Saturday, 17 November 2012

I'm in film industry because of Yashji: Aishwarya

IANS

ACTRESS Aishwarya Rai Bachchan credits late filmmaker Yash Chopra as a major reason why she stepped into the film industry, and says he will always remain special to her. "Yashji is very special to me because he is one of the reasons that I am in the film industry.

He is one of the main reasons because he is the one who kept talking to me for two years before I joined the industry, to convince me," the 39-year-old said on Wednesday at Childrens' Day celebrations with kids from NGO Magic Bus.

"He always used to tease me, he used to say become an architect, design my sets and then you will definitely come in front of the camera, I'll see to it.

So he is just such a special person even to me," she added.

Aishwarya, who worked in Yash Raj Films' (YRF) Mohabbatein and Dhoom 2, says she shared a very personal relationship with the filmmaker, who passed away on October 21, following dengue and subsequent multiorgan failure.

"Today, of course, I am married to A b h i s h e k (Bachchan) and part of the family and he (Yashji) used to say that Ab toh tum bahu ban gayi ho (Now you are like my daughter-inlaw), so that is how personal it was. He has a very special place in my heart and my life," she said.

Aishwarya also featured in the hit item number Kajra re from the YRF film Bunty Aur Babli.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan Fall in love with love again

SUBHASH K. JHA

IANS

FLAWED but fabulous, the pasha of romance Yash Chopra's swan song -- may God rest his rhapsodic soul -- is a swoon-worthy ode to that achy-breaky feeling called love.

Reams of poetry and volumes of prose have been writttn on it. But no poet no author has come close to unraveling the mystery of the heart.

Yash Chopra spent most of his adult years peering passionately into the heart. Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ) is not his best work. The last 35 minutes when Shah Rukh Khan loses his memory is best forgotten. Miraculously the entire end-piece of this fractured symphony co-written by Aditya Chopra and Devita Bhagat, doesn't take away from the sublime beauty of the work.

JTHJ is like an elaborate work of art that offers many different kinds of guilty pleasures for all those diehard fans of Yash Chopra's romance who grew up, grew wise and even grew old watching Daag, Silsila, Chandni and the doyen's best work, Lamhe.

His latest and sadly his last work could keep you enthralled trying to play the game of spot-the-earlier- Yash-Chopra-referenced. You will catch Daag in the way Katrika Kaif returns into Shah Rukh Khan's fractured life. You can catch many shades of Karisma Kapoor from Dil To Pagal Hai in Anushka Sharma's girl-madlyin- unrequited-love act. You will see Kabhi Kabhie in the way Katrina comes to search for her fugitive mother (played by Neetu Singh, who had played the girl in search of mom in Kabhi Kabhie) and you can spot Silsila in Katrina's scenes with Anushka in London.

Both the ladies are madly in love with the same man, much the way Sharmila Tagore and Raakhee loved Rajesh Khanna in Yash Chopra's Daag. Indeed, there are perceptible shades of Rajesh Khanna's poetic romanticism from Daag in Shah Rukh's loner death-defying soldier's character.

Shah Rukh imbues the part of solider Samar with a great deal of heart. Never since Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas has he expressed the pain of lost love so eloquently. That his lady love happens to be Katrina Kaif helps us in sharing his pain. Yup, it's possible to fall hard in love with this tragic beauty of elaborate elegance and spend the rest of one's life pining for her.

Luckily fate and the scripwriters plan a happy ending for the soldier love story.

But not before a sassy spunky bindaas photo-journalist Akira(Anushka Sharma) sweeps into the traumatised Samar's life. The Shah Rukh-Anushka sequences in the second-half shot in the stunning Ladakh and Kashmir valleys blends the war-time urgency of army life with a seminal spot of sunshine. It's a pleasing blend of the valourous and the romantic that turns the Shah Rukh- Anushka chemistry from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi on its head. There he craved for her attention. Now it's her turn.

Comeuppance, anyone? Fate, as imagined in JTHJ is a flimsy mistress, hard to please and very high-maintenance.

Katrina's Meera is a bit of a silly romantic masquerading as an incharge woman entrepreneur. She makes ludicrous deals with God and pays heavily for her trade practices with an unequal partner (God). Meera is a woman of today captivated by outdated beliefs.

In some ways this exquisitely mounted work of art belongs to Katrina. She owns Meera's role in the way Sridevi and Raakhee owned Chandni and Kabhi Kabhie, respectively. Shot in pristine colours by cinematographer Anil Mehta whose camera evidently loves Katrina's face as much as Samar, Katrina emerges as an actress who feels her character's pain in anguished closeups.

Yup, Yash Chopra couldn't have chosen better. All the three protagonists seem assembly-built for their characters. And they are never short of support from every department of film's making.

It's the script that intermittently turns villain showering unexpected blows on the tender romance that the director so meticulously carves out of the lead pair's unflinching commitment to delineating the doomed dimensions of an ill-fated love that finally conquers even fate.

While we applaud the film's visual and emotional velocity Meera's dumb deals with God are plainly not the stuff great love stories are made of.

And yet, we can't help cheer for the lovers when they finally embrace in strife-torn militant Kashmir. Devdas had it easier. His explosive mine-fields were only in his mind.

And he could've never imagined his Chandramukhi would ever be as persistent as Anushka Sharma.

Kya karoon, ishq ho gaya hay tere se, she blurts out in a tragic confession of one-sided love. Ah, love! What a fall it causes even for the cynics. We don't quite fall in love with the film the way Akira falls for Samar. But we come close.

JTHJ is an ambrosial autumn sonata done in colours and moods that redefine Yash Chopra's legendary levels of aesthetics while sharpening and polishing the contours of his characteristic preoccupations. There is the elusive search for love and of course the unattainable beauty played by Katrina who miraculously manages to take her character beyond her porcelain features. When she dances in an underground London pub she forgets the world around her is watching.

Then there is Shah Rukh Khan standing tall as a soldier who defuses bombs but can't seem to defuse the love catastrophe in his life.

Actor Channing Tatum dubbed People’s sexiest man alive

REUTERS

ACTOR Channing Tatum, who set female hearts fluttering in the summer movie hit Magic Mike, was named the sexiest man alive by People magazine on Wednesday.

“My first thought was, ‘Y’all are messing with me,” Tatum told the magazine after hearing the news.

The 32-year-old actor, who is married to actress Jenna Dewan-Tatum, is training to play an Olympic athlete in his upcoming film, Foxcatcher.

The couple, who have been married since 2009, are ready to start a family, according to People.

“The first number that pops into my head is three, but I just want one to be healthy and then we’ll see where we go after that,” he told the magazine.

