Thursday, 6 December 2012

China tells Vietnam to halt unilateral oil exploration in disputed waters

BEIJING (Reuters) - China told Vietnam on Thursday to stop unilateral oil exploration in disputed areas of the South China Sea and not harass Chinese fishing boats, raising tension in protracted maritime territorial disputes with its neighbours.
Vietnam had already expelled Chinese fishing vessels from waters near China's southern Hainan province, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.
Hong's description of the confrontation last Friday was in contrast to the account by Vietnam, which said a Vietnamese ship had a seismic cable it was pulling cut by two Chinese fishing ships.
"Vietnam's statement is inconsistent with the facts," Hong said.
China is in an increasingly angry dispute with neighbours including the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia over claims to parts of the potentially oil and gas-rich South China Sea. China lays claim to almost the whole of the sea, which is criss-crossed by crucial shipping lanes.
The Chinese fishing boats were in an area where Vietnam's claim overlaps with waters of Hainan province, Hong said. New Chinese regulations allow police to board vessels deemed to be intruding in waters off the island of Hainan.
"The relevant fishing vessels were in these waters conducting regular fishing activities and they were unreasonably expelled by Vietnamese military vessels," Hong said.
The South China Sea is one of Asia's most sensitive military hotspots whose profile has been raised by a newly assertive China.
China has become more outspoken in its claims over islands in the South and East China Seas. The mounting disputes come at a time when China is flexing increasing naval might, including the launch of its first aircraft carrier in September and the test flights of its first two models of a stealth jet fighter, one of which is believed to be designed to land on aircraft carriers.
India, which jointly conducts some oil exploration with Vietnam, said this week that it was prepared to send navy ships into the region to safeguard its interests.
Hong said China and Vietnam were currently in negotiations over the waters.
"We hope the Vietnam side will not engage in unilateral oil and gas exploration activities in the relevant waters, cease interfering with Chinese fishing vessels' normal operations, and create a friendly atmosphere for bilateral negotiations", he said.

Greek prime minister-aiming to bring spectacular transformation to Greece

BERLIN - Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in an interview he aimed to bring about a "spectacular" transformation in Greece and more had been achieved in the last two months than in the previous three decades.
Asked in an interview with German newspaper Bild whether his country would need a further debt write down he said: "Our debt is now officially considered sustainable. But for that of course we need growth. We are trying to exit the recession, to reform the economy, so that we have enough income to pay and service debts," he said.
"It is our aim to bring about a spectacular transformation in Greece and to turn it from a bad example into a shining example of a model economy... we're working on a success story. Everyone will realise that soon."

South Africa military plane crashes in remote mountains

JOHANNESBURG - A South African military plane flying on a route often used to shuttle medical personnel caring for former President Nelson Mandela has crashed in the remote Drakensberg mountains, the defence ministry said on Thursday.
There was no information on survivors or the identity of the people on board. Local media said as many as 11 people were on the plane.
Defence spokesman Xolani Mabanga said the plane went missing on Wednesday. It had been flying from a Pretoria air base to Umtata, the nearest town to Mandela's home in Qunu, the rural Eastern Cape province village where he was born.
"Details of the personnel and the missions I'm afraid I cannot give at this stage," Mabanga said.

Money the issue over return of Turkish GP

ISTANBUL: The Turkish Grand Prix could return to the Formula One schedule next year provided the organisers can reach agreement with the sport's paymaster Bernie Ecclestone over money, the Turkish Automobile Federation (Tosfed) announced on Wednesday.
According to the Tosfed statement, quoted by Anatolia press agency, Ecclestone and the new manager of the circuit, businessman Vural Ak, reached agreement on all matters relating to the race.
However, it remains for the Turkish Government to give the green light to releasing the requisite funds - which according to Ak amount to 13.5 million dollars.
Ecclestone will be at the General Assembly of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), the sport's governing body, whose board had reserved a date for a Grand Prix to be held on July 21 at an unspecified European location.
Turkey hosted a Grand Prix in Istanbul from 2005 to 2011 and it proved extremely popular with the drivers but it came to an abrupt end when Ecclestone and the then promoters of the race failed to reach agreement over holding the 2012 race.
Ecclestone has been searching for several months to have a 20th race on the 2013 calendar, following the decision to delay the New Jersey Grand Prix' inaugural running from June 2013 to 2014.
Ak made it possible to reopen talks when he bought the management rights for the circuit at Istanbul Park.
Turkey has become increasingly ambitious in competing to host major sporting events.
Istanbul is considered a strong candidate to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games - they are up against Tokyo and Madrid and will learn their fate when the 100+ International Olympic Committee (IOC) members vote on September 6 next year.
Their football federation is also keen to host the 2020 European Championships, but that is being frowned upon by the Olympic bid as the IOC refuses to allow another major sporting event to be held in the country hosting the Olympics in the same year. 

