The NewsFuror

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I can handle pressure - Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton says he can handle the pressure ahead of the Formula One title decider in Brazil on 21 October.

The British driver, 22, leads McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso by four points, while Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen is seven adrift heading to Interlagos.

"I've been in these situations before and I can cope with the pressure," said Hamilton, who won the 2006 GP2 Series.

"If you start to reflect on the negatives in this business, it can adversely affect the way you think."

Hamilton crashed out of last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix while entering the pit lane to change his worn tyres allowing Raikkonen to win from Alonso and set up Sunday's Sao Paulo showdown.

I know the team are never going to be favourable towards me
McLaren's Fernando Alonso
And he insists he will remain focused as he bids to become the first man to win the world title in his debut season.

"It's good when you look at the reports but it's probably better I don't as anything can plant thoughts at the back of your mind without you realising it," added Hamilton.

"But when I think about getting in that car, there is nothing that gives me a better feeling.

"As long as I can do this job with the team I want to be with, being competitive and vying for championships, then I'll always be happy."

And Hamilton has likened himself to the laid-back Raikkonen, who is also chasing his first world title.

"They say Kimi's ice-cool, like he's flat-lined, but I think my subconscious is pretty much like that," he said.

"Kimi and Fernando have more experience but I know my character - I'm cool about things and I've bounced back from what happened in China."

And while McLaren have insisted they will treat the drivers equally in Brazil, double world champion Alonso is concerned he will fall foul of what he says is the team's preference for Hamilton to win because of his cool relationship with boss Ron Dennis this season.

He said: "We are going to try to make the impossible possible. But I know the team are never going to be favourable towards me."

Tennis chiefs battle match-fixers

Tennis players are to be given 48 hours to tell the authorities if they are approached about throwing matches and risk punishment if they fail do so.

The new 48-hour rule will be adopted by the board of the ATP Tour at its next meeting in November, and will be backed up by a new 'integrity unit'.

The news comes after Andy Murray told "everyone knows corruption goes on" in tennis.

The ATP has already said it will ask to meet Murray to discuss his comments.

Murray told that matches on the men's ATP Tour are being thrown and that all players are aware of it.

"It is pretty disappointing for all the players, but everyone knows that it goes on," said the top-20 ranked Scot.

"It's difficult to prove. They can try their best until the last games in each set and then make some mistakes, hit a couple of double faults and that's it."

The ATP confirmed that it would look into these claims as a matter of great importance, and that it was working with the sport's other authorities on setting up an integrity unit.

"We have asked Andy Murray, through his agent, for a meeting as soon as possible to discuss the claims made public," said a tour spokesman.

"Nothing is more important than the integrity of our sport and the ATP has shown that it will act where it has information which requires investigation.

It is the responsibility of everyone, without exception, to ensure we have any information about possible threats to the integrity of tennis
ATP spokesman

"It will become a sanctionable offence for a player not to provide information that helps the police and the authorities.

"If a player is approached they need to pass on that information within 48 hours.

"Our anti-corruption programme has stringent procedures in place to deal with any suspected corruption.

"It is the responsibility of everyone, without exception, to ensure we have any information about possible threats to the integrity of tennis."

In an investigation for 5live Sport, leading betting companies have expressed concern about the results of several games.

And Murray believes the chance to make extra money is too much for some players to turn down.

He added: "There are some guys who have to come to tournaments every single week and out of their first-round-loser's cheque - about 2,500 euros - they have to pay for their air fares.

"A career lasts probably only 10 or 12 years and you have to make all your money while you're still playing. But it's not really acceptable."

"I personally have never experienced it but, listening to the players talking, it seems it goes on," said the former British number one.

In August, online betting exchange Betfair voided the market on Nikolay Davydenko's match with Martin Vassallo at the Poland Open because of concerns over unusual betting activity.

The ATP Tour launched its own probe as a result.

England fans get Cup ticket alert

England fans have been warned against buying tickets for Saturday's World Cup semi-final with France off disgruntled Australia and New Zealand supporters.

The International Rugby Board says not all tickets are transferable, which means some fans may not get in.

"There is the risk they won't get entry," said IRB spokesman Greg Thomas.

After their win over Australia, around 40,000 English fans could go to Paris for the game with France, who upset the All Blacks in their quarter-final.

The IRB has already put an extra 2,000 tickets on sale for the match but had more than three million hits on its website from fans trying to buy them.

