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Men in black fall foul of Tour officials

RadioShack’s team colours are red and grey.

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However, seven-time champion Armstrong and his teammates showed up for the 20th and final stage wearing black outfits emblazoned with the number 28.

That is a reference to the 28 million people Armstrong’s Livestrong foundation estimates are living with cancer.

The American famously battled cancer in 1998 to return to racing and win the Tour seven times consecutively.

In recent years his Livestrong foundation has been involved in raising awareness, and funds, in a bid to beat the disease.

But his latest bid was kept in check by International Cycling Union (UCI) officials on Sunday.

After turning up wearing black for the 20th and final stage from Longjumeau to the Champs Elysees in Paris, the rest of the peloton had to wait while they were forced to change back to red and grey.

Race jury president Franceso Cenere told French TV: “It is forbidden to change jersey in a stage race without an authorisation from the UCI.

“They had to change jersey otherwise they would have been excluded from the race.”

Armstrong decided to try again after the stage, when he and his team turned up at the podium to receive their prize for dominating the teams’ classification wearing black.

“In the end, I think the fact we had to change the jerseys (before the stage) gave us some publicity,” Armstrong told France Televisions.

On what was his final Tour campaign, Armstrong finished the race nearly 40 minutes behind Spain’s three-time winner Alberto Contador, his former teammate at Astana in 2009.

The 38-year-old American is at the centre of serious doping allegations levelled recently by former teammate Floyd Landis.

Landis’s accusations have led to the launching of a federal investigation into alleged doping practices of Armstrong and other riders at his former team, US Postal.

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BP’s robot submarines cap oil leak

BP’s robotic submarines wrestled a cap into place over the jagged end of a pipe from ruptured well deep below the Gulf of Mexico, in a dramatic bid to stem a disastrous oil spill.

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Live video feed provided by BP showed the inverted, funnel-like cap being attached to the well’s fractured riser pipe in near-freezing waters, nearly a mile (1,600 meters) below the surface. BP aims to then siphon the oil to a ship on the surface.

Oil and gas continued to spew out unimpeded with great force, complicating efforts to determine whether the cap was in fact a good fit. BP officials and the US Coast Guard did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

But engineers have already acknowledged that the cap will not be a fix-all, and some of the crude will still spew out even if it is successfully placed over the gusher.

BP earlier managed to slice off the fractured well pipe with a pair of giant shears, but the cut was jagged and officials had to resort to a looser-fitting cap.

The British energy giant’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, has warned it could take about a day after the cap is put in place to know if it is managing to contain the worst of the spill, amid warnings that, with the broken pipe cut off, the oil flow would initially increase by up to 20 percent.

The firm has repeatedly tried — and failed — to contain the disastrous leak since an April 20 explosion tore through the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig just off the Louisiana coast.

Between 22 million and nearly 36 million gallons of crude have already spewed into Gulf waters, threatening vulnerable coastal wetlands, wildlife and livelihoods, according to US government estimates.

After the cap, the next chance to halt the flow would not come until mid-August, when relief wells are completed.

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Republicans are radicals: Obama

US President Barack Obama on Friday branded Republicans as radical and reactionary, in campaign appearances for high-profile Democratic senators under threat in November’s mid-term polls.

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Obama rallied crowds in Los Angeles, California, and was to move on to gambling paradise Nevada in a bid to rescue wobbling Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid, on the third day of a four-day campaign blitz.

He charged that the first Republican president, his political hero Abraham Lincoln would not be able to win the opposition party’s presidential nomination in the modern age.

“Seriously, can you imagine him trying to run with these folks?” Obama said, in a bid to portray the Republican Party as outside the mainstream ahead of November 2 congressional polls in which his Democrats fear heavy losses.

Obama accused Republicans of sitting on their hands while he saved the economy from a second Great Depression and of wanting to go back to the same lax regulatory regimes that caused the crisis in the first place.

