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US ‘still open to talks with Iran’

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration remains open to negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, despite intransigence from Tehran.


Speaking to reporters at the State Department, Clinton said it was clear that administration efforts to engage Iran in talks to restrain its nuclear program in 2009 fell short.

President Barack Obama had said that if Iran did not respond positively to his overtures by the start of 2010 he would move toward tougher sanctions.

Clinton said the administration was consulting with other nations about new sanctions but she stressed that this did not mean the administration was abandoning its effort to start dialogue with Iran.

There is no hard-and-fast deadline for Iran to respond, she said. “We’ve avoided using the term ‘deadline’ ourselves,” she said.

“That’s not a term we have used because we want to keep the door to dialogue open.

“But we’ve also made it clear we can’t continue to wait and we cannot continue to stand by when the Iranians themselves talk about increasing their production of highly enriched uranium” and taking other steps toward possible production of nuclear weapons. Iran denies that its nuclear program is intended to make a nuclear bomb.

At the White House, deputy press secretary Bill Burton echoed Clinton’s remarks, saying “The door is of course still open for Iran to do the right thing and live up to its international obligations.”

He said the administration would “be going through the appropriate process to try to get them to the table”.

Burton said presidential aides would meet this week to discuss next steps on Iran policy.

Clinton declined to discuss any details of prospective new sanctions against Iran.

“I can’t appropriately comment on the details of those discussions now, except to say that our goal is to pressure the Iranian government, particularly the Revolutionary Guard elements, without contributing to the suffering of the ordinary Iraqis, who deserve better than what they currently are receiving.”

Clinton also said the administration was appalled by Iranian government crackdowns on street protests.

The opposition movement began as a raw and angry voter backlash after last June’s disputed presidential election but has evolved into a possibly deeper and more ingrained fight against Iran’s Islamic leaders.

At least eight people died in clashes between security forces and opposition supporters across Iran late last month, including a nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

It was the worst bloodshed since the height of the unrest immediately after the June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“We are deeply disturbed by the mounting signs of ruthless repression that they are exercising against those who assemble and express viewpoints that are at variance with what the leadership of Iran wants to hear,” Clinton said.



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Firms fight over Gulf of Mexico oil spill blame

BP’s US boss, Lamar McKay, told the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee the company “will not rest” until the gushing well “is under control”.


BLOG: Matthew Hall on the US oil spill

“Nothing is being spared” to mitigate the dire environmental and economic impact of the disaster, McKay said, amid calls from lawmakers and the White House to lift a cap on damages paid to devastated communities.

BP’s in-house investigation into the disaster, led by a 40-person team, “has not yet reached conclusions” about the blast that led to the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform, McKay said.

But the executive pointedly directed questions at the rig owner, saying Transocean Limited was responsible for a key piece of equipment that failed after the explosion, making it impossible to regain control of the well.

‘Fail-safe’ failure

“The systems are intended to fail-closed and be fail-safe; sadly and for reasons we do not yet understand, in this case, they were not. Transocean’s blowout preventer failed to operate,” he said.

Transocean chief Steven Newman, in his prepared remarks, said blaming the 450-ton blowout preventer “simply makes no sense” and stressed “all offshore oil and gas production projects begin and end with the Operator,” BP.

And Newman pointed the finger at Halliburton, saying the oil services company was responsible for the well’s cement casing, a temporary cement plug in the top of the well, and the cement’s integrity.

“The one thing we know with certainty,” he said, is that “there was a sudden, catastrophic failure of the cement, the casing, or both” the night of the blast, April 20.

“Therein lies the root cause of this occurrence; without a disastrous failure of one of those elements, the explosion could not have occurred,” Newman said.

Massive oil slick

But Halliburton’s chief health, safety, and environment officer, Tim Probert, said in his prepared testimony that his company had finished its cementing work 20 hours before the blast and according to industry practice.

And Probert said Halliburton had never set the final cement plug because, as Transocean was doing work on the well, “the catastrophic incident occurred”.

AFP obtained copies of all of the prepared testimony on the eve of the hearing, the first of several that angry politicians have vowed to hold into offshore oil drilling safety with the massive slick threatening the environment and coastal communities’ livelihoods.

