The NewsFuror

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Higher costs dent Yahoo's profits

Internet search engine Yahoo has seen its latest quarterly revenues beat market expectations, but profits disappoint due to higher costs.

Reporting its results for the three months to the end of September, Yahoo's revenues rose 12% to $1.8bn (£886m) from $1.6bn a year earlier.

Net profit fell 5% to $151m, eroded by sales and marketing expenses jumping to $877m from $697m last year.

Intel is now continuing with a top-to-bottom review of its operations.

It said it expects its full-year results for 2007 to be at the top end of market targets.

Yahoo makes most of its money from advertisers.

Laptop demand lifts Intel profits

Intel, the world's biggest computer chipmaker, has seen its latest profits surge 43%, lifted by strong demand for its laptop microprocessors.

During the three months to the end of September its net profit rose to $1.9bn (£935m) from $1.3bn a year earlier.

The California-based firm said it had benefited from ongoing efficiency efforts, and that revenues for the third quarter had risen 15% to $10bn.

It now expects to see revenues increase still further in the fourth quarter.


The figures mark a turnaround for Intel after a price war with rival Advanced Micro Devices hit its results at the start of this year, and late 2006.

"We are very pleased with the results and optimistic about our business," said Intel president and chief executive Paul Otellini.

Ashok Kumar said the results were better than expected.

"I think people were expecting more cautious comments about the fourth quarter," he added.

US homebuilders sentiment falls

Confidence among US homebuilders has hit a record low, as falling house prices and record sub-prime mortgage defaults continue to take their toll.

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index fell two points to 18 in October, its lowest level since it started in 1985.

It was the eighth month in a row that the index, which has to pass 50 to show positive sentiment, has fallen.

The nationwide index has now been below 50 since May of last year.

'Some time yet'

Builder confidence continued to decline in October in all parts of the US except for the Midwest, which increased by two points.

When the market is in proper balance, people can recognise a good deal when it comes along; at this point, they view a good deal as a moving target
National Association of Home Builders president Brian Catalde

The report was published as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said that the downturn in the housing market was likely to "continue to adversely impact our economy, our capital markets and many homeowners for some time yet".

US homebuilders are now continuing to lower prices as they struggle to find sufficient buyers.

"Many potential buyers are either holding out for even better deals or hesitating due to concerns about negative and confusing media reports on home values," said National Association of Home Builders president Brian Catalde.

"When the market is in proper balance, people can recognise a good deal when it comes along; at this point, they view a good deal as a moving target."

Analysts expect the US housing market to improve by the second half of next year.

Oil steadies near record levels

Oil prices have steadied after six days of record highs - spurred by supply concerns and tensions between Turkey and Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

US light, sweet crude was trading at $87.61 a barrel - down from Tuesday's record of $88.20 - while Brent crude was 40 cents lower at $83.15.

The price surge followed reports that Turkish forces had shelled an Iraqi border village in recent days.

With global supplies tight, any threat to oil output is likely to hit prices.

Economic impact

The Turkish government is preparing a motion seeking parliamentary approval for a military incursion into northern Iraq after 13 Turkish soldiers were killed close to the Iraqi border.

Ankara estimates that 3,500 Kurdistan Workers' Party (KWP) rebels - who want to see the establishment of an independent Kurdish homeland - are based across the border in Iraq.

The market has not been as worried over a geopolitical issue since last July when Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas battled in Lebanon, said Steve Rowles, an analyst with CFC Seymour in Hong Kong.

He predicted that "overall the tensions will eventually subside," saying that Iraq "isn't the oil producer that it once was.".

Oil prices have quadrupled since 2002 due to demand from fast-growing economies such as China and India, allied to instability in oil-producing nations in the Middle East and Africa.

The cost of oil is still below the inflation-adjusted level of about $90 a barrel seen in 1980 when spiralling prices helped contribute to a recession in the US.

Opec output

Analysts are divided over where prices will head next, although most believe the upward pressure on prices - driven by concern about the availability of supplies - is set to continue.

Further pressure on supplies came with news that oil producers outside the Opec cartel were to reduce output by about 110,000 a day.

