The NewsFuror

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pakistan rivals enter poll fray

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif talking to supporters

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is due to file nomination papers for the country's general elections, but insists he may boycott the poll.

Mr Sharif says he will not stand for election unless President Pervez Musharraf lifts the state of emergency.

Benazir Bhutto has now filed papers for three parliamentary seats.

There are signs that Gen Musharraf will step down as head of the army and be sworn in for another term as president this week.

Mr Sharif, who was toppled by Gen Musharraf in 1999, returned to Pakistan on Sunday after seven years in exile.

There were jubilant scenes as cheering supporters met him at Lahore airport.

He is expected to hand in his nomination papers in Lahore for January's general elections later on Monday, the closing date.

We have to save this country - we have to unite and get rid of dictatorship
Nawaz Sharif

Benazir Bhutto, another former prime minister who recently returned to Pakistan, filed a nomination paper on Sunday for one of the seats reserved for women.

On Monday she filed papers in her Larkana constituency for two regular seats. She, too, has left open the possibility of a boycott.

Mr Sharif's return to Pakistan on Sunday was his second attempt in the past three months to end his exile. The last time, in September, he was deported within hours of his arrival.

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Lahore says it is believed that Gen Musharraf is hoping that Mr Sharif will be able to dent Benazir Bhutto's prospects in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

Correspondents say there are signs that the Ministry of Defence will soon officially announce that Gen Musharraf will step down as head of the army in the next few days.

He has come under intense international pressure to make the move before taking his oath of office for a second term as president.

Move against military

Nawaz Sharif told cheering crowds on Sunday that his return was "not the result of any deal" with Gen Musharraf, referring to reports that he had come home under an arrangement with the military ruler.

Mr Sharif surrounded by journalists and supporters

"My deal is with you, the people of Pakistan," he said.

Mr Sharif also said that emergency conditions imposed by General Musharraf on 3 November were "not conducive" to free and fair elections.

Earlier, the former prime minister told the BBC by mobile telephone from his plane that it was unlikely that he would be able to work with Gen Musharraf, as his ultimate objective was to rid Pakistan of military rule.

"I am here to play my role and also make my own efforts to rid the country of dictatorship," Mr Sharif said.


He said boycotting the election remained an option if emergency rule was not lifted.

"When the constitution, fundamental rights are suspended, when people live difficult lives, when judges who make decisions according to the constitution are ousted, will elections in such a situation not be a fraud?" he said, quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

President Pervez Musharraf
Gen Musharraf ousted Mr Sharif from power in 1999
"Should not such elections be boycotted?"

"Everybody can submit his nomination papers but the final decision will be taken by the APDM [All Parties Democratic Movement]," Mr Sharif told reporters at Lahore airport.

As Mr Sharif arrived at the airport, celebrating supporters broke through police lines, surrounding Mr Sharif and then lifting him onto their shoulders.

Thousands of people also lined the road from the airport to the city to show their approval.

Security was tightened in Lahore ahead of Mr Sharif's return.

Two bombings killed more than 130 people at a homecoming parade in Karachi for Ms Bhutto last month.

Ahead of his return, officials from Mr Sharif's PML-N party and police said PML-N supporters had been arrested across Punjab province, although it was not clear how many.

Aston Martin mulls overseas plant

The new Aston Martin DBS, unveiled  at the Frankfurt motor show
Aston Martin was voted the UK's coolest brand
Aston Martin is considering building a car outside the UK for the first time in its 93-year history.

The firm, which has its headquarters in Warwickshire, said it was conducting a feasibility study into making its new four-door saloon - the Rapide - abroad.

Reports suggest that this study is well advanced, with the model due to be launched in 2009.

In March this year, Ford sold Aston Martin to a UK consortium for £479m and it has enjoyed continued success.

A spokesman for transport workers union Unite said that they had called for a meeting with Aston Martin bosses "as a matter of urgency".

"Until we meet with them, which they are willing to do, it would be unfair to comment further," the spokesman said.

Aston Martin is based at Gaydon in Warwickshire. It employs around 1,700 people at two sites, one in Gaydon, the other at Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire.

The marque, which makes the V8 Vantage, the DB9 and DBS models in the UK, is strongly associated with the fictional spy James Bond.

A string of 007s have driven Aston Martins in the Bond films, and this year a survey found it to be the coolest brand in the UK.

US woes prompt more dollar misery

Traders in Frankfurt
The weak dollar is hitting markets and companies worldwide
The US dollar tumbled to fresh lows against the euro as investors bet that the Federal Reserve will have to substantially reduce US interest rates.

The dollar sell-off saw the currency slump to as low as $1.4966 against the euro, before rebounding to $1.4796.