Tatum joins a long list of Hollywood heartthrobs who also have received the “sexiest man” title from the magazine including Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Ryan Reynolds, George Clooney and Matt Damon.

Gomez’s pals happy about her split from Bieber

IANS

SI N G E R - a c t r e s s Selena Gomez’s friends are happy about her split from boyfriend Justin Bieber and are hoping the romance is over for good.

The couple split on Friday after two years together.

While those close to Gomez expect Bieber to try to win her back, they are surprised it took so long for the couple to break up as she has shed many tears over him in the past year.

“It’s been so difficult to watch this unfold over the past year or so. Selena has shed so many tears over Justin,” showbizspy.com quoted a source as saying.

“She’s tried to split up with him so many times but they have always ended up back together.

“It’s out in the open now and that is one of the toughest parts, so that means there’s more chance it will be permanent this time. But we expect Justin to try to win her back - and he tends to get what he wants,” said the source

Art Garfunkel and the joy of singing

GARY GRAFF

NYT SYNDICATE

ART Garfunkel makes no bones about his job description. He is, as the title of his new compilation album says, The Singer – and he’s justifiably proud of it.

Garfunkel is, after all, the voice of pop hymns such as Bridge over Troubled Water (1970) and El Condor Pasa (1970), as well as pop hits such as I Am a Rock (1966), Mrs. Robinson (1967), The Boxer (1970) and All I Know (1973). With Paul Simon, his boyhood friend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame partner, he made some of the most seminal music of the 1960s and, working on his own, Garfunkel has until recently maintained a virtually peerless standard of vocal quality.

“If I can sum up my position in a nutshell, I’m very unjaded about my pride and my life’s body of work, with all these good singing performances and all this great fortune I’ve had in the recording studio,” the 71-yearold Garfunkel says, speaking by telephone from his Manhattan apartment. “When it’s collected and put together in a sequence, with and without Mr Simon, it’s a life’s body of work that I’m enormously proud of. So for me it’s time to say, ‘Here’s what I did. I sang well.”’ That’s all the truer coming at a time when doing so has become a struggle for Garfunkel.

In 2010, in the midst of one of his periodic reunion tours with Simon, Garfunkel was struck with vocal-cord paresis, a paralytic condition that rendered him unable to sing and forced the cancellation of a planned North American tour with Simon as well as some solo dates. He immediately entered treatment, but couldn’t help fearing that his days as a singer were over.

“I didn’t count on anything like the voice coming back,” Garfunkel admits. “I counted on nothing. I was just kind of depressed over, ‘How come I can’t sing, man?’ The doctors would say ‘The direction is toward mending,’ and I could fall to my knees with gratefulness to God for allowing the verb ‘mending’ to be part of the picture.

“But, gee, the slowness was hard.” The treatments did take, however.

The Singer features a pair of brand-new songs, Lena and Long Way Home, both produced by Garfunkel’s friend and occasional performing partner Maia Sharp.

“She won me over with a lovely, inthe- studio sense of ‘I know what I’m doing,”’ Garfunkel says. “She had me on the mic doing my best, nervously returning to doing vocals – with great frustration when you get back to trying to be a precise artist, but with great joy too.” Emboldened by that studio success, Garfunkel returned to the stage as well, booking a handful of solo shows for late summer, both in the United States and overseas.

“I told the manager that I want to create the groove of working again,” he says. “I thought that, if I can get back into that routine, maybe routine helps singing.” It was not meant to be, however. Five weeks into his tour, Garfunkel was a no-show for a pair of late-September shows in Sweden. In early October he announced the cancellation of all his remaining dates, issuing a statement that, “I had such hopes of being finally ready to perform. How painful to try and not be quite there yet.” John Scher, his manager, added that Garfunkel has no intentions of quitting and would “come back stronger than ever.” The Singer provides a convincing testimony to Garfunkel’s love of singing, which he says dates back to when he was 5, growing up in Forest Hills, New York, and emulating the doo-wop songs he heard on the radio.

“The fact that I could do it and it was a delight ... I just fell in love with that ability,” he recalls. “I was developing my singing as a serious gift that I respected all through my childhood.

The singing became a crucial part of my identity at a young age.” He did that most successfully with Simon, whom he met in sixth grade when both were in a school production of Alice in Wonderland. As teenagers they performed together as Tom & Jerry, even releasing a single called Hey, Schoolgirl (1957), before going their separate ways in 1962. Garfunkel attended Columbia University in Manhattan, singing as part of the Columbia Kingsmen while getting a bachelor’s degree in art history and a master’s degree in mathematics.

Those studies paled, however, before the success he had with Simon & Garfunkel. The duo first formed under that name for a brief time in 1963, then resumed full-time in 1965, scoring their first big hit with The Sounds of Silence (1965). Still well known for the songs they recorded for Mike Nichols’ classic film The Graduate (1967), Simon & Garfunkel released five studio albums before splitting in 1970 to pursue solo careers. They have reunited occasionally through the years, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

“What clicked is that we were good,” Garfunkel says. “Those harmonies that we worked on ... (It) was quite appealing.

We had a sound. We were very close. We sang with our noses quite close to each other in rehearsal, so that we were inside of each other’s breathing and soundmaking.

“And we were very, very close,” he continues.

“You could call it love. Paul Simon was my only buddy, I was his only buddy. We could be outcasts, but we had each other.” For many fans the highlight of their partnership was Bridge over Troubled Water (1970). The album of the same name won seven Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year, and the song kicks off The Singer. Four decades later, it still makes Garfunkel gush.

“Ah, what a song,” he says. “Paul showed it to me at his East End apartment one day ... and I fell for it like everybody did, right away. ‘Killer song,’ I said.” Unlike most Simon & Garfunkel songs, Bridge over Troubled Water is a solo. Garfunkel’s soaring performance is unforgettable – which makes it hard to believe that the singer himself tried to convince Simon to sing it. The songwriter wouldn’t hear of it, though, insisting that he had composed it specifically for Garfunkel’s voice.

“It was like two guys trying to grab the check, simple as that,” Garfunkel recalls. “But once he said, ‘I wrote it for you,’ I said, ‘I’ll take it!’ It’s one of those songs that is a tenor’s steak. That sounds awful, but I mean it’s a rich piece of material for a singer to sing.” In later years the two sometimes have sung the song as a duet, trading solos from verse to verse.