While oil companies are responsible for footing the entire cleanup bill, lawmakers from coastal states have pushed for legislation that would lift the cap on their liability for economic damages from US$75 million to US$10 billion.

On Monday, the White House said President Barack Obama had directed staff to “send legislation to Congress to toughen and update the law surrounding caps on damages”.

Compensation claims

“As the President has made clear before, BP will be paying for all costs of stopping the spill and cleaning it up, and we will aggressively pursue full compensation for damages,” said spokesman Robert Gibbs.

McKay said BP had paid US$3.5 million thus far to claimants who have suffered a loss of income.

“BP will pay all necessary clean up costs and is committed to paying legitimate claims for other loss and damages caused by the spill,” he said.

BP said its disaster-related costs have reached US$350 million since the rig sank 80km off the Louisiana coast two days after an explosion on the platform killed 11 workers.

The undersea well has been spewing an estimated 210,000 gallons per day into the Gulf of Mexico since the rig sank April 22.

The Senate Environment and Public Works was also to hold a hearing on the disaster on Tuesday, and a House panel was to do so on Wednesday.



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The Office star to play Bilbo Baggins

British actor Martin Freeman from “The Office” was officially cast in the starring role of “The Hobbit” Friday, as New Zealand flagged a last-ditch compromise to stop the production moving offshore.


Director Peter Jackson took time out from a bitter row with acting unions to announce Freeman would play Bilbo Baggins in the two-part prequel to “The Lord of the Rings”.

The Oscar-winning director said Freeman was always his first choice to play the J.R.R. Tolkien character.

“Despite the various rumours and speculation surrounding this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us,” Jackson said.

“There are a few times in your career when you come across an actor who you know was born to play a role, but that was the case as soon as I met Martin.

“He is intelligent, funny, surprising and brave — exactly like Bilbo.”

Freeman, 39, rose to prominence in the Ricky Gervais comedy “The Office” and has also featured in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, “Love Actually” and “Shaun of the Dead”.

The casting decision came as the New Zealand government scrambled to try to ensure “The Hobbit”, which will begin filming in 3D next February, was shot in the country.

Prime Minister John Key flagged possible changes to industrial laws at the centre of a dispute between Jackson and the actors’ union NZ Equity, saying he was hopeful the films would still be made in New Zealand.

“I don’t think we should write off our chances of retaining the movies,” he told national news agency NZPA.

“There’s work to be done and the government hasn’t given up trying to do its best to secure the movies,” he added, saying he would meet with Warner Bros executives due to arrive next week to make a decision on locations.

The row over the 500 million US dollar project erupted over NZ Equity’s demand that Jackson allow it to negotiate minimum standards for actors, which the director refused, saying it would set an unacceptable industry precedent.

It escalated when NZ Equity last month called for a global boycott of the production through international actors’ unions, which was lifted this week.

Warner Bros said in a statement that the boycott had already disrupted its plans to shoot in New Zealand.

“The actions of these unions have caused us substantial damage and disruption and forced us to consider other filming locations for the first time,” it said. “Alternative locations are still being considered.”

New Zealand provided a stunning location for “The Lord of the Rings” and Jackson said Thursday that the country’s three billion dollar (2.3 billion US) a year film industry would be devastated if “The Hobbit” moved elsewhere.

Producers have mentioned Scotland, Canada, Ireland, Australia and eastern Europe as possible alternative locations, along with the Leavesden Studios near London, where the “Harry Potter” movies were filmed.



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Ferrari blasted for Alonso win

Formula One glamour team Ferrari were battling to salvage their reputation Sunday after being accused of using team orders to manufacture a German Grand Prix victory for Fernando Alonso.


The Italian giants were fined 100,000 dollars for breaching sporting regulations after double world champion Alonso was allowed by teammate Felipe Massa to pass 18 laps from the end despite the Brazilian having led since the start.

Although the FIA, the sport’s governing body, said the Ferrari 1-2 result will stand, the team must still appear before the World Motor Sport Council.

Team orders were banned eight years ago after the infamous incident at the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix when Ferrari instructed race leader Rubens Barrichello to pull over and allow Michael Schumacher to pass and win the race.

On Sunday, Massa was effectively ordered by race engineer Rob Smedley to let Alonso through as the Spaniard was the quicker driver.