“This agenda that poses as conservatism is not conservative. It resulted in a radical shift from record surpluses to record deficits, allowed Wall Street to run wild, nearly destroyed our economy,” Obama said.

“This is a choice between the past and the future, between fear and hope, between moving backwards and moving forwards. And I don’t know about you, but I want to move forward,” Obama said, at a campaign event for under-fire Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.

“They are clinging to the same worn-out, tired, snake-oil ideas that they were peddling before.”

At a second event in Los Angeles, featuring actor and comedian Jamie Foxx as a warm up act, Obama fired off his stump speech to a crowd of 32,500 people, as 5,000 more watched on a big screen set up in an overflow area.

Republicans need to win 39 seats to take back the House after four years of Democratic control — a task well within their reach with some analysts judging up to 90 races in the 435-seat chamber as competitive.

In the Senate, Republicans need a 10-seat swing, a result that may be beyond them after several races tightened in favor of Democrats in recent days, and a scenario of six or seven seats changing hands seems more likely.

Obama was later to head to Nevada to take part in a Democratic National Committee rally alongside Reid, who is the top Republican target in the election, and is locked in a close race with “Tea Party” conservative favorite Sharron Angle.

He was due to finish up a campaign swing, which has also taken in Oregon and Washington state, in Minnesota on Saturday.

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Chemical weapons watchdog wins Nobel

The OPCW, an obscure body recently thrust into the spotlight by the Syria crisis, has won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work to rid the world of chemical weapons.

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The UN-backed Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was honoured on Friday “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons,” Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said in announcing the surprise choice.

“Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons,” the Norwegian jury said in its statement.

The chemical watchdog was not considered among the frontrunners for the prize until the eve of the announcement.

Teenage Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege had been among the favourites for this year’s prize.

This marks the second consecutive year an organisation has won the prestigious award. Last year’s award went to the European Union.

The Hague-based OPCW was founded in 1997 to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention signed on January 13, 1993.

Until recently operating in relative obscurity, the OPCW has suddenly been catapulted into the global spotlight because of its work supervising the dismantling of Syria’s chemical arsenal and facilities.

This has to be completed by mid-2014 under the terms of a UN Security Council resolution.

A team of around 30 OPCW arms experts and UN logistics and security personnel are on the ground in Syria and have started to destroy weapons production facilities.

The OPCW said on Tuesday it was sending a second wave of inspectors to bolster the disarmament mission in the war-ravaged nation.

The Rights Livelihood Foundation, a Swedish NGO that recently awarded a prize to chemical weapons expert Paul Walker, hailed the Nobel jury’s decision as “a great choice”.

“It shows that multilateral processes and the technical solutions to rid the world of chemical weapons do exist,” said Ole von Uexkull, the foundation’s director, in a statement.

Since the OPCW came into existence 16 years ago, it has destroyed 57,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, the majority of them leftovers from the Cold War held by the United States and Russia.

“It’s the slow steady laying down of bricks over the weeks, months and years, people sitting in control rooms watching this stuff going into the chutes,” OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said recently.

Luhan, speaking before the prize was awarded, described the OPCW’s work as characterised by “persistence” and “without any fanfare.”

“It’s the slow grinding work that we hope over time will be more appreciated,” he said.

The OPCW’s work was the “subject of years and years of patient diplomacy in which we’ve demonstrated that we do diplomacy very, very well. We’ve kept everybody aboard, we keep adding states parties, we’re approaching universality.”

Luhan, the OPCW spokesman, said any reaction to the peace prize would be posted on the organisation’s website, adding it did not want to create the impression that it was focused on anything but its work.

“We’re in the process of trying to achieve something in Syria,” he said.

“If we achieve the objectives of this mission, then there’ll be something to celebrate.”

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UCI opens talks with WADA

The International Cycling Union has opened discussions with the World Anti-Doping Agency to set up an independent investigation into the cycling body’s handling of past drug scandals.

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The UCI was criticised for not doing enough to catch American rider Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after admitting to doping. His admission followed an investigation by the US Ant-Doping Agency.