The album Bridge over Troubled Water sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, representing a high-water mark for Simon & Garfunkel. It also foreshadowed the duo’s breakup, however, in songs such as So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright and The Only Living Boy in New York, widely acknowledged to be about the distance Simon was beginning to feel from his partner, especially after Garfunkel launched an acting career with a role in Nichols’ Catch-22 (1970). “If you want to know the truth, I never wanted Simon & Garfunkel to split up,” says the twice-married Garfunkel, who has two sons with his second wife, Kim. “They split up because Paul couldn’t abide by my acting thing. But I never chose to say, ‘Let’s split up the group,’ so it’s not me who broke up Simon & Garfunkel. And nobody ever told me that the group’s over.” The two would reunite occasionally in the course of the next four decades, but each man moved ahead with his solo career. Garfunkel continued to act, making such films as Carnal Knowledge (1971), Bad Timing (1980), Good to Go (1986), Boxing Helena (1993) and The Rebound (2009), but also launched a solo musical career, beginning with his debut album, Angel Clare (1973).

“I wanted Artie to show that the Simon & Garfunkel albums were largely about Garfunkel’s production style,” explains Garfunkel, who worked on that album with longtime Simon & Garfunkel producer Roy Halee. “I felt that wasn’t so clear to the audience, and to this day they don’t see the producer’s hat that I wore. I didn’t have the power of Paul’s harmony with me, and I didn’t have his songs, but I felt I had a lot to do with crafting records and making them swing and sound rich and interesting.

PSG counts on Ibra against Rennes in French league

AFP

PARIS PARIS Saint-Germain is hoping to be inspired by the magic shown by Swedish international striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as the Ligue 1 leaders host Rennes in French league action on Saturday.

PSG drew 1-1 last weekend at defending champions Montpellier, while mid-table Rennes’ campaign has been gaining momentum as they come off back-to-back wins against Reims and Nancy.

Ibrahimovic won plaudits for scoring all four goals — including a spectacular longrange bicycle kick — in Sweden’s 4-2 friendly win over England on Wednesday.

And although the Swede is suspended for the match, his Brazilian team-mate Alex said he hoped his impressive form would continue to drive on the Parisians. “Everyone is talking about it,” said defender Alex, who should line up on Saturday as Mamadou Sakho is suspended after he was sent off against Montpellier.

“He has the habit of making the difference and I hope he’ll continue to do so for us. His (Ibrahimovic) performance against England could also help him for the Ballon d’Or..
“He’s a fantastic player and I hope he can maintain this rhythm and his extraordinary athletic power.” Rennes central defender Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik on Thursday said he was disappointed not to be squaring up to Ibrahimovic, describing him as one of the best players in the world. “Playing against this type of player is always good for experience,” he added.

Paris need a win to hold off second-place Marseille, who are equal on 23 points but have a game in hand, with the leaders taking just one point from their last two away matches.

Marseille, held 2-2 by Nice last weekend and already missing injured striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, have had more bad news ahead of Sunday’s trip to Bordeaux with striker Loic Remy out for up to three months with a thigh injury.

Striker Jordan Ayew will also be absent as Marseille try and hold their position as joint Ligue 1 leaders ahead of next week’s Europa League clash at home against Turkish side Fenerbahce.

Bordeaux are sitting sixth, just two points behind the leaders, but midfielder Nicolas Maurice-Belay believes his side could be playing this season’s champions against Marseille.

“They haven’t been given sufficient credit as favourites this season because PSG had a big recruitment drive and Marseille didn’t recruit much,” said Maurice-Belay.

“The fact that the group have known each other for the past year has helped them get a good start to the season.

“Having messed up the end of the previous season has boosted them. They’ve focused themselves on being even more competitive for the start to the season.” Montpellier, two points above the drop zone with just 13 points for 12 games, can once again count on captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa among their ranks for Saturday’s trip to fifth-placed Valenciennes.

Defender Yanga-Mbiwa has purged his five-match ban, but Moroccan international playmaker Younes Belhanda, who was given his marching orders in Sunday’s 1-1 draw against PSG is suspended.

Lyon, sitting third, host midtable Reims, as St Etienne, unbeaten in their last seven league games, travel to Evian as they look to move up into the top three.

Elsewhere, Lorient play Lille in Friday’s only game, as Troyes host Nancy in a bottom of the table clash, Sochaux travel to Ajaccio host Sochaux and Nice host Toulouse.

Two deaths in two days rock Macau Grand Prix

AFP MACAU

A HONG KONG racing driver died after his touring car slammed into a barrier and burst into flames Friday in the second death in two days to rock the iconic Macau Grand Prix.

Organisers gave no details about the accident which killed Phillip Yau, 40, but footage screened on television showed his Chevrolet Cruze crashing at high speed and catching fire before rolling to a halt.

Yau was cut from the wreckage but he died 40 minutes later in hospital. The tragedy comes after Portuguese motorbike racer Luis Carreira was killed in one of two serious accidents at the Chinese territory’s street circuit on Thursday.

Officials said they would not cancel the weekend’s racing and defended their safety record. The multi-race event also suffered fatalities in 1994 and 2005, and a tourist was killed in 2000 when a car left the track.

“Unfortunately it is not very pleasant to have two accidents in two days,” Macau Grand Prix committee coordinator Joao Manuel Costa Antunes told a press conference.

“But every track has challenges and the track of Macau as a street circuit presents challenges that all the drivers have the opportunity to learn.

“I don’t think there is any question about the track,” he said, adding that it has existed for 60 years and is approved every year by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the world governing body for motorsport.

“We don’t consider suspending any races,” he said.

Hong Kong media said Yau, who was driving a qualifying session for the CTM Macau Touring Car Cup, lost control of his high-powered car and hit the barrier at more than 200 kilometres (124 miles) an hour.

Organisers said Yau was an experienced Macau competitor who had won two races at the street track in the Chinese gambling haven. Carreira was a seven-time entrant in the bike race and also a veteran of the tough Isle of Man TT event.

The Macau Grand Prix, now in its 59th year, features four days of races for both professionals and amateurs, including the touring car cup, the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix and the Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix.

Macau, the world’s only international street circuit meeting with both four- and two-wheeled races on the same programme, has helped launch the careers of a host of Formula One champions including Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.

With its narrow roads, long straights, hairpin bends and few escape routes, the event, now in its 59th year, prevents unique challenges, but organisers insisted there was nothing different about this year’s circuit.

Yau was competing for Look Fong Racing Team in the CTM Macau Touring Car Cup, an event for amateurs and semi-pros.

Bangladesh hits back after Powell’s twin hundred

AFP DHAKA

OPENER Kieran Powell smashed a century in each innings before Bangladesh captured late wickets to keep hopes of an unlikely result in the first Test in Dhaka on Friday.

The 22-year-old righthanded batsman scored 110 for his second century of the match to anchor his team to 244-6 at close on the fourth day, leading by 215 runs and setting up an intriguing fifth and final day.

In the morning Bangladesh were dismissed for 556 runs in their first innings, taking a slender 29-run lead over the West Indies first knock of 527- 4 declared.