It also sank against the Japanese yen, reaching two-and-a-half year lows, and weakened against the Chinese yuan.

Many analysts are expecting the Federal Reserve will cut rates in an effort to revive spluttering economic growth.

Rates divide

Interest rates are not expected to fall as quickly in the UK, Japan or Europe.

Lower interest rates tend to weaken a currency because investors are typically looking for assets that offer high returns.

There are worries that US interest rate cuts will be front-loaded while rate cuts in the rest of the world will take longer to materialise
Mansoor Mohi-Uddin. UBS currency strategist

On Friday, the dollar sank below 108 yen for the first time since 2005. It has lost about 3% against the Japanese currency this week alone.

The Chinese yuan rose to its highest level against the US dollar for the first time since the China's currency was decoupled from the greenback in 2005.

"There are fears about the US economy and worries that US interest rate cuts will be front-loaded while rate cuts in the rest of the world will take longer to materialise," said UBS currency strategist Mansoor Mohi-Uddin.

Nervousness over the impact of a slower US economy on the world economy was exacerbated by thin trading as Japanese markets were shut for a holiday.

Many traders in the US also extended Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday, analysts observed.

The dollar has been in steady decline since the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates for the first time in four years at their September meeting to support the country's flagging housing market.

The Fed then lowered its 2008 growth estimates for the world's largest economy, prompting many analysts to predict that it will need to cut rates by as much as 1 percentage point to stop the US from going into recession.

Euro fears

The sharp rise in the euro against the dollar has hit some of the euro bloc's key exporters, such as EADS planemaker, the firm behind the Airbus.

EADS pay their costs in euros but book their earnings in dollars.

With exports a key factor in the eurozone's continued economic recovery, concerns exist that exporters' dollar-linked woes could dampen the region's growth in the year ahead.

Fears that the euro may climb past $1.50 may prompt intervention by the European Central Bank (ECB).

The bank's president Jean-Claude Trichet has repeated that he does not welcome "brutal" exchange rate movements - a phrase he first used on Thursday - which he said was not beneficial for global growth.

Airbus staff 'deny dollar death'

Airbus A380 plane
The weak dollar is an advantage to Boeing, Airbus says.
Employees of European plane maker Airbus have denied that the weak dollar is threatening the company's survival, a German newspaper report has said.

The strength of the euro does create a problem but does not threaten the firm's existence, the firm's workers' council told the Berliner Zeitung.

A separate report said parent company EADS may cancel the sale of factories because of the currency woes.

Airbus' chief executive has said the dollar's decline is "life-threatening".

'Currency pain'

Thomas Enders said the exchange rate had gone "beyond the pain barrier".

And he warned that its cost-saving plan would have to cut deeper to counter the impact of the weakening US currency, which has hit new record lows against the euro this week.

Because Airbus mainly manufacturers its aircraft within the eurozone but sells them in dollars it is highly vulnerable to foreign exchange fluctuations.

The plane maker says this favours it arch-rival, Boeing.

Airbus is owned by European aerospace and defence group EADS.

According to Sueddeutcsche Zeitung, EADS may now not sell three German Airbus plants, as well as the parent firm's own Augsburg factory, and instead group them into a new division.

Job losses

Airbus is already shedding about 10,000 jobs and selling plants as part of its Power8 restructuring plan after delays to its A380 superjumbo drove the plane maker into a loss last year.

Earlier this month Airbus warned it may have to deepen its planned restructuring after steeper-than-expected third-quarter losses.

It said a net loss of 776m euros ($1.14bn; £541m) - as against a loss of 189m euros in 2006 - was down to delays with its A400M military transport aircraft.

And it said full-year earnings would only "roughly break even".

And back in September, Airbus chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier said a further 1bn euros might have to be added to a savings plan which was originally based on a $1.35 euro.

Shares bounce back on US optimism

Traders in Frankfurt
Markets remain on edge
Stocks climbed after reports of a strong start to the Christmas shopping season in the US renewed optimism in the health of the global economy.

Investors shrugged off concerns about weakening US demand and bought shares after a heavy sell off last week made prices more attractive.

Mining firm Rio Tinto led gains in London on merger-related news.

The UK's FTSE 100 rose 0.45% to 6290.20 while France's benchmark Cac 40 gained 0.55% to 5551.59.

Germany's Dax went up 0.63% to 7656.63.

Asian shares rally

Asian markets saw bigger gains with their export-led economies more sensitive to US consumer demand.

It's not like the fears have gone away, credit markets remain extremely tight and the same worries are still out there
Edmund Shing, BNP Paribas

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed 1.7% higher, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended the day up 4.1%.

