudi Arabia’s M Alsalem during their match yesterday. Russia won 27-17. PICTURE: Othman al-Samaraee 4 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 CRICKET SPOTLIGHT Tough without Ajmal, says Pakistan spin coach AFP Karachi P akistan’s spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed Friday admitted it will be tough to ﬁnd the right balance without ace spinner Saeed Ajmal suspended due to illegal bowling action. Pakistan will be without Ajmal at this year’s World Cup starting on February 14 after the off-spinner withdrew following his failure to completely alter his action. Ahmed, a member of Pakistan’s World Cup winning team in 1992 - also held in Australia and New Zealand—said the team would ﬁnd it tough without “legend” Ajmal. “We were used to Ajmal,” Ahmed told media at the conclusion of the Pakistan team’s training camp. “Ajmal has been our legend and has been our number one bowler, and it’s very difficult to make a combination without him.” Ahmed said Pakistan won the 1992 World Cup without then frontline paceman Waqar Younis, who was ruled out two weeks before the event with a back problem. “If you remember the scenario when Waqar returned home due ‘Fake Sheikh’ evidence prompts Pakistan re-think - report LONDON: Prosecutors are re-examining the criminal convictions of three Pakistan players jailed in 2011 over spotfixing allegations, according to a report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, The Guardian said the convictions in a London court of then Pakistan captain Salman Butt, paceman Mohammad Asif and swing bowler Mohammad Aamer, were among 25 cases called into question by the methods of ‘Fake Sheikh’ undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood. Prosecutors dropped on Wednesday a case of alleged match-fixing involving 13 footballers in England because of doubts about the reliability of Mahmood’s evidence. After the now defunct News of the World revealed the three Pakistan cricketers had conspired to bowl no-balls during a Test match at Lord’s in 2010 in return for a share of £150,000 ($228,207), the trio and their agent Mazher Majeed were arrested. Following the ‘sting’ operation, the three players were banned for a minimum of five years each by the International Cricket Council. At a subsequent separate court hearing in London, they were all given prison sentences. Aamer’s ICC ban is set to expire in August and he could return to international cricket soon afterwards. The case made headlines around the world, appearing to shed light on the contentious issue of illegal and unregulated betting markets in Asia and the Far East. However, there were those who regarded the jail terms as severe given it appeared no actual bet had been placed. Betting expert Ed Hawkins, the author of ‘Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket’s Underworld’, was among those to say no Asian syndicate would ever accept a wager on when a specific noball would be bowled because it was too easy to manipulate the outcome. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced this week there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” in the footballers’ case following the collapse of pop singer Tulisa Contostavlos’s trial. She was cleared of helping arrange a cocaine deal in July last year after a newspaper sting led by Mahmood, famed for going undercover in traditional Arab dress, hence his ‘Fake Sheikh’ nickname. Judge Alistair McCreath said there were “strong grounds” to believe Mahmood, a reporter with The Sun On Sunday tabloid, had lied in the witness box. Last month, the CPS said it was re-examining criminal convictions in 25 cases where evidence was given by Mahmood after several trials were halted. Mahmood was suspended by the Sun on Sunday, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK British newspaper arm, in July after the collapse of Contostavlos’s trial. He had previously worked for Murdoch’s News of the World before it was shut down as a result of the phone hacking scandal. OPINION India have strong chance to defend WC: Fletcher IANS Sydney I ndian cricket coach Duncan Fletcher (pictured) yesterday said his team’s belief in defending the World Cup title stems from the way it has performed in overseas conditions over the past couple of years. Fletcher, who will be coaching a team in the World Cup for the third time, said the 2013 Champions Trophy victory is a testament to the fact that the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side is used to winning and has a strong chance to retain the title. “We have a good chance to win after the way the team has been building over the last three-four years. A big reason for my belief is our Champions Trophy (2013) victory in England,” the 66-year-old was quoted as saying by bcci.tv. “We played in every foreign conditions that didn’t suit the side and yet we played so well that we didn’t lose a single match. That shows that the side is used to winning and that’s really exciting.” to injury before the 1992 World Cup ... this shouldn’t be a problem. I will give credit to Ajmal, he always says teams don’t win because of individuals, teams win if we play as a united team. “We will feel his absence but the new players have to play their role and if we play as a unit I am hopeful we can deliver.” Pakistan will also hope spinning all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez clears a bowling action test later this month after he too was suspended in November last year for illegal action. “Unfortunately you all know what happened to Ajmal and Hafeez, we got stuck. So when you don’t have a thing which you require, then you have to rely on other things. I think whatever resources we have, we have to trust and believe in them.” Pakistan have little-known leg-spinner Yasir Shah in their 15-man squad, termed a “surprise package” by chief selector Moin Khan. “If you look back, leg-spinners have been very successful in Australia,” said Ahmed. “I have my personal experience; I have toured ﬁve to six times (in) Australia and have a very successful ratio bowling over there. “The way Shah and Shahid Afridi have been bowling, I think they will make a difference for Pakistan paceman Junaid survives injury scare Pakistan’s frontline paceman Junaid Khan yesterday had an injury scare barely a month before the start of the World Cup, with a thigh injury threatening his participation in the mega event. The 25-year-old fell while bowling during the team’s training camp on Thursday, but an MRI scan revealed there was no muscle tear and Khan should recover in a week. The left-arm paceman was only selected in Pakistan’s 15-man squad after recovering from a knee injury sustained during Pakistan’s one-day series against Australia in October last year. He was out of action for three months before returning to action in a domestic one-day tournament earlier this month. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said Junaid’s latest injury was not serious. “Junaid Khan was presented to us with pain in his right thigh and left elbow after he had a fall while bowling in the nets Thursday. Pain in the right thigh was non-radiating. There was no discoloration or change in the temperature in the said area,” said PCB doctor Sohail Saleem, quoted in a PCB release. TRI-SERIES Warner counters Morgan ton to lead Aussies to big win ‘I was happy with my performance to start like this as captain but devastated at the result’ also adjudged lbw for a duck two balls later. Morgan arrived after Joe Root was caught by Shane Watson from the bowling of Pat Cummins for just ﬁve. The captain was eventually the ninth man to fall, in the push for late runs, holing out to Glenn Maxwell at deep mid-wicket from the bowling of Starc in the 48th over. The England innings was wrapped up one ball later, when Steven Finn was clean bowled by a Starc yorker. Starc ﬁnished the innings with 4-42 from 8.5 overs and claimed man-of-the-match honours. AFP Sydney A ustralian opener David Warner led his team to an emphatic threewicket win over England in the opening one-day international of the triangular series at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday. The powerful left-hander’s commanding century cancelled out a long overdue ton by new England skipper Eoin Morgan to help the Australians earn a bonus point for reaching the target inside 40 overs. Morgan’s lone hand of 121 off 136 balls with 11 fours and three sixes enabled England to recover from a disastrous start to make 234 in 47.5 overs. Warner then made 127, breaking his own drought with his ﬁrst one-day international ton since back-to-back hundreds against Sri Lanka in 2012, as Australia cruised to the victory target with 61 balls to spare, ﬁnishing on 235 for seven from 39.5 overs. Warner faced 115 balls, hitting 18 fours, and fell when just eight runs were needed to win and Australia was chasing the bonus point. He was delighted to become the ﬁrst Australian to score a limited overs century against England at the SCG, his home ground. “It was good to score a hundred, it was a big one (getting the record), here at the SCG,” Warner said. “Importantly, we won the game and we got a bonus point.” England have now won just three of their last 14 one-day internationals as they head towards next month’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Scoreboard David Warner of Australia celebrates after playing a shot to bring up his century during the Tri-Series One Day International against England at the Sydney Cricket Ground, in Sydney, Australia, yesterday. Morgan took little solace from his own performance after the loss. “Ultimately the early wickets cost us,” Morgan said. “I was happy with my performance to start like this as captain but devastated at the result.” In the ﬁrst match of the triangular series, which also features India, Morgan won the toss in his debut as skipper since replacing Alastair Cook and elected to bat. Sangakkara signs for Surrey Asked to pick one quality that gives this team an edge over the others, the Zimbabwean pointed out: “One-day cricket is all about handling extreme pressure when the side is down; understanding where the game is poised at that stage and ﬁnding your way out of that situation to end up on the winning side. Our excellent record when chasing totals shows that.” “Most other sides can’t do it because under such pressure, you lose your cool. Because Dhoni is so adept at soaking in the pressure, we have done well in those situations. It is important to be calm and take the game all the way and win with maybe three balls to spare. People might say, ‘Oh, they barely got home’, but getting home is the most important thing.” Pakistan as we do get bounce on the wickets of Australia and when a leg-spinner gets bounce, he becomes a wicket-taking option.” Ahmed said the team management, especially head coach Waqar, had full conﬁdence in the abilities of the players. “We don’t have the ball in our hand, but we have lot of belief. If we believe that we can win, then our belief will be shifted onto the players,” he added. Pakistan will ﬂy to New Zealand on January 21 where they play two one-day internationals before they start their World Cup campaign with a match against arch-rivals India in Adelaide on February 15. Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara is to join Surrey, the English county announced yesterday. Sangakkara is currently ranked as the world’s number one Test batsman and is one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the five-day game with 12,203 runs to his credit. The 37-year-old left-hander is set to rejoin former Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford, now in charge of Surrey. Sangakkara has signed a two-year contract and should be available for most of the 2015 English season after announcing his intention to retire from one-day internationals following the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand which starts next month, although he could yet extend his Test career later this year. “We’re delighted that Kumar has agreed to join us,” Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart said Friday. “He is the number one Test batsman in the world but it’s the special character that he has which is as important to us,” the former England captain explained. “He is a five-star player and five-star person and that is important because he will be working with our young homegrown players as they become serious cricketers at this level.” Stewart added: “He has worked a lot with our coach Graham Ford, when he was in charge of Sri Lanka, and we are both very happy to reach this stage.” His sixth one-day century for England helped the tourists put on a defendable total before being dismissed in 47.5 overs. Morgan was the only England batsman to score over 30. The century ended a dry run for Morgan, as it was his ﬁrst century in his past 20 one-day innings, which had included just one prior half-century. He brought up his ton by lofting James Faulkner (3-47) over cover from the 127th ball he faced, having hit nine fours and two sixes. Morgan had to save the innings after a top-order collapse and strode to the wicket with his side in strife at 12 for three. The home side struck with the very ﬁrst ball, with Ian Bell trapped lbw by left-armer Mitchell Starc for a duck. Worse was to come for England when Bell’s replacement at the crease, James Taylor, was England I.Bell lbw Starc .............................................................................0 M. Ali c Maxwell b Faulkner ......................................22 J. Taylor lbw Starc ...................................................................0 J. Root c Watson b Cummins .....................................5 E. Morgan c Maxwell b Starc .................................121 R. Bopara c Maxwell b Doherty ............................13 J. Buttler c Warner b