Powell, who made 117 in the first innings, batted with resolve and authority and added 189 runs for the second wicket with Darren Bravo who made 76.

But left-arm spinner Shakib al Hasan dismissed Powell and Denesh Ramdin for five and debutant Sohag Gazi took two wickets to stop the West Indian run flow sparked by Powell and Bravo.

Their stand is a new record for the second wicket against Bangladesh, beating the previous stand of 87 was between Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan at Gros Islet in 2004.

Here Gayle failed again, scoring only 19 before falling to paceman Rubel Hossain.

Bangladesh could have dismissed Powell early but Junaid Siddique dropped a straight-forward catch off paceman Shahadat Hossain.

Powell was only 17 then.

He took full advantage of the life and together with Bravo boosted the total to 124- 1 at tea, pacing the innings well in the last session.

Powell hit Shakib for a towering six before reaching his hundred with three boundaries in one Rubel over. In all he hit 12 boundaries off 197 balls.

Powell showed delight on the milestone.

“This was a perfect opportunity to do something like this,” Powell said of becoming the ninth West Indian to hit twin centuries in a Test. “I am not too sure how often it happened but I am happy that it happened to me.

“I think we are still in a good position to try and get a win from here if we get into 300.” Earlier, Nasir Hossain missed his maiden hundred by just four runs but still helped Bangladesh overhaul the West Indian total.

The 20-year-old Nasir, playing only his fifth Test, hit four sixes and six boundaries during his fiery 136-ball knock — improving on his previous best of 79 against Pakistan at the same venue last year.

Resuming at 455-6, Bangladesh were guided towards the West Indian total by a solid 121-run stand for the seventh wicket between Nasir and Mohammad Mahmudullah (62) before Sunil Narine took two quick wickets.

Sensing Bangladesh would fell short of the West Indian total, Nasir took the attack to himself by adding 61 for the ninth wicket with Shahadat Hossain (13) and during the stand also took his team into the lead.

Pujara’s double ton puts India in the driver’s seat

PTI AHMEDABAD

CHETESHWAR PUJARA showed immense concentration and skill to notch up his maiden Test double century as India put themselves in the driver’s seat in the first Test by posting a mammoth first innings total and then compounded England’s misery with three early jolts on Friday.

The 24-year-old Pujara scored an unbeaten 206 and batted for close to nine hours before the hosts declared the first innings at 521 for eight shortly after the tea break on the second day and then reduced the visitors to a precarious 41 for three at stumps.

Captain Alastair Cook (22) and Kevin Pietersen (6) were the two unbeaten batsmen at close with England still needing 281 runs to avoid the follow.

Nick Compton (9), James Anderson (2) and Jonathan Trott (0) are the three batsmen back in the pavilion on a Sardar Patel track which has already started taking turn.

It was Pujara who hogged the limelight as he not only recorded his second Test century in his sixth match but showed his class with some glorious shots on both sides of the wicket.

The left-handed Yuvraj Singh, playing his first Test since recovering from a rare germ cell cancer, was the other notable performer with a fluent 74 while captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (5) and R Ashwin (23) and Zaheer Khan (7) could not hang around for long.

Off-spinner Graeme Swann was the pick of the English bowlers with figures of 51-8-144-5, recording his 14th five wicket haul in an innings.

Pujara became only the sixth Indian batsman to hit a double century against England. He joined the list of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Vinod Kambli and Rahul Dravid.

Pujara batted for a marathon 513 minutes, faced 389 balls and struck 21 fours during his epic unbeaten knock which served as the foundation for India’s monumental total.

Off-spinner R Ashwin, who opened the bowling, scalped two wickets and in the process became the fastest Indian to claim 50 Test wickets in his ninth Test, eclipsing Anil Kumble’s record of achieving the feat in his tenth match.

The Rajkot-born Pujara took two singles in the 9 balls he faced this morning to reach his first landmark after 16 minutes into the day and then continued to bat with a lot of resolute.

He added 130 runs in 183 minutes for the fifth wicket with Yuvraj Singh, who scored 74 as the two batsmen denied England any wicket in the first session. The duo had come together late last evening and remained unconquered with 98 and 24 in an overnight total of 323 for 4.

End of an era as Airbus sells last two A340-500 jets

REUTERS

LONDON

AIRBUS announced the sale of two A340 passenger jets to a UK services company on Thursday, marking the final deliveries of its longest-range model but also one of its least profitable.

The two A340-500s will be the last examples of the fourengined jetliner to be delivered brand-new from their French factory and had previously been earmarked for struggling Indian carrier Kingfisher Airlines, industry sources say.

Airbus has already halted production of the A340, which came out in 1993 just before changes in engine design and regulations allowed Boeing to develop its rival 777 with two engines instead of four, allowing airlines to fly many routes at a lower cost.

Airbus said the 282-seat A340-500 aircraft, each with a range of 16,670km (9,000 nautical miles), had been sold to AJW Capital Partners, an aviation services group based in the UK.

They will be placed into commercial service with an unidentified airline early next year, it said in a statement.

Airbus declined to comment on the background to the sale, but industry sources have previously said the only two A340s remaining for sale had originally been built for Kingfisher.

They were most recently listed by Airbus as waiting for delivery to unidentified private customers.

Once considered Airbus’s most glamorous jet, the slender A340 boasted “four engines for long-haul” and versions of the passenger plane once held records for endurance and the biggest passenger jet by fuselage length, both now held by Boeing.

In its heyday, the A340 was feted when Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson asked the late Princess Diana to name one the “Lady in Red,” but caused blushes at Airbus a decade later when another crashed into a concrete barrier during ground tests.

More recently Airbus and even its rival Boeing have been buying A340s back from airlines as trade-ins to facilitate sales of more efficient two-engined aircraft.

The only four-engined passenger jets left in their catalogues are the larger 525-seat Airbus A380 superjumbo and the latest 467-seat version of Boeing’s jumbo jet, the 747-8.

Halting production of the A340 will however benefit its smaller cousin, the A330, the European company’s bestselling long-haul jet which generates significant cash for Airbus.

Because both models share the same type of wing, engineers have found a way to improve the A330’s performance by redesigning the place reserved for the A340s two extra engines.

The changes are designed to gird the A330 for a new round in the perennial battle for sales between Airbus and Boeing as the US company prepares to launch a stretched version of its 787 Dreamliner — dubbed the “A330-300 killer” by Boeing supporters.

Airbus insists the A330 has a solid future especially as a cross-regional jet within Asia, a fast-growing travel market.

European oil refining margins may fall in 2013

REUTERS

LONDON

EUROPEAN oil refiners can expect margins to come back down to earth in 2013 as global capacity returns, after a rollercoaster this year that saw them soar in the second and third quarters on low oil products stocks and plant closures.