Many more fans are likely to travel to the French capital hoping to buy tickets sold on by people who do not want to go to the game or cannot resist making a profit.

Others will come to savour the atmosphere and watch the game in bars or on big screens being erected in the city.

The early indications are that fans of both Australia and New Zealand will be there, too, despite their country's surprise exits.

The Wallabies were beaten 12-10 in Marseille while the All Blacks, the tournament favourites, slipped to a 20-18 defeat in Cardiff.

"People have reserved and paid for their accommodation in advance, some through official tour organisations, and will also have paid for their tickets," added Thomas.

"They will not be able to get refunds so we would encourage them to hold on to their tickets, stay around and watch the games.

"There can't be many better places to watch rugby than Paris."

France face England at the 80,000-capacity Stade de France on Saturday (2000 BST).

The second semi-final between South Africa and Argentina takes place at the same stadium the following day.

Laporte wary of Wilkinson threat

France coach Bernard Laporte has singled out Jonny Wilkinson as the England dangerman ahead of their World Cup semi-final clash on Saturday.

The fly-half missed England's first two group games through injury but has been instrumental in his side's resurgence, including the upset win over Australia.

Laporte said: "He has come back well. He is the motor of the team.

"England do not perform as well when he is not there. He gives them confidence and plays flat out."

Although England's results - wins against Tonga, Samoa and Australia with Wilkinson in the team, a lacklustre win over USA and a hammering by South Africa without him - seem to back that up, the number 10 has struggled with his kicking.

With the usually metronomic Wilkinson's current success rate running at about 60%, there has been concern in some quarters that England may struggle to turn pressure into points.

England forward Martin Corry dismissed any fears over Wilkinson's form, saying: "He's a class act - there is no doubting that.

"What epitomises him for me is when he had taken a heavy bang against Australia and needed a bit of treatment, he got up to take a penalty on the halfway line.

"He's not bothered about his stats, we're not bothered about his stats - he's still going for the difficult kicks."

Certainly Laporte, who saw his side start the World Cup with defeat to Argentina in the opening game, is not one to underestimate England.

He said: "We have had the same run-up to the game as them. They have gained in confidence.

"They made a recovery when they played Australia, and we did the same when we played the All Blacks.

"And we mustn't forget that this is the team that prevented us from winning the Grand Slam during the Six Nations."

However, Laporte made it clear he will not be looking back at that defeat - or even further back to 2003, when France met England in the World Cup semi-finals and lost 24-7.

"Who can we speak about revenge to?" said Laporte.

"Half of our players now weren't there. What was Lionel Beauxis doing in 2003? He didn't lose against them that day.

"In 2003, we didn't win the match because the English were better than us. In 1999, it is the same, the Australians were better than us in the final.

"We must stop looking for excuses."

Republicans clash over tax cuts

The Republican presidential candidates, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, have clashed over tax and spending cuts during a televised debate in Michigan.

The ex-New York mayor and former Massachusetts governor each claimed to be more committed to lowering taxes, as they competed for conservative support.

The home of the auto industry, Michigan has the highest unemployment in the US.

Former actor and Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson made his presidential debate debut and was given the first question.

Better known to many for his role in the television series Law & Order, Mr Thompson only joined the race for the nomination in September, several months after his rivals.

He was criticised for choosing to announce his candidacy on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on the day that his competitors were taking part in a debate in New Hampshire.


Tuesday's debate was expected to provide a platform for Mr Thompson to promote his candidacy, but he remained a bystander during a heated confrontation between two of his rivals.

Sam Brownback
Rudolph Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
Duncan Hunter
John McCain
Mitt Romney
Ron Paul
Tom Tancredo
Fred Thompson

The clash between Mr Giuliani and Mr Romney began when the Republican frontrunners were asked to discuss their differences over economic issues.

"I cut taxes 23 times. I believe in tax cuts," Mr Giuliani said, referring to the two terms he served as mayor of New York.

Mr Giuliani said he had lowered taxes by 17% during this period, whilst Mr Romney had let them increase by 11% when he was governor of Massachusetts.

"The point is that you've got to control taxes. I did it, he didn't... I led, he lagged," he added.

Mr Romney dismissed the claim, insisting it was "baloney".

"Mayor, you've got to check your facts. I did not increase taxes in Massachusetts - I lowered taxes," he said.

While Mr Giuliani leads in national polls, Mr Romney is ahead in the key early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Thompson debut

When asked about the economy, Mr Thompson warned that while it was strong today, the government was "spending money of future generations and those yet to be born".