“Ok, Fernando is faster than you,” said Smedley. “Can you confirm you have understood this message?”

Following the controversial move, Smedley was again on the radio apologising to Massa.

“Good lad – just stick with it now, sorry,” he said.

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali insisted that there were no team orders and that it was Massa’s decision to let Alonso past.

“We gave information to the driver and it was his decision to decide how to react” he said.

Domenicali added that Smedley’s apology was simply due to the fact that Massa’s car was not as fast as Alonso’s.

“You have to consider that fact that he gave the information to Felipe to help him, and was sorry that his car was not as fast.”

Massa clearly upset by the incident, bit his tongue and claimed that it was his decision.

“I didn’t have a good pace on the hard tyres and Fernando was quicker,” he said.

“It was my decision. I made the decision because Fernando was faster than me.”

Alonso said there were no team orders, but admitted that he was surprised to see Massa slow down and claimed he thought it was due to a gear problem.

“There are no team orders,” said Alonso.

“I was suprised when I saw Felipe having a problem – I thought it was a gear problem but after hearing Felipe, he was struggling with the hard tyres.”

Rival teams were not convinced by Ferrari’s explanation.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, whose driver Sebastian Vettel ahd been passed by the two Ferraris at the start where he had been in pole position; said: “I have to say that is the clearest team order I’ve ever seen.

“It’s wrong for the sport. The drivers should have been allowed to race. Massa did the better job. He was in the lead and the regulations are pretty clear – team orders are not allowed.”

Michael Schumacher himself took the opposing viewpoint, arguing that Ferrari, as they had done with him in 2002, were concentrating on the only important issue at stake – the drivers’ title.

“I understand 100 percent and I would do exactly the same – what are we here for? We’re fighting for the championship.”

Alonso’s win took him to within 34 points of drivers championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who has 157 points.

The controversy enlivened what had been a dull race which had virtually been decided by the double Ferrari surge past Vettel at the start.

Vettel held on to third spot with the two McLaren drivers, Hamilton and world champion Jenson Button, taking fourth and fifth.

Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Australian Mark Webber was sixth, Pole Robert Kubica seventh for Renault ahead of Mercedes drivers and fellow Germans Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher with Russian Vitaly Petrov in the second Renault completing the top ten.

Button remains second in the championship with 143 points while Webber and Vettel are third equal with 136 points.



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Trouser woman freed from jail

Lubna Ahmed Hussein was imprisoned on Monday after she refused to pay the 500 Sudanese pound fine imposed by a Khartoum court.


Hussein, who was originally sentenced to forty lashes for wearing the ‘controversial’ outfit, could have faced a month behind bars.

“We will continue the fight to change this law, the public order police, the public order tribunals,” she insisted, amid noisy celebrations of her release.

“I don’t even know who paid the fine, I had told my family and friends not to pay it,” Hussein said.

Pants deemed ‘indecent’

Mohiedinne Titawi, president of the Sudanese Union of Journalists, said his group had stumped up the cash.

Journalist Hussein was wearing slacks when she was arrested along with 12 other women in a Khartoum restaurant in July.

Sudanese law in the conservative Muslim north stipulates a maximum of 40 lashes for wearing indecent clothing.

Women in trousers are not a rare sight in Sudan but authorities can take offence at trousers that reveal too much of a woman’s shape, leading to accusations from rights groups that judgement is arbitrary.

Ten of the women arrested in July on the indecent dress charge, including Christians, were subsequently summoned by police and each given 10 lashes.

International outcry

Hussein led a public battle against the law, resigning from the United Nations, where she worked as a media officer, to stand trial.

Her case led to an outcry abroad and demonstrations at home.

The office of the UN human rights chief on Tuesday said her sentencing breached international law and exemplified the discrimination faced by women in Sudan.

“Lubna Hussein’s case is, in our view, emblematic of a wider pattern of… application of discriminatory laws against women in Sudan,” said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Last Friday, Amnesty International urged the Khartoum government to withdraw the charges against Hussein, saying the law used to justify flogging women for wearing clothes deemed “indecent” should be repealed.



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Arrests over Heathrow bomb scare

Armed officers have stormed a plane at London’s Heathrow airport as it was about to depart for Dubai and arrested three men on suspicion of making a bomb threat, police say.