The persistent strength of European refining margins since the middle of the year has surprised traders and refiners, who had grown used to very tough conditions.

Many refiners were unable to take advantage of the unusually strong margins as they had already committed to lengthy maintenance periods, while others, particularly in the Mediterranean, had idled their plants. This merely extended the period of strong margins.

But some analysts and investors believe refiners hoping the good times will last will be disappointed, with around 1 million barrels per day of slack refining capacity in Europe according to Bernstein.

BP and Royal Dutch Shell said at the start of November that they were cautious on the outlook for their oil refining businesses, saying a thirdquarter surge in refining margins that boosted earnings would be short-lived.

“The last six months has been very healthy, and I don’t think this will be seen as the baseline,” said David Wech, an energy analyst at JBC Energy in Vienna.

“There is surely room for disappointment for those who have recently bought refineries,” he added, referring to purchases of three of the five ex-Petroplus refineries by trading houses earlier this year.

Ian Taylor, the chief executive of Vitol, which bought Petroplus’s Cressier plant with Atlas, pointed to downbeat expectations for next year, limiting potential investment.

“It’s one thing that worries me particularly in the downstream sector, we need people to want to be investing and want to be in these markets,” he told a conference on Tuesday.

“But one or two others are saying, ‘Get out, don’t touch it’ and that has some big consequences, particularly for Europe.” JBC Energy predicts aggregate refining margins on Brent crude oil at around $6 per barrel in 2013, marginally down from average 2012 levels.

This hides a wide degree of differentiation for individual refiners and between different fuel types.

This year followed a period of poor margins which forced independent refining company Petroplus into bankruptcy and led to the closure of its Coryton plant in Britain. This boosted gasoline margins, as Coryton had been a big gasoline producer.

Diesel margins also rocketed after accidents at US and Venezuelan refineries over the summer, which reduced product flows to Europe just ahead of seasonal maintenance and considerably tightened the market.

The differential for barges of diesel in northwest Europe reached over $60 a barrel in early November, and were at higher levels in September and October than the corresponding months in every year since 2008 .

The margin, or crack, for refining gasoline soared to almost $25 a barrel in early September, its highest since 2008, and remained in double digits into October, before falling off with the end of the US summer driving season.

But cracks for diesel and heating oil took up the slack, and overall refining margins for the last 15 days stand at $5.64 according to Reuters’ data, compared with $3.38 in March. Traders said too much capacity had come out of the market at a time when refining runs were low. Cautious refiners were unable to believe the good times would last, and worried that increasing runs would simply kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

High crude feedstock prices in the first half of 2012 also meant refiners could justify keeping product prices high.

Apple, Samsung allowed to add products in US patent lawsuit

REUTERS

SAN JOSE

A US JUDGE allowed Samsung Electronics to pursue claims the iPhone5 infringes its patents on Thursday, while also allowing Apple to add claims that the Samsung Galaxy Note, Galaxy S III and the Jelly Bean operating system violate its patents.

The ruling by US Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal in San Jose, California, was the latest development in a continuing legal war by Apple against manufacturers like Samsung whose products use Google Inc’s Android software.

Representatives for both Apple and Samsung declined comment.

The case is one of two patent infringement lawsuits pending in the US District Court in San Jose by Apple against Samsung. An earlier lawsuit by Apple that related to different patents resulted in a $1.05 billion jury verdict against Samsung on August 24.

Apple filed the second lawsuit in February, alleging that various Samsung smartphone and tablet products including the Galaxy Nexus infringed eight of its patents.

Samsung denied infringement and filed a cross-complaint alleging that Apple’s iPhone and iPad infringed eight of its patents.

US District Judge Lucy Koh issued a preliminary injunction against pretrial sales of the Nexus in June. But the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned the sales ban on October 11.

Following the debut of the iPhone on September 21, Samsung sought to add it as an Apple product that infringed its patents. Apple moved likewise to add the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, Samsung Galaxy S III and the Jelly Bean operating system in connection with the Galaxy Nexus.

In his ruling on Thursday, Grewal said Samsung acted with “reasonable diligence” in asking the court to allow it to add the iPhone 5 to the case.

Apple did not oppose adding the iPhone5. Nevertheless, Grewal warned Apple to “think twice before opposing similar amendments reflecting other newly released products - eg the iPad 4 and iPad mini - that Samsung may propose in the near future.”

India investigates Wal-Mart over violation of foreign exchange rules

REUTERS

NEW DELHI

INDIAN authorities are investigating claims that Wal- Mart Stores Inc violated foreign exchange rules when it invested $100 million in a domestic unit owned by its wholesale joint-venture partner, Bharti Enterprises, a law enforcement official said.

A lawmaker first raised the allegations in a letter to the prime minister in early September, and the complaint was subsequently passed from one government department to another without action being taken.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has denied any wrongdoing. The allegations relate to the company’s complex investment through debentures — which could later be converted to an equity stake — at a time when direct ownership by foreign firms was prohibited.

“Yes, the Enforcement Directorate has initiated an investigation into the allegations against Wal-Mart,” a senior official, who declined to be named, told Reuters on Friday.

The Enforcement Directorate, an elite agency that falls under the finance ministry, investigates financial crimes.

“The probe is at an early stage and therefore (it is) difficult to say what the outcome will be,” the official said.

News of the investigation comes at a bad time for the Congress Party-led minority government, which is preparing to do battle with opponents in parliament next week over its decision to allow foreign companies into India’s retail sector. The furore could derail parliamentary proceedings.

Parties opposed to the new retail policy, which include some government allies, may use the investigation to fan suspicion among supporters against foreign retailers including Wal-Mart whose entry is seen threatening the livelihoods of local mom-andpop store owners.

Arkansas-based Wal-Mart has repeatedly denied the allegations.

“The central government has sought certain information and clarification, which has been provided by us. We are not in a position to offer further comments as the matter is before the courts,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said on Friday.

India liberalised its retail sector in mid-September to allow global superstores to buy stakes in Indian companies - one of a number of bigticket reforms passed in September by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to revive a sluggish economy.

Previously, foreign retailers were only allowed to invest in wholesale operations.

Wal-Mart was the most vocal advocate for the change and has said it expects to open its first retail store within 18 months.

MP Achuthan, a member of the Communist Party of India that opposes foreign direct investment in retail, accused Wal-Mart of investing $100 million as early as early 2010 in a multibrand retail business.

In September, Achuthan raised the issue in parliament, questioning Wal-Mart’s role in Easyday stores, which are controlled by Bharti Enterprises, its partner in a wholesale joint venture.

