The NewsFuror

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pakistan emergency 'to be lifted'

Pakistani riot policemen stand guard outside the residence of Benazir Bhutto 9-11-07
Riot police surrounded Ms Bhutto's home on Friday
Pakistan's attorney general has said the country's state of emergency could be lifted within a month.

Malik Mohammad Qayyum said the security situation was improving and he hoped it would improve further.

President Pervez Musharraf imposed the measures last week, blaming militant violence and an unruly judiciary.

The news came as former PM Benazir Bhutto was allowed to leave her home, a day after a temporary detention order prevented her from attending a rally.

She is expected to meet party workers and diplomats later on Saturday.

'Vague' words

Ms Bhutto has called on Gen Musharraf to end the emergency, step down as army chief by 15 November and hold elections by mid-January.

On Thursday Gen Musharraf pledged to hold parliamentary elections by 15 February - a month later than they were due.

He also renewed a promise to quit as head of the army, if and when the Supreme Court validated his recent re-election as president.

But Ms Bhutto has dismissed his words as "vague" and "generalised".

Thousands of opposition supporters, lawyers and human rights workers remain in custody and TV news channels are off the air.

Emiratis tried for raping youth

Emirates law on male rape need updating, relatives say
A Dubai court has been hearing evidence against three Emirati nationals accused of raping a French-Swiss boy.

The boy, 15, testified in private against his alleged attackers, aged 36, 18 and one who is a minor.

The boy's relatives say the three, one of whom is HIV positive, took him into the desert and raped him at knifepoint.

His mother accuses the authorities of lying about the 36-year-old's HIV infection to hide the fact that Aids is present in the United Arab Emirates.

The defendants - who deny the charges - have not been identified in the case, in line with UAE law.

Veronique Robert, the mother, has been campaigning for more protection for underage rape victims in the Emirates.

Dubai officials have defended their handling of the case but have not commented on the mother's accusations.

'Official silence'

Ms Robert said her son cried during his 90-minute testimony on Wednesday, but remained "very strong".

"He looked the defendants in the eyes and gave a chance for justice to be served," she told Associated Press news agency.

He told police three men abducted him and a friend, 16, from a shopping centre in the booming Gulf emirate which is a regional tourism and business hub.

The men allegedly took turns raping him in the back seat of their car. The 16-year-old, who was told to sit behind a sand dune, also testified on Wednesday.

Ms Robert has said during a forensic examination the police doctor accused her son of being homosexual, implying the incident was consensual.

She also says official silence about the 36-year-old's positive HIV test meant her son missed out on possible treatment.

"Aids is a taboo subject here... The government played with the life of my child," she said.

The boy left Dubai fearing he would be prosecuted for homosexuality, a crime in the Emirates, but returned when the authorities said he would not be charged.

The two adult defendants could face life imprisonment or the death penalty if convicted. The third defendant could face 10 years imprisonment if convicted by a juvenile court.

The trial was adjourned until Sunday.

Oil firm clash kills 16 in Yemen

Yemen map
Clashes between Yemeni tribesmen and army personnel protecting a Ukrainian oil company have left 16 people dead, Yemen's defence ministry has said.

Six civilians and 10 soldiers were killed in the fighting in Shabwa province, south-east of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on Thursday.

The local tribe had been pressing the Ukrainian company to secure jobs for its members, local media reported.

Many outlying areas of Yemen are prone to lawless behaviour by armed tribes.

Military escort

Oil industry sources told the BBC that the soldiers were protecting staff from the Ukrainian company, Vikoil, at the time of the incident.

They say the Vikoil employees and the army unit - including its commander - had set out to survey an oil line when it was confronted by the tribesmen.

After a heated argument, the unit's commander was shot dead and a gun battle broke out, they said.

Witnesses told AFP that the tribesmen then set fire to a military vehicle and held six soldiers hostage for several hours before finally releasing them.

The governor of Shabwa province and the Yemeni defence minister flew into the oil company's camp on Thursday to offer a military escort to anyone who wanted to be evacuated, the oil industry sources said.

Four western staff who witnessed the gun battle were subsequently taken to Sana'a.

Yemen is one of the world's poorest nations, despite lying in the world's richest oil-producing region. It produces about 350,000 barrels of crude a day, less than half of which is exported.

Court to study BAE fraud decision

Earlier this year BAE won a new deal from Saudi Arabia
Two pressure groups have won a High Court challenge on the legality of the decision to end investigations into BAE Systems' dealings with Saudi Arabia.

Corner House Research and the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) had asked for permission to seek a judicial review.

They want to contest the Serious Fraud Office's decision last year to stop investigations into whether BAE gave money to Saudi officials in the 1980s.

BAE, the UK's largest defence group, has always said it acted lawfully.

Lord Justice Moses, sitting with Mr Justice Irwin, said "matters of concern and public importance" had been raised and the challenge "cries out for a hearing".

A directions hearing will be held in the coming six weeks to decide how to proceed with the full challenge, which is expected to be a two-day hearing on a date after 28 January.

'Slush fund'

The allegation investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) centred on BAE's £43bn Al-Yamamah arms deal to Saudi Arabia in 1985, which provided Tornado and Hawk jets plus other military equipment.

BAE was accused of operating a slush fund to help it secure the contract.