Faulkner ..............................28 C. Woakes c Smith b Maxwell ...................................8 C. Jordan c Maxwell b Faulkner ...........................17 S. Broad not out ........................................................................0 S. Finn b Starc .............................................................................0 Extras (b2, lb3, w14, nb1) ...........................................20 Total (all out, 47.5 overs) .........................................234 Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Bell), 2-0 (Taylor), 3-12 (Root), 4-33 (Ali), 5-69 (Bopara), 6-136 (Buttler), 7-168 (Woakes), 8-224 (Jordan), 9-234 (Morgan), 10-234 (Finn). Bowling: Starc 8.5-0-42-4, Cummins 9-142-1, Watson 4-0-23-0, Faulkner 10-1-47-3, Maxwell 6-0-37-1, Doherty 10-0-38-1 Australia D. Warner c Bell b Woakes .......................................127 A. Finch b Woakes ................................................................15 S. Watson c Woakes b Jordan ................................16 S. Smith b Ali ...............................................................................37 G. Bailey c Buttler b Woakes ....................................10 G. Maxwell c Buttler b Woakes ...............................0 B. Haddin run out (Bopara) ........................................16 J. Faulkner not out ..................................................................6 M. Starc not out ........................................................................0 Extras: (lb7, w1) ........................................................................8 Total: (7 wickets; 39.5 overs) .............................235 Fall of wickets: 1-33 (Finch), 2-71 (Watson), 3-158 (Smith), 4-199 (Bailey), 5-200 (Maxwell), 6-227 (Warner), 7-233 (Haddin). Bowling: Woakes 8-1-40-4, Finn 8-1-48-0, Broad 6.5-0-49-0, Jordan 6-0-33-1, Ali 9-045-1 (1w), Bopara 2-0-13-0. BOTTOM LINE Sammy avoiding controversy over Bravo, Pollard omission IANS Durban, SouthAfrica W est Indies Twenty20 captain Darren Sammy has said he would not be drawn into the controversy surrounding the omission of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard from the regional squad for next month’s ICC Cricket World Cup to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand. The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and its selection panel headed by Clive Lloyd have come under ﬁre from many quarters for excluding the two all-rounders from Trinidad and Tobago, reports CMC. Sammy has declined to comment on the speciﬁc issue only to say that Bravo and Pollard will bounce back. “I know with all the controversy guys will bounce back that’s just cricket,” said Sammy. “I won’t be drawn into all whats going on cause that has never been me..so we are just looking to move on in the oneday series.” Among those who have blasted the omission of Bravo and Pollard was ﬂamboyant opener Chris Gayle who described the decisions as “ridiculous” and said it smacked of victimisation. The Prime Minister of St.Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Golzalves has also accused the WICB of victimization despite public statements from the board’s president Dave Cameron and Lloyd denying those claims and arguing that the World Cup squad was selected on merit. “It’s a situation that you don’t really want to deal with in cricket but for me I have always stayed away from controversy and stuff like that,” said Sammy after the West Indies won the T20 series against South African 2-1. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 5 GOLF SPOTLIGHT FLAWLESS McIlroy hits first pro hole-in-one to close on Kaymer ‘It definitely made up for the two previous holes. The 12th hole was playing sort of similar, I hit a nine iron there and pitched 194 so I knew it was a pretty good number’ Kaymer tightens his grip in Abu Dhabi Reuters Abu Dhabi M artin Kaymer tightened his grip on the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship yesterday, shooting a secondround 67 to move to 13 under par following a ﬂawless morning in the desert. The German, who rattled in 10 birdies for an opening 64, is a three-times winner of the tournament and holds the record lowest score, a devastating 24 under in 2011. “I’ll give it my best to get into the 20s (under par),” Kaymer, 30, told reporters. “I can’t even remember how I played in 2011 - I know I didn’t miss many fairways and once you do that you have chances.” Starting one stroke clear of Belgium’s Thomas Pieters on eight under, the world number 12 picked up shots at his third, fourth and ninth holes. Kaymer chipped in from the bunker at the next to reach 12 under, but then found sure-ﬁre birdie chances difficult to create, missing from 15 feet or more on the next six holes. The two-times major winner sunk an eight-foot putt on his 17th for a ﬁfth birdie and did not drop a shot all day. “I made 80-85 percent of the realistic birdie chances,” said Kaymer. “It’s only halftime. There are always some guys who can shoot the same score I did in the ﬁrst two days, so I approach tomorrow the way I approached this morning: very neutral. It’s nice to have a bit of a cushion, hopefully, but nothing has been done yet.” Kaymer was most recently in the world’s top 10 in 2012 and last May was outside the world top 60 before winning the US Open by eight strokes to end a three-year title drought on the European Tour. That experience of leading from the front could be decisive in Abu Dhabi. Martin Kaymer of Germany holds the ball before playing a shot during the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. “At the US Open I really played my own game, I didn’t compare myself to the other players, I was trying to see how low I could play and I stayed aggressive,” Kaymer said. “You’re playing well, so you need to continue and not play more defensive.” Most golfers ﬁnd the National course easier in the morning, because swirling winds kick up in the afternoon and the temperature also soars, but Kaymer said early starts were also hazardous. “Once you miss the fairway, you’re in that thick, wet grass and it’s almost impossible to get home in two on the par fours,” he added. World number one Rory McIlroy picked up three shots in his opening 11 holes to move to eight under par, ﬁve behind Kaymer. GETTING BETTER Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 12th hole during the Abu Dhabi Golf championship yesterday. Reuters Abu Dhabi R ory McIlroy sunk his ﬁrst professional hole-in-one in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship second round yesterday as the four-times major winner mounted another late surge to close within two strokes of leader Martyn Kaymer. The German, teeing off early, shot a ﬂawless 67 for an aggregate 13-under score of 131, piling the pressure on McIlroy who arrived on the ﬁrst tee under a blistering midday sun. The Northern Irishman, starting on ﬁve under, seemed unperturbed, making birdies on the ﬁrst two holes, but the 25-year-old bogeyed the sixth to slip seven strokes behind Kaymer. McIlroy sunk further birdies at 10 and 11 before missing simple putts to pick up further shots on the next two holes. The world number one’s luck was to turn on the par-three 15th, however, as he lofted a nine-iron tee shot 177 yards into the hole. “It deﬁnitely made up for the two previous holes,” McIlroy told reporters. “It was straight downwind. The 12th hole was playing sort of similar, I hit a nine iron there and pitched 194 so I knew it was a pretty good number. “I had been playing well, but had not been putting so good, so that took the putter out of it.” McIlroy ﬂuffed a 12-foot birdie chance on 16 by inches, holding his face in frustration. He found sand on his ﬁnal two tee shots, but recovered to sink a 15-foot birdie on the last green, knocking ﬁsts with longtime caddie JP Fitzgerald in celebration, his 66 giving him an aggregate score of 133. The late surge was similar to his ﬁrstround 67 when he made ﬁve birdies in the ﬁnal seven holes. “I went to the range yesterday and worked on a couple of things and I drove the ball much better today, which you need to around here,” McIlroy said. “I played really well from tee to green. Scores 131 - Martin Kaymer (GER) 64-67 132 - Thomas Pieters (BEL) 65-67 “Martin has got a phenomenal record around here and I couldn’t think of a better way to start the season than to test yourself against one of the best players in the world,” added McIlroy 133 - Rory McIlroy (NIR) 67-66 135 - Peter Uihlein (USA) 67-68, James Morrison (ENG) 68-67 136 - Richard Green (AUS) 68-68, Alexander Levy (FRA) 66-70 137 - Gary Stal (FRA) 68-69, Morten Madsen (DEN) 68-69, Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 66-71, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 72-65 138 - Robert Karlsson (SWE) 67-71, Eddie Pepperell (ENG) 70-68, Soren Hansen (DEN) 69-69, Michaël LorenzoVera (FRA) 69-69 I was hitting some good putts that just weren’t dropping.” He is two shots adrift of Kaymer, a three-times Abu Dhabi winner, and one shy of Belgian Thomas Pieters. “Martin has got a phenomenal record around here and I couldn’t think of a better way to start the season than to test yourself against one of the best players in the world,” added McIlroy. World number two Henrik Stenson suffered the ignominy of missing the cut, a second-round 68 lifting him to par for the tournament following a disastrous ﬁrst day. “There was a lot that needed to work out there today to try and make it,” Stenson told reporters. “I hit the ball much better, made a couple of putts, my short game was a little sharper than yesterday.” Rose looking for improvement after slow start to year Justin Rose plays a shot during the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Reuters Abu Dhabi PGA TOUR / SONY OPEN Casey, Simpson share the lead AFP Honolulu P aul Casey, who was competing in Honolulu for the ﬁrst time in 10 years, ﬁred a 62 to grab a share of the lead at the PGA Tour’s Sony Open on Thursday. England’s Casey is the coleader along with Webb Simpson as they shot matching eight-under 62s in the ﬁrst round at the Waialae Country Club course. Casey is a 13-time winner on the European Tour, but his sole win on the PGA Tour came at the 2009 Houston Open. “I don’t know what to say. I mean, I’m ecstatic,” Casey said. “First, I’m loving being in Hawaii. I have not been here for a long time. The last time I was here was 2010 when I played in Maui, and it’s just, it’s great to be back.” Former US Open champion Simpson is a four-time winner on the US tour, with the last one coming at the 2014 Shriners Paul Casey of England lines up a putt on the fourth green during the first round of the Sony Open In Hawaii at Waialae Country Club. Hospitals for Children Open. Robert Streb continues to play well this season as he is tied for third with Camilo Villegas after the duo began the event with seven-under 63s. Streb won the McGladrey Classic in October. Rory Sabbatini carded a sixunder 64 and he is alone in ﬁfth. Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, John Peterson, Tim Clark, J.J. Henry and Jonathan Randolph are all tied for sixth at ﬁve-under 65. Casey began on the back nine. He started off with a birdie on 10 before making three consecutive pars from No. 11. On the 14th hole, Casey rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt to get to two-under for the round. Casey got on a roll when he made ﬁve straight birdies from No. 17, putting him at seven under. After his lone bogey on No. 6, Casey made two more pars before closing things out with his ninth birdie on the ninth, giving him the clubhouse lead. “I had no idea what to expect today, so I’m over the moon with that,” Casey said. After having used the belly putter for more than a decade, American Simpson switched to the short putter for the ﬁrst time in his PGA Tour career. It didn’t seem to bother him. “Today was a big day for me,” said Simpson. “It was one of my best putting rounds I’ve ever had to be honest. Scores First-round scores in the $1 million USPGA Sony Open (par-70): 62 - Paul Casey (ENG), Webb Simpson 63 - Camilo Villegas (COL), Robert Streb 64 - Rory Sabbatini (RSA) 65 - J.J. Henry, Matt Kuchar, Tim Clark (RSA), Jason Day (AUS), Jonathan Randolph, John Peterson 66 - Brian Davis (ENG), Kevin Na, Jimmy Walker, Brian Harman, Michael Putnam, Chris Kirk, Daniel Summerhays, Troy Merritt, Russell Knox (SCO), Harris English, Blayne Barber “I made a lot of putts. I didn’t hit it great on the back nine, my ﬁrst nine holes, but then I started driving it well. If you drive it well around this golf course, you’re going to give yourself opportunities.” Defending champion Jimmy Walker had a strong ﬁrst round and his four-under 66 has him tied 12th in a group of 11 players. J ustin Rose declared himself happy with his short game after shooting a three-under par 69 in the second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship yesterday, but said he had much to work on following a sluggish start to the year. World number six Rose, the third-highest ranked player appearing at the event in the UAE capital, is in danger of missing the cut after a ﬁrst-round 73. The Englishman is two-under for the tournament and could only look on as playing partner Martin Kaymer sizzled with scores of 64 and 67 to be clubhouse leader. “I didn’t play well at all, in fact I played awfully, but you get yourself into situations where sometimes you have to work hard to make a cut,” Rose told Reuters. “Hopefully, it gives me two more days to work on my game and get some momentum going as I start the season. “I’ve certainly got a lot of work to do. I was happy with my short game coming in, under pressure, grinding to make pars when I needed to, so that’s a good sign.” Rose began yesterday with an opening hole birdie, bogeyed his ﬁfth and then picked up shots at his seventh and ninth. He created “I’m not concerned about my long game, it’s the strength of my game normally, so hopefully that should click back into gear. I was proud of the way I battled away today” few chances thereafter until lofting his tee-shot on his par-three 16th to within two feet of the pin. He made no mistake from that distance and then sunk an eightfoot par putt on the ﬁnal green. “To make the ﬁrst pressure putt of the year—there are some positives,” said the 2013 US Open champion. “I’m not concerned about my long game, it’s the strength of my game normally, so hopefully that should click back into gear. I was proud of the way I battled away today.” Rose ﬁnished joint-second in his only previous Abu Dhabi appearance, in 2013, but said he was not frustrated he has so far failed to reproduce that form. He will play next week’s Qatar Masters. “I was looking at both of these weeks as my pre-season,” South Africa-born Rose said. “There’s a good ﬁeld here, you want to contend, but I was very aware I was going to have to see how my game went. “I still feel capable of a couple of mid-60s around here if I get going but whatever happens I’ll take positives out of this week that I’ll be able to build upon.” 6 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 SPORT SPOTLIGHT FOCUS First German fighter in UFC main event plays quiet underdog role Irishman Conor McGregor is heavily favoured over Dennis Siver, the first German in an Ultimate Fighting Championship main event, and vows to deliver a knockout within two minutes today Stiverne, ‘I ain’t a cab driver’ AFP Las Vegas B File picture of Conor McGregor entering the octagon ready for a featherweight fight against Dustin Poirier at MGM Grand Garden Arena. (below) Dennis Siver, the first German in the main event of an UFC card. DPA Washington/Boston M artial arts ﬁghter Dennis Siver is the ﬁrst German in the main event of an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) card, but ﬁnds himself in the shadow of a brash Irish opponent who vows to deliver a knockout within two minutes. Some sports bookies list Conor McGregor as a 10-to-1 favourite for tomorrow’s UFC Fight Night in Boston. The promotion of the match has been similarly one-sided, with a 30-second television spot from the UFC - the domination promotion in mixed martial arts (MMA) - showing Siver for barely one second, while McGregor compares himself to ancient Irish warriors and vows to “obliterate” the featherweight division. A victory over the Siver, who stands 10th in the UFC’s contender rankings, is expected to bring McGregor a title shot against Brazilian champion Jose Aldo, who has ruled the 145-pound (65-kilogram) since 2009, already dispatching nine challengers. McGregor has talked openly of UFC plans to hold the title ﬁght in a football stadium in Ireland, where he has galvanised interest in the fast-growing combat sport. Google data shows McGregor, 26, was the most-searched sportsperson of 2014 in his home country. With a record of 11-2 in his seven-year career, McGregor is 4-0 with three ﬁrstround technical knockouts since joining the UFC in 2013. Siberia-born Siver has lived and trained in Mannheim, Germany, since moving with his ethnic-German family from Omsk, Russia, at age 17. He is indifferent to being perceived as a sacriﬁcial lamb for the ﬁfth-ranked McGregor, whom Siver calls “inferior everywhere” to him in MMA’s key aspects: striking, positional wrestling and submissions. “This ﬁght will bring us a little more attention,” Siver told dpa. “Particularly when I win, I do think it will advance our entire MMA scene here in Germany a little bit. ... Unfortunately, it won’t be on television in Germany.” UFC ﬁghts were shown on German cable television from 2009-10, until the Bavarian state authority for new media ruled that the sport was too brutal, citing MMA rules that allow punches to continue on the ground. After a long legal ﬁght, news came last week that a German appeals court had overturned the ban. There was no immediate indication that a broadcast partner would be found in time for the Siver-McGregor bout to be seen in Germany, except through the UFC’s website. Incorporating martial arts from around the world, modern MMA is a free-ﬂowing blend of boxing and kick boxing with Olympic and folk wrestling, judo and Brazilian jiujitsu chokes and joint locks. Siver, 35, took his ﬁrst pro MMA ﬁght in 2004, forging a career record of 22-9 with one no contest. In 2007 he became the ﬁrst German in the UFC, where he has built mark of 11-6 with one no contest. Fellow German featherweight Alan Omer has trained with Siver, and was once booked in 2010 to ﬁght McGregor in a smaller European promotion, though the match fell through. He called McGregor an “overrated” ﬁghter who has used “psychological warfare” to anger or intimidate opponents. “With Dennis I think that will be different, because Dennis is ice cold, a dog,” Omer said. Still, he gives McGregor credit for advancing MMA in Ireland - a country with deep combat sport traditions - to a level that the Stuttgart-based Omer thinks is unlikely in Germany. “In Germany, most people are paciﬁsts and reject violence, which naturally makes it harder for a ﬁghter to make such a meteoric rise,” said Omer, an Iraqi-born Kurd. Compared to his Irish opponent, the unﬂappable Siver is soft-spoken and reserved, with a business-like approach to the ﬁght game - the “antiMcGregor,” Omer said. Potsdam-based Tim Leidecker, a ﬁxture on the European MMA circuit who manages a large stable of German, Polish and Scandinavian ﬁghters including several in the UFC, contrasted McGregor’s “X-factor” with Siver’s steady, reliable work ethic. “Dennis is truly an incredibly consistent performer, someone who is almost robot-like in delivering in the cage,” Leidecker said. “You can really set your watch by it. That guy will bring it.” ermane Stiverne (above) says the defence of his World Boxing Council heavyweight title against undefeated Deontay Wilder will show the boxing world he is serious about winning championship belts. “I ain’t a cab driver. I ain’t a one hit wonder,” Canada’s Stiverne said at a news conference Thursday ahead of their 12-round world title ﬁght today at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. “This is the real deal. This belt here ain’t going nowhere. It’s staying right here in this green hotel.” The 36-year-old Stiverne, who was born in Haiti but grew up in Montreal, traded verbal jabs with the unbeaten Wilder at the David Copperﬁeld Theater inside the hotel’s main casino. “You better shut up. The champ is talking. You had your time. I’m gonna whoop you boy,” said Stiverne who is 24-1-1 with 21 knockouts. Challenger Wilder described Stiverne as “a tourist” with the belt. “Everyone has been talking for you, but they can’t ﬁght for you. You don’t understand what is coming,” Wilder, an American, said. “This is my time. This is my purpose. I have never been so ready to whoop a man in my life. This is real. I don’t play. “I ain’t scared to talk. I’m going to back it up. I’m ready. Watch me pass my test. I promise you I will do it.” The hard-punching Stiverne won the vacant title with a sixth-round technical knockout of Chris Arreola on May 10, seizing the belt vacated by Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko when he stepped away from the ring in December of 2013. Stiverne knocked Arreola down twice in the sixth before the referee stopped the contest in the ﬁrst heavyweight world title ﬁght on US soil since 2009. Twenty-one of Stiverne’s 24 victories have come inside the distance. Wilder, seven years Stiverne’s junior, is unbeaten in 32 ﬁghts, all won by knockout or technical knockout. With a win he can become the ﬁrst American-born ﬁghter to win a heavyweight world title since Shannon Briggs brieﬂy held the lightly regarded World Boxing Organization title in November 2006. Wilder said he is going to surprise the champion. “I need to let this beast inside of me out. I am so ready for this ﬁght,” Wilder said. “He has never faced someone with my athletic skills. My athleticism alone is going to hurt him.” Dominant Oryx team win division championship The Oryx (A team) (pictured above) won all of their games making them their division champions yesterday. They only conceded one try all day! The Trojans (B team) had their best tournament of the year - winning one game, tying one and losing the other two. Action from the women’s rugby match between Dubai Wasps and Tigers which was held yesterday at the Doha Rugby FC grounds. PICTURE: Jayaram Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 7 SPORT DAKAR RALLY QMMF Terranova wins stage 12, al-Attiyah poised for victory Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah, in a Mini, is almost certain of victory in the final stage today as he holds a lead of almost 36 minutes on South African Giniel de Villiers in a Toyota West and Holroyd fastest in qualifying Antony West in action during the qualifying session yesterday. By Sports Reporter Doha I n the Qualifying session of the Qatar Superbike round 4 held at Losail International Circuit, Anthony West made the best lap time, 2:01.283. “I am happy with the result of the qualifying today, and lap time was better than last time I was here month ago. Not too much stress but I know Alex today was pushing hard and he is going fast and I am sure he will not let it be easy for me but I will try to win two races,” West said. The second best lap time was for the defendant champion, Alex Cudlin, with a time of 2:01.664. Cudlin had a problem last round with the engine and he didn’t had a good result, losing the leader of the championship for Mishal. “I think it will be a big ﬁght with Anthony. The main thing is I am ahead of Mishal, who is ahead of me in the championship and I need to beat him every time I can and if I can beat Anthony this is a bonus,” Cudlin told after the qualifying session. The leader of the championship, Mishal al-Naimi, got the third best time, 2:02.658 and he will try to make good races tomorrow to keep the ﬁrst position in the standings. “I am happy and conﬁdent with my bike. I will try tomorrow to get a good result and win and hope I can make a good race to still lead the championship’ al-Nami said. The German rider Nina Prinz ended in the fourth position and the Spanish Moto2 rider Julian Simon ﬁnished in the ﬁfth place. Regarding the Supersport category, the fastest rider was the Saudi Abdulaziz Binladin and the Hungarian Victoria Kiss was the fastest rider in the LARSS category. Race 1 will be today at 13:00 and Race 2 at 15:50 In the Qatar Challenge third round of the season, the winner of last round, Mark Holroyd took the pole position today with a lap time of 2:28.398 and he will start in ﬁrst position tomorrow. “I don’t think I will be as quicker as today for tomorrow race, that was an absolutely perfect lap. I will be very defensive tomorrow, as a lot of the guys found a lot of speed in the track which is fantastic, and let’s see how it goes,” Holroyd said. The second place in the grid will be for the Qatari driver Abdullah al-Kharaan who made a lap time of 2:29.559. The Qatari driver was very happy with this result and he hopes tomorrow to make a good race and beat Mark. The leader of the championship, Peter De Vido, will start from the third place as he did a lap time of 2:29.674. Today the race is scheduled at 14:30. THEN AND NOW Mini driver Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar and co-driver Mathieu Baumel of France compete during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2015. (Below) KTM rider Marc Coma. AFP Rosario, Argentina A Standings - After Stage 12 rgentine Orlando Terranova claimed his fourth stage win at the Dakar Rally yesterday and the 11th for the dominant Mini team, as Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah closed in on a second overall title. Terranova, 35, ﬁnished ahead of another Mini driven by Russian Vladimir Vasilyev and the Duster Renault of fellow Argentine Emiliano Spataro. Al-Attiyah, winner in 2011, is almost certain of victory in the final stage today which finishes in Buenos Aires, as the 44-year-old Mini driver holds a lead of almost 36 minutes on South African Giniel de Villiers in a Toyota, which he extended by a further seven minutes yesterday. In the motorbikes, Australian Toby Price rode his KTM to a dominant stage victory as Spaniard Marc Coma moved closer to a ﬁfth title. Pos. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Car No 301 303 307 314 309 310 315 306 329 320 Name AL-ATTIYAH (QAT)/BAUMEL (FRA) DE VILLIERS (ZAF)/VON ZITZEWITZ (DEU) HOLOWCZYC (POL)/PANSERI (FRA) VAN LOON (NLD)/ROSEGAAR (NLD) LAVIEILLE (FRA)/MAIMON (FRA) VASILYEV (RUS)/ZHILTSOV (RUS) TEN BRINKE (NLD)/COLSOUL (BEL) SOUSA (PRT)/FIUZA (PRT) RAKHIMBAYEV (KAZ)/NIKOLAEV (RUS) CHABOT (FRA)/PILLOT (FRA) Coma played it safe over the 298km special between Termas de Rio Hondo and Rosario to ﬁnish sixth at 6min 25sec behind Price who had lead from start to ﬁnish. Spaniard Joan Barreda Bort ﬁnished second at 1min 55sec with fellow Honda rider Paulo Goncalves of Portugal third at 3min 02sec. Goncalves, second in the overall stand- Manufacturer MINI TOYOTA MINI MINI TOYOTA MINI TOYOTA MITSUBISHI MINI SMG Terry Fullerton (right) during his karting days Time 39:31:53 -00:33:06 -01:31:47 -02:55:42 -03:06:00 -03:11:56 -03:42:02 -03:44:14 -04:06:31 -04:37:22 ings, only took back 3min 23sec on Coma, with the Spaniard holding a comfortable 18-minute advantage going into Saturday’s ﬁnal stage to Buenos-Aires. Price consolidated his overall third place, taking more than ten minutes on Chilean rival Pablo Quintanilla, who ﬁnished eighth. One more day of rallying and then all of these brave individuals can call it a day. Reuters London A BOTTOMLINE Don’t rush to F1: Hamilton’s dad Reuters London E very young racer wants to be the next Lewis Hamilton but most are in too much of a hurry to give themselves the best chance of success. That is the considered view of Hamilton’s father Anthony, who by his own admission did not know what he was getting into when the future double Formula One world champion was starting out but now has a pretty clear idea of what it takes. “Part of the reason why I very rarely get involved with young drivers and their parents these days is because nobody wants to do what we did,” the Briton told Reuters in an interview. “Nobody wants to hang around. They all want instant gratiﬁcation.” The trend in Formula One has been for ever younger entrants, with Red Bull’s Toro Rosso team hiring Dutch racer Max Verstap- Senna’s old rival is still a karting king File picture of British F1 driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG GP. pen last year when he was still only 16 and in his ﬁrst season in single-seaters. Verstappen will make his race debut in Australia in March as a 17-year-old, and the youngest ever driver, but the governing FIA has now changed its superlicence rules to ensure 18 is the minimum age in future. Anthony Hamilton agreed with that move and urged youngsters to take their time. “If you look at the motor racing scene nowadays, people are doing less than a year in a category and then think ‘I’ve had enough of this one so now I’m going to jump two or three because I can afford it’,” he said. “And the next thing you know they are sitting in a Formula One car. Or expect to be sitting in one. Well, look, the educational process hasn’t changed. “I think there’s a lot of talent out there. The trouble is, the talent doesn’t want to wait. They all want it now.” While Lewis was signed to the McLaren Mercedes driver development programme before he had graduated from go-karts, the emphasis was on getting as much experience as possible rather than being rushed through the junior series. He did two years in Formula Renault, and the same in Formula Three before a dominant season in GP2 that led to a sensational McLaren debut in 2007. “By the time (Lewis) arrived in Formula One, he’d got so much experience and appreciation,” said his father. “But he could not have done it without karting. He could not have done it without taking his time and going through the educational process.” For Hamilton senior, the key to success is about knowing who you are and what you stand for, and not being distracted by those rivals who might appear to be moving up the ladder faster. He recognised that there was a time when he too had unrealistic expectations, and was impatient, but McLaren taught him the important lesson that sometimes there was more to be gained by waiting. “What I try to say to parents is that you’ve got to just believe. Stay the course and just believe.” “If you believe your kid is going to make it then just stay with it. But they just can’t keep their mind off the fact that Johnny next door who was in karts with them, and who they beat two years running, is now driving cars and is two years in front of them. “I say forget that nonsense, don’t worry about it,” he added. “He might be driving cars but he’s not getting the micro-skills and experience he needs...stay in karts as long as you possibly can.” yrton Senna was once so annoyed at being beaten by Terry Fullerton in a go-kart race that he angrily pushed him into a hotel swimming pool. But beating the Brazilian was all part of the job for the boy racer who had a dream and grew up to make it happen. When Senna was asked in 1993, the year before the triple Formula One world champion died at Imola, which driver he had most enjoyed racing against, he reﬂected for a moment before replying. “I would have to go back to ’78, ’79 and 1980, when I was go-kart driving and was teammate to Fullerton,” he said. “He was very experienced and I enjoyed very much that driving with him because he was fast, he was consistent, he was for me a very complete driver. “And it was pure driving, pure racing. There wasn’t any politics then, right? And no money involved either. So it was real racing and I have that as a very good memory.” The fact he singled out Fullerton, rather than former McLaren teammate Alain Prost or any other F1 rival, was telling. Karting was a passion for Senna and Fullerton was the man who set the standard and, as often as not, won. “It opened up the public to the fact that Senna had a life before F1,” the 63-yearold Briton. “And also the fact that he wasn’t always considered the best driver in the world. Because when he was in karting he wasn’t. At the time it was probably me. If you’d done a poll at that time, he’d have probably made ﬁfth or sixth.” Fullerton, who became Britain’s ﬁrst karting world champion in 1973 and remains a renowned ﬁgure in the sport, recognised, however, that times have changed. The ﬁrst steps on the motorsport ladder are now far more expensive than in those carefree days and few see karting as anything more than a temporary stage. “My dad was a schoolteacher, a maths teacher, and we did it on his wage,” said the Briton. “On a doctor’s or a teacher’s wage, you could afford to go proper karting in those days. It would take all your disposable income, but you could do it.” “There’s been a big shift away from doing it as an individual and for fun and into doing it with a team and more seriously with all the data and stuff,” Fullerton said. “The kids even at nine or 10 are into their data and apex speed. “And there’s more desperate dads. There used to be rich kids before, and there are still rich kids now, but there’s more desperate people.” Fullerton was never one of them, preferring to become a karting pro than chase fame and fortune. “When I got to 19 or 20, I became a professional karter. So my dream came true. I loved it. I didn’t connect it with motor racing at all. In fact, I didn’t really like motor racing. I didn’t use to watch F1, I just loved karting.” 8 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 SPORT NFL Streaking Seahawks chase Super Bowl return AFP Seattle S eattle quarterback Russell Wilson promises “one for the ages” when the Super Bowl champion Seahawks take on the Green Bay Packers tomorrow for a place in this season’s NFL championship showcase. The Seahawks and Packers will duel for the National Football Conference crown, while in the American Conference, superstar quarterback Tom Brady leads the New England Patriots against the Indianapolis Colts, whose quarterback Andrew Luck is trying to build a playoff legacy SPOTLIGHT Colts’ McNary placed on NFL’s exempt list to match his dazzling talent. In Seattle, the Packers will be up against a streaking Seahawks team who have won seven straight games. “It’s going to be one for the ages,” predicted Wilson, who connected on 15-of-22 passes for 268 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in Seattle’s 31-17 victory over Carolina in the second round of the playoffs. The third-year pro is an impressive 25-2 as a starter at the Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field, where the frenzied fans are an additional nightmare for visiting teams. The win over the Panthers made Seattle the ﬁrst reign- ing Super Bowl champs to win a playoff game the next season since the 2005 New England Patriots. That’s not enough for Wilson. “It’s exciting but the job’s not done,” said the 26-year-old signal-caller. “We’re on one mission. You just have to take it one game at a time. Our goal is to go 1-0.” Rodgers battles injury The immediate concern for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be not Wilson but Seattle’s formidable defence, which in the regular season led the league in average points allowed with a stingy 15.9. Against Carolina, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman notched his 25th career interception and safety Kam Chancellor turned a pick-off into a 90-yard touchdown return. “We’re going to have to be efﬁcient against them,” said Rodgers, who was clearly hobbled by a left calf injury in the Packers’ second-round victory over Dallas. “They’re a great defense, they’ve got Pro Bowlers all over the place and they’re wellcoached.” Rodgers and the Packers capped the 2010 season with a Super Bowl title. They, too, say their job this season isn’t over. “Our goal is to go a lot deeper than the NFC Championship Game,” said offensive guard T.J. Lang. “Going up to Seattle, it’s going to be a good matchup and we’re excited about it. It’s going to be a tough one, we understand that, but we’ll be ready for the challenge.” New England’s Brady has been meeting post-season challenges for more than a decade. Sunday’s showdown with Luck’s Colts will be Brady’s ninth AFC title game with the Patriots under coach Bill Belichick. He has won ﬁve of them, leading to three Super Bowl triumphs. “It’s great to have Tom and his ability and his poise and presence as our quarterback,” Belichick said of the 37-year-old superstar. “There’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady.” Challenge and opportunity The 25-year-old Luck, selected ﬁrst overall by the Colts in the 2012 draft, emerged for good from the shadow of former Colts QB Peyton Manning last weekend as he led Indianapolis past Manning’s current team, Denver, 24-13. Since Luck entered the league, the Patriots have beaten the Colts by an average 48-22 in three meetings, including a 4322 win in the second round of the playoffs last season. The Pats routed the Colts 4220 in a regular-season match-up in November. Luck threw for 265 yards and two touchdown passes against the Broncos. His 1,703 passing yards in the playoffs is the most by any player in his ﬁrst ﬁve post-season games. But now the young quarterback who has led the Colts to the post-season in each of his ﬁrst three seasons needs to prove he can take things further. Against Brady and the Patriots that won’t be easy. “The Patriots are a great, great team,” said Colts coach Chuck Pagano. “Hall of Fame coach. Hall of Fame quarterback. We all know how hard it is to win there. We know it will be a tall order but it’s going to be a great opportunity for our guys. We’ll continue to embrace this opportunity and prepare accordingly.” NBA Bucks hand Knicks 16th straight loss ‘The same things happen over and over again. We’re the only people who can control that’ Agencies New York Reuters Los Angeles J osh McNary, an Indianapolis Colts reserve linebacker charged with raping a 29-year-old woman in December, has been placed on the NFL’s commissioner exempt list, the league said on Thursday. Being on the list means McNary cannot play or practice with the team, which is in the NFL playoffs, until his legal issues are resolved. McNary, a second-year NFL player, pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday and was free after posting $25,000 bond. The linebacker was charged Wednesday in Marion County Superior Court with felony rape, criminal conﬁnement and battery. He is accused of attacking the woman in his Indianapolis apartment when she rejected his advances. “He scared me, intimidated me,” the woman told detectives. The Colts, who had asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to place McNary on the exempt list, play the New England Patriots in the American Football Conference championship tomorrow with the winner headed to the Super Bowl on Feb. 1. McNary’s lawyer, Edward Schrager, released a statement saying the player denies all the accusations. The charges and affidavit are not evidence of wrongdoing, but “simply one side’s story,” the statement said. “Joshua has full faith and conﬁdence in the American way, including its justice system.” McNary, 26, is primarily a special teams player for the Colts. He played in college at Army, becoming the school’s all-time sack leader, before serving two years of active duty in the military. He was signed by Indianapolis as a free agent in April 2013. “The Colts sincerely hope this extraordinarily serious matter will be resolved expeditiously and that justice will prevail,” the team said. Cases of domestic violence and sexual assault have rocked the National Football League in the past year and Goodell has responded by toughening sanctions against offenders. In the past year, several players have been placed on the exempt list, including 2012 NFL most valuable player Adrian Peterson, who was charged with spanking his 4-year-old son with a switch. Having McNary on the list “will permit the investigation provided by the league’s Personal Conduct Policy to run its course and will afford Josh the opportunity to focus on his defense against the charges,” the Colts said. T he desperate New York Knicks travelled across the pond looking to break their longest slide in history. Instead, they showed a London crowd how really bad they are on two continents. OJ Mayo scored 22 points and Brandon Knight added 20 as the Milwaukee Bucks extended the Knicks’ franchise-record losing streak to 16 Thursday, 95-79 at the sold-out O2 Arena. “We knew what we wanted to do and did a great job of sticking to it,” said Knight, who added ﬁve rebounds, six assists and a career-high six steals in the Bucks’ sixth win in the last eight games. Giannis Antetokounmpo netted 16 points and Khris Middleton had 14 for Milwaukee (21-19), who improved to 3-0 against New York this season. Knicks top scorer Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points after a six-game lay-off with a sore left knee, but it wasn’t enough as league-worst New York (536) fell behind early and played catch-up all night long. “It’s a recurring act,” Anthony said. “The same things happen over and over again. We’re the only people who can control that.” During his six-game time off, Anthony had time to observe his teammates. “I can’t pinpoint what’s wrong but it seems like the guys are not playing with conﬁdence,” he said. “We get down and it seems like everybody puts their heads down.” The Knicks missed their ﬁrst 10 shots to fall behind 14-0 and 31-13 after the ﬁrst quarter. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance after the ﬁrst few minutes of the game,” said Knicks rookie coach Derek Fisher, who Giannis Antetokounmpo from Milwaukee Bucks (second from right) competes for the ball against Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks (second from left) during an NBA game at the O2 Arena in London on Thursday. hasn’t tasted victory since December 12 at Boston. The Bucks opened up a 24-point second-quarter advantage en route to a 56-37 halftime cushion behind 16 from Mayo. Trailing 82-56 heading into the fourth quarter, and with Anthony done for the night, the Knicks reserves made a run to pull within 11 at the 4 minute 40 second mark. But the rally fizzled and New York fell for the 26th time in the last 27 games. At the midpoint mark of the 82-game schedule, the Knicks are on course to ﬁnish with a 1072 record, and could challenge the NBA’s worst mark of 9-73 posted by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers. “We have to get better,” Fisher said. “We have to work harder than we’re working.” Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets took down Oklahoma City 112-101 Thursday thanks to a quick start out of the gate and a near triple double from former Thunder star James Harden. Harden led a half dozen Houston players in double ﬁgure scoring with 31 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in front of a crowd of 18,300 at the Toyota Center arena. “We want to be a championship team,” Harden said. “We got it rolling tonight. “I had conﬁdence and trusted in my teammates to make the easy threes. We had a great bounce back game.” The Rockets had a four-game NBA winning streak come to an end with Wednesday’s 120-113 loss to the Orlando Magic. On Thursday, Trevor Ariza tallied 17 points and Donatas Motiejunas scored 14 for Houston. Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley and Josh Smith each scored 13 points in the win. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook, Dion Waiters and Reggie Jackson scored 16 points apiece in Oklahoma City’s third loss in four games. The Rockets jumped all over the Thunder from the opening buzzer as Harden stepped up his play against his former team. The Rockets also shot 16-of-36 from three-point range. Harden scored the ﬁrst seven points for the Rockets as part of a 23-2 run early in the ﬁrst. Oklahoma City scored the ﬁrst four points of the contest then fell silent until Waiters hit a ﬁeld goal to cut the Rockets commanding lead to 23-9. Harden scored 15 points in Houston’s highest-scoring quarter of the season as they led 40-18 at the end of the ﬁrst and then 64-53 at the half. The Rockets maintained a double-digit lead throughout the third and took an 88-75 lead into the fourth. Results Milwaukee 95 NY Knicks ................79 Houston 112 Oklahoma City..101 Cleveland 109 LA Lakers ............. 102 NHL Datsyuk scores late to lift Red Wings over Blues Agencies St Louis D Detroit Red Wings’ Kyle Quincey celebrates with teammates Gustav Nyquist , Danny DeKeyser and Joakim Andersson after defeating St. Louis Blues in overtime on Thursday in St. Louis. The Red Wings won 3-2. etroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg knew that going to a shootout against the St. Louis Blues would be a risky proposition. So he was overjoyed when Pavel Datsyuk scored at 4:57 of overtime to give the Red Wings a 3-2 win on Thursday. ‘’We didn’t want to go that far,’’ he said. ‘’It was nice to ﬁnish it off in overtime.’’ Detroit won for the fourth time in ﬁve games and completed a six-game road trip with a 4-2 mark. Petr Mrazek made 25 saves and improved to 3-0 in four career appearances against St. Louis. Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar scored in a 60-second span in the second period to give the Red Wings a 2-0 lead. David Backes and Alexander Steen tallied third-period goals for St. Louis, which had a ﬁvegame winning streak snapped. Steen scored with 48 seconds left in regulation to tie it 2-2. Detroit is 1-7 in shootouts. The Blues are 4-2. Zetterberg provided a perfect screen on the winning goal, parking himself in front of goalie Brian Elliott. Datsyuk’s drive deﬂected in off Elliott’s blocker. ‘’I heard the bench say ﬁve seconds, and I just shot as quick as possible,’’ Datsyuk said. It was the fourth winning tally of the season for Datsyuk and his 15th of the season. ‘’I didn’t see it,’’ Elliott said. ‘’It just snuck in there.’’ Elsewhere, the sizzling Boston Bruins won their ﬁfth game in a row when they dusted the New York Rangers 3-0. Tuukka Rask turned aside 30 shots for his second shutout of the season as the Rangers suffered their second straight loss after winning 13-of-14. The Minnesota Wild ended their season-worst six-game losing streak in emphatic fashion with a 7-0 blowout road win over the lowly Buffalo Sabres, who lost a franchise-record ninth in a row. Seven different goal scorers contributed for the Wild (19-195), who had lost 12 of their previous 14 games. Goalie Ryan Miller posted his 29th career shutout and the Vancouver Canucks beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 on the road to snap a three-game losing streak. The Flyers (17-21-7) were blanked for the second straight game. They rarely threatened to beat Miller, who did not face many tough shots in his fourth shutout this season. Center Mika Zibanejad scored after 69 seconds and the Ottawa Senators beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. Results Boston ..........................3 Minnesota ................7 Vancouver ...............4 Ottawa..........................4 Tampa Bay ..............3 Colorado ....................4 Detroit...........................3 Winnipeg ...................2 Calgary ........................4 San Jose .....................3 NY Rangers ...........0 Buffalo.........................0 Philadelphia ..........0 Montreal .....................1 Edmonton ...............2 Florida..........................2 St. Louis ......................2 Dallas .............................1 Arizona.........................1 Toronto ........................1 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 9 SPORT ATHLETICS Doping will be eliminated soon, says Russian chief TENNIS Kvitova wins all-Czech final over Pliskova ‘I’m glad I stand here as the winner of this tournament. It’s always going to stay as a great memory in my mind’ AFP Sydney P Valentin Balakhnichev Reuters Moscow D oping will be eliminated from Russian athletics in the near future, the country’s Athletics Federation (VFLA) president Valentin Balakhnichev said on Thursday. Following a German television documentary alleging that drug use was widespread among Russian athletes and recent controversy over banned walkers competing, Balakhnichev remains deﬁant. “The VFLA takes around 4,000 doping samples every year,” he told Reuters. “Not one federation in the world has such a widespread anti-doping programme. “I will guarantee to you that in the near future, after carrying out a difficult process, we will clean our hands of this dirt. “We are not working to support doping—we are ﬁghting against it.” Balakhnichev said he was not taking responsibility for banned Russian walkers taking part in official events. The world and Olympic 20km champion Yelena Lashmanova competed in this week’s Mordovian winter championships in Saransk even though she is suspended until 2016 after failing a drugs test. “Apart from Lashmanova, two other sportsmen also competed who had no right to do so—Sergei Bakulin and Yekaterina Medvedeva,” Balakhnichev said. “We have sent all three an ofﬁcial letter and we are waiting for their responses as well as (those of) the organisers of the competition.” The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is looking into the allegations. “The IAAF has already got in touch with us and on Monday we must send them some official documents, including photographic evidence. We will comply with this request,” Balakhnichev said. NOT OFFICIAL The competition in Saransk was not an official VFLA event, according to Balakhnichev. “This incident is connected with separate sportsmen and not our federation,” he said. “I cannot run after everyone and make sure they are not breaking the rules.” Twenty Russian walkers have been disqualiﬁed for doping offences in the last six years, local media have reported. Each of them trained at the Olympic Training Centre in Saransk under decorated coach Viktor Chegin. Olga Kaniskina, one of his former pupils who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, took over as the head of the centre on Tuesday with Chegin staying on as chief coach. “The coaches have even more responsibility than the sportsmen,” Balakhnichev said. “They should be more actively making sure that the antidoping controls from (Russia’s anti-doping agency) RUSADA are being enforced. We should be concentrating our focus on particular individuals and not on particular sports.” Balakhnichev said he was not jumping to any conclusions. “The Lance Armstrong case saw the sportsman punished and not the American cycling federation,” he added, referring to the disgraced former multiple Tour de France champion. etra Kvitova edged out fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova in two tiebreak sets to win the Sydney International yesterday. The reigning Wimbledon champion downed her rising compatriot 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (8/6) to send her into next week’s Australian Open full of conﬁdence. Kvitova quelled Pliskova’s tenacious challenge in one hour and 52 minutes to secure her 15th career title. It was Kvitova’s third win in Australia following her victory in the 2009 Hobart International and the 2011 Brisbane International before she went on to win the ﬁrst of her two Wimbledon crowns in 2011. Kvitova is the world number four and was Friday drawn in Serena Williams’ top half at the Australian Open, setting the stage for a potential semifinal against the world number one. A former Australian Open junior champion, Pliskova took the ﬁght to Kvitova, breaking the tournament’s second seed in the second game of the ﬁnal to seize an early initiative. But Kvitova clubbed two forehand winners and then unleashed a scorching backhand pass to break back as Pliskova Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova holds the trophy after defeating compatriot Karolina Pliskova in the women’s singles final of the Sydney International tournament at Sydney Olympic Park yesterday. THE DRAW Watson to play Brengle in Hobart WTA final Smooth draw for Djokovic at Australian Open Reuters Melbourne England’s Heather Watson will play American Madison Brengle in the final of the Hobart International following victories yesterday. The 49th-ranked Watson overcame American Alison Riske 6-3, 7-5 and has yet to drop a set on her way to Saturday’s final. Qualifier Brengle was taken to three sets in eliminating Japan’s Kurumi Nara, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. In a match spanning more than four hours, Watson and Riske were forced off the court six times amid rain squalls and gusting winds. One suspension lasted an hour and came just as Watson reached match point for the first time. “It wasn’t easy having to adapt our games to the conditions and I felt like instead of serving properly it was more just trying to get the ball in the court,” Watson said. World No.84 Brengle and Watson train together in Florida. “Maddie’s a good friend of mine,” Watson said. “We actually have Christmas with each other every year.” WARM-UPS Dolgopolov a doubt for Open after Kooyong injury N ovak Djokovic’s chances of winning a ﬁfth Australian Open title have been boosted by a kind draw in the opening week, while women’s top seed Serena Williams kicks off her campaign against 106th-ranked Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck. World number one Djokovic faces a qualiﬁer ﬁrst up and will avoid the top 10 seeds until at least the quarterﬁnals, where he could meet big-serving Milos Raonic, one of the highly-fancied crop of young players tipped to challenge the dominance of the ‘Big Four’. Reigning champion Stan Wawrinka, seeded fourth, faces a tougher route if he is to defend his crown. The Swiss takes on 99thranked Marsel Ilhan of Turkey before a possible fourth round matchup with 16th seeded Italian Fabio Fognini and a likely quarter-ﬁnal against US Open ﬁnalist Kei Nishikori. On the comeback trail from injury and illness, third seed Rafa Nadal has also been given few favours with a dangerous opening round tie against Russian Mikhail Youzhny, a former top-10 player. “Youzhny is not that easy to beat,” said 83-year-old Hall of Fame coach Nick Bollettieri at the draw ceremony at Melbourne Park on Friday. “I’m sure a lot of people will be looking at that ﬁrst round to see how healthy Nadal is.” Following that, the 2009 champion has a possible third round against Czech bogeyman Lukas Rosol, who upset him in the second round of Wimbledon in 2012. MURRAY’S TOUGH DRAW Second seed Roger Federer tried to serve out the opening set at 5-4. After snatching the ﬁrst set in a tiebreaker, Kvitova claimed an early break in the second and looked headed for a routine win. Pliskova had other ideas, drawing back on level terms in the sixth game to force another tiebreaker, only for Kvitova’s class to prevail once again when it mattered most. Underlining her superiority over her compatriots, Kvitova’s win was her 15th straight against Czech opponents. Kvitova said her hard-earned win three days out from the start of the Australian Open was most satisfying. “It’s always tough to play a ﬁnal,” she said. “I’m glad I stand here as the winner of this tournament. It’s always going to stay as a great memory in my mind.” Pliskova was satisﬁed with