Last month, Opec said that it would be boosting its production by 500,000 barrels per day from the beginning of next month to cope with resilient global demand for oil.

However, it has since added that demand for oil this winter in the US - the world's largest consumer of heating oil - will be stronger than previously thought.

MySpace starts Skype call service

Social network website MySpace has joined forces with internet phone firm Skype to allow MySpace users to make calls to each other.

With the service, which starts from the end of November, the two firms say they are creating the world's largest online, voice-connected community.

MySpace users will be able to place free internet calls to other people on MySpace, or to Skype users.

In addition, MySpace users will be able to pay to call landlines and mobiles.

'Natural step'

The Skype option will be added to MySpace's existing instant messaging feature, and will not require MySpace users to download any additional Skype software.

"Internet calling is the natural next step for how our members communicate with each other," said MySpace chief executive Chris DeWolfe.

No financial terms of the arrangement have been released.

MySpace has more than 110 million users, while Skype has 220 million.

Indian share market sees 9% slump

Trading on India's main stock index, the Sensex, was briefly suspended on Wednesday, after the market slumped 9%.

The fall came after the stock market regulator proposed urgent curbs on the flow of foreign funds into shares to stop the market overheating.

The Sensex sank to 17,544.15, after Tuesday's record high of 19,174.45, while the rupee also lost value. Trading resumed in mid-morning.

India's finance minister said that there was no need for alarm.

'Abundant investment'

The regulator's recommendation relates to participatory notes - a form of investment used by hedge funds and other foreign investors who are not registered in India.

The notes present problems such as uncertainty over who is putting money into Indian companies.

Finance minister P Chidambaram said that foreign investment was still welcome.

"But presently it is important to moderate capital flows, which are getting very copious and abundant," he said.

Analysts at JP Morgan suggested that of the $17bn of foreign funds invested in India so far this year, about $10bn has been in participatory notes.

"Investor sentiment is likely to weaken considerably as an important source of potential inflows has likely been plugged," said Rajeev Malik, an economist at the firm.

India is seen by many investors as one of the safest havens among the emerging markets as investors try to tap into one of the world's best-performing economies.

Wells Fargo hit by $490m bad debt

Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest US bank, has revealed that its exposure to bad mortgage debt totals $490m (£241m).

The bank made the admission as it reported its weakest quarterly profits in more than six years.

For the three months to the end of September, its net profit rose just 4% to $2.28bn, compared with $2.19bn for the same third-quarter period in 2006.

Wells Fargo is just the latest bank to reveal its exposure to the downturn in the US sub-prime mortgage sector.

'Tough environment'

The bank's quarterly revenues rose 10% from a year earlier to $9.9bn, although this was helped by a $160m one-off gain from the sale of certain low-yielding mortgage securities.

"It was a tough environment," said Wells Fargo's chief financial officer, Howard Atkins.

"Credit markets seized up and the housing market took another downturn."

The results were slightly ahead of market expectations.

No more diva demands, says Lopez

Not a week goes by without Jennifer Lopez's name appearing somewhere in the media.

The singer, actress and dancer's turbulent love life has featured prominently in newspaper headlines over the past few years.

But Lopez, who is returning with her sixth album, Brave, insists this record marks an end to that chapter in her life.

"All my albums are about love, ever since the first one. But they're all about different times in love," she says.

Since she burst onto the pop scene in 1999 Lopez has been linked with several high-profile men, including rapper P Diddy and Hollywood actor Ben Affleck.

In August she settled a legal dispute with her first husband, Ojani Noa, who had threatened to publish a book revealing private details about their relationship.

Now the 38-year-old is experiencing a "healthy love" with fellow singer Marc Anthony, her husband since 2004.

Lopez says the title of her new record encompasses everything she has gone through in the last few years.

"It's about going through all that stuff and coming out the other side, and going, 'You know what, I'm going to go right in again, I'm not going to be afraid. I'm just going to do it,'" she says.

'Being the boss'

Lopez claims her songs are never truly autobiographical, but she admits to pouring some of her heart into elements of her work in the past.

"Everything is always inspired by where I am in my life and how I'm feeling, what I'm thinking and what my philosophies are," she explains.