[Like Law & Order, the Republican contest] has a huge cast, the series seems to go on forever, and Fred Thompson shows up at the end
Mitt Romney

"Everyone knows that we have to address that, and it's the fundamental and foremost challenge, I think, facing our country economically," he added.

Mr Thompson also criticised recent calls for the imposition of blanket restrictions and duties on Chinese imports.

He said he favoured limiting imports of potentially dangerous materials but "turning our back on free trade, that's not the direction to go in".

Mr Thompson was later the target of a joke by Mr Romney, who likened the former actor's late entry into the Republican presidential contest to Law & Order.

"It has a huge cast. The series seems to go on forever. And Fred Thompson shows up at the end," Mr Romney said.

"And to think I was going to be the best actor on the stage," Mr Thompson retorted.

Google, IBM back 'cloud students'

Google and IBM are partnering on an effort to help students get to grips with net-scale computing projects.

The two firms will build data centres holding 1,600 computers that students will be able to use to learn the basics of so-called "cloud computing".

This harnesses huge data libraries, thousands of processors and complex algorithms to carry out research or to back up net-based services.

The companies have put $30m (£14.69m) behind the project.

Research grant

The project aims to improve the technical training that universities offer to computer science students so they become familiar with the approaches they will find increasingly being used in the workplace.

The sheer size of the computational resources involved in carrying out "cloud computing" projects mean few educational establishments can afford to run them alone.

IBM has experience of running large projects to analyse data for trends and customise strategies for corporate clients. Google uses its data centres to plumb data for trends and to underpin its broad array of net services.

Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, said in a statement: "In order to most effectively serve the long-term interests of our users, it is imperative that students are adequately equipped to harness the potential of modern computing systems and for researchers to be able to innovate ways to address emerging problems."

Under the initiative the two organisations will commit hardware and a series of programming tools based around open source software to give students a taste of what "cloud computing" involves.

Six US universities have signed up for the initiative: Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Maryland and the University of Washington.

"We're aiming to train tomorrow's programmers to write software than can support a tidal wave of global web growth and trillions of secure transactions every day, " said Sam Palmisano, IBM chief executive, in a statement.

Google shares breach $600 level

Search engine giant Google has seen its shares rise above the $600 mark for the first time, with investors confident ahead of third-quarter earnings.

Shares traded as high as $610.26 on Monday, before closing at $609.62.

Since going public in August 2004, Google's stock has risen sharply from its original price of $85 a share.

The firm has tapped into growing sources of revenue from advertisers who are turning away from more traditional media including TV and print.

Investors were recently buoyed by figures showing the firm had improved its reach compared with Yahoo and Microsoft.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who founded the search engine, have seen their wealth rise to $20bn each.

In the past month alone, Google has seen its shares increase 17% while they have risen 32% since the beginning of 2007.

Disk technology takes Nobel Prize

French scientist Albert Fert and Peter Grunberg of Germany have won the 2007 Nobel Prize for physics.

They discovered the phenomenon of "giant magnetoresistance", in which weak magnetic changes give rise to big differences in electrical resistance.

The knowledge has allowed industry to develop sensitive reading tools to pull data off hard drives in computers, iPods and other digital devices.

It has made it possible to radically miniaturise hard disks in recent years.

Matin Durrani, editor of Physics World, a journal published by the UK's Institute of Physics, said the award had gone to "something very practically based and rooted in research relevant to industry".

"It shows that physics has a real relevance not just to understanding natural phenomena but to real products in everyday life," he added.

'Ubiquitous' technology

Professor Ben Murdin of the University of Surrey, UK, said giant magnetoresistance, or GMR, was the science behind a ubiquitous technological device. "Without it you would not be able to store more than one song on your iPod!" he explained.

"A computer hard-disk reader that uses a GMR sensor is equivalent to a jet flying at a speed of 30,000 kmph, at a height of just one metre above the ground, and yet being able to see and catalogue every single blade of grass it passes over."

GMR involves structures consisting of very thin layers of different magnetic materials.

For this reason it can also be considered "one of the first real applications of the promising field of nanotechnology", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

"Applications of this phenomenon have revolutionised techniques for retrieving data from hard disks," the prize citation said. "The discovery also plays a major role in various magnetic sensors as well as for the development of a new generation of electronics."

Bigger, cheaper

A hard disk stores information, such as music, in the form of microscopic areas that are magnetised in different directions.