New UCI President Brian Cookson, who defeated incumbent Pat McQuaid in an election two weeks ago, based his campaign on restoring trust in the UCI and rebuilding the organisation’s fractious relationship with anti-doping bodies.

“We have started the work of establishing a high level dialogue with WADA to plan how we will proceed with the independent investigation into the UCI’s past,” Cookson said in a statement Friday.

“We have also been making contact with other key stakeholders in this area, including USADA, other national anti-doping organisations and the French Sports Ministry.”

The UCI had been accused of being complicit in Armstrong’s doping.

Cookson also said the UCI has decided to drop a lawsuit filed against Irish journalist Paul Kimmage, a former Tour rider who spent many years reporting on Armstrong and doping issues.

UCI director general Christophe Hubschmid and lawyer Philippe Verbiest, who had both been heavily involved in McQuaid’s administration, have left the organisation, with Antonio Rigozzi now assisting in legal matters, Cookson said.

Cookson also plans to meet new IOC President Thomas Bach and Carlos Nuzman, head of the organising committee for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, in the coming weeks.

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Nobel Peace Prize goes to OPCW

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

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The OPCW, based in the Dutch city of The Hague, is currently helping to oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Zara Zaher has the details.

(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)

The winner of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was announced in Oslo by the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland.

Mr Jagland says the Prize recognises the organisation’s extensive work, in implementing the international Chemical Weapons Convention.

“During World War One, chemical weapons were used to a considerable degree. During World War Two, chemical means were employed in Hitler’s mass exterminations. Chemical weapons have subsequently been put to use on numerous occasions by both states and terrorists. In 1992-93 a convention was drawn up prohibiting also the production and storage of such weapons. It came into force in 1997. Since then the OPCW has, through inspections, destruction and by other means, sought the implementation of the convention. 189 states have acceded to the convention to date.”

The OPCW has 189 member states, sharing the collective goal of preventing chemical weapons from ever again being used.

It aims to continue trying to persuade the small number of countries with chemical weapons to join the Convention, and give them up.

Thorbjorn Jagland says recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the importance of the OPCW.

Daniel Hyslop is from a not-for-profit research organisation, the Institute for Economics and Peace.

He says the OPCW is a surprising, but worthy, Nobel Peace Prize winner.

“Not many people thought that the OPCW would be figured as one of the potential winners. I think the recognition of them is important. I think it’s about protecting the norm that chemical weapons can’t be used in conflict. It’s recognition of the fact that the 300 conflicts that happened in Syria earlier this year was one of the most deadly parts of the war which has claimed over 120,000 people. And I think it’s also recognition of the fact that this organisation has been incredibly successful. In 15 years they’ve managed to essentially remove 78 percent of declared stockpiles of chemical weapons.”

A former United Nations disarmament commissioner, Paul Schute, says it’s good timing to award the Peace Prize to the OPCW.

He told CNN it will help to motivate the organisation as it begins its work to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons.

“In relation to Syria, they haven’t got into stride yet, so this is I think to hype them up and give them additional respect in the world for what will be a difficult task. They have done things, outside Syria. They’ve been an important force on the landscape. They’ve monitored the destruction of declared chemical weapons in a number of countries, and they’re still monitoring Russian and American chemical destruction, which has taken much longer than one had hoped. And they’re doing industrial registration and monitoring to keep a watch out. So they are a benign organisation. It’s good that the world has got the OPCW. But it’s real test is now going to come.”

First awarded in 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize was created by the 19th century Swedish inventor and philanthropist Alfred Nobel.

There were 259 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2013 – with 50 of these being organizations.

The Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, says it was difficult choosing a winner, but in the end it was unanimous.

“We have to look at the facts, and the facts are have the opportunity now to do away with a whole range, a whole category, of chemical weapons. And this has been one of the most prominent issues, I would say, in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize – namely the need for controlling nuclear weapons, and doing away with weapons of mass destruction like nuclear weapons and chemical weapons. So this is a long line in what we have been doing for years.”