her week’s work and now looks ahead to Melbourne where she has drawn a qualiﬁer in the opening round of the Australian Open. “She was really better today and deserved to win. It was a good match for me. She is four in the world, so I’m not really sad,” Pliskova said. “Deﬁnitely it’s better to go there (Melbourne) with some matches like what I won here, and good matches. “I beat one top 10, one top 20, so that’s deﬁnitely better.” Reuters Melbourne A Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a return during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday. The Australian Open will take place from January 19 to February 1. starts his Australian Open against Taiwan’s Lu YenHsun, a former Wimbledon quarter-ﬁnalist, and could face 15th seed Tommy Robredo in the fourth round. Sixth seed Andy Murray may feel the most aggrieved of the men’s contenders. After ﬁrst playing a qualiﬁer, the Scot could meet Wimbledon semi-ﬁnalist Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round with Federer to come in the quarters. In the women’s draw, Williams, bidding for a sixth title at Melbourne Park, has no major danger matches until the last eight, where a potential clash against Caroline Wozniacki looms. Second seed Maria Sharap- ova will play a qualiﬁer as she aims for her second trophy after her 2008 triumph, with eighth seed Eugenie Bouchard a likely quarter-ﬁnal opponent. Simona Halep of Romania, ranked third and a dark horse to clinch her maiden grand slam, will take on Italian Karin Knapp ﬁrst up. Twice champion Victoria Azarenka is unseeded after her 2014 season was all but wiped by injury and shapes as a dangerous ﬂoater in the draw. The Belarusian faces American Sloane Stephens in the ﬁrst round, with the prospect of a mouthwatering showdown with Williams in the quarters. lexandr Dolgopolov is a major doubt for next week’s Australian Open after he retired hurt in the Kooyong Classic ﬁnal yesterday and handed Spain’s Fernando Verdasco his second title at the exhibition event. The Ukrainian, who is 21st seed and scheduled to play Italy’s Paulo Lorenzi in the ﬁrst round at Melbourne Park next week, had just lost the ﬁrst-set tiebreak 7-3 when he called for the trainer. Clutching his right knee, he decided he could not continue, leaving his big-serving Spanish opponent to claim another title after his 2010 triumph. “It’s my right knee, I had surgery on it last year and it started to feel the same as before,” Dolgopolov, who reached the last eight of the Australian Open in 2011, told Channel Seven. “The knee is locked, I’m going to get a scan and I really hope I’ll be able to play but I’m not sure of that. I’m just hoping I can get out on court. That would be good for me.” Kei Nishikori, last year’s champion at Kooyong, earlier completed his preparations for another tilt at becoming the ﬁrst Asian to win the men’s singles Fernando Verdasco poses with the Kooyong Classic trophy title at the grand slam of the Asia-Paciﬁc. The Japanese, seeded ﬁfth at the Australian Open, went down 7-6 7-6 to France’s Richard Gasquet, 24th seed at Melbourne Park, in the match to decide who would ﬁnish third in the traditional warm-up for the year’s ﬁrst grand slam. In New Zealand, world number 16 Kevin Anderson was stunned 6-4 7-6 by Jiri Vesely in the semi-ﬁnals of the Auckland Open, the Czech qualiﬁer outserving the tall South African to set up a meeting with Adrian Mannarino. Mannarino earlier won an all-French clash against Lucas Pouille 6-4 3-6 7-5 to reach what will be a ﬁrst ATP ﬁnal for the world number 44 and Vesely. The players at Kooyong had to contend with windy conditions, which with added rain more seriously disrupted play over the Bass Strait in the women’s singles semi-ﬁnals at the Hobart International. Heather Watson had already endured a long rain break in her match against American eighth seed Alison Riske and the wet weather returned as she was preparing to serve at match point. The British number one was clearly affected by the hourlong disruption and Riske saved the match point before breaking back after the resumption, albeit beneﬁting from a couple of line calls that Watson loudly protested. Watson got another break straight away, however, and made no mistake with her second attempt to serve out the match, winning 6-3 7-5 to move into her second career WTA ﬁnal. American qualiﬁer Madison Brengle joined the Briton in the title showdown after battling to a 6-4 1-6 6-3 victory over Japan’s Kurumi Nara. 10 Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 FOOTBALL LA LIGA LIGUE 1 Barcelona hope calm continues in pursuit of Madrid Messi and Suarez will definitely return for the visit to Deportivo la Coruna tomorrow, but Neymar is a doubt after hurting his ankle during last week’s win over Atletico AFP Madrid A fter staving off a full blown institutional crisis with victory over La Liga champions Atletico Madrid last weekend, Barcelona will be hoping their best performance of the season proves to be a turning point in their campaign. The star forward trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez were all on target to ensure coach Luis Enrique remained in a job as he appeared on the brink due to dressing room discontent with his constant rotation of the squad. However, speculation over Messi’s future at the club has continued to rumble on due to the Argentine’s contradictory statements over the past week. The four-time World Player of the Year ﬁrstly stated on Barca TV that he “never had any intention of leaving”, but the next day claimed “I don’t know where I’ll be next year.” Enrique named his 28th different line-up in 28 matches in charge for the second leg of the Catalans Copa del Rey tie away to Elche on Thursday, taking advantage of a 5-0 ﬁrst leg lead to give Messi, Neymar, Suarez and a host of other ﬁrst-team regulars a rest. Messi and Suarez will deﬁnitely return for the visit to Deportivo la Coruna tomorrow, but Neymar is a doubt after a late challenge from Jose Maria Gimenez meant he ﬁnished the game against Atletico with a bloodied ankle. “He is recovering well after that ugly challenge, but that is football,” said Enrique. “Fortunately, it is nothing serious and he will be available to play shortly.” Earlier tomorrow, Real Madrid will have the chance to open up a fourpoint gap on Barca at the top of the table when they travel across the Spanish capital to face Getafe. Cristiano Ronaldo paraded the third Ballon d’Or of his career in front of an adoring Santiago Bernabeu ahead his side’s Copa del Rey clash against Atletico on Thursday. The Madrid fans’ love for the Portuguese, though, saw them turn against Gareth Bale during last weekend’s 3-0 win over Espanyol as the Welshman was whistled for not passing to Ronaldo when he missed a simple chance in the second-half. However, Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti backed Bale, who had previously scored a wonderful free-kick and contributed in the build-up to James Rodriguez’s opener. “The relationship between Cristiano and Gareth is great. I saw the chance from the other day and it seemed to me very difficult to pass the ball at that time so I didn’t need to speak with Gareth. “He played a fantastic game against Espanyol.” Atletico will expect to secure their place in third when struggling Granada travel to the Vicente Calderon. The Andalusians haven’t won in the league since September and another defeat could signal the end of an ill-fated time in charge for experienced coach Joaquin Caparros. Valencia can leapfrog Sevilla into fourth for at least 24 hours when they host Almeria at Mestalla looking to make up for the disappointment of their Copa del Rey exit to Espanyol in midweek. Sevilla had no such trouble as they disposed of Granada 6-1 on aggregate to make the last eight, but they will face a more difficult task when seventhplaced Malaga visit the Sanchez Pizjuan tomorrow night. There was also a setback in the Cup for David Moyes as he was sent-off during Real Sociedad’s 2-2 draw with Villarreal, which saw the Basques eliminated 3-2 on aggregate. It wasn’t all bad news for the Scot, though, as he was offered a crisp in consolidation by a young fan as he watched the ﬁnal few minutes of the game from the stands, and his side can move into the top half of the table should they beat Rayo Vallecano at home today. Fixtures Today: Real Sociedad v Rayo Vallecano (6pm), Valencia v Almeria (8pm), Villarreal v Athletic Bilbao (10pm), Espanyol v Celta Vigo (11.45pm) Tomorrow: Getafe v Real Madrid (2pm), Atletico Madrid v Granada (7pm), Deportivo la Coruna v Barcelona (9pm), Elche v Levante (11pm), Sevilla v Malaga (11pm) P aris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc will be feeling the pressure this weekend as his stuttering side host minnows Evian in Ligue 1 action tomorrow. After a slow start to the season, including six draws from their opening nine matches, they had appeared to be hitting their straps by early December after a run of nine straight wins in all competitions. But they lost their unbeaten start to the season with a 3-1 Champions League reverse away to Barcelona and followed that up with a 1-0 defeat at Guingamp in the league four days later. Victory in that latter game would have seen the champions replace Marseille at the top of Ligue 1 but instead they have continued to falter, as indeed their main rivals have. Both sides began the new year with a league defeat—although PSG have made progress past Montpellier and Saint-Etienne in the Cup while Marseille fell to Guingamp—allowing Lyon to take over top spot following a ﬁfth straight win. PSG come into this weekend’s matches in fourth spot and four points behind Lyon as SaintEtienne also overtook them last weekend. They last won a league match on December 6 and Blanc, who seems to be under pressure even when his side is winning, has been widely criticised in the press this week. Popular sports daily newspaper l’Equipe described him as “isolated and fragile” ahead of a morale-boosting League Cup win over Saint-Etienne in midweek. Blanc has yet to decide whether to bring South American pair Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi in from the cold following their suspension from the ﬁrst team since turning up late to a winter training camp in Marrakech. Their return to the fold would certainly give PSG a boost in front of goal where they had gone two scoreless games in the league before their humiliating 4-2 reverse at Bastia last weekend, having led 2-0. Meanwhile, Lyon fancy a trip to struggling Lens on Saturday hoping to maintain the momentum from a run of 10 wins and just one defeat in their last 12 league encounters. Ligue 1 top scorer Alexandre Lacazette has been in ﬁne form and scored a brace in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Toulouse. It has been a remarkable turnaround for a team languishing in 17th place after losing three of their opening four league matches, but president Jean-Michel Aulas is unsure of their ability to remain in the mix. “It’s nice, even though I know it will only be short-lived, and due in part to the poor performances from our opponents,” he said. Having said that, when we get up the next day it’s nice, but there’s more chance that it won’t last than the opposite.” That’s not a view shared by former coach Remi Garde who told l’Equipe: “they can ﬁght for the title this year.” Although he qualiﬁed that by adding: “I’m more surprised by PSG’s season than by Lyon’s progression.” Marseille lost the league lead last week when going down 2-1 at Montpellier but will look for a quick revenge against Guingamp, their cup conquerors the week before, at the Stade Velodrome tomorrow. Juve drop Pogba hint as Roma face Palermo AFP Rome Barcelona’s Luis Suarez (L) and Neymar (C) celebrate together with Leo Messi (hidden) after Messi scored the third goal against Atletico Madrid during their Liga match in Barcelona on Januay 11. Algeria lead favourites ahead of Afcon tournament DPA Johannesburg A Christian Gourcuff, Algeria’s French coach African Footballer of the Year. Brahimi scored his ﬁrst international goal in the group stage against South Korea in the World Cup last year. He has scored six goals in 15 appearances for the Portuguese club. Algeria, are part of the Group C “group of death” which includes the “physical” Senegal, “well-organized” Ghana and South Africa who is looking conﬁdent after not having lost in 11 games, said Palacios. Another team to watch, he believes, is the Elephants of Ivory Coast who have a collection of excellent players, including brothers Yaya Toure and Kolo AFP Paris SERIE A PREVIEW lgeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana are regarded as the favourites to win an unpredictable African Cup of Nations tournament which begins today in Equatorial Guinea. But it is Algeria, the top-ranked team in Africa, where most betting men are putting their money. “Algeria pushed Germany more than any other team at the World Cup in Brazil last year,” said former Peruvian national player Augusto Palacios, who now coaches in Johannesburg. “They are a religious team and so are very disciplined. They are also very organized and structured. Most of their players play in the local league. For me, Algeria are the team to beat at the Afcon tournament.” Algeria, under French coach Christian Gourcuff, steamed through the Afcon qualiﬁers with ﬁve wins in six games after an excellent World Cup in which they took champions Germany into extra time in the last 16. One of the team’s stars, Porto winger Yacine Brahimi, was recently voted the BBC’s 2014 Blanc feeling the pressure at PSG Toure, Cheick Tiote and Wilfred Bony. The team, under coach Herve Renard, will take on Guinea, Mali and Cameroon in group D. Midﬁelder Yaya Toure, who was pivotal for English Premier League champions Manchester City, will captain the Elephants after the retirement