The technology has allowed hard disk sensors to read and write much more data
Prof Jim Al-Khalili, University of Surrey

The information is retrieved by a read-out head that scans the disk and registers the magnetic changes.

The smaller and more compact the hard disk, the smaller and weaker the individual magnetic areas.

More sensitive read-out heads are therefore needed when more information is crammed on to a hard disk.

"It's no good having computer hard-drives that can store gigabytes of information if we can't access it," said Professor Jim Al-Khalili of the University of Surrey, UK.

"The technology that has appeared thanks to the discovery of GMR in the late 1980s has allowed hard-disk sensors to read and write much more data, allowing for bigger memory, cheaper and more reliable computers."

Last year, US scientists John C Mather and George F Smoot won for their work examining the infancy of the Universe.

They were honoured for their studies into cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), the "oldest light" in the Universe.

Osbournes to sell off possessions

Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are to auction possessions from their three homes to raise funds for charity.

The couple will sell furniture, art and other items from their California and UK homes - including items regularly seen in their MTV show The Osbournes.

"It's time to unload," said X Factor judge Sharon, adding the couple have an "overabundance" of personal goods.

A proportion of the funds from the 30 November sale will be donated to her foundation for colon cancer.

Shabby chic

The items come from the family's Gothic-style home in Beverly Hills, their home in Malibu and Buckinghamshire mansion.

Among the lots will be a cast iron crucifix that adorned Ozzy's den in several episodes of their show - which ran from 2002-5 - and son Jack's leather bedroom furniture.

Ozzy gets very attached to things. He doesn't like change at all
Sharon Osbourne

Sharon told the Associated Press that the couple had moved to a new home and changed their style since their three children - including Kelly and Jack - had moved out.

She said it has been "one of the most refreshing things we've ever done".

But rock star Ozzy, who is due to perform a benefit concert in Los Angeles on the night of the sale, said: "I don't know why we are selling everything as I want it all."

"Ozzy gets very attached to things. He doesn't like change at all," added Sharon.

The auction, which will continue on 1 December, will be held at the Gibson Guitar Showrooms in Beverly Hills.

Rock legends back Radiohead plan

Radiohead's plan to let fans choose how much to pay for their new album has won support from two British indie legends.

Fans can name their price, from £0-100, and download In Rainbows on Wednesday.

Former Stone Roses singer Ian Brown said it was a "fantastic idea", adding: "Anything that can break the music industry up, I'm supporting it."

Ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr praised their trust in human nature. He said: "We'll see if their good faith is going to be rewarded. I think it will work."

'Fantastic idea'

Radiohead followers have been pre-ordering Radiohead's seventh studio album for the past week.

Everyone knows you can get your music for free, so let's see if you really want to show the band your appreciation
Johnny Marr
He added: "I think people are fundamentally more decent than the corporate world would give them credit for."

Instead of listing a price, the group's website simply says: "It's up to you," and then adds: "No really, it's up to you."

"I think it's a really fantastic idea because it puts the responsibility back on people's own consciences and deals with people as grown ups," Marr told the BBC News website.

"It's not hiding behind any corporate nonsense, it's just saying 'this is the way it is, let's get on with it'.

"Everyone knows you can get your music for free, so let's see if you really want to show the band your appreciation."

Radiohead are not currently signed to a record label after their deal with Parlophone ran out, and no agreement to release the album in record shops has been announced.

Referring to The Charlatans' scheme to give away their new album, Ian Brown said: "I've heard about bands putting out free albums.

"The idea of that is that they'll then sell concert tickets and that's how they'll get the money back. Anything that's going to break the game up like that, I support it."

Brown and Marr were speaking at the Q Awards in London on Monday, where Brown was named the Q Legend and Marr received a lifetime achievement honour.

Ono marks Lennon's 67th birthday

Fans of John Lennon will join his widow, Yoko Ono, in Iceland to mark what would have been his 67th birthday by unveiling a peace tower in his name.

Ono, who designed the monument 40 years ago, will turn its lights on in Reykjavik later to the music of Lennon's 1975 song Imagine.

The director of the city's Lennon museum, Hatfort Ingvason, told it would be a "memorable night".

The tower will be engraved with "imagine peace" in 24 languages.

'Peace beacon'

Ingvason said Ono had chosen Iceland because of its peaceful reputation.

"It was importantly positioned between the two superpowers during the Cold War - between the Soviet Union and the United States," he told Radio 5 Live.