The SFO inquiry into the Al Yamamah deal was stopped in December 2006 by the government, with attorney general Lord Goldsmith announcing that it was threatening the UK's national security.

BAE has since secured a giant new order from Saudi Arabia.

Announced in September, Saudi Arabia is buying 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets for about £4.4bn.

Corner House, a group that campaigns for enforcement of the law in overseas corruption offences, said even if national security was at risk, there was still not legal justification for ending the investigation.

Bridge collapses in Dubai marina

Image of the collapsed bridge - picture sent in by a website reader
The collapsed bridge is in the middle of a new development
A bridge under construction has collapsed in Dubai, killing seven workers and injuring 15, police said.

The bridge was being built in Dubai Marina, a new development in the United Arab Emirates city which is a regional business and tourism hub.

A large number of ambulances were driving to the scene of the accident.

Dubai's economy has boomed in recent years, fuelled largely by a construction industry reliant on low-paid workers, many from South Asia.

The labourers were employed by the Wade Adams Group, a contracting company based in the Middle East.

More than 40 people were working on the bridge at the time of the collapse, police said.

Fifteen injured workers were admitted to Dubai's Rashid hospital, according to hospital officials.

Five who had serious injuries were airlifted to the hospital.

Dubai marina

"We tried to put a huge piece of metal in a wall when it collapsed," said Muthu Raj, one of the workers interviewed by the media

"I saw colleagues trapped inside, but I managed to jump back and stepped on the road."

The bridge was being built over a small canal in the man-made marina complex, which is close to the showpiece Palm Jumeirah resort, a massive artificial palm-shaped island.

A spokesman for the Wade Adams Group, NM Naushad, told the Associated Press that the company would compensate the families of the dead with a total of 10 years wages each.

He estimated the workers earned on average 9,600 dirhams ($2,615; £1,240) a year.

He also said injured workers would be compensated, but did not name a figure.

Dubai is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, but safety on construction sites has been the subject of much debate in the media.

Foreign workers in Dubai recently went on strike demanding higher pay and improved housing for working on prestige projects such as Burj Dubai - set to be the world's tallest building.

Mehdi Army had 'reign of terror'

Mehdi Army fighter in Karbala (file)
All activities of the Mehdi Army militia were suspended in August
Iraqi police say the powerful Mehdi Army militia has been involved in killing of hundreds of people in the mainly Shia Muslim province of Karbala.

Maj Gen Raid Shaker told a public meeting the militia of radical cleric Moqtada Sadr had brought four years of terror and anarchy causing 670 deaths.

His allegations were backed by scores of angry people attending the meeting.

Mr Sadr's supporters have rejected the allegations, saying they are victims of a smear to cover up excesses by police.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says such direct and public allegations are unprecedented and may indicate growing confidence on the part of the authorities that they can take on the militia.

Mr Sadr suspended the activities of the Mehdi Army for six months in August "in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image".

Emotional statements

The allegations came out as part of a bitter war of words that is now raging between police chiefs and the Mehdi Army, our correspondent says.

Iraqis carry a coffin of a Shia pilgrim killed in the clashes in Karbala in August 2007
Fighting in August blamed on the Mehdi Army left more than 50 dead

During the four years to August 2007, Gen Shaker said more than 60 policemen and 600 civilians, including nearly 70 women, had been killed by the militia.

Many participants at the meeting made emotional statements giving details of relatives they said had been killed or tortured by the Mehdi Army.

The Mehdi Army's grip on Karbala - home to some of Shia Islam's holiest shrines - was broken in August after it was blamed for violent clashes with police in which more than 50 people were killed.

Before that, such public accusations against the militia would have been unthinkable, our correspondent says.

US releases nine Iranians in Iraq

Iranian consulate in Irbil
Two of the men were seized near the Iranian consulate in Irbil
The US military in Iraq has released nine of the 20 Iranian citizens it has detained there, including two held on suspicion of helping Shia militants.

The release followed a review of their cases which concluded that the men no longer posed a security risk and were "of no continued intelligence value".

The Iranians were released to the Iraqi government, which later reportedly gave them to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad.

Tehran has dismissed US accusations that it is aiding insurgents in Iraq.

In October, the US declared the overseas operations arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) a "supporter of terrorism", saying it was supplying and training Shia militants in Iraq.

'Careful review'

Two of those freed on Friday were among five Iranian officials detained by US forces in an "intelligence-driven raid" on an office in the same building as the Iranian consulate in the Kurdish city of Irbil in January.

Their detention has been the subject of intense protests by the Iranian government and lobbying by Iraqi authorities.

The release followed a careful review of individual records to determine if they posed a security threat to Iraq, and if their detention was of continued intelligence value
US military statement

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) also objected, saying the office and its personnel were known to them.

The other seven Iranians being freed had been picked up in different parts of the country and held for periods ranging between three months and three years.

The US military said two of the men were captured "during a raid to disrupt al-Qaeda operations", while another was held after a raid "aimed at capturing a senior insurgent".

"The release followed a careful review of individual records to determine if they posed a security threat to Iraq, and if their detention was of continued intelligence value," the military said in a statement.

"Based on this review, all nine individuals were determined to no longer pose a security risk and to be of no continued intelligence value."