The Emirates flight was preparing to take off late on Friday when a “verbal threat” was made to staff, London’s Metropolitan Police Service said on Saturday.

“Police were alerted and armed officers boarded the plane,” a police statement said.

“Three men aged 58, 48 and 36 were arrested and are now in police custody. They have been arrested on suspicion of making a bomb threat.”

A photograph purportedly taken inside the aircraft showed police in black overalls, and a passenger said officers brandishing guns in body armour burst onto the plane and hauled the suspects away.

Sky News television, which broadcast the grainy picture from the plane, said the men arrested were English and appeared to be drunk.

The alert came amid heightened security at airports around the world following an alleged attempt by a young Nigerian to bomb a plane landing in Detroit on Christmas Day by concealing explosives in his underwear.

Passenger Cameron McLean, who Sky said supplied them with the photograph, told the broadcaster: “Some special police just came on the plane and arrested these two guys a few rows in front of me.

“The police just swarmed the guy and then rushed him out. I think he was a white male,” he said.

The passenger added there were about five armed officers who were wearing helmets, body armour and carrying what appeared to be automatic weapons.

The Metropolitan Police said they were alerted after the threat was made at around 9.15pm on Friday (0815 AEDT Saturday).

They said passengers had been removed from the plane and the aircraft was being searched. The airport — one of the world’s busiest air hubs — remained open, police added.

A spokesman for airport operator BAA said the incident had only affected the Dubai-bound plane.

Emirates said officers boarded the plane after “remarks” made as Flight EK004 was preparing to depart.

“The safety and security of all our passengers is paramount,” the airline added.

The security scare came after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, allegedly tried to detonate a device stitched into his underwear on a flight from Amsterdam as it landed in the United States on December 25.

In a court in Detroit on Friday, he pleaded not guilty to six charges related to the incident, which has led to security being stepped at airports worldwide.

Full-body scanners are to be introduced at Britain’s airports and Heathrow will be the first to receive the devices before the end of the month, Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said.



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China’s currency to dominate APEC

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd heads to Singapore today for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit, where the focus is expected to be on free-trade, climate change, and the financial crisis.


There are also pressing tensions over the US and Chinese currencies at annual talks, while Mr Rudd yesterday reiterated Australia’s support for India’s membership of APEC in a speech to the Indian Council of World Affairs in Delhi.

Ahead of a weekend summit to be joined by US President Barack Obama, the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum said it would work towards a trade zone stretching from Chile to China via the United States.

The battle to compete with China

After talks among APEC finance ministers, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said a strong dollar was “very important” to the United States and praised China for helping the world recover from its worst post-war slump.

But the dollar’s prolonged decline and China’s refusal to relax the rigid exchange rate governing its own currency, the yuan, prompted rare public criticism against both nations from other APEC members.

“There is concern in Asia about the falling dollar,” Philippine Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said.

“If more intervention is needed, Asian central banks will act accordingly,” he said, following repeated market interventions by governments battling to keep a lid on their currencies and stay competitive against China.

In a statement, the APEC finance ministers pledged to pursue “market-oriented exchange rates”, but there was no mention from China of any immediate action that would allow the strictly managed yuan to appreciate.

The dollar’s plunge is bad news for export-reliant Asian countries that are struggling to maintain competitiveness, particularly against Chinese rivals benefiting from the yuan’s government-enforced stability.

Asia’s stance on yuan

The meeting’s host, Singapore Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, said a freely floating yuan would not be a “silver bullet” for the region.

“But we do see flexible exchange rates as being part of the overall milieu of options that all our economies must use, together with structural reforms, together with other economic reforms,” he said.

The currency issue has flared anew heading into the Singapore summit, where Obama will encounter Chinese President Hu Jintao. US officials say the yuan’s exchange rate will be up for discussion when Obama goes on to China next week.

Other Asian nations are now adding their voices to longstanding US complaints as they struggle to keep up with China, which was the target of broader criticism at a G20 meeting last weekend in Scotland.

Geithner skirted over the currency issue but lauded the “major role” being played by China in powering the world back to growth.

Global Financial Crisis still high on the agenda

And the Treasury boss echoed APEC as a whole in arguing that it was too early to shut off the lavish government spending that has done much to prop up growth.