Ex-Thai PM 'to face murder charge'

BANGKOK: Former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is to face a charge of murder over the death of a taxi driver who was shot by soldiers during 2010 "Red Shirt" rallies, authorities said Thursday.
The Department of Special Investigation, police and Thai prosecutors announced the decision, which marks the first charges for deaths during the mass rallies in Bangkok against Abhisit's government.
"The tripartite meeting has decided to charge former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban under article 288," said DSI chief Tarit Pengdith, referring to the murder provision under Thailand's criminal code.
He said the group based their decision on further witness testimony as well as a court ruling that taxi driver Phan Kamkong was shot and killed by Thai soldiers during the country's worst political violence in decades.
Abhisit and Suthep will be summoned by letter to hear the charges and to be questioned on December 12, Tarit said, adding that authorities would not seek court permission to detain the men, who are both now opposition lawmakers.
About 90 people were killed and nearly 1,900 were wounded in a series of street clashes between demonstrators and security forces, which culminated in a bloody military crackdown. Two foreign journalists were among those killed.
Until now no government or military officials had faced charges over the deaths.
Abhisit, who oversaw the crackdown, has insisted the protest leaders should accept responsibility and said his government had no choice but to take tough action.
"It was the job of the government of that day to also restore order," he told AFP last month.
Red Shirts, mostly supporters of ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, have raised accusations of double standards over the prosecutions of 24 of their leaders on terrorism charges for their part in the rallies.
Rights campaigners have said both the protesters and the authorities of the time should be held accountable.
Thailand has been riven by bitter political divisions since Thaksin was toppled by royalist generals in a 2006 coup that unleashed years of street protests by the Reds and the rival royalist Yellow Shirts. Elections in 2011 brought Thaksin's Red Shirt-backed Puea Thai party to power, sweeping Abhisit into opposition.
The accused Red Shirts, who include five current lawmakers, could in theory face the death penalty in a case that is set to begin on December 13. They pleaded not guilty in August 2010 to terrorism charges.
AFP was not immediately able to contact Abhisit on Thursday. Suthep said he would attend the hearing next week, adding that he would consult his lawyers before making any further comment.
The inquest into Phan's shooting in September was the first ever ruling on deaths during the 2010 rallies.
The court found that the 43-year-old was caught in a volley of gunfire when he ran out of a central Bangkok apartment block to see what was happening after hearing soldiers open fire at a minibus that had strayed into an area under army control.
Tarit said soldiers acting under orders would not face prosecution.

Jesus proud of Benfica's Camp Nou display

Jorge Jesus, Benfica coach
We didn't win, but we played very well. Not many teams have done what we did here at the Camp Nou. During the first half we had a strategy that paid off but was very tiring. In the second half we felt we could score − Nolito almost did after the break and Maxi Pereira missed at the end. When the Celtic match was 1-1 we believed we could score, but I must congratulate my players.
Our supporters must realise what we did in the biggest stadium in the world against the best team. For this to be a perfect night only a victory is missing. Maybe Barcelona had more of the ball than we did, but it was possession without end product. Benfica were the better team. Now we have a word to say in the Europa League.
Tito Vilanova, Barcelona coach
Messi's injury is a blow, but until we do more tests we don't know more. Our initial feeling is that it is nothing more than a [minor] blow. We don't know for what length of time he will be out. We had spoken about him coming on in the second half – if it was about the [Gerd Müller] record he would have played from the beginning.
It was not an easy game. They knew they had to get a result to progress and they pressed hard. They have a very good team and last year they nearly eliminated Chelsea, who went on to become champions.