But Edmund Shing at BNP Paribas, in Paris warned that "this rally is fragile".

"In principle, we're in a recovery mode because we have not fully priced in the rally in the U.S. on Friday, and Asian markets were strong overnight," he said.

"[But] it's not like the fears have gone away, credit markets remain extremely tight and the same worries are still out there," the strategist added.


Meanwhile, Rio Tinto shares rose 3.65% after the state-owned China Business newspaper reported a possibility of a $200bn bid for the Anglo-Australian mining group.

The report was denied by a China Investment official, who asked not to be named.

"It seems pretty clear that rumours about the investment intentions of China's sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp, are going to have a big bearing on the market going forward," Bear Stearns, currency analysts wrote in a note.

The main support for indexes across Asia, but particularly Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, came from a new enthusiasm for exporters, including Canon, Sony and Nintendo.

Investors bought shares in these firms after a stronger-than-expected start to the Christmas shopping period in the US, which typically begins on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday.

A report by ShopperTrak RCT, a market analysis company, showed that sales gained 8.3% on Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving.

"A lot of people were expecting the figure to be very weak," said Yasutoshi Nagai of Daiwa Securities SMBC.

"But the data suggests that spending during the Christmas season may be stronger than expected."

Rio to justify BHP bid rejection

Rio Tinto plant in Australia
A merger would create a firm with a powerful hand in the metals market
Mining group Rio Tinto is expected to staunchly defend its opposition to rival BHP Billiton's takeover bid at its annual investor seminar.

Rio rebuffed an all-share approach from BHP worth $140bn (£68bn) earlier this month, suggesting the price undervalued the firm and its prospects.

Analysts are expecting Rio to criticise BHP's bid for not giving enough credit for the firm's production record.

But many believe a deal could still be done if BHP sweetens its offer.

UBS has said BHP could afford to put a further $27bn in cash into the offer in addition to a promised $30bn share buyback.

China worries

A combination of the two Anglo-Australian mining firms would create a natural resources giant with a stronghold over the world's iron ore, copper and aluminium production.

Iron ore is the main component from which steel is made, a metal in strong demand in China and Japan.

Steelmakers in both countries have expressed concern that a merger between Rio and BHP would drive up the price of iron ore.

BHP's chief executive Marius Kloppers visited clients and government officials in China, Japan and South Korea last week to galvanise support for the merger, but observers said there was little sign that he made any progress.

A report in the state-owned China Business suggested that the Chinese government could even gatecrash BHP's takeover efforts with a bid of its own worth $200bn through its new sovereign wealth fund.

But, such a move was swiftly denied by a spokesperson for the agency tasked with managing Beijing's vast foreign exchange reserves.

Metals boom

Rio Tinto's refusal to team up with the biggest mining company in the world suggests that it expects mineral and metal prices to keep on rising on continued strong demand from emerging economies, such as China and India.

Tight supply due to significant underinvestment in the 1990s is also supporting prices.

"I think we need to see a lot more on the table than we've got at the moment," said Julian Chillingworth, chief investment officer at Rathbone Investment Management, which holds 4.7 million London-listed shares in Rio.

"Rio is a unique asset and as a shareholder I need to be persuaded in the form of a very decent offer so I want to sell."

Broadway strike talks to resume

Broadway strikers
The strike has forced the closure of two dozen shows
Theatre producers and striking stagehands in New York are to resume talks to try to resolve the dispute that has shut down Broadway theatres.

Many shows - including Chicago, Wicked and Hairspray - have been closed since 10 November when the stagehands walked out in a row over new contracts.

A settlement was believed to have been close last Sunday after marathon talks.

But the talks ended abruptly when the producers walked out, keeping most of Broadway dark for Thanksgiving week.


The plans for the new negotiations were announced by Charlotte St Martin, executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers, and was confirmed by the stagehands union.

"We are glad they accepted our invitation to negotiate," said Bruce Cohen, a spokesman for Local One, of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

No negotiations were held during Thanksgiving week, traditionally one of the best weeks for Broadway business.

The contract dispute centres on how many stagehands are required to open a Broadway show and keep it running.

That covers moving scenery, lights, sound systems and props into the theatre; installing the set and making sure it works; and keeping everything functioning well for the life of the production.

The producers want a flexible number, but the union wants a set number and compensation for any concessions made.

The last strike to hit Broadway was in 2003 when musicians walked out for four days. Before that it had been nearly two decades since Broadway was affected by a similar dispute.

Pop artist celebrates new works

View of celebrated British Pop Artist Allen Jones' artwork Rehearsal
The exhibition runs until 22 December
New works by British pop artist Allen Jones are to go on show in London to mark his 70th birthday.