After the men were transferred by Iraqi authorities to the Iranian embassy, they were driven to Baghdad International Airport for a flight to Tehran, the Iranian official news agency, IRNA, reported.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says the releases, although they leave a further 11 Iranians still in detention, might be seen as heralding something of a thaw between the US and Iran - at least in Iraq.

US military commanders have hinted they are beginning to sense a greater effort by Iran to stop weapons and explosives crossing the border, our correspondent says.

Mortars fired from UN Gaza school

The UN secretary general has ordered an investigation into an incident in which Palestinian militants fired mortars at Israel from a UN-run school in Gaza.

Ban Ki-moon condemned the abuse of UN facilities and described it a "serious violation of the UN's privileges and immunities", a spokeswoman said.

Israeli military aircraft filmed the mortars being fired from the school's playground in Beit Hanoun last week.

The UN has already complained about the incident to the authorities in Gaza.

The coastal territory has been controlled by the Islamist movement, Hamas, since it seized control from the rival Fatah group of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in June.

'Serious violation'

The Israeli military's video of the incident on 29 October, taken from the air using thermal imaging equipment, shows three figures firing mortars outside the school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, in Beit Hanoun.

We've complained frequently to both sides - to the Israelis when the IDF comes in and use our schools for interrogating people, and also to the Palestinians whenever anybody also violates our installations
Karen Koning AbuZayd
Unrwa Commissioner-General

Unrwa commissioner-general Karen Koning AbuZayd said the school had been evacuated earlier in the day because of an Israeli military incursion nearby.

"This is a problem when we're not there, what happens to our schools," Ms AbuZayd told a news conference on Wednesday.

"We've complained frequently to both sides - to the Israelis when the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) comes in and use our schools for interrogating people, and also to the Palestinians whenever anybody also violates our installations," she added.

A spokeswoman for the UN secretary-general said he had asked Unrwa to fully investigate the incident.

Unrwa school in Gaza City
The United Nations runs a number of schools in the Gaza Strip
"The secretary-general condemns this abuse of UN facilities, which is a serious violation of the UN's privileges and immunities," Marie Okabe said.

"He calls on all involved in this conflict to avoid actions that endanger the lives of civilians, especially children, and that put at risk Unrwa's ability to carry out its humanitarian mission."

Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip on an almost daily basis by Palestinian militants, who say they are responding to continued Israeli aggression.

The Israeli government has responded by declaring the coastal territory a "hostile entity" and stepping up economic and political sanctions.

Last week, Israel's attorney general intervened to suspend government plans to restrict electricity supplies to Gaza's civilian population, although fuel restrictions have already been initiated. The UN has called the sanctions punitive and unacceptable.

Sunni chiefs killed in Iraq blast

Five Sunni Arab tribal leaders have been killed in a suicide attack in Iraq's Diyala province, police say.

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt in the house of Sheikh Faez al-Obeidi, killing him and four of his relatives.

Those killed were members of the Diyala Salvation Council, a group opposed to the presence of al-Qaeda militants in the province, north-east of Baghdad.

Ten others were wounded in the blast, which happened near the town of Khalis.

Diyala province, home to a mixture of Sunnis and Shias, has become a key battleground in the struggle to drive al-Qaeda from Iraq.

Until a few months ago, al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni Arab insurgent groups in the province fought together against Iraqi government and US-led forces.


But increasing numbers of the militants' former allies in the Sunni community have turned against them, mainly because they dislike the austere form of Islam that they practise.

Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha (file pic)
Sheikh Abu Risha, a key US ally in Anbar, was killed in September

The US has provided them with training and arms.

The uprising began in the troubled Anbar province, once a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency, but has since spread to Diyala province and some areas of Baghdad.

It has not gone without reprisal. Attacks have been carried out against a number of anti-al-Qaeda Sunni figures.

The leader of the Anbar Awakening, Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, was killed in a bomb attack near his home in Ramadi in September.

A senior member of the Salahuddin Awakening Council, Sheikh Muawiya Jebara, was killed by a roadside bomb along with three of his bodyguards in October.

A Sunni religious leader who encouraged his community to confront al-Qaeda in Iraq, Sheikh Yunis al-Tai, was also killed by a blast at his home in Diyala province in August.

Merkel, Bush seek Iran consensus

President Bush drives German Chancellor Angela Merkel after her arrival at his ranch in Crawford, Texas
Angela Merkel has a good working relationship with Mr Bush
US President George W Bush is hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his Texas ranch, with Iran's nuclear programme likely to dominate the talks.

Her two-day trip follows French President Nicolas Sarkozy's US visit.

White House officials said the two leaders would discuss "ways to work together on the diplomatic track to get Iran to halt its uranium enrichment".

Mrs Merkel has said Germany supports a diplomatic solution but would back tougher UN sanctions if necessary.

'Charm offensive'

Mr Bush met Ms Merkel and her husband when they arrived and drove them off on a short pre-dinner tour of the ranch.

"In Texas, when you invite somebody to your home, it's an expression of warmth and respect and that's how I feel about Chancellor Merkel," Mr Bush said as they met.

"Already a first glance of the area shows that this is indeed a wonderful place," Ms Merkel responded.

US and German officials have said they do not expect any major announcements following the talks.

Mrs Merkel and Mr Bush are also expected to discuss Afghanistan, the Middle East, Iraq, climate change, Burma, and the Doha trade talks.