I consider myself very fortunate to see the dream my husband and I dreamt together become reality
Yoko Ono

"She wanted this tower of light, this peace beacon between the super powers to remind everybody that peace was possible," he added.

The musician predicted 40 years ago that the tower, which is designed by Ono, would eventually become a reality.

"I consider myself very fortunate to see the dream my husband and I dreamt together become reality," said Ono.

It is hoped Icelandic pop star Bjork will attend Tuesday's ceremony.

Ingvason said they expect a lot of visitors from abroad who have travelled to the country for the event.

Some 100,000 wishes from people around the world will be placed in capsules and buried around the momument.

The permanent installation is twenty metres high and one metre wide.

The column of light will shine until 8 December, the 27th anniversary of Lennon's death.

It will be lit again on New Years Eve and at the beginning of spring.

Hair ends ICC discrimination case

Darrell Hair has dropped his claim of racial discrimination against the International Cricket Council.

The Australian took action after being dropped from the elite umpires list following the controversial Oval Test between England and Pakistan in 2006.

The match was abandoned amid claims of ball-tampering by the Pakistan side.

Hair, 55, claimed he was singled out for punishment by the ICC because West Indian Billy Doctrove, who was his co-umpire at The Oval, escaped censure.

The ICC will decide next March whether Hair has a future in top-level umpiring.

In the meantime, he will participate in an ICC rehabilitation programme.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said he was glad the matter was finally at an end.

"I'm very pleased that this claim has been unconditionally withdrawn," he told BBC 5live.

A lot will depend on the rehabilitation programme and his attitude towards it
ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed on Hair's future

Hair's case at an employment tribunal in London collapsed on Tuesday after more than a week of evidence.

It is understood that no financial pay-off was made to him and his return to top-flight umpiring has not been guaranteed.

"I think in six months we'll have a better idea," said Speed when asked if Hair would be able to officiate at elite level again.

"It's a matter for the board, which is a very diverse group generally with strong and differing groups, so a lot will depend on the rehabilitation programme and his attitude towards it.

"For the next six months he will umpire matches at associate level. I can't speculate as to whether he will return to umpiring full-member matches or not."

ICC president Ray Mali also welcomed Hair's decision to drop his case.

"We are pleased the issue has been resolved," said Mali. "We had no option but to defend these serious allegations."

Hair's solicitor said his client was glad he was now in a position to start thinking about his umpiring career again.

"This is really about getting back to umpiring top cricket matches," said Paul Gilbert.

"Darrell feels relieved and glad it's all over, and he does feel this is in the best interests of all parties.

"What we have now is a future for Darrell that leads to the possibility of his return to top-level umpiring."

The chain of events that ended up with Hair being stripped of his position began when he accused Pakistan of ball-tampering and awarded England five extra runs.

Pakistan, who were in a reasonably strong position, initially played on until the tea interval but their captain Inzamam-ul-Haq refused to take his players out for the resumption of play.

After a delay, Hair removed the bails and awarded the match to England by default.

At a meeting of the 10 Test-playing nations in November, the ICC said they had "lost confidence" in Hair, from New South Wales, and that he would be excluded from the umpires list until his contract expired in March 2008.

No action was taken against co-umpire Doctrove, leading to Hair's accusation that he had been singled out because he was a white umpire.

Inzamam was cleared of ball tampering by the ICC but banned for four matches for bringing the game into disrepute.

'Dirty War' priest gets life term

A court in Argentina has convicted a former Roman Catholic police chaplain of collaborating in murders during the country's military rule.

Christian Von Wernich, 69, was convicted for involvement in seven murders, 42 abductions and 31 cases of torture during the 1976-83 "Dirty War".

Survivors say he passed confessions he obtained from prisoners to the police.

As he was sentenced, Father Von Wernich showed no emotion. Protesters torched his effigy outside the court.

The trial in the town of La Plata, 60km (35 miles) south of Buenos Aires, had lasted for three months.

Father Von Wernich initially avoided prosecution by moving to Chile, where he worked as a priest under a false name.

However, he was eventually tracked down by investigators and extradited to Argentina in 2003 when amnesty laws passed at the end of military rule were declared unconstitutional.


At the trial, several former prisoners said the former Roman Catholic priest used his office to win their trust before passing information to police torturers and killers in secret detention centres.

False testimony is of the devil, because he is responsible for malice and is the father of evil and lies
Christian Von Wernich

They say he attended several torture sessions and absolved the police of blame, telling them they were doing God's work.