from international football of striker Didier Drogba. “Ivory Coast have a history of underperforming in major tournaments and Toure will have to play as well he does for Manchester City if the team is to reach the ﬁnals of the tournament,” Palacios said. The Black Stars of Ghana, who are also in Group C, are another team to watch but have a tough challenge against Algeria, Senegal and South Africa. Coach Avram Grant has been forced to leave two of his stars, defender Jeffrey Schlupp and striker Majeed Waris, out of his ﬁnal squad of 23, due to injury. Two others top players, Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng, have been left out after being suspended indeﬁnitely for gross misconduct during the World Cup last year. Crystal Palace striker Kwesi Appiah has been included, after scoring for the Black Stars in a warm up game in Portugal last week. He will make his Afcon debut with Daniel Amartey, Baba Rahman, Frank Acheampong and David Accam. Striker Asamoah Gyan will captain the squad. A dark horse for the tournament is Burkina Faso, in Group A with Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Congo. “They are looking very dangerous,” Palacios said. “In the end, this tournament is very difficult to predict. We’ll speak again after the ﬁnal.” Nigerian football legend Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha also picks Algeria, Ivory and Ghana as his favourites. Nigeria won the 2013 edition of the tournament but did not qualify for Equatorial Guinea. “For me, the favourites are Algeria, Ghana, Tunisia and Ivory Coast who for some time now have always been tipped to win the Afcon,” Okocha told French football website Le Buteur. “Algeria is likely to advance to the quarter-ﬁnals. I would say the team has the chance to win the African Cup. “We saw how well they performed at the last World Cup - advancing to the last 16 was a respectable achievement. Algeria also had a very good run in the Afcon qualifying which shows continuity.” The tournament was initially scheduled to be hosted by Morocco, but the Moroccan government’s request for a postponement because of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa was rejected by the African Football Confederation CAF. Morocco were then excluded and Equatorial Guinea stepped in. The tournament kicks off in Bata with Equatorial Guinea and Congo playing opening match. The ﬁnal will be played in the same venue on February 8. J uventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has indicated the future of star midﬁelder Paul Pogba could lie elsewhere, as the champions look to tighten their grip on Serie A with another home game against Verona tomorrow. Pogba has become an integral part of Juve’s midﬁeld since joining the Italian giants in 2012 on a free transfer from Manchester United. However the 21-year-old Frenchman has risen to global prominence and an elite handful of clubs with riches Juventus can only dream of are waiting in the wings hopeful of securing his signature. United, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint Germain were put on red alert in midweek when Allegri told reporters: “Regarding Pogba, we have to live in the present. We don’t know what will happen in June. “A lot of clubs are looking at him, but that’s normal. He’s young, strong and has yet to reach his full potential as a player.” Juventus host Verona for the second time this week tomorrow—four days after a 6-1 drubbing of the Gialloblu in the last 16 Cup win in Turin—looking to retain their three-point lead on Roma. Allegri hedged his bets, rested strike pair Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente for the last 16 tie and his choice was vindicated as striker Sebastian Giovinco hit a brace and Pogba another in the one-sided display. Roma’s title credentials, meanwhile face scrutiny in a potentially treacherous trip away to Palermo less than a week after Francesco Totti saved their blushes with a brace to snatch a point from a 2-2 draw with city rivals Lazio. Totti is likely to miss the trip to Sicily because of ﬂu symptoms and Palermo, who were unbeaten since October before last week’s 4-3 defeat away to Fiorentina, will be no pushover. Palermo are being watched closely by clubs desperate to lure one of their star players, Paulo Dybala, whose nine goals and seven assists so far have reportedly made him a transfer target for the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Like Juventus, Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini could cash in come June, although the Italian with the reputation for his trigger-happy ﬁring of coaches has slapped a prohibitive valuation of “over 40m euros” on the Argentinian. “Dybala is worth over EUR40m, but I won’t sell him until June,” Zamparini told Radio Due. “A lot of foreign clubs are courting him, including Manchester United. I told them he isn’t for sale right now but that we could come to the table again in six months.” With Juve and Roma setting the pace, the battle continues for third-place supremacy with no less than seven clubs between one and six points behind Lazio, third at 12 points behind Juve. Lazio showed last week they have the mettle to challenge the likes of Napoli and both Milan giants for the third and ﬁnal spot in next season’s Champions League. Milan, eighth at 17 points adrift of Juventus and ﬁve behind Lazio, host Atalanta tomorrow looking to end their three game winless streak. City rivals Inter, who sit ninth a point further adrift, could give recent signing Xherdan Shaqiri his debut away to struggling Empoli in today’s early game. The Swiss international signed on a four-and-a-half-year deal from Bayern Munich last week, said he has joined the club with ﬁrm ambitions. Gulf Times Saturday, January 17, 2015 11 EPL SPOTLIGHT FOCUS City host Arsenal to kick off key two-match stretch ‘We now have Arsenal and Chelsea coming up, but this is the Premier League, you have to play against tough teams and you can’t choose when’ Chelsea not signing new players, says Mourinho Reuters London P remier League leaders Chelsea are not planning on doing business during the January transfer window, manager Jose Mourinho said yesterday. Mourinho’s men have topped the table for most of the season but having let a six-point lead slip to two in recent weeks with Manchester City hot on their tails, British media speculated Chelsea could bolster their defence. The Portuguese, though, said he was happy with his squad and had no plans to buy defensive reinforcements despite his back four being carved apart in a 5-3 defeat at local rivals Tottenham Hotspur two weeks ago. “I’m happy with the squad, it is not a big group but a good group,” Mourinho told a news conference ahead of his team’s visit to Swansea City today. “I’ll be happy if nobody leaves or nobody comes but the market is open so you never know. “I have the two best goalkeepers in the Premier League, I have fantastic defenders. The team defends very well. We conceded ﬁve in one game and that is better than conceding one each in ﬁve matches and losing ﬁve matches.” Title rivals Manchester City have already added to their squad with the signing of Ivory Coast striker Wilfried Bony from Swansea for a reported 30 million pounds ($45.54 million) on Wednesday. Asked for his view on the deal, Mourinho remained unmoved by City’s new signing. “Well done. He is a good player and a good striker,” Mourinho said. “If they have the money and can spend the money and have no problems with Financial Fair Play, well done. “They can only play with 11 though. If Bony plays and Dzeko is on the bench then I am happy with that. But to have Aguero, Jovetic, Bony and Dzeko is magniﬁcent.” Mourinho faced the media yesterday for the ﬁrst time after missing last week’s press conference before a win against Newcastle United. He had refused to face reporters after being charged with misconduct by the Football Association for claiming there was a campaign against Chelsea following a draw at third-placed Southampton. “Now I am in conditions to control myself and a week ago I couldn’t control my words so to avoid bigger problems I stayed away,” Mourinho explained. “I am not interested in the FA charge, I just ignore it and get on with my job.” SETBACK Everton’s English midfielder Ross Barkley (2nd R) heads towards goal during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on January 10. City will be aiming to bounce back from the 1-1 setback when they take on Arsenal tomorrow. DPA London M anchester City begin a twogame stretch this weekend that could go a long way in determining if they retain their Premier League title. The defending champions host ﬁfthplace Arsenal tomorrow, followed by a January 31 visit to leaders Chelsea. While City are unbeaten in 12 league matches, an unexpected 2-2 draw with Everton last weekend dropped them two points back of Chelsea. “We now have Arsenal and Chelsea coming up, but this is the Premier League, you have to play against tough teams and you can’t choose when,” City midﬁelder Fernandinho said. “If you want to ﬁght for the title, you have to play to win these games. “They are two difficult games, two great teams. We’ll see who is in command after these two games. But it can help to win the title.” Arsenal are in a crowded ﬁght for a top-four ﬁnish and a spot in the Champions League. The Gunners are ﬁfth, one Fixtures (all times Qatar) Today: Aston Villa v Liverpool (6pm) Burnley v Crystal Palace (6pm) Leicester City v Stoke City (6pm) Queens Park Rangers v Manchester United (6pm) Swansea City v Chelsea (6pm) Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland (6pm) Newcastle United v Southampton (8.30pm) Tomorrow: West Ham United v Hull City (4.30pm) Manchester City v Arsenal (7pm) Monday: Everton v West Bromwich Albion (11pm) point behind Manchester United, but just four points ahead of Liverpool in eighth. Arsenal have won just one of their last ﬁve visits to the blue side of Manchester and suffered a 6-3 defeat last season. That, though, was without Alexis Sanchez, who’s shone in his ﬁrst season at the club by scoring 18 goals. “He’s got the whole package and hopefully it will continue because ultimately that is going to help us,” midﬁelder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain told Arsenal’s website. Chelsea visit a Swansea side who begin life without Wilfried Bony, after the striker’s move to Man City on Wednesday. That’s opened the way for Bafetimbi Gomis. “I’ve got 100 per cent faith in Bafe,” manager Garry Monk said. “I think the more game time for Bafe he gets, the more used the team will get when we’re playing him.” Southampton hope to continue their ﬁne run of form with a visit to Newcastle. The Saints are unbeaten in ﬁve in the league, including a 1-0 win at Manchester United last time out that vaulted them up to third place. Manchester United go to Queens Park Rangers looking to rebound from their ﬁrst loss in 11 games. While QPR are next-to-last, they’ve enjoyed success at home where they’ve secured all 19 of their points this season. “This United game is a big one for us,” defender Steven Caulker said on QPR’s website. “At home our form in the league has been good and we want to maintain that. “We know a result against United will have the table looking a lot healthier and set us up much better for going into the back-end of the season.” Meanwhile, only nine points separate bottom club Leicester City (17) with 11th placed Stoke City (26) while only three points cover the bottom six. Today sees two of the clubs in the mire meet in a so-called ‘six pointer’ when 17th placed Burnley (20 points) take on 15th placed Crystal Palace (20) at Turf Moor. Sean Dyche’s Burnley, promoted last season, have hit form at an opportune time, drawing with Manchester City and Newcastle United and beating Queens Park Rangers in their last three league games. Palace came from behind to beat Tottenham Hotspur last week in Alan Pardew’s ﬁrst game in charge. Both clubs will see the game as a massive opportunity to strike a direct blow against one of the sides around them and edge towards the predicted 36-point safety target. With Pardew taking the reins at his old club Crystal Palace in the wake of Neil Warnock’s sacking and former Palace boss Tony Pulis replacing Alan Irvine at West Bromwich Albion the managerial merry-go-round has started. BOTTOMLINE City’s Nasri out for up to four weeks with calf injury Reuters London Van Gaal issues Falcao warning M AFP Manchester M anchester United manager Louis van Gaal said yesterday that striker Radamel Falcao must prove himself, warning that a player’s ﬁnancial value never inﬂuenced his selection policy. The Colombia international was left out of van Gaal’s 18-man match day squad for United’s 1-0 loss to Southampton last weekend as the Dutchman instead named three centre-backs— Jonny Evans, Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair—on the substitutes’ bench. Van Gaal later insisted that Falcao, who has scored three goals in 11 games for United, had been left out for tactical reasons. Falcao joined United in a loan deal worth £16 million ($24 million, 21 million euros) which includes wages, from AS Monaco in August and the Red Devils have the option to make it per- manent after the end of the season for an additional £44 million. Van Gaal also insisted the ﬁnancial value of a player remains secondary to what they produce on the pitch. “He (Falcao) has to prove himself, that we have agreed,” van Gaal told a news conference yesterday. “Because of that we have made this deal and everything is clear. It is not the end of the year so he has a chance. “It is the quality of the training sessions and quality in his matches and I have to have a game plan,” he added. “I explained it after the Southampton game. If a player cost £95 million or £5,000 it makes no difference to me. “You have to prove yourself