Top marks for Juventus homework

Top marks for Juventus homework Player Rater winner Stephan Lichtsteiner praised his side's pre-match preparations, and believes that Juventus out-thought FC Shakhtar Donetsk to secure a hard-earned 1-0 victory and top spot in UEFA Champions League Group E. Giorgio Chiellini hailed his side's belief and adventure in attack, while Shakhtar duo Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Fernandinho cut frustrated figures, suggesting physical and mental fatigue stifled them against "very well organised" opponents. 
Stephan Lichtsteiner, Juventus defenderWe knew that Shakhtar are a very good side, but we also knew that we had to attack because it would leave two of their defenders to cover our two strikers. That was our game plan. Our preparations for this game were really good and we created more chances than they did. We only gave them one opportunity in the second half. We have a very good side and of course it's natural that we wanted to qualify from the group. Now we are first and that is really important. We thought we might face Barcelona, but now we will face someone else in the next round.
Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus defender
We knew it would be very difficult for us after the draw in Denmark, but we always believed we could qualify but only if we play like Juventus can. Today we played very well against a Shakhtar side that have a number of good players. We did what we had to do, we created a number of good chances to get the win and I think we deserved the victory. If you play for the draw you are likely to lose because Shakhtar have a number of great players that can hurt you. We tried to attack and we tried to win and we are really happy to go through to the next round of the Champions League.
Fernandinho, Shakhtar midfielder The last match of the group stage is always difficult because not all the players can maintain their physical condition at a high level all the time. The game against Juventus was a really difficult match. We were focused on the task that faced us; unfortunately we were not able to get the result that we needed as we were playing against a side that was very well organised. Both teams were focused on attacking and I think we were just a bit unlucky in the end in that we weren't able to score. We are a bit down at the moment as it would have been better for the team if we had qualified in first place.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Shakhtar forward
We have played well in the Champions League, with the exception of our last match against Juventus. We could have played for a draw and we could have qualified top of our group. In the end it didn't quite work out like that. We scored an own goal and there is nothing that we can do about that. The team tried hard to get the desired result and I think we deserved a point in the end, but unfortunately we didn't do enough. Maybe we were a bit tired. 
This was our last match before the winter break and perhaps our minds were elsewhere with one eye on our holidays. However, if you put things into perspective, the most important thing is that we are through to the knockout stages. We will wait to see who we are drawn against and will try to get through to the quarter-finals.