"Von Wernich participated assiduously and maintained direct contacts with the detainees," the prosecution said in its indictment.

Father Von Wernich's lawyers said the case against him had more doubts than certainties and that he had been obliged to visit police detention centres as part of his duties.

The priest said he had never violated the prohibition against revealing information obtained in the sacrament of confession and accused those torture victims who gave evidence in court of being influenced by the devil.

"False testimony is of the devil, because he is responsible for malice and is the father of evil and lies," he said.


Once the judge announced the sentence, observers inside the courthouse erupted with relief and jubilation. Outside, crowds cheered and set off fireworks.

"It's a historic day, a wonderful day... it's something we mothers didn't think we'd live to see," said Tati Almeyda, a member of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of women seeking their sons and daughters who disappeared under military rule.

"Justice has been done. The Catholic Church was an accomplice," she told the Reuters news agency.

Father Von Wernich's actions caused particular outrage in Argentina because he had abused the trust that believers placed in him.

While human rights activists and survivors will be celebrating this verdict, they will now shift their attention to the Roman Catholic Church in Argentina, our correspondent says.

The church has remained silent on the case, saying it was waiting for the verdict, but it will again be asked about the role did it play in the "Dirty War", he adds.

Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed or disappeared before Argentina returned to civilian rule with the election of President Raul Alfonsin in October 1983.

US judge blocks Guantanamo move

A judge in the United States has blocked the US military from sending a detainee at Guantanamo Bay to Tunisia.

The judge ruled it would be a profound miscarriage of justice if Mohammed Abdul Rahman were sent to Tunisia where he says he would be tortured.

Human rights groups say the ruling marks the first direct intervention by a judge in such a case.

The ruling is temporary while the US Supreme Court decides whether inmates can mount challenge in civilian courts.

It means that for the time being the US Defence Department cannot transfer Mr Rahman to Tunisia, where he was convicted in his absence and where he alleged he would be tortured if sent back.

The government there denies his claims, but an official US report earlier this year said human rights abuses continued to take place in Tunisia.

A series of court challenges relating to Guantanamo Bay has led the Pentagon to change its rules and give prisoners greater access to legal representation.

There are about 340 detainees still being held at Guantanamo, according to the Pentagon.

Iraq provinces 'limit refugees'

The UN refugee agency has said the options for Iraqis fleeing violence are being narrowed by an increasing number of provinces refusing them entry.

The head of the UNHCR Iraq Support Unit told the BBC up to 11 governors were restricting access because they lacked resources to look after the refugees.

Andrew Harper warned that, with no imminent end to the displacement, Iraq was becoming a "pressure cooker".

The UNHCR recently said more than 2.2m Iraqis had become internally displaced.

It estimates a further 2.2m have fled to neighbouring states, particularly Syria and Jordan, since the US-led invasion in 2003.

'Pressure cooker'

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Harper said Iraqi authorities had been overwhelmed by the scope of the internal refugee problem and did not have the resources to cope.

The possibility for Iraqis to find safety and find is becoming increasingly restricted
Andrew Harper
UNHCR Iraq Support Unit

He said the governors of up to 11 provinces - out of 18 in the country - had reacted to the crisis by blocking internal migrants from entering their territory, or denying them food and education if they do get in.

"We are seeing an increasing number of governorates closing their borders or restricting entry to new arrivals," he said.

"And so we have a pressure cooker building up inside Iraq - there is no imminent end to the displacement," he added.

"The possibility for Iraqis to find safety and find is becoming increasingly restricted. So, where they can move is becoming over-populated and intense."

Syria: 1,400,000
Jordan: 750,000
Gulf states: 200,000
Egypt: 100,000
Iran: 54,000
Lebanon: 40,000
Turkey: 10,000
Internally displaced: 2,250,000
Source: UNHCR

Mr Harper said the UNHCR had raised the problem with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, but it was told that local authorities had been urged not to turn away Iraqis fleeing other parts of the country.

The 4.4m Iraqi refugees fleeing the violence and turmoil in the country, Mr Harper said, were the biggest challenge facing the UNHCR and the international community at the moment.

He said the figures were increasing on average by up to 100,000 every month.

In Diyala province, local aid workers have said they have been unable to reach thousands of families, including displaced refugees, because of the serious security situation.

Mr Harper's warning comes at a time when Iraq's neighbours have more or less closed their borders to Iraqi refugees, saying they can no longer cope with the strain on their resources.