The commerce minister answered that Wal-Mart, via its Mauritius arm, held debentures that are convertible into a 49 percent equity stake in Cedar Support Services, the company previously known as Bharti Retail Holdings that holds Easyday.

The law enforcement official confirmed that the Enforcement Directorate was looking at Cedar.

Dhow workshops educate children

TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK

DOHA KATARA hosted informative workshops for children as part of the Second Annual Dhow Festival, recently.

The children attending the workshops learned art and crafts, fishing and Dhow building with traditional tools. The workshops for local schools across Doha, including children from Shafallah, featured traditional story-telling. Twenty schools took part in the workshops. Some of the schools were Al Manar School, the Lebanese School, Khalifa Independent School for Boys, the Qatar Canadian School and Omama Primary School for Girls.

Ahmed al Hitmi, Dhow Festival Committee Manager, said, “Qatar has invested heavily in education.

We want to contribute to this by sharing knowledge from our heritage with our future generations, so that they can carry on this legacy. We are proud to see children enjoying the workshops which bring entertainment to education.” The Dhow Festival which opened on November 13 will conclude at Katara’s Esplanade on Saturday.

Indonesian embassy hosts cultural show

MOHAMED KHOULAIDI

DOHA INDONESIAN Embassy in Qatar, in cooperation with the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy and support of Blitar Rose Dancers, organised a programme to introduce Qatari nationals and expatriates to the South East Asian nation’s tourism industry.

The event titled, ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ was held at Qatar National Theater recently.

The main objective of the event was to promote and highlight Indonesia’s interests such as history and heritage, nature and ecotourism, shopping and culinary, spa and wellness, recreational sports, meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions and cruise.

This promotional event represents the next chapter of ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ that was held in Qatar Foundation in October.

Speaking on the occasion, Indonesian Ambassador to Qatar HE Deddy Saiful Hadi said, “I thank the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage of Qatar and the Qatar National Theatre for providing us with this beautiful venue and assisting us during the event.

Indonesia cannot be described in a mere few words.

We will need a million words to describe our different culture and tourist destinations.” The envoy continued: “Even though you are already familiar with Indonesia, the Qatari nationals and expatriates in Qatar can get a closer look of our rich and diverse cultures through such programmes.

Perhaps, some people think the centre of cultural diversity and tourism of Indonesia is Bali. The fact is, we have 13,000 islands and each island is unique.”

Food security meet calls for sound agriculture, rural policies

MOHAMED KHOULAIDI

DOHA THE International Conference on Food Security in Dry Lands (FSDL) ended on Thursday with the Doha Declaration on combating food and water insecurity in dry lands.

Thirteen ministers participated in a ministerial dialogue which featured two sessions on the energywater- food nexus and financing dry land agriculture and food production.

The ministers discussed the food-water-energy nexus and its implications for food security and climate change in their nations. They also deliberated on how to translate research into policy and solutions as well as how to coordinate regional strategies and responses. The dialogue included also discussions on increasing financial commitments to expanding agriculture in their countries and responsible investment abroad.

During the discussions, it was acknowledged that there was an urgent need to promote sound policies for agricultural and rural development with a call on governments for allocation of 10 percent of national budgetary resources for the implementation of the declaration that emerged at the conference.

The declaration called for increased allocations of national expenditure to agriculture and food production.

The ministers acknowledged Qatar’s initiative for the establishment of a Global Dry Land Alliance (GDLA).

The need to establish a permanent secretariat for the FSDL under the Qatar National Food Security Programme, to support and enhance food security in dry lands in partnership with governments, multilateral organisations, businesses, research and academic institutions was also discussed.

The ministers therefore called for the creation of a mechanism using reliable indicators to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the declaration, in close collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Arab Water Council (AWC).

They highlighted the need to establish, with the support of FAO, the World Bank, UNESCO and others, an information system in the field of agricultural production for food security and the trading of commodities between markets and countries in dry lands and to establish and enhance early warning systems at national and regional levels to minimise the negative effects of droughts, floods, desertification and pests.”

Thousands join walk for diabetes awareness; QDA gets mobile unit

CATHERINE W GICHUKI

DOHA OVER 5,000 residents from all walks of life on Friday participated in the third annual ‘Beat Diabetes Walkathon’ organised by the Landmark Group in association with Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA).

The participants who included schoolchildren, company employees and members of the public embarked on a two-kilometre journey from Corniche’s Oryx to Sheraton Hotel and back, giving the message of exercise and healthy food.

Senior officials of Landmark Group and QDA also participated in the walkathon which was the culmination of a year-long timeline of diabetes awareness drives and activities led by Landmark Group.

Walkathons were additionally held early this month in Kuwait and India. Dubai’s walkathon will be held on November 23.

The occasion also launch of a new Diabetes Mobile Unit aimed at providing services for diabetic patients in remote areas across the country. The unit has three compartments including a retina camera, diabetic foot clinic and blood sugar testing and education unit.

There was free blood sugar testing, including a spectacular Zumba session led by Fitness First. Trainers led a mass warm-up session prior to the walk. The participants wore blue shirts, caps, towels and wristbands that symbolised the cause.

There was also a face painting session for children.

Speaking to Qatar Tribune, QDA Executive Director Dr Abdulla al Hamaq said that the walkathon will help in raising awareness about diabetes in the community.

“Diabetes affects a large number of people in Qatar. It is the need of the hour to increase the level of diabetes awareness if we are to reduce its incidence. Events such as the walkathon and free blood glucose camps are commendable, as they better equip people with relevant information on diabetes and highlight the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices.” He added that the mobile unit will further help in the fight against diabetes. “In the coming days, we will start going to different areas in Qatar,” he added.

In a statement, Landmark Group Qatar Chief Operating Officer Santosh Pai and General Manager Suresh Sarma said, “Now in its third year, the Beat Diabetes initiative has touched the lives of millions of people across seven nations.

“The support offered by residents and institutions to this year’s edition of the walkathon has indeed exceeded that of the previous years. Our mission is to direct this momentum on fostering a better and seamless understanding of the condition and help the community achieve a healthy, active lifestyle.” QDA Programme Manager Sharoud al Jundi Matthis said, “Exercises and healthy food help in controlling and preventing diabetes.” Matthis said that the mobile unit would reach out to people in areas like Al Khor, Al Shamal and Industrial Area.

The walkathon was preceded by a fortnight-long free blood glucose tests for mall visitors in Barwa Plaza Mall and Al Asmakh Mall, in which saw more than 4,000 people getting enrolled.