The Nobel Peace award carries prize money of just over a million dollars.

 

 

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Former F1 tester Maria de Villota dies

Former Formula 1 reserve driver Maria de Villota died from natural causes, a source close to the case confirmed after an autopsy was carried out on her body on Friday afternoon.

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The 33-year-old was found dead in a hotel room in Seville on Friday morning.

“The cause of death was natural. We cannot say much more at this stage out of respect to the family,” the source said.

De Villota was in the Andalusian city to take part in a conference organised by the “What Really Matters” foundation promoting human values and was due to launch her book titled “Life is a gift” in Madrid on Monday.

The daughter of former Formula 1 driver Emilio De Villota, she was the first Spanish female to enter the sport when she joined the Marussia team in 2012 as a test driver.

However, just four months later De Villota suffered severe injuries, including the loss of her right eye, in a crash while testing at Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire.

“I hope that, without having to go through an accident like mine, you can feel the joy of being alive and enjoy life,” she wrote in the introduction to the book to explain the motivation behind it.

“Maria has left us. She had to go to heaven like all the angels. I give thanks to God for the extra year and a half he left her with us,” read a message from her family posted on De Villota’s Facebook page.

“It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that Maria de Villota has passed away,” the Marussia team said in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Maria’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”

The news has shocked the world of motorsport with tributes to a female pioneer in the sport pouring in.

De Villota had hoped to become just the third woman in history to take part in a Formula One race and Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, who became the first female team principal in the sport in 2012, hopes she has left a legacy for future female drivers to follow.

“If anybody represented strength and optimism, it was Maria,” she said.

“Her sudden death is a big loss to the motorsport world as she was an important ambassador for relaying important messages to the youth, and particularly girls that aspire to a career in motorsport. Maria was an example of someone who never gave up, she always had a smile on her face and we will dearly miss her.”

Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso said he was in shock after finding out the news ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka this weekend.

“”Of course, it’s very sad news for the world of motorsport as Maria was loved by everyone. Now, all we can do is pray for her and for her family,” he said.

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Ethno-religious tragedy rebuilds in Iraq

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

In the shadows of Syria’s deadly civil war, a new tragedy is building right next door, in Iraq.

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Actually, it’s an old tragedy threatening to renew itself.

And the picture looks increasingly ominous.

Ron Sutton has the story.

(Click on audio tab above to listen to this item)

Last month in Iraq, about one thousand civilians died in random acts of violence linked to the country’s ethno-religious sectarian conflict.

It was the highest monthly death toll since 2008, in a year already with the highest annual toll since 2008 — the year Australian troops left the country.

And earlier this month, a hundred people died in a single day.

That day unfolded as Iraqi specialist Ben Isakhan, from Melbourne’s Deakin University, was in the country working on a research project.

And while the world’s focus is absorbed in neighbouring Syria’s civil war, Dr Isakhan is one of many seeing deeply worrying signs as the death toll climbs again in Iraq.

“That tells you that we’ve slipped all the way back to 2008. Now it’s really not that much further to go, to put it in crude terms, in terms of just the body count, before we end up in the darkest days of 2006-2007. Is Iraq heading in that direction? Well, it’s certainly very clear that, in the last 12 months — even more than 12 months, more than 18 months now since the US left at the end of 2011 — Iraq has rapidly descended downwards.”

More than 50,000 Iraqis died in largely Sunni-Shi’ite conflict in 2006 and ’07 before a surge in United States military forces took Iraq back from the brink of civil war.

US troops withdrew late in 2011 amid relative calm, as the annual toll settled back to about four thousand each year.

But the neighbouring Syrian conflict that began that year would worsen dramatically, spilling both further Sunni-Shi’ite tension and al-Qaeda-linked fighters across its borders.

Ben Isakhan, who sees a vastly different Iraq from even a year ago, sums up the futility in one particular everyday scene now playing out around the capital Baghdad.