Jones, a contemporary of David Hockney at the Royal College of Art, has produced more than 30 works for the exhibition, which opens on Monday.

They include paintings, prints and watercolours made over last two years in England, China and New Mexico.

Jones is best known for his sculptures Hatstand, Table and Chair, which depict semi-naked women acting as furniture.

He said: "I am almost exclusively involved with the figure and the way it is presented rather than with the anatomical reality or correctness of the human anatomy.

"And so theatre, any form of artifice, appeals to me."

Born in Southampton in 1937, Jones studied painting and lithography from 1955 to 1959 at London's Hornsey College of Art.

Until he was expelled in 1960 he was part of the group at the Royal College of Art - also including Hockney, RB Kitaj and Peter Phillips - who were instrumental in developing British pop art.

The Allen Jones At Seventy exhibition is at the Alan Cristea Gallery, London, until 22 December.

Kanye cries for mother on stage

Kanye West
Kanye West's mother died after complications following surgery
US rapper Kanye West broke down on stage in London after performing a song about his mother, who died last week.

It was the first time he had performed in public since Dr Donda West's funeral in the US on Tuesday.

West, 30, who kicked off his UK tour at London's O2 arena, dedicated the track Hey Mama to her.

Afterwards the singer wiped his eyes and put his head in his hands whilst the audience gave him a three-minute standing ovation.

One member of the crowd told BBC 1Xtra: "It touched my heart when he sang Hey Mama, I felt for him.

"It was the best performance I have ever seen him give, and because there was emotion there it was even better than the rest."

Dr Donda West died at a Los Angeles hospital aged 58 after complications following surgery.

West often spoke of his close relationship with his mother. She raised him alone after her husband left when West was three.

The song, Hey Mama, which featured on West's 2005 album Late Registration, included the lyrics: "Hey Mama, I wanna scream so loud for you, cuz I'm so proud of you. I appreciate what you allowed for me, I just want you to be proud of me."

West's UK and Ireland tour continues in Brighton on Saturday and ends in Glasgow on 4 December.

Bail refused for singer's husband

Singer Amy Winehouse and her husband Blake Fielder-Civil leave their home in Camden, London
Mr Fielder-Civil's trial has been scheduled for June 2008
The husband of singer Amy Winehouse has been remanded in custody accused of assaulting a pub landlord.

Blake Fielder-Civil, 25, of Jeffrey's Place, Camden, north London, also faces a charge at Snaresbrook Crown Court of perverting the course of justice.

He will reappear in court for a plea and directions hearing on 18 January.

A trial is expected to take place at Southwark Crown Court in June. His wife, Amy Winehouse was in court to hear proceedings.

Mr Fielder-Civil and co-defendant Michael Brown, 25, of Durand Close, Carshalton, Surrey, who has also pleaded not guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm, are accused of carrying out an attack on 20 June 2006.

They appeared in court with a third man, Anthony Kelly, 25, of Constable House, Chalk Farm, north London, who faces a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The performer, who last week dedicated the song Wake Up Alone to her husband at the first night of her UK tour, mouthed "I love you" at him and blew him kisses from the public gallery.

Judge David Radford announced a provisional trial date of 23 June, 2008.

Doctor Who's first producer dies

Verity Lambert
Verity Lambert joined the BBC in 1963 as its youngest producer
Doctor Who's first producer, and the BBC's first female TV producer, Verity Lambert, has died aged 71.

She was also the youngest person to take charge of a BBC television show when the sci-fi drama started in 1963.

Lambert also produced dramas including Minder, Quatermass, Rumpole of the Bailey and Jonathan Creek, while her company made 1990s BBC soap Eldorado.

She was made an OBE in recognition of her services to film and television in January 2002.

'Total one-off'

Lambert oversaw the first two series of Doctor Who before leaving in 1965.

Russell T Davies, the current writer and executive producer of Doctor Who, said: "There are a hundred people in Cardiff working on Doctor Who and millions of viewers, in particular many children, who love the programme that Verity helped create."

Doctor Who
1963 - Doctor Who (pictured)
1975 - The Naked Civil Servant
1976 - Rock Follies
1983 - Widows
1986 - Clockwise
1991 - GBH
1991 - Sleepers
2001 - The Cazalets

"This is her legacy and we will never forget that," he added.

In 1985 Lambert formed her own independent television company, Cinema Verity, which went on to make the sitcom May to December and the short-lived soap Eldorado.

Most recently she completed the second series of BBC One's Love Soup.

Jane Tranter, controller of BBC Fiction said: "Verity was a total one-off. She was a magnificently, madly, inspirationally talented drama producer."

Lambert had been due to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Women in Film and Television Awards next month.