Protesters across M-E denounce Israeli assault on Gaza

AFP CAIRO THOUSANDS of people across the Middle East protested on Friday against Israel’s aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip, with some chanting “death to Israel” and others calling for the bombing of Tel Aviv. In Cairo, several thousand protesters gathered outside Al-Azhar mosque after weekly Muslim prayers and chanted “We will go to Gaza in our millions,” swearing to “sacrifice ourselves for you, Palestine.” “It’s the least we can do,” protester Ahmed Selim said.

“We need to show Israel our anger.” President Mohammed Morsi himself branded the Israeli assault in which 23 Palestinians have been killed as a “blatant aggression against humanity and promised that “Egypt will not leave Gaza on its own,” MENA news agency said.

“Egypt will not hesitate to intensify its efforts and make sacrifices to stop this aggression and achieve a lasting truce,” he said.

Before the Cairo demonstration, influential Egyptian-born theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi said in a sermon at Al Azhar that the “Muslim nation should join ranks.” “Our umma (the worldwide Muslim community) is the strongest of ummas,” he said.

“Israel the arrogant cannot humiliate it, despite its missiles and its arms.” In the central West Bank city of Ramallah, more than 1,000 protesters shouted slogans of support for Gaza’s Hamas rulers and waved the Islamist movement’s green flag.

“Hamas, bomb Tel Aviv!” they chanted a day after a rocket from Gaza struck the sea just by sprawling coastal city, with a second landing on Friday in an attack claimed by militants from the ruling Islamist movement.

In Lebanon, thousands turned out for demonstrations in Palestinian refugee camps in the north and south of the country in outrage at the assault, echoing the calls from Ramallah.

“O Qassam, O beloved, bomb and destroy Tel Aviv,” they shouted in reference to the rocket and the armed wing of Hamas of the same name.

Demonstrations in Tehran and 700 other Iranian cities after Friday prayers, called for by the authorities, saw crowds chanting “death to Israel” and “death to America,” according to news agency ISNA.

“One must salute the Palestinians’ popular resistance and the response they have given to the Zionist regime (by firing rockets into Israel),” Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said at the weekly prayers in Tehran.

“Your method is good and you can bring the Zionist regime to its knees,” he added.

In Tunis, 3,000 to 4,000 people demonstrated after Friday prayers in the centre of the capital in protests called by the ruling Islamist party Ennahda.

“Gaza, symbol of freedom” and “struggle for independence,” they chanted on a march from the Fatah mosque to Human Rights square.

Meanwhile Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki expressed “solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people” and denounced “a barbaric aggression by Israeli aviation,” ahead of a Saturday visit to Gaza by Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem.

Israel continued its bombardment on Friday and said it was considering launching a ground offensive into the Hamas-controlled territory.

A total of 23 Palestinians and three Israelis have died in the tit-for-tat violence.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi official said on Friday Baghdad will recommend that Arab states use oil as a weapon to exert pressure on Israel and countries that back it, particularly the US, over the Gaza crisis.

“Playing the economic card is our most powerful weapon at the moment in supporting the Palestinian people, for no military power can currently stand up to Israel,” Iraq’s permanent Arab League representative Qais al Azzawi said.

He told reporters in Cairo, where the League has its headquarters, that Baghdad would take this stand at Saturday’s emergency meeting of foreign ministers from the pan-Arab body called by Egypt to discuss Gaza. “What happened in 1973, when the Arabs stopped oil exports to Western states, is proof that this weapon can succeed in the battle between the Arabs and Israel,” Azzawi said of a decision taken during the October Yom Kippur war.

Hezbollah chief hails rocket firing from Gaza

AFP BEIRUT PALESTINIAN militants firing long-range rockets from Gaza into Israel represents a “very significant development” in the conflict with the Jewish state, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has said.

“The firing of Fajr 5 rockets on Tel Aviv today shows the maturation, the wisdom and strength, and the courage of the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip,” Nasrallah said in a speech on Thursday night.

“The Israeli enemy was surprised and forced to acknowledge that its capital had been hit,” said the leader of Lebanon’s most powerful military force, adding that the Iranian-made rockets have a range of 70 kilometres.

Gaza militants defied a major Israeli bombing campaign on Thursday, firing off volleys of rockets, one of which hit the sea near Tel Aviv, the farthest distance ever attained by fire from Gaza.

This was the first time rockets had been fired at Tel Aviv since the 1991 Gulf War, when the city was hit by Iraqi Scud missiles. “This is a very significant development in the history of the conflict between the resistance and the Israeli enemy,” Nasrallah said.

The Shiite movement Hezbollah is an ally of the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has long provided it support.

But Nasrallah called on Arab leaders, many of demanding Assad step down, to “put aside their differences on the Syrian issue and make every effort to deter, prevent and stop the aggression on the Gaza Strip and protect the people of Gaza.” The only thing that can change the equation, is for the Arab League and the OIC “to take a genuine stand” and use oil as a weapon to push the US to pressure its ally Israel.

“We are all concerned in Lebanon to do everything in our power to help the situation,” he concluded.

“This is not Gaza’s battle to fight alone, but belongs to all of us.” In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating war after Hezbollah militia captured four soldiers in a cross-border raid. More than 1,200 people died in Lebanon, most of them civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Israeli continued its offensive in Gaza on Friday for the third day. The escalating conflict, which has so far killed 20 Palestinians and three Israelis, has drawn expressions of deep concern internationally and sparked anger in the Arab and Muslim world.

Rockets target Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Israel masses troops near Gaza

AFP JERUSALEM GAZA militants fired rockets at both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Friday aiming for the Jewish state’s political and commercial hearts, prompting Israel to call up thousands more reservists in readiness for a potential ground war.

The military wing of the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza said it fired the rocket at Jerusalem, the first to strike the outskirts of the Holy City in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It marked a major escalation by the territory’s Hamas rulers in the face of a deadly pounding since Wednesday by Israeli aircraft that has killed 23 Gazans and sparked outrage across the Arab and Islamic world.

Neither rocket caused any casualties or damage, police said, but they sowed panic in both the Jewish state’s main population centres setting off warning sirens and sending people scurrying to shelters.

One hit a Jewish settlement bloc in the occupied West Bank just south of Jerusalem which is home to many commuters.

“A rocket fired from Gaza hit an open area outside of Jerusalem, causing no injuries or damage,” an army spokesman told AFP.

Police said it hit in the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements that stretches south of Jerusalem past Bethlehem from just five kilometres (three miles) beyond the city limits.

A second rocket crashed into sea off Tel Aviv “some 200 metres” from the beachfront US embassy, sending beachgoers fleeing, an eyewitness told AFP. The two rockets were the farthest Gaza militants have ever fired into Israel, exceeding even the 60 kilometres achieved by a rocket that hit the sea off Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv, on Thursday.