He told a news conference that “most governments conclude it’s going to take a sustained period of further support before again we have conditions for private demand”.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said: “The downside risk of discontinuing the stimulus early has been very substantial, we know that from history.”

In a statement after their own annual discussions, APEC foreign and trade ministers said they “remained concerned over the threat of protectionism to our economic recovery”.

Pacific-wide free-trade a ‘long term’ vision

Vowing to work for the Pacific-wide free-trade zone, the ministers also called for easier commercial access for green technology to combat climate change, ahead of crunch talks on global warming in Denmark next month.

The proposed “Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific” would cover over 40 percent of the world’s population of 6.7 billion people and more than half its economic output.

But APEC is already struggling to meet a goal of eliminating all trade barriers among its developed members by next year, and the broader trade zone is a long-term vision, officials said.

“First we have to recognise that this is a huge undertaking to be able to reach an FTA for the Asia-Pacific,” Singapore Trade Minister Lim Hng Kiang said.



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Friendly fire suspected in Manila deaths

Philippine investigators admitted for the first time Thursday that police may have shot some of the tourists in a bungled operation that left eight Hong Kong residents dead on a bus in Manila.


President Benigno Aquino said he expected to get the investigators’ final report into the hostage incident on September 15, and pledged to fire officials found to have failed in their duties or file criminal charges against them.

“Our government is now focused on taking the necessary steps to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again,” he said in a live interview on national television.

“Let me just say that this incident will not define this administration.”

Armed with an assault rifle and a pistol, sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza took a busload of tourists hostage on August 23 in a desperate bid to clear himself of extortion charges and get his old job back.

Eight of the tourists were killed and seven others wounded in the central Manila standoff.

Police initially insisted the bullets that killed the tourists were all fired from the guns of Mendoza, who the bus driver said moved down the aisle and systematically shot the victims one by one as he reached their seats.

But Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Thursday post-mortem examination of dead suggested otherwise.

“The (police investigators) say if they were shot at that (point-blank) distance the wounds should have been more severe and there should have been more blood spatters, because this is a rifle,” de Lima said.

The wounds however did not exhibit burn marks caused by the muzzle of a gun fired close by, suggesting the bullets were fired from a distance, she told reporters.

Ballistics experts also concluded some of the bullets that hit the bus were fired from a distance further than the location of the police snipers, she said.

Asked whether at least some of the victims could have been killed by “friendly fire,” de Lima said: “We are not focusing (on that), but we should never miss that. Otherwise our report will be less than thorough.”

The police hostage crisis team had said other bullets were fired into the bus by police snipers and an assault unit but they did not lead to fatalities.

“What is crucial, occupying our minds, is if the shots were made at close range, (these) are not consistent with forensic findings,” De Lima said.

This raised the possibility that other units deployed in the area could have fired into the bus, she added.

“Where did the shots come from, the hostage-taker, the assault team, or other teams? We doubt they all came from snipers and assault teams,” said de Lima.

The panel has asked the Hong Kong police to help with the ballistics aspect of the inquiry, she added.

De Lima said she also ordered the guns of all police units deployed in the area during the crisis, including those who were not part of the assault team, be test-fired.

Aquino has taken responsibility for the fiasco that has chilled ties with Hong Kong and damaged the Philippine tourism industry.

He vowed Thursday to form an elite force based on Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) to deal with similar hostage incidents in the future.

Aquino said de Lima’s report would serve as the basis for dealing with police and government officials who handled the bus hostage crisis. This could include possible criminal cases, he added.

The president said he had asked the former Manila police chief Rodolfo Magtibay, who went on leave amid criticism of his role as ground commander during the hostage crisis, to retire from the service.



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Dutch coach fulfills dream

It was a long time coming but Van Marwijk said the wait was worth it.


“Of course I am very, very happy and proud that such a small country is in the final of a world championship, it is hard to comprehend,” he said after his team overcame Uruguay 3-2.

“It is something I started working on two years ago and I always said that to achieve something you really have to believe in it and do it. It’s been a long process.”

The Dutch must now wait to find out whether they face Germany or Spain, who play the other semi-final in Durban.