Her death on Thursday came the day before the 44th anniversary of the very first episode of Doctor Who.

'Lost' actor Kim in court hearing

Daniel Dae Kim in Lost
Daniel Dae Kim is one of Lost's original cast members
Lost actor Daniel Dae Kim has made his first appearance in court to face a drink-driving charge.

Mr Kim, 39, who plays tough guy Jin-Soo Kwon, entered an initial plea of not guilty, and requested a trial date.

He was arrested on 25 October in Honolulu, Hawaii, after police said he had been driving erratically.

Mr Kim - an original cast member - is the fourth Lost actor to be arrested for a traffic offence in Hawaii, where the popular TV series is filmed.


His driver's license was revoked for six months, Ronald Sakata, chief adjudicator for the Administrative Driver's License Revocation Office, said.

Speaking outside the courtroom, defence lawyer Patrick McPherson said: "He [Kim] made an apology to the state, the people of Hawaii and his fans.

"He pleaded not guilty and requested a trial date."

Mr Kim did not appear with his lawyer at the court hearing.

Other stars

In 2005, former co-stars Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros pleaded guilty to driving while over the legal limit.

Rodriguez, who played Ana Lucia, was sentenced to five days in jail and $357 (£174) in fines.

Watros, seen on the show as the character Libby, had her driving licence suspended for 90 days and paid a $312 (£152) fine.

And last year, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, known as Mr Eko in Lost, was arrested in connection with a traffic offence, and was accused of disobeying a police officer and driving without a licence.

The charges against him were later dropped.

Bollywood stars claim race abuse

Arshad Warsi
Arshad Warsi says the incident shocked him

Two of Bollywood's biggest stars say they were racially abused while filming in west London.

A group of white men in a car are said to have hurled insults at Bipasha Basu and Arshad Warsi as they shot the film Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal in Southall.

Arshad Warsi told the BBC Asian Network of the incident in May: "I was shocked. I'm not used to this sort of thing."

The area saw racial violence in the 1960s and 1970s but community leaders say such incidents are now rare.

Mr Warsi said the experience shook him and his fellow actors.

"A car stopped with a couple of white guys. They just lashed out at us and totally gave us their point of view.

"It's the first time I've experienced this."

The actors had been recording a scene close to Glassy Junction, the area's famous Indian themed pub.

"For me it was an alien thing. It was like, do people actually think like that?" Mr Warsi added.

'Absolutely disgusting'

Fellow Bollywood star Jonathan Abraham was also on the set of the film, which was released in the UK on Friday.

"When you come into London and you're shooting, its the last thing you expect," he said.

Locals were angry that two of the Indian film industry's stars were abused by racists.

"It's disgusting, absolutely disgusting," said 19-year-old student, Preety Johal.

Racial violence was common in Southall in the 1960s and 1970s.

The area has also witnessed race riots.

In 1979 there were street battles when the anti-immigrant National Front held a meeting in the town hall.

Bipasha Basu
Bipasha Basu is one of the stars of Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal

This resulted in the death of anti-racist campaigner Blair Peach.

Two years later there were further troubles after a far right skinhead band played a controversial concert in the town.

It is a different picture today.

The town's Indian and Pakistani communities for the most part live happily alongside Somalis and the newest immigrants from eastern Europe.

Campaigners such as Janpal Basran from Southall Community Alliance say racism is rare.

He said: "We're now known as a very mixed, vibrant town. It's usually very tolerant, very welcoming town."

It is not the first time that a Bollywood star has been verbally roughed up in Britain.

Shilpa Shetty made international headlines when fellow contestant Jade Goody was verbally abusive to her on the Big Brother show on Channel 4.

Surprise U2 charity gig wows fans

Bono and The Edge
Bono and The Edge played one 1987 track live for the first time
Bono and The Edge of rock superstars U2 delighted fans when they made a surprise appearance at a charity gig.

The Irish pair played an unannounced four-song set, before just 250 people, for Mencap's Little Noise Sessions at the Union Chapel, in north London.

Referring to their bandmates, Bono joked: "Don't tell Larry (Mullen) and Adam (Clayton) we've done this."

BBC Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley, the event's curator, said the multi-million-selling duo "were actually nervous beforehand".

Whiley, who has helped curate a number of shows to raise funds for Mencap added: "Seeing them in a situation like this, in a tiny chapel, makes people realise just how great they are - worthy of all the praise they get."

Joshua Tree

The crowd were told about some "very special guests" by organisers, but had no idea who it would be until they walked out on stage.

"The singer, Paul, is a shy guy, so please be gentle with him," Whiley told the crowd, before Bono and The Edge - real names Paul Hewson and Dave Evans - appeared.