Since taking office in 2005, Mrs Merkel has become one of President Bush's closest European colleagues.

Correspondents say her visit and that of Mr Sarkozy form part a week-long charm offensive by Mr Bush to woo the two influential European leaders.

In a news conference following Wednesday's talks with Mr Sarkozy, President Bush said the pair had agreed to "work jointly to convince the Iranian regime to give up their nuclear ambitions for the sake of peace".

But the French leader emphasised that Iran was entitled to develop civilian nuclear energy, which Tehran argues is the sole aim of its programme.

Wallace gunman freed 35 years on

Arthur Bremer is arrested moments after shooting George Wallace in May 1972
Bremer said he initially planned to target President Richard Nixon
The gunman who tried to kill Alabama Governor George Wallace on the US presidential campaign trail in 1972 has been released, prison authorities say.

Arthur H Bremer, 57, was sentenced to 53 years for injuring Mr Wallace and three others in Laurel, Maryland.

He has served 35 years of his term and is being released for good behaviour.

Mr Wallace gained national prominence in the 1960s vowing "segregation forever" but later disavowed his racial views. He died in 1998.

Bremer left the medium-security Maryland Correctional Institution before sunrise on Friday, a prison system spokesman told Associated Press news agency.

Bremer earned his mandatory early release under a programme that reduces the term of inmates who have a prison job and maintain good behaviour.

Prison officials did not disclose his destination or plans.

"The department of public safety and correctional services believes the public's interest, safety and security is best served by allowing Arthur Bremer to become acclimated to today's world at his own pace and with as much anonymity as possible," an official statement read.

Bid for fame

Bremer was 21 when he shot Mr Wallace at close range as the politician greeted supporters at a rally in Laurel during campaigning for the Democratic nomination.

George Wallace in a file photo from 1996
George Wallace wrote to Bremer in 1995 saying he forgave him

A bullet lodged in Mr Wallace's spine, leaving him confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

For many Americans, George Wallace was the personification of southern bigotry but he later underwent a complete political transformation.

He disavowed his views on racial segregation and won overwhelming support from Alabama's black population.

When Mr Wallace died of a heart attack in September 1998, aged 79, black civil rights leader Jesse Jackson was among the many black Americans who paid tribute to him.

Bremer said he had hoped to become famous by assassinating President Richard Nixon but he settled for trying to kill Mr Wallace. He has never publicly expressed remorse for the shooting.

Under the conditions of his release, he must stay away from any local, state, federal or foreign elected officials and any current candidates.

Canada ex-PM under investigation

Brian Mulroney
Opposition parties have called for a public inquiry into the allegations
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced an investigation into allegations about former leader Brian Mulroney's dealings with a businessman.

Mr Mulroney was prime minister from 1984 to 1993.

Karlheinz Schreiber, a German-Canadian businessman, is fighting extradition to Germany on bribery and fraud charges.

Mr Schreiber alleges he negotiated a $300,000 (£152,000) lobbying deal with Mr Mulroney two days before he stepped down as prime minister.

In June 1993, Mr Schreiber was approached by Mr Mulroney's former chief of staff Fred Doucet, who told him Mr Mulroney needed financial help, the businessman said.

From 1993 to 1994, Mr Schreiber claims he met Mr Mulroney three times in hotel rooms in Montreal and New York and handed over envelopes stuffed with cash.

New development

Mr Schreiber is currently suing Mr Mulroney over the money, saying that he failed to honour his side of the deal, which was to help him develop a chain of pasta restaurants and secure government approval for an arms factory in Quebec.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Previously Mr Schreiber had said he made the payments after Mr Mulroney had stepped down, but in an affidavit on Thursday he says they were discussed before he left office.

It was this development which prompted Mr Harper to act. He has promised to appoint an independent third party to investigate.

Mr Harper said his government must investigate the allegations because they relate to Mr Mulroney's term in office and he must "always protect the office of the prime minister".

The court papers filed by Mr Schreiber also draw Mr Harper into the lawsuit for the first time by claiming Mr Mulroney was to meet the prime minister last summer to talk about the matter.

Mr Harper says he did host Mr Mulroney but the matter was not discussed.

Argentina-Uruguay row hits summit

Argentines protest against a paper mill in Uruguay (file)
Uruguay has now closed a border crossing, fearing protests
A row between neighbours Argentina and Uruguay is threatening to overshadow the Ibero-American summit in Chile.

The long-running dispute erupted anew after Uruguay gave an operating permit to a paper mill despite unresolved environmental objections by Argentina.

Separately, Venezuela's leader is set to brief Colombia's Alvaro Uribe over efforts to broker a prisoner exchange between warring parties in Colombia.

Leaders from Latin America, Portugal, Spain and Andorra are meeting in Chile.

The theme of this year's 22-nation summit, which runs until Saturday, is "social cohesion".

But correspondents say the emphasis on harmony threatens to be overturned by the fresh outbreak of hostilities between former friends Argentina and Uruguay.


Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez granted a long-awaited start-up permit to the mill on Thursday - hours after giving a conciliatory speech at the summit, which he ended by hugging Argentine President Nestor Kirchner.