Van Marwijk said he had worked hard to instill not just belief but consistency in his side, who have now won all six of their World Cup games as well as all eight of their qualifiers.

“We have so often proved we can win matches against good opponents — if you really believe in something it can come true,” he said.

“At some point the members of the team started believing it and then we had to create the mentality of not being complacent. The players have started to understand this.

“Then, as now, you get an atmosphere in the team and I told them ahead of the match: ‘don’t let them get away with it’.”

Uruguay was not an easy ride

But while Holland progressed, it wasn’t the easy ride that many predicted with Uruguay putting up a rearguard action that saw the match go to a thrilling finale.

Van Marwijk admitted they lost their way in the first-half but showed their backbone by putting that right.

“We started well and had excellent organisation then got the confidence to play a bit more freely and be a bit braver,” he said.

“We did lose grip in midfield in the first-half but at half-time we corrected that.

“Things went wrong every now and then but we took the initiative a bit more and when we scored for 2-1 I had full confidence.

“But then Uruguay suddenly scored a goal and it became really exciting. We didn’t make it 4-1 or 5-1 as it should have, but we survived and we were just so relieved in the dressing room.”

Inter Milan’s Sneijder added that it was a memorable day not just for the team but all Holland.

“This is a wonderful thing for the Netherlands. We have come so far — six wins in a row and now one more match to go,” said Sneijder, who now has five goals in the tournament.

“It’s something fantastic this experience. We have four days to recover then we just have to make it.”

His teammate Robin van Persie was equally ecstatic, but disappointed he didn’t get a goal.

“I feel today’s game was my best so far,” said the Arsenal striker.

“A few people were a bit sad that I didn’t score, but football isn’t always about scoring. Of course I want to score goals, I want to score ten, but I am happy with my own performance.”

Sneijder and Robben steer the Dutch

Two goals inside three second-half minutes, from Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, steered the Dutch into the decider and shattered South American hopes.

Veteran Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst gave his side the lead on 18 minutes with a stunning 35-metre strike before Diego Forlan produced an equally memorable goal four minutes before half-time to keep Uruguay alive.

Maxi Pereira got one back for Uruguay in injury time but it was too little too late.

“It was a hard match, but all that is forgotten now and we are in the final,” said Sneijder as Holland goes looking for a first World Cup title.

“The most important thing now is to win. We are so close. There is nothing bigger than the World Cup. This is tremendous, fantastic.”

Coach Bert van Marwijk said everyone in the Netherlands can be proud of the team.

“It’s amazing that we have managed to do this. It’s been 32 years (that the Netherlands last played in a final). It is unbelievable. We can be very proud for such a small country.”

Uruguay defender Egidio Arevalo admitted the Dutch had been tough opponents.

“After many years together, we wanted to go as far as the final,” he said.

“But we were defeated by a very strong side, that’s football.”

The last time Holland made it to the final was 32 years ago when they fell at the last hurdle to hosts Argentina 3-1 after extra-time.

Uruguay do nation proud

Despite losing, Uruguay did their small nation proud with coach Oscar Tabarez guiding them to their first semi-final in 40 years.

It was a massive achievement for a country with a population of just 3.4 million, and they must now put their disappointment behind them for a third-place play-off on Saturday.

The Netherlands came into the match as overwhelming favourites after winning all their games in South Africa to go with the eight wins out of eight notched up in qualifying.

Both teams were forced to make changes with players suspended and in chilly conditions at Green Point Stadium it was the Dutch who adapted the best.

They had a decent chance as early as the third minute when Robben whipped in a teasing cross which Fernando Muslera punched straight to Dirk Kuyt on the edge of the box, but the Liverpool winger skied his shot.

The dangerous pair created another opportunity soon after when Kuyt sent in a cross that the Bayern Munich star headed at the keeper.

With the pressure on, it was only a matter of time before the deadlock was broken and it was their hugely experienced captain who did it with a contender for goal of the tournament.

The 35-year-old van Bronckhorst picked up the ball some 35 yards out and let rip with a stunning drive that tore into the top corner of the net past the outstretched fingertips of Muslera.

It should have been 2-0 on the half-hour when Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie made an excellent turn to pick out Robben on the edge of the box, but Martin Caceres made a timely intervention.