They opened their set with Stay, moving on to Desire and Angel Of Harlem.

Their closing track was a first-time performance for the song Wave Of Sorrow - a track originally written for their 1987 album Joshua Tree.

Both men left the stage to a standing ovation.

"After they came off stage, Bono was asking me if they'd been OK and they were also wondering whether the 'new' song had gone down well," Whiley said.

The pair acted as the first warm-up act for Biffy Clyro.


Fan Simon Dowling, 20, from Newcastle, said: "I was here for Biffy Clyro. We turned up at 5 o'clock outside and got rumours it was Bono and the Edge and we were like, 'that can't be true'.

"I've used all the battery on my phone taking pictures of them."

Biffy Clyro singer Simon Neil said he had found out only on Friday morning that Bono and The Edge were to perform.

"We got to meet them earlier and they were very kind. They actually apologised to us for jumping on our show which obviously, you know, is incredibly polite," he said.

Spice Girls concert e-mail 'fake'

The Spice Girls
The Spice Girls announced their reunion earlier this year
The Spice Girls have denied cancelling a concert in Argentina, after a story appeared on several websites claiming they had.

A spokesman said an e-mail sent to fans claiming they had scrapped the Buenos Aires concert due to high demand for their other dates was "fake".

The Spice Girls are due to play in the South American city as part of their reunion world tour.

They hope to schedule the gig for a date in February, the spokesman added.

Dates in Cape Town, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney are also still to be finalised, according to the band's website.


In a statement, the Spice Girls' spokesman said: "The Spice Girls would like to make it clear that they have not cancelled their Buenos Aires show.

"A story has appeared on several websites that includes a fake e-mail and competition from the girls. The fake e-mail claims that due to the demand so far in the UK and the US this show is going to be cancelled.

"The e-mail goes onto say that they will be running some competitions for their South American fans to travel to the UK to watch a show.

"This is not the case and this email is 100% unofficial and has nothing to do with the Spice Girls."

The Spice Girls will kick off their world tour on 2 December in Vancouver, moving on to San Jose, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago and Boston; then across the Atlantic to play Manchester and 17 nights at the O2, in London.

At the end of January their tour takes them back to North America for gigs in Boston, Toronto and New York.

FA undeterred by England refusals

FA chief executive Brian Barwick will not be rushed in coach hunt
FA chief executive Brian Barwick will not be rushed in coach hunt
Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick says he is not worried by managers apparently ruling themselves out of becoming England coach.

Barwick and FA development director Sir Trevor Brooking will lead the search for Steve McClaren's successor.

But Martin O'Neill, Alan Curbishley and Sam Allardyce have stated they are not interested and committed to their current club roles.

"I'm not deterred - I'm determined to get the right person," said Barwick.

"The English footballing public is demanding that and it's my job to make sure we get that right."

McClaren was sacked following England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008.

England lost 3-2 to Croatia in their final game of the campaign when they needed a draw to book their place at next summer's finals as they looked to buckle under the pressure of the game.

Barwick said no-one had yet been approached about the job.

But he added: "I think a huge part of what comes next is managing the intensity of the occasions, we have to make sure the players go on to the pitch feeling really good about themselves.

"Something I can bring to the party is how we can better manage that."

Barwick and Brooking will meet this week to discuss who to appoint and are expected to consult the Premier League's top managers and ex-England boss Sir Bobby Robson.

"It's a notable departure from the committee-led approach which attracted such ridicule last time out when FA officials appeared completely out of touch with football opinion by pursuing such an unpopular candidate," BBC Radio 5 Live football correspondent Jonathan Legard.

He's my number one choice for the job
Ex-England boss Glenn Hoddle on Fabio Capello

"If anything it is a throwback to 1994 when Jimmy Armfield became the FA's kingmaker, recommending Terry Venables after widespread consultation within the game.

"This time it's the FA's top administrator that is taking the lead and Barwick's partnership with Brooking augurs well.

"Previously, the two have clashed over Brooking's plans to restructure coaching but it looks like England's failure last week has engineered some welcome unity and purpose."

Barwick insisted there was no immediate rush to land an England coach.

He said: "There is no time frame. We will not get trapped into a time frame. We will see how long it takes."

Former England boss Glenn Hoddle has voiced his support for Italian Fabio Capello, who says he would be interested in taking up the post, while saying Harry Redknapp is his choice if the FA wants an Englishman.

"If the FA want a foreign coach then it needs to be someone who has done well at the highest level," he told Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek.

"The man who fits that description is Capello. He's my number one choice for the job.

"I feel the successful candidate must have vast experience at all levels if the FA are to opt for a foreign manager.