Lopez and her husband have just kicked off a joint US tour. Asked if they have experienced any marital arguments during the preparation for the tour, she laughs.

"When we work together we're like any artists, he has very strong opinions, so do I - we're both used to being the boss in our own universe," she says.

"We definitely have differences but I think what works really well for both of us is that we both respect each other very much.

"I'll always go away and go, 'Well why did he say that?'. Sometimes I'll go back and say, 'You know what, you're right.'"

Backstage demands

Lopez admits to having made outrageous backstage demands in the past - but adds they did not come directly from her.

"There was a time in my career where I had a manager who did do stuff like that - it's true and I paid the price for it," she says.

"If you look at my career and look at the people who have worked with me over the years they will negate those rumours and they have. It went away because it wasn't me."

However like most people in the public eye, one thing that will not simply disappear for her are stories about her which are not true.

After 17 years in the public eye, this no longer fazes Lopez.

"I think at this point it doesn't even matter to me anymore," she says.

"I realise whatever they write today, tomorrow it's kind of gone, unless you've done something so terribly horribly wrong, which thank God I've never done and don't plan on doing."

Jennifer Lopez's album, Brave, is out now.

Sir Paul likens divorce to 'hell'

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney has compared his divorce from former model Heather Mills to "going through hell".

The 65-year-old told the Radio Times the experience was "a very painful thing", adding he had vowed not to talk about the split with his second wife.

"As Winston Churchill once said, 'If you're going through hell, keep going!'" he told the magazine.

The couple, who married in 2002, are trying to thrash out a settlement, rumoured to be in the region of £60m.

Sir Paul added: "The only solution is to remain dignified. If I don't keep a silence about it, I lose this idea of being dignified."

Good music

Sir Paul and Lady McCartney announced in May of last year that they were splitting after four years of marriage.

They appeared before a judge at the Royal Courts of Justice last week, amid reports that they were close to a multi-million pound settlement.

But the couple, who have a three-year-old daughter, left separately without making any comment to waiting journalists.

"It's been a difficult time," Sir Paul told the Radio Times, "but music is a great healer.

"Music is the therapy for me. In fact, going through difficulties has only concentrated my desire to make good music."

Britney fingerprinted by police

Britney Spears has visited a Los Angeles police station to be photographed and fingerprinted ahead of her hit-and-run court case.

The 25-year-old singer spent about 30 minutes at the station on Monday evening, after a judge ordered her to submit to the procedures.

Ms Spears was charged last month for allegedly crashing into a parked car while driving without a valid licence.

She could face up to six months in jail for the 6 August incident.

A conviction will also carry a fine of $1,000 (£490).

Ms Spears' first court appearance is scheduled for 25 October.

Personal life

Officer Mike Lopez said Ms Spears, who applied for a California licence earlier this month, was fingerprinted and photographed before leaving, about 45 minutes after having turned herself in.

"She was fine, cooperative, Lopez said. "She did her business and came out."

Ms Spears' career and personal life has recently been beset by a series of incidents.

Last week, a judge granted her permission to spend one night a week with her two young after the singer lost full-time custody to former husband Kevin Federline.

Ms Spears and Mr Federline must appear at a further hearing on 26 October.

Last month, a judge said Ms Spears showed "a habitual, frequent and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol".

She was then ordered to complete random drug and alcohol tests twice a week, as well as meeting weekly with a "parenting coach", according to court documents.

But she later lost custody after failing to produce her driving licence and missing a test for drugs and alcohol.

JK Rowling launches US book tour

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has launched a US book tour - her first in seven years - with a mass signing event in Los Angeles.

"This is an amazing treat for me," she said as she signed copies of the final Potter book for schoolchildren at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

"I really miss being able to interact directly with the readers," she added.

The tour continues with another signing in New Orleans on Thursday, followed by two appearances in New York on Friday.

Monday's event saw her read an extract from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and answer questions before signing a reported 1,600 copies.

"Everyone keeps saying, 'it must be so onerous. Doesn't it hurt your hand?'" she said.

Sales records

"But, honestly, that's the bit I really enjoy."