“On odd days, odd-number-plate cars can get through certain checkpoints. And on even days, even-number-plate cars can get through certain checkpoints. Now that might not sound all that complicated, but when you have a massive city of some four million people, three million people, and, you know, these people are trying to go about their day, trying to get to work, trying to get to school, trying to do the grocery shopping, trying to do whatever it is that they need to do, life is just stifled by this — it’s completely crippled, it’s incredibly difficult to move around. The logic of this is, if you prevent half the cars from moving around particular points of the city, then you’re going to reduce the number of cars on the road, which should, in theory, reduce the number of bombs. But I mean, well, firstly, it’s not working, because bombs are going off all the time, as bad as ever. And, secondly, if you were a terrorist, why wouldn’t you just wait till tomorrow?”

The reasons why Iraq could be slipping into yesterday are similarly complicated.

Syria’s breakdown is a significant part, but Iraq’s problems are very much its own, too.

A former governance policy adviser for the postwar transitional government in Iraq, Lydia Khalil, points to a lack of … well, governance.

Now a Melbourne-based international-security analyst, Dr Khalil, too, suggests there is grave danger Iraq could be headed back to the days of 2006 and ’07.

“I’m very concerned about what’s happening in Iraq for a couple of reasons. I think that’s directly a result of the spillover from Syria, but it’s also a result of a number of unresolved issues within the Iraqi governance landscape as well. A lot of that has to do with unresolved feelings of (un)fairness between different minority groups within Iraq, and, also, continued disputes over disputed territories in the region.”

The minority Sunnis held the power under late President Saddam Hussein, but the majority Shi’ites now largely rule the country under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Under his rule, and especially since the US exit, leading Sunni politicians have been targeted politically until much of the Sunni Arab population now feels unrepresented.

At the same time, the Kurdish minority, itself predominantly Sunni, is enjoying autonomy in three northern provinces that are primarily Kurdish.

The al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, able to take advantage of the brewing discontent, has grown in numbers and influence in many parts of the country.

A Canadian study found about half of Iraq’s 18 provinces, particularly the northern Kurdish and some southern Shi’ite provinces, actually are just as safe as Canada.

But it found the other half to be among the most violent places on earth.

Many of those are areas where Kurdish and other interests collide.

Lydia Khalil suggests the US-led coalition’s attempts to create a postwar balance of power between ethnic and religious groups may have actually accented the divides.

“A lot of that was, I think, done with good intention, to keep in mind the sectarian checks and balances within Iraq. But I think, as we’ve seen, that’s kind of created a Lebanon-style sectarian-identity politics, where, you know, Sunnis are expected to have a certain quota of this and Shia, they are the majority, so they’re expected to have a certain quota of that. So that’s a bit troublesome.”

Lydia Khalil says, like so many other places, what are termed sectarian issues are, in truth, issues of power, resources and land.

But the head of the Centre for Muslim States and Societies at the University of Western Australia, Samina Yasmeen, says the sectarian split itself is becoming increasingly real, too.

She, too, suggests it was largely brought on from outside, by the US-led coalition.

“I think, once you start a trend where you draw attention to sectarianism, when the state becomes unstable, then different interest groups emerge who have a stake in, in fact, further fomenting that sectarianism. I think what’s happened is, because the American government and the forces talked so much about sectarian differences, with them not being there, that tendency or those trends haven’t disappeared. And then there’s an international language that’s going on which sort of pits the Shias against the Sunnis and the other way around. So those conflicts, I think, we’re going to deal with them, no matter what happens, for the next at least few years, if not longer.”

Professor Yasmeen says there were Sunni-Shi’ite tensions at times before the US-led forces ever arrived.

She points to the early 1980s when the revolution in Shi’ite-majority Iran stirred up fellow Shi’ites in Iraq.

But she says the two groups generally co-existed easily, as evidenced by the fact many Shi’ite families have only now begun to move out of Sunni areas and vice versa.

And she points to changes going on in the region beyond just Iraq.