As the rockets hit, the first of 16,000 reservists already called up by the Israeli army were joining their units but in their wake Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered thousands more to turn up for duty.

“The defence minister has this evening ordered the mobilisation of new reserve forces,” his spokesman Josh Hantman told AFP as warnings intensified of a looming ground offensive to root out the rocket launchers that now have most of Israel’s population in their sights.

An AFP correspondent on the Israeli side of the Gaza border reported seeing tanks massed along the frontier, and a steady stream of reservists arriving for duty.

Speaking before the latest rocket fire, senior cabinet minister Moshe Yaalon warned that Israel was already poised for a major ground offensive like that which it launched in December 2008-January 2009. “We are preparing all the military options, including the possibility that forces will be ready to enter Gaza in the event that the firing doesn’t stop,” he said.

As ground troops massed, there was no let up in the Israeli air offensive on Gaza.

A child was among the two latest victims reported by the territory’s emergency services, who were both brought in to Gaza City’s Shifa hospital as Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil toured the wards on an unprecedented solidarity visit to the Hamasruled territory.

Israel denied its aircraft had killed the pair but Qandil leant forward and kissed the dead body of four-year-old Mohammed Yasser voicing outrage at his loss.

“What I saw today in Gaza, at the hospital, with the martyrs, cannot be met with silence,” the Egyptian premier said.

“This tragedy cannot be tolerated, and the whole world bears the responsibility to stop the aggression.” Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi hammered home the message of support soon after his prime minister ended the lightning visit.

“Egypt will not leave Gaza on its own... What is happening is a blatant aggression against humanity,” Morsi said.

The overthrow early last year of veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak, a staunch supporter of Egypt’s three-decade-old peace treaty with Israel, has cast a chill over the already lukewarm relationship between the two neighbours.

Morsi, who like Hamas has his roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, has moved to establish closer relations with the Gaza authorities.

World governments concerned about the upsurge of violence had appealed to Egyptian leaders to use their influence with Hamas to prevent any fresh downward spiral.

US deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he hoped the Egyptian prime minister would deliver a message to halt the rocket fire.

President Vladimir Putin told Morsi in a telephone call that Russia supported Egypt’s efforts to halt the upsurge in violence since Israel killed Hamas military chief Ahmed Jaabari in an air strike on Gaza City on Wednesday.

But as Qandil arrived, Hamas announced it had fired a new salvo of rockets at the Jewish state despite Israel’s offer of a temporary truce for the brief visit.

Greek PM to invite Qatari investors

AFP

ATHENS GREEK Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will hold an investment trip to Qatar later this month and similar trips to China and Russia are planned at a later date, the state agency said on Friday.

“Samaras will travel to Qatar on November 27 and (his office) is planning journeys to China and Russia with the aim of attracting investors,” the ANA agency said.

A government source confirmed the Qatar trip.

“The Qatar trip will definitely be held but as regards the others we are awaiting an official confirmation,” the source said.

Mired in a five-year recession, Greece has long sought to entice Qatari investors in real estate development deals to jumpstart its flagging construction industry, usually one of the main engines of its economy.

Samaras’ government has redoubled efforts to lure foreign businesses to Greece and create jobs to mitigate the effects of a soaring unemployment rate that has jumped over 25 percent.

The government this week said US computer giant Hewlett Packard had reached a “preliminary deal” with Chinese shippers Cosco to base a key part of its regional supply network at the main Greek port of Piraeus.

Qatar calls for UN probe into Israeli attacks

QNA

DJIBOUTI QATAR has stressed the need to urge the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution establishing a UN commission of inquiry for investigation into all Israeli attacks and acts of aggression against the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories and bring to justice all Israeli officials responsible for these crimes.

The call for a UN probe came in a speech by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs HE Khalid bin Mohamed al Attiyah before the 39th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) being held in Djibouti.

Attiyah urged the international community to honestly and sincerely boost support for the Palestinian people following the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza.

He voiced concern over the barbaric killings of the unarmed Palestinians in Gaza by Israel, which confirms once again its inhuman approach towards the Palestinian people. “Israel’s attacks are aimed at taking revenge on Palestinians, which constitutes a flagrant violation of all international norms, and cannot be justified as acts in self-defence,” said Attiyah.

“What is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories, the suffering of the people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip including the killings, destruction, land confiscation, the wall of apartheid raised by Israel are violation of resolutions of international legitimacy and meant to destroy all chances of a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian problem.

This makes clear the seriousness of the current situation not only to the Palestinian people, but to the entire Islamic nation,” he added.

Israel mobilises reserves as rockets hit Jerusalem

AFP

JERUSALEM GAZA militants fired rockets at both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Friday, aiming for the Jewish state’s political and commercial hearts, and prompting Israel to call up thousands more reservists in readiness for a potential ground war.

The Israeli army said it had sealed off all the main roads around the Gaza border, declaring the area a closed military zone, in the latest sign that Israel’s patience with rocket fire was at an end and it was poised to launch its first ground offensive on the territory since 2008-9.

A correspondent reported seeing tanks massed along the frontier, and a steady stream of reservists arriving throughout the day. The army sought 11th-hour cabinet approval to call up as many as 75,000 reservists, ringing around ministers at home on the Jewish day of rest which began at sundown, cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser revealed on his official Facebook page.

The military wing of the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza said it fired the rocket at Jerusalem, the first to strike the outskirts of the Holy City in the history of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

It marked a major escalation by the territory’s Hamas rulers in the face of a deadly pounding since Wednesday by Israeli aircraft that has killed 28 Gazans and sparked outrage across the Arab and Islamic world.

Neither rocket caused casualties or damage, police said, but they sowed panic in both of the Jewish state’s main population centres, setting off warning sirens and sending people scurrying to shelters.

One hit a Jewish settlement bloc in the occupied West Bank just south of Jerusalem which is home to many commuters.

“A rocket fired from Gaza hit an open area outside of Jerusalem, causing no injuries or damage,” an army spokesman said.

Police said it hit in the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements that stretches south of Jerusalem past Bethlehem from just five kilometres (three miles) beyond the city limits.

Asecond rocket crashed into the sea off Tel Aviv “some 200 metres (yards)” from the beachfront US embassy, sending beachgoers fleeing, an eyewitness said.

The two rockets were the farthest Gaza militants have ever fired into Israel, exceeding even the 60 kilometres (36 miles) achieved by a rocket that hit the sea off Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv, on Thursday.

Even before the latest rocket fire, senior cabinet minister Moshe Yaalon warned that Israel was poised for a ground offensive.

“We are preparing all the military options, including the possibility that forces will be ready to enter Gaza in the event that the firing doesn’t stop,” he said.

As ground troops massed, there was no let-up in the Israeli air offensive.