The 42-year-old also joked with reporters after one pointed out her dress had accidentally slipped down, briefly revealing her bra.

The seventh Potter book broke sales records on both sides of the Atlantic in July, selling 11 million copies in its first 24 hours.

Rowling gave no hints what she would work on next, only saying "it has to be something I adore".

"I want to fall in love with someone the way I fell in love with Harry," she explained.

French rocker released from jail

French rock star Bertrand Cantat has been released from jail, having served half an eight-year sentence for beating his actress girlfriend to death.

Cantat, the 43-year-old lead singer of French band Noir Desir, left the Muret prison near Toulouse in a car driven by Denis Barthe, his group's drummer.

Toulouse prosecutor Paul Michel denied he had received any special treatment.

Cantat was jailed for the manslaughter of Marie Trintignant after a violent row in a Lithuanian hotel in July 2003.

Trintignant, the daughter of French movie star Jean-Louis, died from swelling to the brain five days after the incident in Vilnius.

Probation terms

The victim's mother, Nadine Trintignant, had opposed Cantat's early release, saying it was a setback for those fighting to end violence against women.

The singer's probation terms state he must report regularly to see a judge and undergo psychological treatment for a year.

He is also banned from speaking publicly about the case and must not publish any songs or audiovisual works touching on his crime.

The measures will be in force until July 2010.

Madonna signs radical record deal

Madonna has signed a ground-breaking recording and touring contract with concert promoter Live Nation.

She is the first major star to choose an all-in-one agreement with a tour company over a traditional record deal.

It gives Live Nation rights to all her music-related projects - including new albums, tours, merchandise, websites, DVDs, sponsorship, TV shows and films.

The deal, reported to be worth $120m (£59m) over 10 years, ends her 25-year relationship with Warner Music.

The pop star, 49, has been with Warner for her entire career, during which time she has sold 200 million records and CDs.

For the first time in my career, the way that my music can reach my fans is unlimited... with this new partnership, the possibilities are endless

Madonna, the first performer in Live Nation's new Artist Nation division, said the deal offered her the chance to take advantage of new models of music distribution.

"The paradigm in the music business has shifted and as an artist and a businesswoman, I have to move with that shift," the singer said.

"For the first time in my career, the way that my music can reach my fans is unlimited. I've never wanted to think in a limited way and with this new partnership, the possibilities are endless."

Radiohead - Released their new album as a download from their website and told fans to choose how much to pay
Prince - Gave his latest CD away with the UK's Mail on Sunday newspaper and at gigs
Sir Paul McCartney - Signed a deal with record label owned by Starbucks, which sold his new album in its coffee shops

Live Nation chief executive Michael Rapino said they had created a "new business model for our industry".

"Madonna is a true icon and maverick as an artist and in business," he said. "Our partnership is a defining moment in music history."

Madonna has become a shareholder in the company, the statement said, but further financial details were not provided.

She must still make one more album for Warner, due next year.

Warner will also retain the rights to sell and license her back catalogue of hits such as Like a Virgin, Vogue and Music.

Traditionally, companies like Warner Music Group have focused on recorded music, while other firms have arranged tours, managed artists and sold merchandise.

It shows the music industry is being less record-centric
Jean-Bernard Levy
Chief executive, Vivendi
But shrinking CD sales have led artists and entertainment companies to consider wide-ranging deals that bring all activities under one roof, helping cross-promotion and boosting profit margins.

Jean-Bernard Levy, chief executive of Universal Music Group's parent company Vivendi, said the music industry was at a turning point.

"It shows indeed the music industry is being less record-centric," he told the Reuters news agency.

"It used to be just focused on the record and everybody thought all the rest was just promotions in order to sell records.

"Now it's a more balanced business where you have records, TV shows, merchandise, touring revenues and so on."

Madonna is the latest big name to eschew a major label deal and find a different way to distribute music.

Last week, Radiohead made their new album available to download from their website and asked fans to choose how much to pay for it.

Prince recently gave away his latest CD with a newspaper, while Sir Paul McCartney signed up with the Starbucks cafe chain.