"I would allow Capello to bring one of his assistants in that he could work off.

"But I would have an English guy operating alongside him who would be groomed to eventually take over.

"It doesn't have to be a young man but guys like Stuart Pearce, Alan Shearer, Steve Coppell are possibilities."

India complete win over Pakistan

FIRST TEST, Delhi (day five): India 276 & 203-4 beat Pakistan 231 & 247 by six wickets

Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar hit the winning runs for India in Delhi

India knocked off the 32 runs needed on the final morning to seal a six-wicket win over Pakistan in the first Test.

Shoaib Akhtar (4-58) snared Sourav Ganguly (48) with 22 runs still needed but Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman guided the hosts to victory.

Man of the match Anil Kumble said: "This ground is very special for me. I think the boys responded very well. Everyone contributed in this win."

Kumble took seven wickets in his first match as India's new Test captain.

It had been a fascinating Test with India never really in the ascendancy until the fourth day - and they had been in trouble on day two when suffering a middle order collapse.

"The stand between Mahendra Dhoni and Laxman in the first innings was very crucial," said Kumble, aware that India might have lost the match but for that partnership of 115 in a low-scoring match.

Resuming at 171-3, India achieved their 203-run target after just 6.2 overs on Monday.

We are a good side and I am confident that we will recover
Shoaib Malik
Pakistan captain

Tendulkar, 32 overnight, was in punishing mood as he pulled fast bowlers Shoaib and Mohammad Sami for fours early in the morning.

He reached his half-century when he hammered leg-spinner Danish Kaneria through the covers for a boundary and finished the match with a square-cut for four off Shoaib to be unbeaten with 56.

Shoaib again bowled with fire, denying left-handed Sourav Ganguly his own half-century in his second over of the day.

The left-hander was caught pulling by debutant Sohail Tanvir at fine-leg, falling at his overnight score of 48 after putting on 88 for the fourth wicket with Tendulkar.

The players now move from Delhi to Calcutta for the start of the second Test on Friday and then on to Bangalore for the last two Tests in the series.

India are in prime position to secure their first home Test series win over Pakistan since 1979-80.

But Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik insisted: "We are a good side and I am confident that we will recover.

"If we had made 300 in the second innings, we would have been in the contest."

Kumble will hope for another strong performance from his bowlers in Calcutta, where the second Test starts on Friday.

"Getting Pakistan out under 250 in both innings was a creditable performance for our attack," he said.

Tendulkar is now 746 runs away from Brian Lara's record of 11,953 Test runs.

Kumble said of the brilliant number four: "Every time he goes out to bat he has to handle pressure and he has done it for the last 18 years.

"The hunger is there as always. He is definitely going to be number one Test batsman in terms of runs, centuries, everything."

Sarkozy secures deals with China

Nicolas Sarkozy and Hu Jintao
Mr Sarkozy urged Mr Hu to strengthen China's currency
French industrialists visiting China with President Nicolas Sarkozy say they have finalised trade deals worth almost 20bn euros ($30bn; £14.5bn).

They say China has agreed to buy Airbus planes and other business to the value of 8bn euros.

And a French company, Areva, said it had signed a contract for the delivery of two nuclear reactors.

The announcements came as Mr Sarkozy held a second meeting with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

"The total amount of these contracts has never been matched before," he told the Chinese president as they met in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

The reactors will be built in six years' time in the south of the country.

Areva and its Chinese partner also agreed to set up a company that will operate the two pressurised water reactors until 2026.

The BBC's James Reynolds in Beijing says China is increasingly looking to nuclear energy to meet its growing demand for power and France is keen to make sure that it is involved in this process.

Iran issue

Following the signing of these deals, President Sarkozy will carry on with his official visit.

He is set to hold further talks in Beijing and will then travel to Shanghai to meet Chinese business leaders.

The visit is also expected to focus on international issues including Iran, with the French president likely to urge Mr Hu to take a harder line over Tehran's nuclear programme.

It is Mr Sarkozy's first trip to Asia since his election in May.

The French president has warned that it would be unacceptable if Tehran acquired nuclear weapons.

China - a permanent member of the UN Security Council, like France - has been reluctant to pursue further sanctions.

However, the BBC's James Reynolds in Beijing says China will be keen to play down any major differences with France.

It will want to reward Mr Sarkozy for being a rare Western leader who has not recently played host to the Dalai Lama, our correspondent adds.

Chavez freezes ties with Colombia

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez at an unrelated rally in Caracas on Wednesday
Mr Chavez accused the Colombian president of lying
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he has frozen his country's bilateral ties with neighbouring Colombia.

The move follows the decision by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to end Mr Chavez's role as a hostage negotiator with Colombia's Farc rebels.