Shaqiri and Gomez savour handsome Bayern win

Shaqiri and Gomez savour handsome Bayern win

Xherdan Shaqiri was one of several new faces to shine as FC Bayern München breezed past FC BATE Borisov to claim first place in UEFA Champions League Group F. Speaking to the midfielder, who scored a rare header and set up Mario Gomez's opening goal in the 4-1 win, told how Jérôme Boateng's second-half dismissal forced the team to focus, while BATE's Aleksandr Hleb bemoaned some elementary errors from the Belarusian side.
Xherdan Shaqiri, Bayern midfielder
The whole team enjoyed it tonight. We wanted to put in a good performance and finish the group stage with a win. We knew that BATE were a good side who like to play on the counterattack, but after going 1-0 up we stepped it up a gear and scored more goals. Sometimes you play better when you're a man down because you focus more.
We made a lot of changes and everyone that came into the team wanted to perform well. We managed to do that. It was a shame we conceded a goal at the end because we wanted to keep a clean sheet. We'll have to see who we get in the draw. To be honest, it doesn't really matter because any team that has qualified for the last 16 is a good side, so it's going to be another step up for us.
Mario Gomez, Bayern striker
The important thing tonight was to secure top spot. We've managed that, which is what we all wanted. Our second task from the coach was to give the fans who made the effort to come and see this game something to savour. We did that, especially in the second half. We knew it wasn't going to be easy against a team that defends as hard as BATE. The first goal was important, but after that we did well, creating a lot of chances for the crowd to enjoy.
There's always room for improvement, but I hoped I'd rediscover my form after coming back from injury. I'd never been out for that long before, so you never know. Most people say you need a bit of time after an injury, but I worked hard while I was out. I tried to listen to what my foot was telling me and not rush back, so I only returned when it felt okay. The coach said he'd play me when he felt it was right and I trusted him on that.
All [three German teams] deserved to win their groups. It's nice to see that the Bundesliga is alive and catching up with the very best leagues. In terms of strength across the board, I'd even say it's the best at the moment. The top teams are all performing strongly in Europe.
Dante, Bayern defender
It was a bit different for me [to watch most of the game from the bench] but it was a good idea from the coach to change things a bit because we have a great squad and everyone deserves the chance to be involved. There were several players who haven't played too often who did really well tonight and showed plenty of confidence. We've got lots of strength in depth.
It's normal [that the team started slowly] because we had several players who hadn't played much at all over the past few months. To suddenly feature in a Champions League game, no matter who against, is tough, but the team played very well. To get the 4-1 victory was very important and I congratulate my colleagues on that.
Aleksandr Hleb, BATE midfielder
I'm very dissatisfied. We played really badly and made too many mistakes. We weren't communicating at the back – it was playground stuff. Nobody was calling at the back and that's what led to the mistakes. To concede two goals when you're 11 against ten is something I've never experienced before in my life.
Obviously Bayern are a quality side and it's hard to match them, but we managed to beat them with a bit of luck in Minsk. We fought that night and everything fell into place. Here, though, they didn't even have their best side out and still managed to give us a lesson in football.
Of course, I'm happy that we're in the Europa League. If someone had offered that before we qualified then I'd have taken it. Still, given how we started [with two wins] we did start to hope, but the last few games showed us what it means to be consistent and we have to learn from that. BATE are a small team and still managed to qualify, which is a great achievement. We won't get very far in the Europa League if we play like we did tonight.

Mata and Luiz rue Chelsea's poor start

Mata and Luiz rue Chelsea's poor start

Chelsea FC could not disguise their disappointment as their UEFA Champions League defence was ended, with Juan Mata calling it a "sad day". David Luiz pointed to their first Group E game, at home to Juventus, when the Blues squandered a two-goal lead as being key to the whole campaign. For FC Nordsjælland, a fifth defeat in six outings left a bitter taste even if Joshua John had the satisfaction of scoring for the first time in the competition.
Juan Mata, Chelsea midfielder
We did what we had to do but it wasn't enough. We played really well, especially in the second half, but the sense of disappointment is deep. We wanted to get through to the next round as we are the holders of the competition, but we have to carry on and try to win the Europa League.
It wasn't a problem tonight or in the last game. We didn't do well enough in previous games; we lost points early on. In the end we got ten points and in other groups that might have been enough to get through. For us it wasn't enough because Shakhtar and Juventus are two very strong teams.
It's a sad day but we will try and win the Europa League. It's a new tournament for the club and gives us another challenge for the season.
David Luiz, Chelsea defender
There was embarrassment in the dressing room and also sadness. We won the Champions League last season and to get knocked out after the group stage is a great disappointment. This is a big club and big clubs deserve to play in big games; the best games in the world are in the Champions League.
The first game was key. We were 2-0 up against Juventus and it finished 2-2. The team did a great job tonight and played a great game but we were unlucky with the other result. Now we have to look to the future and try to win the Europa League. The manager has just told us to keep working hard because the team deserves to win games.
Joshua John, Nordsjælland striker
It was a special moment for me to score. It was my first Champions League goal and for it to come at Stamford Bridge was nice. I have only seen these players on television before so to play against them in real life was very exciting. I am enjoying it [on loan] at Nordsjælland. I am happy because I am getting to play which wasn't the case at [FC] Twente.
Maybe I'm a little bit surprised at how well I have done in this campaign. At the start you are aware it's a different level but I just tried my best and hopefully there will be more games for me in the Champions League in the future.
Everybody was quiet in the dressing room, it was a very bad defeat, and we have to see the game again and decide what went wrong. But it's been a learning process. For every player it's been a new competition. We've played some good games at home but the away games have been more difficult.
Jesper Hansen, Nordsjælland goalkeeper
Chelsea were pressurising all over the pitch and it was a difficult for us to play our normal game. We came back in the second half but then it was a disaster for us at the end of the game and it's not so much fun standing here after a 6-1 defeat.
The [early] injury to Ivan Runje meant we had to change our plans and it wasn't helpful. Whether we could have stopped the six goals if it hadn't have happened who knows. Chelsea played some good counterattacking football and are a very good team and the results in the group showed we are having troubles at this level.
The Champions League has been a good experience for us and hopefully we can come back and play in it again. We need to learn from these games and take it into the Danish league. The big difference is the speed and tempo of the Champions League games and the quality of the other teams in the group.