Balkan pop star dies in car crash

Macedonian pop star Tose Proeski, a hugely popular singer in the Balkans, has died in a car crash in Croatia.

Proeski sang for Macedonia in the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest and won many awards in former Yugoslavia.

Police said the 26-year-old's car was in a collision with a lorry on a motorway near the eastern Croatian town of Nova Gradiska.

In the Macedonian capital Skopje people wept in the streets. A day of national mourning will be held on Wednesday.

Local radio stations started playing Proeski's songs back-to-back.

"We all have been blessed with such a great singer and with his immense soul filled with love," Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski said.

"Macedonia and the Balkans lost an angel," said the head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Stefan.

Two other people in Proeski's car were injured.

Proeski started his career aged 15, releasing his first album at 18.

I'm in shock. Macedonia has lost its greatest cultural ambassador
Vojo Mihajloski, Tetovo, Macedonia
He had several number one hits in four former Yugoslav republics - Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia.

Among Proeski's hits were Cija Si (Whose Are You?) and Ako me poglednes vo oci (If You Look Me In The Eyes).

He sang both in Macedonian and in Serbian and was seen as a bridge between people in a region often divided by ethnic hatreds, correspondents say.

Erotic art traces history of sex

It's an age-old question. When is art art and when is it simply pornography? A provocative exhibition at the Barbican in central London is helping fuel the debate.

Seduced - Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now contains works spanning 2000 years, by some of the most famous artists in the world, showing human beings in their most intimate moments.

Kate Bush, the Barbican's head of art, has spent five years putting the collection together.

"It's not about porn. It's a thoughtful exhibition, a celebration of what connects all human beings across time and cultures," says Ms Bush.

The aim of the show is to explore the history of what's accepted as art and to throw light on our current attitudes.

And certainly those attitudes have changed. The first exhibit is a cast of the bronze fig leaf which was made so that Queen Victoria would not be offended by the replica of Michelangelo's statue of David in London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

If you take the Japanese works they are very explicit. But they are sumptuous, beautiful, delicate and refined
Professor Martin Kemp

The visitor then passes a room of pottery showing the antics of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, through the voluptuous bodies of the Renaissance to contemporary works such as the stylised satirical photographs by Jeff Koons poking fun at the porn industry.

Martin Kemp is one of the show's curators and a professor of history of art at Oxford University.

'Sex and joy'

He says putting the exhibition together has taught him "how similar we are in terms of images of sex and joy, but also about the unease in the representation of this private act".

"There's no civilisation which hasn't had problems with it," he adds.

The curators have made a point of only including works which show sex between consenting adults. There is nothing which suggests violence or sex with children.

While many of the works can be seen at any major gallery on permanent exhibition, this collection bans under-18s from attending.

Certainly when a work is old it appears to us as more acceptable as art rather than pornography.

Professor Kemp says art is also more complicated than porn, arousing a mixture of emotions. The other big difference is the quality.

"It became clear where pornography stops and art starts," he explains.

"If you look at the frescoes from Herculaneum, they employed major artists.

"If you went to Soho to a brothel today, you don't expect major artists to be deployed.


"If you take the Japanese works, they are very explicit, more so than in the West.

"But the levels of artistry are high, they are sumptuous, beautiful, delicate and refined."

The Japanese prints were made by leading masters including Hokusai. The woodblock prints show men and women in elaborate clothes and equally elaborate poses and were intended for use in brothels and private homes.

There are also Chinese works showing beautiful scenes of gentle love-making in quiet gardens. Chinese erotic art is a little known tradition because so much was destroyed in the Mao era.

The exhibition throws light on how different cultures at different times have viewed sex.

What it reveals above all is how styles of art have changed over the centuries, while human beings and their desires have essentially stayed the same.

Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now runs until 27 January 2008 .

Outsider Enright wins Booker race

The judges said Anne Enright's book was "depressing" and "bleak"

Irish author Anne Enright has won this year's Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in literature.

The novelist's family saga The Gathering beat bookmakers' favourites Ian McEwan and Lloyd Jones to be named the best novel of the past 12 months.

The other authors on the £50,000 prize's shortlist were Mohsin Hamid, Nicola Barker and Indra Sinha.