Controversial paper mill on the Uruguay river close to Uruguay's border with Argentina
The paper mill has soured relations between old friends

On Friday, Uruguay announced it had closed its border crossing with Argentina closest to the mill in Fray Bentos, after Argentine campaigners pledged to protest there on Saturday.

The moves led to protests from the Argentine delegation in the Chilean capital, with Mr Kirchner blaming Mr Vazquez for putting an end to efforts by Spain's King Juan Carlos to mediate a resolution to the dispute.

"You have stabbed the Argentine people in the back," Mr Kirchner told his counterpart according to the official Argentine news agency Telam.

This is the latest instalment of a two-year row.

The Finnish owners of the pulp mill - the biggest foreign investment in Uruguay - insist it employs the latest technology and will not pollute. But Argentina disagrees and has taken the case to the International Court in the Hague, whose ruling is pending.

Prisoner swap

Also on the sidelines of the summit, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is expected to brief Colombian President Uribe on Saturday.

Mr Chavez met a leading member of the left-wing Farc rebel group on Thursday to discuss exchanging Farc's prisoners for rebels held in Colombian prisons.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (left) and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (right)  - 12/10/2007
The Uribe-Chavez amity has surprised many observers

He has been mediating between the Colombian government and Farc to negotiate a prisoner swap. Farc wants 500 rebel prisoners freed in exchange for the release of about 50 high-profile hostages it has been holding in jungle camps for years.

They include French-Colombian citizen and former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, and three US defence contractors.

On Thursday, Mr Chavez said he was "more optimistic than ever over this humanitarian exchange issue".

The intervention of the colourful left-wing leader in the affairs of a close ally of the US has surprised some observers.

Farc formed in the 1960s to overthrow the government but since then has been drawn into kidnapping and the illegal drugs trade.

California oil spill 'emergency'

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in San Francisco
Mr Schwarzenegger said he wanted to waste no time in the clean-up
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency to help fight an oil spill that is threatening the coast of northern California.

He has ordered all available resources to be deployed to tackle the 58,000 gallon (228,000 litre) spill, which is putting wildlife and beaches at risk.

The spill occurred on Wednesday, when a tanker struck the San Francisco Bay Bridge, and is said to be spreading.

Some critics have reportedly questioned the speed of the initial response.

The governor's office said special "skimmers" and booms were being used to try to recover some of the oil and limit the slick's spread.

Mr Schwarzenegger said he had signed the emergency order so that the clean-up operation could progress "without wasting a minute of time".

A worker cleans up oil at Muir Beach, California
Several beaches have had to be closed because of oil pollution

The spill is reportedly the largest to affect the San Francisco Bay area since 10,000 gallons of fuel leaked from a ship undergoing repairs in 1996.

The California department of fish and game has reported finding two dozen sea birds covered in oil and has said hundreds more may be at risk.

The agency's assistant chief Steve Edinger told the AFP news agency the spill was a "very significant event".

No more fuel is now leaking from the Cosco-Busan container ship that caused the spill.

The slick is relatively small compared to major oil spills such as that caused when the Exxon Valdez tanker hit a reef, releasing 11 million gallons off the Alaskan coastline in 1989.

Ex-NY police chief denies charges

Bernard Kerik
Mr Kerik pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a state court last year
Former New York City police chief Bernard Kerik has pleaded not guilty to federal corruption and tax charges.

Mr Kerik, the city's top police officer at the time of the 9/11 terror attacks, has been released on $500,000 bail and vowed to fight the case against him.

Among the 14 counts he faces are fraud, obstructing an FBI inquiry and lying to the federal government.

The matter is awkward for presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, who backed Mr Kerik to run homeland security in 2004.

Mr Kerik withdrew his name from consideration only a few days later, after he was accused of failing to pay taxes on a nanny and of having extramarital affairs.

Mr Giuliani has repeatedly said he made a mistake in endorsing his ally and former business partner's nomination, but correspondents say it remains to be seen how much the link damages him politically.

He will be under additional pressure in the run-up to the primary elections, which start in less than two months, in which states choose their preferred presidential nominee.

'Sad day'

The federal investigation on the current charges arose after Mr Kerik pleaded guilty last year in a state court to accepting $160,000 of work on his home from an allegedly mafia-related construction firm.

Bernard Kerik and Rudy Giuliani (file picture)
The issue is what the whole Kerik debacle does to relations between President George W Bush and Giuliani

Presenting the charges in the indictment, US attorney Michael Garcia told reporters that Mr Kerik had lied "time and again" when questioned about his financial dealings.

"It is a sad day when this office returns an indictment against a former law enforcement officer, particularly one who served in positions as high as those held by Bernard Kerik," Mr Garcia said.

"But we will not hesitate to pursue any public official who violates his oath and betrays the public trust as Mr Kerik is alleged to have done."

According to the authorities, Mr Kerik failed to report more than $500,000 in taxable income between 1999 and 2004.

He is also alleged to have made false statements to White House and other federal officials while being considered for the Homeland Security role.

Speaking after his court appearance, Mr Kerik said: "I am disappointed that the government has brought forth this case... This is a battle I am going to fight."

If convicted, he could face up to 142 years in prison and $4.75m in penalties.

President George W Bush nominated Mr Kerik for homeland security in part on the strength of Mr Giuliani's recommendation.

Mr Kerik was thrust into the public spotlight in his position as New York police commissioner after the 11 September 2001 attacks, and was often seen at the side of the then mayor.