Galatasaray comeback claims last-16 place

Galatasaray AŞ are among the last 16 teams in the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2001/02 after coming from behind to inflict a third successive home defeat on SC Braga and claim second place in Group H.
Knowing they had to match the result CFR 1907 Cluj gained at Manchester United FC, Fatih Terim's side began slowly and fell behind to Mossoró's first-half strike. The Turkish champions came back strongly after the interval, however, and drew level through Burak Yılmaz's sixth goal of the group stage – making him the tournament's top scorer – before substitute Aydın Yılmaz sent the away supporters into raptures with the winner 12 minutes from time.
Despite Braga's elimination from European competition already being confirmed, coach José Peseiro had asked his team to "show their class" and his players responded in a bright opening. Having passed a late fitness test to start, Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera misplaced an early pass that led to Alan setting up Mossoró, who scooped harmlessly over the crossbar when well positioned.
Terim predicted his players would leave "body and soul on the pitch" as they sought to guarantee their place the last 16 yet it was their opponents who were doing all the running in the first 45 minutes. Braga came close again when Albert Riera inadvertently headed Mossoró's pass into the path of Paulo Vinícius, whose poke goalwards was deflected narrowly wide by Dany Nounkeu.
The Arsenalistas did break through in the 32nd minute when Leandro Salino's left-wing cross caused problems for first Nounkeu and then Felipe Melo, who knocked it on to Mossoró. The midfielder took a touch before rifling into the corner from the edge of the area.
Needing a spark, the visitors introduced Aydın and Nordin Amrabat at the restart and the changes produced the desired effect. Within 13 minutes it was 1-1, Amrabat whipping in a cross from the left that was met by a deft Burak header into the corner. Braga rallied and twice in quick succession threatened to regain the lead through Ismaily. With CFR going in front in Manchester, however, the away side knew they had to score and their efforts were rewarded in the 78th minute.
Burak had registered all six of Galatasaray's Group H goals so far, but the most important came from another player. Braga's Elderson nodded Riera's centre to Melo and, though Quim blocked the shot, Aydın prodded in the loose ball. Burak hit the crossbar late on, yet it only briefly delayed the celebrations of Galatasaray and their jubilant fans.

Vietnam coach steps down

Vietnam coach Phan Thanh Hung has resigned after taking responsibility for a miserable campaign in Group A of the AFF Suzuki Cup with the 2008 champions picking up just one point. 

They drew 1-1 with Myanmar, were beaten by eventual qualifiers Philippines 1-0 and were outplayed 3-1 by Thailand, who topped the group with a 100 per cent record, to miss out on the semis for just the second time after their failure in 2004.

Thanh Hung, who had a year left on his contract, presented a lengthy critique of the national team’s performance to the Vietnam Football Federation on Wednesday in which he offered to resign.

“In preparation, we have received the maximum support of the Vietnam Football Federation,” he said. “The players also gave their all, both when training and competing.

“A number of factors led to the national team failing to qualify (for the knock-out stage). As the coach I must take responsibility and I have recommended to the Vietnam Football Federation that I step down from the post.”

Ngo Le Bang, the general secretary of the Vietnam Football Federation, foresaw such a move when he talked to the media in Bangkok last Friday.

“We have signed a contract with him (Thanh Hung) until December next year,” he said. “We will not fire him, we trust him. But, of course, he may resign.”