Chair of judges Sir Howard Davies said Enright's book was "powerful, uncomfortable and, at times, angry".

"The Gathering is an unflinching look at a grieving family in tough and striking language," he said. "We think she is an impressive novelist, we expect to hear a lot more from her.

"The book is powerful, it pulls you along and it has an absolutely brilliant ending. It has one of the best last sentences of any novel I have ever read."

I was ready for anything - possibly anything except that
Anne Enright

Enright was regarded as one of the outsiders for the award, and said she was surprised to win.

"I am still churning it through," she told BBC Radio 4. "Tomorrow, I'll wake up and go 'whoopee'.

"I was ready for anything - possibly anything except that," she added.

The Gathering is the fourth novel by the 45-year-old former television producer.

6/4 - Ian McEwan (above), On Chesil Beach
2/1 - Lloyd Jones , Mister Pip
4/1 - Mohsin Hamid , The Reluctant Fundamentalist
7/1 - Nicola Barker , Darkmans
12/1 - Anne Enright , The Gathering
12/1 - Indra Sinha , Animal's People
Source: Ladbrokes
It is about an Irish woman who is prompted by her brother's suicide to revisit three generations of history of her large, dysfunctional family.

Sir Howard said the book was "depressing" and "a little bleak" in places - but Enright said she did not mind those descriptions. "I love them," she said. "They're entirely fair. It's not a cheerful book."

Enright's previous novels include the Whitbread-nominated What Are You Like? in 2000. She has also released Making Babies, her light-hearted diaries of motherhood.

She said she may spend the prize money on a new kitchen. "I had forgotten about the money and now I'm glad I bought that dress yesterday," she remarked.

The Gathering has sold 3,000 copies so far, but Radio 4's arts correspondent Rebecca Jones said a Booker win can transform an author's career in terms of sales.

"But also in terms of profile because Anne Enright's next book - and indeed the three other books she's already written - will now get more attention than they would have done had she not won," she said.

'Poisoned chalice'

Enright had been given odds of 12/1 before the ceremony by bookmakers Ladbrokes.

"Over 90% of all wagers were for Ian McEwan and Lloyd Jones," spokesman Nick Weinberg said. "The favourites' tag continues to be a poisoned chalice."

The bookmakers' favourite has not won since Yann Martel in 2002.

Of the six authors in contention for this year's Booker, only McEwan had even been shortlisted in the past. He won in 1998 with Amsterdam.

The award, which honours the best fiction written in English by an author from the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth, was handed out at the Guildhall in London on Tuesday.

Chavez reforms go to parliament

Venezuela's parliament, made up exclusively of supporters of President Hugo Chavez, has started to debate his proposed changes to the constitution.

Mr Chavez says the 25 changes - added to 33 earlier proposals - are necessary to further his socialist revolution.

The changes would remove term limits for the presidency, allowing Mr Chavez to stand for re-election for seven-year terms instead of six years.

If passed, the measures will be put to a popular referendum.

The New York based organisation, Human Rights Watch, warned the measures would permit the president to suspend certain rights untouchable under international law, if a state of emergency was in force.

"Recent Latin American history shows that it is precisely during states of emergency that countries need strong judicial protections to prevent abuse," said HRW Americas director, Jose Miguel Vivanco.

Among the main changes to the constitution proposed by Mr Chavez are:

  • Removing term limits for the presidency, and extending the term of office from six years to seven

  • Bringing in a maximum six-hour working day

  • Cutting the voting age to from 18 to 16

  • Increasing presidential control over the central bank
  • Strengthening state economic powers, allowing the government to control assets of private companies before a court grants an expropriation order.

There are no opposition politicians in the Venezuelan National Assembly since most of the anti-Chavez parties boycotted the last election in 2005.

However, several MPs have questioned the way the extra changes have been introduced, calling it constitutional fraud.

Critical cleric dies

On Tuesday, a long-standing critic of the president - Roman Catholic Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara - died, aged 85.

He had consistently spoken out against Mr Chavez, saying the president was increasingly authoritarian and "fundamental democratic principles [were] ignored or violated".