Mr Chavez said that the decision to end his mediation role was "a spit in the face" and denounced Mr Uribe as a liar.

In response, Mr Uribe said Mr Chavez wants Colombia to "become the victim of the terrorist government of the Farc".

"I declare before the world that I'm putting relations with Colombia in the freezer because I've completely lost confidence with everyone in the Colombian government," said Mr Chavez during a televised speech.

"The companies that Colombians have over here, the companies we have over there - all of that will be damaged," he told his cabinet.

In announcing the "freeze" in relations with Colombia, Mr Chavez compared the situation to his recent diplomatic row with Spain, which was triggered when the Spanish King, Juan Carlos, told him to "shut up" at a summit meeting in Chile.

"It's like the case of Spain: until the king of Spain apologises, I'm freezing relations with Spain," he said.

Hostage swap

Mr Chavez's threat to freeze relations with Colombia was a response to the recent decision by President Uribe to strip the Venezuelan president of his role as a mediator in negotiations with the Marxist Farc rebels aimed at securing the release of dozens of hostages seized by Farc during Colombia's civil war.

Attempts to free the hostages have been going on for several years, but the process appeared to take a step forward in August when Mr Chavez volunteered to act as an intermediary between the right-wing Colombian government and the left-wing rebels.

A plan was drawn up for the rebels to hand over 45 hostages in exchange for the release of 500 imprisoned Farc guerrillas.

It worries me that the search for an agreement will be used by the guerrillas to advance their policies
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe

But correspondents say Mr Uribe, whose own father was killed by the Farc, became increasingly irritated by Mr Chavez's apparent disregard for the proper diplomatic channels.

Photos had appeared of Mr Chavez posing with a Farc commander.

Then, earlier this week, Mr Chavez revealed that Mr Uribe had told him that he was prepared to meet Farc leader Manuel Marulanda.

This further angered the Colombian president, who said the conversation had been confidential.

Eventually, Mr Chavez was dropped after he defied a Colombian order not to be in direct contact with Colombia's army chief.

Relatives' sorrow

The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has urged Mr Uribe to reconsider his decision to end Mr Chavez's role.

President Sarkozy has taken a particular interest in the issue, because one of the hostages - Ingrid Betancourt - holds French citizenship.

Mr Sarkozy said he believed the Venezuelan leader was still the best person to broker an exchange.

Colombians react to the end of Hugo Chavez's mediation efforts

Relatives of Farc-held hostages expressed shock and grief at the end of Mr Chavez's participation as dozens gathered near the presidential palace in Bogota to protest on Thursday.

"We thought it was very brave what President Chavez did in three months compared to what the government has failed to do in 10 years," Jose Uriel Perez, whose nephew was taken by Farc in 1998, told AP.

"Nothing touches this government - not the deaths, nor our mourning, nor the pain the families of the kidnapped live with."

Final push for Middle East talks

Rooftops in old Jerusalem
The status of Jerusalem is likely to be discussed at the talks
The US secretary of state has met Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to try to bridge gaps between them before this week's Mid-East peace conference.

Condoleezza Rice, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian ex-PM Ahmed Qurei want to agree a joint document for the Annapolis meeting.

President Bush, who will host the meeting, said he remained personally committed to Middle East peace.

Syria said it would be joining more than 40 countries expected to attend.

Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad is due to lead the Syrian team at the conference, which begins on Tuesday.

Damascus has been offered talks on reviving Israel-Syria peace moves, which centre on the Golan Heights, although Golan is not on the main conference agenda.

Correspondents say Syria's decision to send a deputy minister - rather than the foreign minister like other Arab states - may be due to uncertainty over this.

On Friday Saudi Arabia announced that it would attend, another boost to US efforts to win wide Arab support for the conference.

Experts pessimistic

Delegates are gathering for the conference, which starts on Tuesday.

The meeting, at a US naval academy in Annapolis, Maryland, will be the first fully-fledged talks on Middle East peace since 2000.

Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are to meet President Bush for private talks at the White House before the conference starts.

Delegations from other states in the region will attend but none from Iran.

Hamas, the Islamist militant movement that controls Gaza, will not be represented either.

The conference will open with remarks by President Bush followed by comments from Mr Abbas and Mr Olmert.

The White House has been downplaying the possibility of a breakthrough in the Middle East peace process, however, indicating instead that it will be the start of negotiations.

Israel and the Palestinians are divided over the fate of the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967, and the Palestinian refugee problem which dates back to the establishment of Israel in 1948.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the verdict on the meeting has been written before the gathering has even taken place, with most experts pessimistic about real progress.

But it might just serve to reopen serious negotiations, our correspondent says.