Thanh Hung, the coach of Hanoi T&T, has been in charge of the national team since May.

Boost for Philippines as Guirado, Cagara receive green light for semi

Overseas-based players Angel Guirado and Dennis Cagara have been released by their respective clubs and will be back in harness for the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final between the Philippines and Singapore in Manila on Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

National team liaison officer Ace Bright said on Wednesday that he talked with Guirado and Cagara on the phone to confirm the news.

“They will play in the home game (if selected). I am trying to get their plane tickets so they can be back in Manila at least by Friday,” he said.

Cagara, who plays for German Third Division Club Karlsruher, and Guirado, of Indian side Salgaocar, were not with the team when they flew back home on Saturday from the Group A matches in Thailand.

Following an initial 2-1 loss to hosts Thailand, the Azkals bounced back with victories over Vietnam and Myanmar to secure a semi-final spot for the second straight time in the regional football showcase after placing second in the group behind the Thais.

The duo’s availability has boosted the stock of the Filipinos in their quest to reassert mastery over The Lions, who they beat in back-to-back friendly matches recently.

Two years ago, the Azkals missed the opportunity of playing the semis in front of their own fans for the lack of a suitable venue but an upgrade to the Rizal Memorial Stadium has paved the way for a first-ever AFF Suzuki Cup match on home turf.

Guirado made an impact after coming on as a substitute in the last two matches and the bull-like striker scored the second goal in the 2-0 victory over Myanmar, latching on to a through ball and powering a left foot shot into the net.

“Boss, thank you very much for your attention to my (situation),” Guirado wrote on the social networking site Twitter by way of thanks to team manager Dan Palami.

Cagara has been a daunting defensive presence and will be eager to reprise his role alongside fellow defenders Rob Gier, Juani Guirado and Ray Jonsson, who, according to Palami, is recovering fast from his quadriceps injury and could play this weekend.

Also tipped to be back in fighting form is versatile midfielder Patrick Reichelt, who broke several teeth after colliding with Angel Guirado in training in Bangkok, but has had them fixed by the dentist since returning to the country.

Jerry Lucena, who left the team after turning out in the second game against Vietnam to play for his Danish Superliga Club Esbjerg also this Saturday, may be back for the second leg in Singapore at the Jalan Besar Stadium next Wednesday.

Rajagobal unconcerned by fitness issues

Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia coach K.Rajagobal is confident that striker Safee Sali and midfielder Shakir Shaari will be ready to return to action on Sunday for the showdown against Thailand in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals.

Safee, the leading scorer in Malaysia’s victorious AFF Suzuki Cup campaign two years ago, has been suffering from fatigue while Shakir was taken off late in the first half with an ankle problem during the Harimau Malaya’s 2-0 win over Indonesia in their last Group B match on Saturday.

While Rajagobal is less confident about the availability of S. Kunanlan and Khyril Muhymeen Zambri after they both missed the Indonesia match with groin injuries, he believes that the rest of his players will be ready for the match at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.

“The situation with Safee and Shakir is not worrying at all. They will have time to recover,” said the Malaysia coach to The Star.

“But Kunalan and Khyril cannot be forced to play if they are not fully fit. We will see in a few days’ time,” Rajagobal added.

Safee, who netted five goals in the 2010 competition, did not look sharp during the group stage as he netted only one goal and squandered numerous other opportunities in Malaysia’s three matches.

While he complained of fatigue and cramps after last weekend’s match, he is determined to get things right when Malaysia continue the defence of their Asean crown against the highly-fancied Thais who topped Group A with a perfect record.

“It’s nothing worrying … just a little bit tired and my muscles are a bit sore from all the effort,” said the 28-year-old striker of his fitness.

While Safee would drop deep to gather possession during Malaysia’s matches in the group stage, he feels that a more direct approach may be needed against the Thais.

“We need to score first and win. I will change my game and listen to the coach,” he added.

Malaysia have managed only two wins and lost four of the eight matches that they have played against the Thais in the Asean Football Championship. However, the Tigers beat the Elephants 2-1 in their only previous match in the competition at Bukit Jalil in 2004.
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