Renault deny McLaren data charge

A Renault Formula One car
Renault are facing a fine or ban if found guilty of spying
Renault have denied confidential data brought to the team by a former McLaren engineer was used in their 2007 F1 car.

Renault are to appear before the FIA's world motorsport council on 6 December to answer a charge over the matter.

The French team revealed engineer Phil Macereth was suspended on 6 September, and claimed every effort was made to erase the data from their systems.

"None of this information was used to influence design decisions," said Renault in a statement on Friday.

McLaren were fined $100m (£47.5m) and thrown out of the constructors' championship after being found guilty on a similar charge in September.

An FIA statement alleged the information included "the layout and critical dimensions of the McLaren F1 car, together with details of the fuelling system, gear assembly, oil cooling system, hydraulic control system and a novel suspension component used by the 2006 and 2007 McLaren cars".

Renault admitted the information was brought to the team by Macereth, who loaded it onto their F1 file system "without the knowledge of anyone in authority in the team".

The statement added: "We have co-operated fully with McLaren and the FIA in this matter to the extent that the team has invited McLaren's independent experts to come and assess the team's computer systems and inspect the cars and the design records.

"[This is to] demonstrate that this unforunate incident has not in any way influenced the design of the cars.

"[We] have acted with complete transparency towards McLaren and the FIA, bein proactive in solving this matter and we are fully confident in the judgement of the world council."

Renault finished third in the constructors championship behind Ferrari and BMW Sauber after failing to win a race in 2007.

Gatland unveiled as Wales coach

Warren Gatland (right) and WRU boss Roger Lewis
Gatland will lead Wales through to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand
Warren Gatland has been officially appointed as Wales' new coach on a four-year contract, taking him through to the end of the 2011 World Cup.

"I feel tremendous pride in coaching Wales and gratitude at the chance to work at the highest level," he said.

"Wales is the sleeping giant of world rugby, I want to achieve potential."

The ex-Wasps and Ireland coach, 44, will start his new role in December, having been prised from a job with Waikato in his native New Zealand.

Wales have been without a coach since sacking Gareth Jenkins the day after they were knocked out of the World Cup by Fiji at the end of September, although caretaker Nigel Davies will take charge of the team for the 24 November Test with South Africa in Cardiff.

Gatland - a hooker who represented New Zealand 17 times between 1988 and 1991 but was denied a cap by the presence of Sean Fitzpatrick in the team - was on a shortlist of three foreign coaches approached by the Welsh Rugby Union.

He met WRU officials in New Zealand last month at the start of the Union's global search for a new coach and arrived in Cardiff at the weekend, but he will return down under to complete his commitments at Waikato before taking up the job.

"We are delighted to have secured our first-choice candidate," said WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis, who has brokered a deal thought to be worth in excess of £1m.

"We were determined to secure at least a four-year term which means Warren can focus on creating a sustainable future for Welsh international rugby."

New Wales coach Warren Gatland
I hope the man who succeeds me eventually will be from Wales
Warren Gatland

Meanwhile, the WRU is still negotiating with another New Zealander, Andrew Hore, to become the new elite performance director, who would work above Gatland.

"I would have no problems at all working with Andrew," Hamilton-born Gatland said.

"But that appointment has nothing to do with me. The Welsh Rugby Union are working through that process at the moment.

"I want to base success on strong foundations, and I will be working closely with the regional coaches to achieve my aims.

"My priorities are clearly defined with the short-term goal to ensure we put the right things in place to face England in the Six Nations and in the long term I will be working to develop a team for the next World Cup.

1963: Born Hamilton, NZ
1980-94: Hooker for Waikato and NZ
1996-8: Connacht coach
1998-2001: Ireland coach
2002-5: Wasps coach, Premiership champions 2003-5, Heineken Cup 2004
2006-7: Waikato coach, wins Air NZ Cup 2006
2007: Appointed Wales coach

"I also hope the man who succeeds me eventually will be from Wales because the talent is here and it is developing quickly."

There has also been media speculation linking the Wasps defence coach - Great Britain rugby league legend Shaun Edwards - with a move to Wales when Gatland takes charge.

He and the New Zealander were part of Wasps' 2004 Heineken Cup winning coaching set-up, while former Wasps scrum-half Rob Howley could also be approached by Gatland.

Edwards has expressed an interest in stepping up to international level, albeit on a part-time basis.

But Gatland said: "That is pure speculation and it would be unfair at the moment to comment much further on those things, especially as Shaun is under contract at Wasps."

The Waikato Rugby Union fully supports Warren in his decision to coach at international level again.
Waikato Rugby Union chief executive Graham Bowen

Gatland enjoyed a highly successful spell as coach after joining the English side in 2002, leading them to three consecutive Guinness Premiership titles (2003, 2004 and 2005) and the Heineken Cup in 2004.

He cut his coaching teeth at Connacht before succeeding Brian Ashton in the Ireland job, enjoying three successful years only to be ousted by Eddie O'Sullivan in 2001.

He is currently assistant at Super 14 team the Chiefs and is also in charge of the Waikato NPC side, and Waikato Rugby Union chief executive Graham Bowen said he departs with their blessing.

"The Wales coaching job was an opportunity too good to turn down for Warren, who had aspirations to continue on as an international coach," said Bowen.