“I was just telling someone only last week, when I came back from Pakistan, someone actually identified herself as a minority because she is Shia. You wouldn’t hear that language before. We were discussing what’s happening in Pakistan, and she said, ‘Well, you know, we who are a minority …'”

In Iraq, with a federal election due next year, Ben Isakhan suggests a desire to keep Nouri al-Maliki from retaining office may be behind some of the rising violence.

And, he says, that is not driving just one side.

“There’s wide dissatisfaction with the Maliki Government. And whatever one may think of the Maliki Government here, many political factions are using violence as a way to, if you like, undermine him, to demonstrate he’s not in effective control of the country, that he’s not capable of protecting the citizens, whether they be Shia or Sunni or others, from violence and from random acts of terror, and that his work over the last few years has not been successful in improving the conflict. So there are a lot of forces at stake, both Shia and Sunni, who, apart from their ethno-religious motivations, their other motivation is to undermine the Maliki Government and to demonstrate that it’s not as effective as it claims in preventing violence.”

Dr Isakhan tells of a conversation just recently with a Shi’ite man.

Shi’ites were not, typically, supporters of Saddam Hussein.

“This guy said to me, you know, ‘In the former regime, we had schools, we had hospitals, we had roads, we had electricity, we had water, we had working sewerage systems, and we had good public transport and very little problems with pollution and with congestion,’ and so on and so on. ‘But the only thing I couldn’t do was walk out into the street and yell at the top of my lungs, “I hate Saddam.” That was the only thing I was not allowed to do. Now, I can walk out into the street any day I like, and I can say, “I hate Maliki.” But I have no schools, I have no jobs, I have no hospitals, and there’s no working sewerage system, there’s no electricity, there’s often not potable water,’ so on and so on and so on.”

 

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Djokovic and Nadal reach Shanghai semis

After twice exchanging breaks during the first set, the Frenchman bagged the tiebreak 7-4 to go ahead.

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But Djokovic fought back, twice breaking Monfils, who had to receive treatment on a stomach muscle.

Djokovic got the crucial break in the seventh game of the third set and closed out the match to set up a semi-final clash with another Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Nadal was made to work hard in the first set of his quarter-final against Stanislas Wawrinka, triumphing 7-6(10) 6-1 to progress to set up a clash with Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro.

Wawrinka, who is hoping to qualify for the end-of-season ATP World Tour Finals, saved three break points on his way to a 6-5 lead in the opening set before Nadal saved two set points in the 12th game to take it to a tiebreak which he won.

The Spaniard, who last week lost to Djokovic in the China Open final, then raced to a 5-0 lead in the second set before the Swiss held serve to merely prolong the inevitable as Nadal served out the match.

Del Potro kept his errors to a minimum, breezing past Spain’s Nicolas Almagro 6-3 6-3.

Del Potro, seeded sixth, had also defeated Almagro in last week’s Japan Open semi-finals and now needs one more victory to seal his spot for next month’s Tour Finals in London.

The Argentine, who was suffering from fever during the earlier stages of the hard-court tournament, committed just eight unforced errors during his win and faced a single break point, which he went on to save.

“I played very well today, very solid,” Del Potro told reporters. “I played aggressive. I hit my forehand very well.

“I like the way I played today. I just want to keep improving (and) keep going far in this tournament.”

Tsonga also took a positive step towards confirming his spot for London with a comfortable 6-2 6-3 win over German Florian Mayer.

World number three Andy Murray’s withdrawal from the Tour Finals due to injury has meant anyone finishing ninth or better in the race to London will qualify for the prestigious season-ending tournament.

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly and Sonia Oxley; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Cardiff owner backs manager Mackay, confirms Moody exit

“I have every faith in Malky and his team to lead us through the challenges of the Premier League,” Tan said in a statement on the club’s website (www.

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cardiffcityfc.co.uk) on Friday.

“I have supported him in the past and will do so in the future for many years to come,” added the Malaysian businessman whose money helped the Welsh side reach the Premier League for the first time when they were promoted last season.