For his part, the president called Cardinal Castillo Lara "a hypocrite, bandit and devil with a cassock".

Rosalio Castillo Lara was ordained in 1949, and was appointed cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1986.

Burma 'still hunting protesters'

Authorities in Burma are continuing to seek and detain those who took part in last month's anti-government protests, the government has announced.

According to a statement in an official newspaper, almost 3,000 people have been detained since the government began its crackdown on protesters.

Some 500 people remain in custody and "some are still being called in", the statement said.

On Monday, a UN envoy called reports of new arrests "extremely disturbing".

Burma's military leaders have faced mounting international criticism since troops use force to end days of protests.

The government says 10 people died, but diplomats fear the figure is far higher and there is also concern for the hundreds thought to remain in detention.

'Being interrogated'

The statement from the ruling junta was carried on the front page of The New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

"Those who led, got involved in and supported the unrest which broke out in September were called in and are being interrogated," it said.

"Some are still being called in for questioning and those who should be released will be."

A total of 2,927 people had been detained and nearly 500 were still being held, it said.

The number of arrests is an increase of almost 800 since the government's last official figures on 8 October.

Those released had been required to sign "pledges". The statement did not explain what these were, but some reports suggest they were a promise not to participate in further protests.

On Tuesday the Red Cross said it was appealing to Burma for access to the detainees, but said it had yet to establish a meaningful dialogue with the country's leaders.

International divisions

International pressure has been mounting on Burma in the wake of the crackdown.

The UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari is visiting Burma's neighbours and key trading allies for talks before a planned return there later this month.

Both the EU and the US have increased their sanctions on Burma, and the US said earlier this week that it was considering further measures. Japan has cut a portion of its aid.

But trading allies China and India have taken no such steps, and on Tuesday Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said there would be no threat of sanctions or suspension from the Association of South East Nations (Asean).

Burma's leaders, for their part, appear to remain defiant.

In a statement on Tuesday they ruled out a change of political course and questioned the need for UN involvement, saying that events in Burma did not threaten the region.

Turkey seeks green light on Iraq

Turkey seeks green light on Iraq MPs in Turkey are due to debate a motion authorising cross-border military operations into northern Iraq to target Kurdish rebel bases there.

Parliament in Ankara is expected to approve the motion by a large majority amid widespread public support for military action against the PKK.

Attacks blamed on the rebels have been escalating inside Turkey in a conflict which dates back more than two decades.

But the US is anxious that Turkish action could destabilise northern Iraq.

It is also embroiled in a row with Turkey over a Congressional vote to recognise the mass killing of Armenians in Ottoman times as genocide.

Turkey is a regional hub for the US military, and some suggest access to Incirlik airbase or other supply lines crucial to US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan could be affected by the row.

Public pressure

The motion says that Turkey has warned Iraq repeatedly to clamp down on the PKK to no avail so now a military option is on the table.

The recent death of 13 Turkish soldiers in an ambush blamed on the PKK has put the government under immense pressure to respond with force, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports from Ankara.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the motion does not mean a military operation is imminent.

But he also warned that Turkey would act decisively in its fight against terrorism.

Iraq and America are urging restraint out of concern that military action by Turkey will bring chaos to the only relatively calm region of Iraq, our correspondent notes.

What Ankara wants is concrete action from them against the PKK to prevent that, she adds.

Iraqi concerns

Iraqi Vice-President Tareq Hashemi, who has been sent to Ankara for talks, said his government understood Turkish anger but wanted to achieve a "common understanding".

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh warned that unilateral action by Turkey in Iraq could have "very grave consequences".

"If Turkey as a neighbour of Iraq allows itself the right to intervene militarily in Iraq, what is there to prevent other neighbours from intervening?" he asked in the BBC interview.

Jamal Abdallah, a spokesman for the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, told there was no co-operation with the PKK.

"We have not helped the PKK and we are not helping it," he said.

The head of the UN refugee agency has said he is deeply concerned that Turkish action could lead to big displacements of people.

Antonio Guterres said the "relatively stable" area had until now acted as a haven for Iraqis displaced from other parts of the country.