"We have a good relationship with Warren and maybe sometime in the future he will again be able to add value to Waikato Rugby.

"Winning the inaugural Air New Zealand Cup in 2006 and securing the Ranfurly Shield are highlights in Warren's time, but he was also instrumental in developing young players."

India opt for Kumble as skipper

Anil Kumble
Kumble overtook Glenn McGrath's record of 563 wickets last summer
Veteran spinner Anil Kumble has been appointed India captain for the home Test series against Pakistan.

Mahendra Dhoni led the team to the ICC World Twenty20 crown in South Africa after Rahul Dravid's resignation from the post last summer.

But Kumble, 37, was preferred to Dhoni for the Test job after the position was turned down by Sachin Tendulkar.

"This is definitely short-term," Kumble said. "But I hope to help the team achieve a smooth transition."

Kumble's first match in charge will be the first Test against rivals Pakistan at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi on 22 November - the same the same venue where he took all 10 wickets in an innings against the same opposition in 1999.

He has captained his country before, leading them in a four-wicket one-day win over England in January 2002.

Dravid had relinquished the captain's job in September saying the extra responsibility was effecting his batting.

A five-man selection committee, led by former captain Dilip Vengsarkar, had originally approached Tendulkar, but he turned the job down.

Instead they opted for the experience of Kumble ahead of Dhoni, who has featured in 20 Tests.

Former India coach Greg Chappell recently said the explosive wicket-keeper batsman needed another year of preparation leading the one-day and Twenty20 sides before taking the Test role.

Kumble, who played the first of his 118 Tests in 1990, is the third highest Test wicket-taker in history with 566 dismissals.

And the 37-year-old revealed he had come close to taking the captain's job on previous occasions when he was vice-captain.

"For me it has come at a time which some people might say is late, but from my point of view it's better late than never," said Kumble.

"But having been given the responsibility and the faith I need to ensure that I live up to those expectations and ensure that the team rallies around me.

"It has given me additional motivation to carry on and perform."

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at a press conference
Former selector Kiran More said Dhoni needs more time in Test cricket

But despite getting the nod ahead of Dhoni, Kumble endorsed the 26-year-old's credentials to become a successful Indian Test captain.

"The team has done exceptionally well under him (Dhoni)," said the leg-spinner.

"The younger lot seem to enjoy each other's company. He's a mature person and has all the qualities, that's for sure."

However India coach Aunshuman Gaekwad criticised the selectors' decision to appoint Kumble for just three Tests, saying it was short-sighted with the forthcoming tour of Australia on the horizon.

"They should have named him until the Australia tour at least," said Gaekwad. "This move suggests they are not sure of what they are doing."

Gaekwad's words were reinforced by former chairman of selectors Kiran More, who said Kumble's appointment should have longevity.

"Dhoni's an excellent captain, but he should play another year of Test cricket before being handed the test reins.

"Given the situation, Anil was the best choice. He's experienced and highly respected.

"But they should have named him for the next three series, which would have given the team direction."

South Africa on top against Kiwis

First Test, Johannesburg (day two, close): South Africa 226 & 179-2 v New Zealand 118

Dale Steyn
Few South Africans witnessed Steyn's five-for in the flesh

Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis shared an unbroken stand of 158 to put South Africa in control of the first Test against New Zealand in Johannesburg.

After bowling out the Kiwis for 118, the home side reached 179-2 at the close to lead by 287 runs, with Amla 85 not out and Kallis on 76.

Dale Steyn was South Africa's star earlier in the day, taking 5-34 as New Zealand were bowled out in 41.3 overs.

Stephen Fleming top scored with 40 in an otherwise poor batting effort.

New Zealand began the day in a promising position on 41-2, replying to South Africa's first innings total of 226, but once again there was an embarrassingly sparse sprinkling of spectators in the ground to watch the action.

Former Black Caps skipper Fleming stroked one lovely drive down the ground off Steyn but was worked over with a series of short balls before finally nibbling at one from Makhaya Ntini to give AB de Villiers a catch at third slip.

With nightwatchman Shane Bond already disposed of, 64-4 became 88-7 as the middle order fell to pieces.

Even the much gentler pace of Kallis proved a major thorn in New Zealand's side, as the all-rounder picked up the middle-order wickets of Scott Styris and Ross Taylor.

In between the two wickets for Kallis - who was rewarded for a nagging line and length with a hint of away movement - Jacob Oram nicked Steyn into a hungry slip cordon.

Lunch was taken at 97-7, but there was no let-up from South Africa after the interval.

Skipper Dan Vettori ballooned a leading edge off Ntini (3-47) to mid-on before Iain O'Brien briefly counter-punched by hitting 14 off Ntini's following over.

Makhaya Ntini
Makhaya Ntini played a key role in the demolition of the Kiwis

The innings came to an abrupt end, however, when Steyn trapped Brendon McCullum lbw, and in the same over forced last man Chris Martin to scoop a catch to mid-wicket.

New Zealand needed something special from their bowlers and achieved an early double breakthrough when Herschelle Gibbs edged Bond to slip and Chris Martin yorked home captain Graeme Smith.

But they could not afford to give Amla a life, which they did when wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum failed to take an outside edge off Bond as he m,oved to his right.