Uruguay were struggling to create openings before Forlan produced his own piece of magic with a left-foot screamer that swerved past keeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who should have done better.

Holland looked to up the tempo in the second half but it was Uruguay who nearly took the lead when Khalid Boulahrouz’s back-pass fell short and Edinson Cavani challenged the keeper.

Stekelenburg’s clearance hit Cavani and he teed up Alvaro Pereira, but his floated effort was headed away from danger.

The match was finely poised with both sides creating chances but it was Sneijder who did the damage with his fifth goal of the tournament.

The Inter Milan star unleashed a low right foot drive that took a deflection to put his team in front on 70 minutes.

Uruguay were stunned and Robben took advantage of their guard being dropped with another goal three minutes later with a fabulous header from a Kuyt cross.

The South Americans threw everything they had at Holland as the clock ticked down and got their reward with Pereira’s goal in the second minute of injury time but by then the match was over.



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Clinton, Bush keep world attention on Haiti

Former US presidents Bill Clinton and George W.


Bush visited Port-au-Prince and promised Haitians the world had not forgotten them 10 weeks after the deadliest earthquake of modern times.

“In the short-term, how can the people of Haiti stop living from day-to-day and at least live from month-to-month, know they’ll be OK for a month, their children will be OK for a month,” implored Clinton.

The unlikely duo met President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive before touring one of the many camps, where hundreds of thousands of survivors are at risk from the coming rains and hurricane season.

“It’s one thing to see it on TV, it’s another thing to see it first-hand and hopefully our trip will help remind people in our country that Haiti needs help,” Bush said against the backdrop of the ruined presidential palace.

Nearly 220,000 killed

The pair head the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, a relief organization set up after the January 12 quake that leveled parts of the capital Port-au-Prince, killing at least 220,000 people and leaving 1.3 million homeless.

They were tapped by President Barack Obama to lead a bipartisan fundraising campaign and oversee long-term reconstruction and relief efforts in the country, the poorest nation in the Americas.

The ex-presidents heard the complaints of survivors as they toured the Hotel de la Patrie camp beside the ruined palace, where mothers cradled babies and children sought medical attention in a maze of tents.

“We know there’s still a lot of problems in the camps with sanitation, with moving people to better ground who are not in safe places right now,” Clinton said, highlighting the importance of an upcoming donors meeting in New York.

Clinton questions commitment

“How can those of us who don’t live in Haiti help you to build the country that you want to build according to your own economic plan which will be re-presented March 31 at the donors conference? How can we do that? How can we best do that?” Clinton asked.

The New York meeting is expected to commit 11.5 billion dollars to an epic reconstruction effort following the unprecedented disaster, which caused an estimated 7.9 billion dollars of damage, equivalent to 120 percent of Haiti’s GDP.

But progress, almost 10 weeks after the 7.0-magnitude quake, is painfully slow and the government and international aid groups are racing against time to relocate more than 200,000 people in high-risk camps.

Slow progress on recovery

Many lie on steep slopes that could be washed away when the rains come, but despite the squalor and insecurity the camp dwellers don’t want to move to new sites away from the capital, which will not be ready for weeks yet anyway.

Clinton, the long-time UN envoy to Haiti who honeymooned in the Caribbean nation in 1975 with his wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has already visited twice since the quake.

Monday was the first ever visit by Bush, whose administration was criticized for not bolstering Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically elected president, who was flown into exile during a 2004 rebellion.

Dozens of supporters of Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas party, excluded from elections due later this year, held a protest during the presidents’ visit. “Return Aristide! Down with Preval! Down with Bush!” they shouted.

A gaunt-looking Clinton, who underwent a procedure to unblock an artery in his heart last month, admitted the US wrongly pushed Haiti from 1981 to 2000 to open its agricultural markets to subsidized production from other countries.

“It is unrealistic to expect that a country can totally obliterate its capacity to feed itself and just skip a stage of development. It seems almost laughable now that we ever thought it,” Clinton said.

“One of the things we have done is to provide more money for seed and fertilizer for this farming season and I am going to do what I can to help the agriculture sector not only rebound but increase and diversify.”

He also pledged to pressure Congress to adopt trade legislation to help Haiti’s vital garment industry and create as many as 100,000 jobs.