Moody, an important member of Mackay’s staff since joining the Scot at Watford, has been replaced by Alisher Apsalyamov, a 23-year-old from Kazakhstan who has been appointed on an interim basis.

British media have reported that Apsalyamov is a friend of Tan’s son and has no background in the game.

Tan said Apsalyamov would focus on gathering data on individual players.

“Ultimate recruitment decisions of course remain the domain of the manager and majority shareholder,” he said.

Tan had previously upset Cardiff fans by changing the club colours from blue to red as well as altering the team’s crest, but he has brought success on the pitch.

He invested more than 30 million pounds on new players during the close season and Cardiff are 14th in the standings with eight points from seven matches.

“I would say to all Cardiff City fans and everyone connected to the club, let us look forward to the future and remain united in our support of the team,” he added.

On Thursday, the Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust issued a statement backing Mackay and calling for clarification of the situation, saying they feared developments at the club would see the manager leave for another Premier League team.

(Reporting by Josh Reich; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Bulgaria’s playoff hopes hit by 2-1 defeat in Armenia

Bulgaria are second in the standings with 13 points from nine matches, seven points behind group winners Italy, who have already qualified for next year’s tournament in Brazil.

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Armenia moved into third place with 12 points from nine games, but Denmark, also on 12 points, had a chance to go second in the group when they hosted Italy later on Friday.

Luboslav Penev’s Bulgaria, alongside Iceland in Group E, also have the lowest points total of any second-placed sides in European qualifying, meaning they risk missing the playoffs even if they finish runners-up.

Armenia went ahead just before half-time when Aras Ozbilis gave Bulgarian goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov no chance with a perfectly struck free kick, awarded for a clumsy Nikolay Bodurov challenge.

Bodurov received a straight red card but Bulgaria defied his absence and drew level on 61 minutes when their skipper, Ivelin Popov, found the net with another brilliant free kick, making up for two opportunities that had been missed by Emil Gargorov and Stanislav Manolev.

But just two minutes later, Bulgarian midfielder Svetoslav Dyakov joined Bodurov on the sidelines as he was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Yura Movsisyan ran clear of the visitors’ defence to score four minutes from time to secure Armenia’s first home triumph of the campaign.

Earlier, Bulgaria’s national anthem was booed and whistled by large groups of home fans.

It extended a hostile welcome that had begun when dozen of fans had subjected the Bulgarian team to abuse and hurled objects at them on their arrival at Yerevan airport on Thursday.

In September 2012, Armenia filed a protest with soccer’s ruling body FIFA about “poor officiating” and the treatment they received from the home team during a 1-0 qualifying defeat in Bulgaria.

(Writing by Angel Krasimirov, Editing by Tom Bartlett)

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Bulgaria’s playoff hopes hit by defeat in Armenia

Bulgaria are second in the standings with 13 points from nine matches, seven points behind group winners Italy, who have already qualified for next year’s tournament in Brazil.

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Armenia moved into third place with 12 points from nine games, but Denmark, also on 12 points, had a chance to go second in the group when they hosted Italy later on Friday.

Luboslav Penev’s Bulgaria, alongside Iceland in Group E, also have the lowest points total of any second-placed sides in European qualifying, meaning they risk missing the playoffs even if they finish runners-up.

Bulgaria thought they had taken the lead after half an hour when striker Emil Gargorov put the ball in the net, but it was ruled out for a marginal offside.

Armenia went ahead just before half-time when Aras Ozbilis gave Bulgarian goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov no chance with a perfectly struck free kick, awarded for a clumsy Nikolay Bodurov challenge.

Bodurov received a straight red card but Bulgaria defied his absence and drew level on 61 minutes when their skipper, Ivelin Popov, found the net with another brilliant free kick, making up for two opportunities that had been missed by Gargorov and Stanislav Manolev.

But just two minutes later, Bulgarian midfielder Svetoslav Dyakov joined Bodurov on the sidelines as he was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Yura Movsisyan ran clear of the visitors’ defence to score four minutes from time to secure Armenia’s first home triumph of the campaign.