It was about time two batsmen took advantage of the superb batting track and Amla and Kallis remorselessly put away the bad balls to collect boundaries either side of tea.

Amla played some particularly eye-catching drives off both front and back foot as he collected 13 fours and Kallis was also rarely troubled and he rounded off his scoring for the the day with two successive pulls for four off O'Brien.

South Africa fast bowler Dale Steyn on the pitch: "It will get more difficult [for batsmen] as the game goes on.

"The guys don't know whether to duck or not, or whether to go forward or back."

New Zealand coach John Bracewell: "To bowl a side out for 226 on the first day and then not take advantage is a missed opportunity."

Man Utd capture 14-year-old Cofie

Manchester United
Manchester United have beaten Liverpool and Chelsea in the race for 14-year-old Burnley striker John Cofie and agreed an undisclosed fee with the Clarets.

Burnley rejected a reported £250,000 bid from Liverpool for Cofie this week.

But the German-born Ghanaian refused to return to training with the Clarets and they agreed he could leave Turf Moor.

Burnley have inserted a 25% sell-on clause in the deal, which also gives them first refusal on any loan deal and a future friendly match with United.

It will be three years before Cofie can sign professional terms at Old Trafford and the friendly game will take place within 12 months of that.

Cofie was signed by the Clarets last summer after he was spotted at a youth tournament in Germany.

"The player was unwilling to come back to Burnley so we didn't have a choice in keeping him here," Burnley operational director Brendan Flood told his club's website.

"He was going to go to one of the clubs chasing his signature and in the end, we all felt that Manchester United was the right option.

"He has a good future ahead of him and hopefully we can try and keep youngsters of John's quality at the club in future."

Injured Rooney out for four weeks

Wayne Rooney
Rooney's injury is a devastating blow for Man Utd and England
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney is out for up to four weeks after sustaining an ankle injury in training.

The problem also means he misses England's potentially decisive Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia at Wembley on 21 November.

In-form Rooney, 22, has just been named Premier League player of the month for October after scoring seven goals in his last seven United games.

England coach Steve McClaren said: "It's hugely disappointing."

He added: "Given the form he has been in and the contribution he has made to England over the last two games means it is a blow.

"But we have to deal with it, like we have dealt with situations like these before.

"It is an opportunity for someone else to come and do a job."

McClaren had just named Rooney in his squad for the friendly against Austria on Friday and the qualifier against Croatia at Wembley on 21 November.

It is the second major injury problem Rooney has suffered this season after missing five matches with a broken foot, sustained on the opening day of the campaign against Reading.

He will miss league games against Blackburn, Bolton and Fulham, and possibly Derby on 8 December, as well as United's next Champions League match against Sporting Lisbon.

But if the initial prognosis of four weeks is correct, Rooney should be available again for the final Champions League group match against Roma on 12 December and a key Premier League match at Liverpool on 16 December.

Gullit backs Beckham for England

David Beckham and Ruud Gullit
Gullit (right) is Beckham's new coach in Los Angeles
New LA Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit has told that he will not stand in the way of David Beckham continuing his international career.

Beckham, 32, is back in England's squad for next week's friendly in Austria and the Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia after recovering from a knee injury.

Gullit said: "If David believes he has to play for the national team then I will encourage him.

"If the England coach thinks he needs him, then he has to go."

Beckham was expected to be present at the media conference to unveil Gullit as Galaxy's new boss at the Home Depot Center.

The England midfielder did meet his new coach in Gullit's first session with his players on Friday, but then left without attending the Dutchman's official unveiling.

An LA Galaxy spokesman said: "David does not want to speak today."

Earlier on Friday, England manager Steve McClaren recalled the midfielder to his squad for next Friday's friendly in Vienna and the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia on 21 November.

Gullit revealed he gave his blessing to Beckham, who has 97 caps, to pursue his international career despite the physical strain of travelling back and forth for England matches and the Galaxy's post-season schedule.

"It is still an honour for any player to play for their country and I can't take that away from him," said the 45-year-old Dutchman.

It is still an honour for any player to play for their country and I can't take that away from him
Gullit on Beckham

"In Europe it is normal for players to be on duty for their country during the season, so I am used to it.

"As long as David is fit and wants to play then I will let him, but if he wants to stop then I will help him with that too."

Beckham's schedule will see him play for the Galaxy in a friendly against Minnesota Thunder in Minneapolis on Sunday.

He will then travel to Vienna for England's friendly on Friday, face Croatia on 21 November before travelling to Australia (27 November) and New Zealand (30 November) for showpiece games with the Galaxy.

The former England captain is contracted to play these games for the LA team and Gullit insists he will not treat the former England captain differently despite his status and international commitments.

"I know David personally but my relationship with him will not be more or less special," Gullit said.

"When he is on the pitch he must do the same as the other players. Although as a coach I will use his experience and use him as a link to the rest of the team."

With a long Major League Soccer post-season break ahead - the 2008 season will not start until April - Beckham had been linked with a loan move back to the Premiership.

However, Gullit was quick to rule out that possibility, saying: "David wants to get his full fitness back here.

"That is what he is doing and I don't see any reason why he would go elsewhere."

Gullit, a former Chelsea and Newcastle manager, will officially take up his new role as Galaxy coach against Sydney FC on 27 November.