and a player of £95 million has to prove himself too.” Despite his assessment, the Dutch manager said there were no issues with the conﬁdence of Falcao, who has also struggled with injuries since arriving at Old Trafford. “Is his morale good? I think so,” added van Gaal “You will have to wait and see if he plays. Because if I say that then part of my line-up his known. “Then I make it easy for my opponent and I don’t want to make it easy.” United will check on the ﬁtness of Netherlands striker Robin van Persie, who is nursing an ankle problem, ahead of their Premier League clash away to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday while winger Ashley Young remains out with a hamstring injury. “We have to wait and see with Robin,” van Gaal, whose side are currently fourth in the table, said. “In the Netherlands they said he was injured but we shall see. I’m busy looking up not looking down.” Van Gaal also claimed that QPR will provide a stern test for his players at Loftus Road even though Harry Redknapp’s side are battling to avoid relegation from the top-ﬂight. anchester City’s Samir Nasri will miss tomorrow’s game against former club Arsenal after being ruled out for up to a month with a calf injury, manager Manuel Pellegrini said yesterday. The France playmaker is also likely to sit out their crucial clash with Premier League leaders Chelsea on Jan. 31, but there was better news on the injury front for City fans with captain Vincent Kompany and striker Sergio Aguero declared ﬁt. “Unfortunately, Samir Nasri has a calf injury so he will not be ﬁt. I think he will be out for around three weeks to a month,” Pellegrini told reporters. “Vincent Kompany is 100 percent ﬁt. We have some doubts about Edin Dzeko. We will see tomorrow the squad list.” The Chilean coach was again pressed on the future of Yaya Toure, who is away at the African Nations Cup, after the midﬁelder refused to conﬁrm he would be at the club next season in an interview with CNN. Pellegrini, however, seemed unconcerned. “I think Yaya is 100 percent committed with our team and with this team. I don’t have any doubts about that,” he said. City’s title challenge suffered a blow as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton on Saturday which left them two points behind Chelsea. Having drawn two of their last three league games, City need a victory to stay on the coat-tails of Jose Mourinho’s side, who could extend their lead to ﬁve points with victory over Swansea City on Saturday. “It’s a very important game,” Pellegrini said. “Arsenal are not at the top of the table at the moment but they always have high targets. Both teams play very attractive football so I hope we are going to see a very good match.” City reinforced their attacking options this week with a 28-million pound ($42.4 million) deal for striker Wilfried Bony, but will not be able to call on his services until he returns from the Nations Cup with Ivory Coast. Pellegrini stressed that the arrival of the powerhouse forward does not spell the end of the road for Stevan Jovetic at the Etihad Stadium. “Bony is replacing Alvaro (Negredo), not Jovetic. Stevan is a very important player for us,” he said. “We sold Alvaro because he had personal problems and did not want to continue here.” Saturday, January 17, 2015 FOOTBALL GULF TIMES SPOTLIGHT ROUND-UP I still believe in this team: Belmadi Qatar now turn attention to qualifying for 2018 World Cup Japan close to last 8, Jordan stay alive DPA Sydney J Qatar coach Djamel Belmadi leads a team training session in Sydney yesterday. AFP Sydney Q atar’s early exit from the Asian Cup has raised the stakes for their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign as they work towards hosting the tournament in 2022. Success in Australia was supposed to mark another step in Qatar’s progress but a 4-1 defeat to UAE, followed by a 1-0 reverse to Iran, has ended their quarterﬁnal ambitions. Coach Djamel Belmadi was expecting much more from the recently crowned Gulf Cup champions, but he said he still had faith in his players. “We wanted really to qualify at least for the second round... but I still believe in this group,” the Algerian told media late on Thursday after the loss to Iran. “There are a lot of young players, they have quality and if we take care of them we can have a better team, especially for the next qualiﬁcation for the World Cup.” Qatar were ultimately punished for their off-day against UAE, when they let slip a 1-0 lead with slack defending and goalkeeping a big factor in the eventual rout. Despite an improved performance against Iran, they were undone by Sardar Azmoun’s brilliant solo goal and Team Melli should have scored more as Qatar left gaps at the back. The Asian ﬂop ends one of the few opportunities for big-tournament experi- ence open to Qatar, who start their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign later this year. Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup has been shrouded in controversy and the highly ambitious Gulf state will be desperate to build a creditable team for 2022. But Belmadi said the Asian Cup could prove valuable experience for his team, adding that with an average age in the mid-twenties, some of them could ﬁgure in 2022. “The experience is so important. Today our average age was around 24-25 years old. Most of our players hadn’t played in a competitive tournament like this,” he said. “They can learn in many ways. First to deal with the environment. As you could see today the stadium was ﬁlled with Iran fans. “We don’t choose to play in this kind of environment in our country. Also with the intensity of the game, I think the players now know any wrong pass, wrong control can make a big difference in the game and you could see that today. “It was a normal situation and then we conceded a goal. I hope we learn from that.” Belmadi said he expected members of Qatar’s youth team, who won last year’s under-19 Asian Cup in Myanmar, to also ﬁgure in 2022. He will be hoping he can stick around to shape the World Cup side, with trigger-happy Qatar going through no fewer than 30 different coaches since 1990. apan defeated Iraq 1-0 to move three points clear at the top of Asian Cup Group D while Hamza alDaradreh bagged four goals to become tournament top scorer as Jordan kept their hopes alive with a 5-1 drubbing of Palestine. After a slow start, Jordan stormed to a three-goal lead at half time and eventually won in style thanks to a wonderful strike from Yousef Ahmad andal-Daradreh heroics. It was Jordan’s ﬁrst win since March 2014 and the ﬁrst under the guidance of coach Ray Wilkins. Japan top the group on six points thanks to Keisuke Honda converting a 23rd minute penalty after he was fouled in the box. The all-action Honda had a busy match, also hitting the woodwork on three separate occasions. Jordan are level with Iraq in second, on three points but having lost when the teams met, must get a better result against Japan in their last game than Iraq manage against Palestine to progress. “I don’t suppose we could have asked for it to go too much better from the goal-scoring perspective,” Wilkins said. “I’ve been hoping they could get a victory to get their conﬁdence up. “They are a young side. They’re good boys though and they try to implement everything I ask of them. It doesn’t always come off I can assure you, but today was one of those days.” Iraq fought gamely against Japan but despite peppering the Japanese box with several set pieces, failed to get a clear chance in front of keeper Elji Kawashima. Japan started brightly on what was Yasuhito Endo’s 150th cap and Honda could have opened the scoring when he headed onto the post from point-blank range. Moments later he did ﬁnd the net from the spot as two Iraq defenders sandwiched him in attempting to clear after Shinji Okazaki was denied by a superb save by Jalal Hassan Hachim. After the break Honda hit the bar from 20 yards with a swerving shot which left Hachim nowhere and his frustration grew as he somehow contrived to hit the post from Shinji Kagawa’s cross with the goal gaping. Iraq had a fair share of possession but the Japanese defence was always in control and Kawashima was called into action for only a couple of routine saves. In Melbourne, the game burst to life in the 34th minute when Ahmad curled in a superb opening goal from the corner of the box to give Jordan the lead. Just 60 seconds later the advantage was doubled by Al Dardour when he tapped home a shot from Abdallah Deeb which was heading just the wrong side of the post. And when al-Daradreh was again on hand to provide a simple ﬁnish to Odai al-Saify’s cross, Jordan were cruising. Palestine had struck the bar through Hisham Salhi early on but the minnows made defensive mistakes which were harshly punished at this level. After the break al-Daradreh raced clear to complete his hattrick in 75 minutes and ﬁve minutes later he converted a cross from Oday Zahran to overtake the United Arab Emirates’ Ali Mabkhout as top scorer in the competition. Palestine refused to give up and Jaka Hbaisha claimed their historic ﬁrst goal at the ﬁnals with a late consolation, ﬁring home a free kick at the back post. CHALLENGE Ginola paid to run for FIFA job AFP Paris F Former footballer David Ginola from France adjusts his tie before speaking at a press conference in London where he announced his campaign to stand for the FIFA presidency. ormer France international David Ginola’s unlikely bid to “refresh football” by challenging Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency yesterday took an early twist when it emerged he was paid by a bookmaker to stand. The 47-year-old revealed he was being paid £250,000 ($379,290, EUR327,297) by betting company Paddy Power to throw his hat into the ring. But if he is to have his name on a ballot paper, Ginola needs the support of at least five member countries. And the former Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur favourite’s cause was not helped when, under questioning from journalists at a news conference in London, he was unable to name a single member of global governing body FIFA’s executive committee. Earlier yesterday, in an appeal for public support, Ginola said on his Twitter account “I am standing for FIFA president and I need you on my team.” “It is time that football was refreshed,” Ginola told the Sun tabloid. “We have to be brave and deal with what is going on in this game we love.” He added: “I know it will not be easy for me to be elected but I have to try. I always did my best on the pitch and I will do the same now.” There are doubts whether Ginola will even be allowed to stand, let alone unseat Blatter. Candidates must have played an active role in football administration for two of the past five years—whether Ginola’s consultancy work for French third tier club Etoile Frejus St Rafael counts is unclear. They must also be nominated by five member associations, something many pundits feel Ginola has little chance of achieving. However, Ginola invited fans and other groups to join ‘Team Ginola’, with his campaign already backed by pressure group ChangeFIFA. “I’m standing because like you, I love football,” said Ginola in a video posted on the teamginola.com website. “Whether you are on the terraces or on the pitch we all know that the FIFA system isn’t working,” he added. “The game needs to change, but I can’t change it on my own. I need you to stand up and change it with me. “By joining Team Ginola you are saying ‘yes’ to a FIFA built on democracy, transparency and equality. You are saying ‘yes’ to a FIFA which cares about one thing—football.” Ginola follows fellow Frenchman Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA official, and Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin alHussein, a FIFA vice-president, into the election fray. Potential candidates have until January 29 to put their names forward. The FIFA Congress with the election will be held in Zurich in May. Blatter, 78, who has been at the top of FIFA since 1998 is widely expected to secure a fifth term in office. After moving to England from Paris Saint-Germain in 1995, Ginola played for several Premier League clubs. Renowned for his model good looks and flowing hair, as much as his football skill, Ginola—capped 17 times by France—was named England’s Footballer of the Year in 1999, the same year he helped Spurs win the League Cup. Hamza al-Daradreh of Jordan (L) celebrates his goal with Yousef Ahmad Mohamed during their Group D Asian Cup match in Melbourne yesterday. Japan were never in danger: Aguirre Japan coach Javier Aguirre said the defending Asian Cup champions were never in any real danger despite only narrowly beating Iraq 1-0 yesterday. Keisuke Honda’s first-half penalty proved the difference as Japan, who won a record fourth title in 2011, went three points clear at the top of Group D. “It was a very complicated game because Iraq defended well and we couldn’t penetrate,” Aguirre told reporters. “We had chances to score more goals and couldn’t convert, but we took three points and didn’t pick up any injuries so I’m very happy.” Japan playmaker Shinji Kagawa had voiced concern about the Brisbane humidity in the buildup to the game, mindful of last year’s World Cup flop in similarly sapping conditions in Brazil. “There was some fatigue towards the end,” conceded Aguirre, whose side had thrashed Palestine 4-0 in their opening game. “But the players did well. Luckily we got into a nice rhythm early on.” Man-of-the-match Honda squandered a string of chances, hitting the framework three times, arguably the most glaring miss when he hit the post in the second half with the goal at his mercy. However, he converted the decisive kick of the game with a well-taken penalty, sending Jalal Hassan the wrong way as he rolled the ball into the goalkeeper’s left-hand corner.