Penev was furious with the referee, Felix Brych. “We controlled the game, the guys were perfect from the first to the last minute,” the former striker told Bulgarian state TV channel BNT1. “We (tried to do) the impossible to win or at least get a point.

“Obviously, we became ‘uncomfortable’ … and it’s clear we’re not allowed to win. We’ll ask FIFA if we must start with two or three people less.

“We outplayed them with 10 men and with nine men too. But apparently they will not allow us to win no matter how many goals we score.”

Earlier, Bulgaria’s national anthem was booed and whistled by large groups of home fans.

It extended a hostile welcome that had begun when dozen of fans had subjected the Bulgarian team to abuse and hurled objects at them on their arrival at Yerevan airport on Thursday.

In September 2012, Armenia filed a protest with soccer’s ruling body FIFA about “poor officiating” and the treatment they received from the home team during a 1-0 qualifying defeat in Bulgaria.

(Writing by Angel Krasimirov, Editing by Tom Bartlett and Stephen Wood)

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Lively Lukaku books Belgium’s World Cup ticket

The result means Group A leaders Belgium are uncatchable with 25 points from nine matches ahead of their last qualifying game at home to Wales on Tuesday.

南宁桑拿

It ends a wretched 12-year period during which they have also failed to reach the finals of the European Championship.

Lukaku, on loan at Everton from Chelsea and replacing the injured Christian Benteke for Belgium, had several thousand visiting fans dancing on the half-empty terraces at the Maksimir stadium after scoring in the 15th and 38th minutes.

Second-half substitute Niko Kranjcar grabbed a late consolation goal for the Croatians.

“I’m just really happy for the team,” the towering Lukaku told Belgian television. “We always believed we could qualify and now it’s happened.

“We just want to finish now on the right note against Wales.”

Team mate Eden Hazard said Lukaku had given coach Marc Wilmots a selection headache for future matches, with Benteke possibly fit to start on Tuesday.

Wilmots said he now wanted to secure a Belgian record haul of qualifying points by beating Wales.

“If Tuesday’s party is going to be good, then we have to take it seriously and win,” he added.

LIKELY PLAYOFFS

Croatia have 17 points and are assured of a runners-up finish and a likely berth in next month’s playoffs but were jeered by their fans after a lacklustre performance.

The home team needed a win to have any chance of overhauling Belgium at the top but coach Igor Stimac deployed a conservative 4-5-1 formation with wingers Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic operating behind lone striker Mario Mandzukic.

Wilmots’s team took the lead when Perisic gave the ball away to Steven Defour who fed Lukaku and he raced clear of centre backs Vedran Corluka and Dejan Lovren before rounding keeper Stipe Pletikosa.

Pletikosa then kept out a close-range header from Marouane Fellaini but could not prevent Lukaku muscling through to score a dazzling second goal.

Having superbly dinked the ball over Lovren inside his own half, the 20-year-old galloped past midfielder Mateo Kovacic, rounded the advancing Pletikosa and walked the ball into an empty net as bewildered home fans started leaving the ground in droves.

Belgium almost scored a third goal in the 77th minute when Pletikosa denied Fellaini from three metres after a darting run and cross by Hazard.

Kranjcar pulled one back for Croatia by volleying a fierce shot into the roof of the net from 14 metres after keeper Thibaut Courtois parried a close-range effort by Nikola Kalinic and Daniel Van Buyten could only partially clear the rebound.

Stimac said his side deserved at least a draw.

“We controlled the game at the start, dominated, but then made an incomprehensible gift to the opponents and they scored. It was a shock, it upset us,” he said.

Kranjcar said Croatia should be proud not to have fallen apart in the second half.

“That should be our inspiration for the next game and I believe we’ll earn a place in the playoffs,” he added.

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic, additional reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic in Zagreb, Philip Blenkinsop and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels; editing by Tony Jimenez)