Friday, 19 October 2012

Barclays cuts MS price target, Windows 8’s launch awaited



BARCLAYS Capital cut its price target on Microsoft Inc’s stock after the world’s largest software company reported a greater-than-expected dip in its quarterly profit.

However, most brokerages maintained their ratings and price targets on the stock ahead of next week’s Windows 8 launch, described by Credit Agricole Securities as the most comprehensive product refresh cycle in Microsoft’s history.

Microsoft reported a 22 percent drop in profit on Thursday due to a fall in sales of computers running the Windows operating system in a weak PC market.

First-quarter sales fell 8 percent to $16.01 billion and some revenue was deferred ahead of upcoming releases of its core Windows and Office products.

Shares of the company, which closed at $29.49 on Thursday on the Nasdaq, were set to open 2 percent lower on Friday.

While the weakness in the Windows business was expected, the poor showing by the Office business and the server and tools division was a surprise, Barclays analyst Raimo Lenschow.

Lenschow lowered his price target on the stock to $34 from $36, but maintained his “equal weight” rating.

“... We still prefer to wait on the sidelines until after the Windows 8 launch next week,” he said in a note.

Microsoft is betting on the release of the touch-friendly Windows 8, which will also run on tablets, to break its heavy reliance on PC sales.

PC sales are expected to fall this year for the first time since 2001, according to research firm IHS, due to the weak economy and the inability of the latest crop of lightweight laptops to compete with Apple Inc’s iPad.

Microsoft needs to be successful in tablets to mitigate structural concerns of eroding market share and margin in its core Windows and Office businesses, Lenschow added.

Lenschow is rated four stars for the accuracy of his estimates on Microsoft’s earnings, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine.

Analysts at Credit Agricole said they were looking beyond the first-quarter results and expected momentum to build through financial year 2013.

Jefferies analyst Ross MacMillan said he was “yet to be convinced on Windows 8” and maintained his “hold” rating on the stock.

While Microsoft’s Surface tablet, expected to go on sale on October 26, holds much promise, it may need some time to work out the issues that have historically characterised new Microsoft offerings, JP Morgan analyst John DiFucci said.

“We are not assuming much impact of Surface to our model at this time other than what is implied as cannibalism of our current Windows PC expectations,” DiFucci said.

Merkel raises new hurdles on EU bank union



GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel raised new hurdles on Friday to using the eurozone’s rescue fund to inject capital directly into ailing banks from next year, dashing Spain’s hopes of soon removing the cost from its strained national debt.

Merkel’s move limited the impact of a key decision by European Union leaders struggling to overcome a three-yearold debt crisis in the 17-nation currency area — an overnight agreement to establish a single banking supervisor from next year.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who received a eurozone pledge in June of up to 100 billion euros to recapitalise a banking sector hit by a burst real estate bubble, said he had still had not decided whether to request a sovereign bailout.

EU leaders agreed at a twoday summit that the European Central Bank will take responsibility for overseeing eurozone banks from next year, but Merkel said it would take time for the new supervisor to be fully effective.

She made clear that would not lead to the bloc’s European Stability Mechanism (ESM) rescue fund taking over liability from member states such as Spain for past bank rescues, and she posed extra conditions that some diplomats said seemed designed to ensure there will be no capital injections before next September’s German elections.

“There will not be any retroactive direct recapitalization,” Merkel told a news conference.

“If recapitalization is possible, it will only be possible for the future, so I think that when the banking supervisor is in place we won’t have any more problems with the Spanish banks, at least I hope not.” The chancellor said the supervisory system would have to be effective and the eurozone would have to set up a bank resolution fund to which the banks would contribute if there was to be any direct capital assistance to troubled banks.

Merkel denied that the obstacles were intended to avoid any payments having to be approved by the German parliament before the 2013 election, saying the idea had never crossed her mind.

French President Francois Hollande said on day one of the summit that Germany’s lack of urgency could be related to its electoral calendar, adding that the two dominant EU powers had a duty to solve the crisis.

Despite Merkel’s comments, eurozone officials said they were exploring the possibility of sharing the cost of dealing with “legacy” toxic bank assets between the ESM and host governments, a crucial step to break to so-called “doom loop” between sovereigns and banks.

Pressed to say whether Spain would request a precautionary credit line from the rescue fund to trigger ECB buying of its bonds, Rajoy said: “The decision is not taken yet. What is important is that if I need to take it, I will take it.” He gave no indication of when that might be, but eurozone officials pointed to a November 12 finance ministers’ meeting as the next potential date for decisions on aid to Spain and further assistance for Greece, which is struggling to implement a second bailout program.

In a sign of growing resistance to EU-backed austerity measures and mass unemployment, Spanish trade unions called a 24-hour general strike for November 14, when Portuguese workers also plan to stop work and the European Trade Union Confederation has called for EU-wide protest actions.

Italian and Spanish borrowing costs tumbled sharply on Friday, partly due to Italy’s success in raising a record 18.3 billion euros in funds with a fouryear index-linked bond targeted at retail investors this week.

British Prime Minister David Cameron meanwhile threatened to veto a seven-year budget plan for the EU, due to be agreed at a special summit next month, if it mirrored “unacceptable” proposals by the European Commission for an increase in EU spending at a time when member states are making cutbacks.

GE’s Q3 earnings up 8.3%



GENERAL Electric Co notched an 8.3 percent rise in quarterly earnings, but its shares slipped 2 percent in premarket trading as revenue fell shy of analysts’ expectations.

GE, the largest US conglomerate, said on Friday that sales at its aviation and healthcare arms declined 1 percent in the quarter, though analysts noted that overall revenues were hurt by a rise in the value of the dollar - which serves to diminish the reported value of foreign sales.

GE, also the world’s biggest maker of electric turbines and jet engines, stood by its forecast for full-year earnings to rise at a double-digit percentage rate.

“The global economy is uncertain, and we are prepared for a variety of economic outcomes,” said Chief Executive Jeff Immelt.

Third-quarter net income increased to $3.49 billion, or 33 cents per share, from $3.22 billion, or 22 cents per share, a year earlier.

Factoring out one-time items, the profit was 36 cents per share, meeting the analysts’ average estimate, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenue rose 2.8 percent to $36.35 billion from $35.36 billion. Wall Street expected $36.94 billion.

“The market will see this as a slight disappointment,” after an upbeat late- September presentation to analysts that led some investors to expect stronger growth, said Jack DeGan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

“They met expectations for earnings, and they were light on revenues. If you add back forex, they beat.” GE said exchange-rate fluctuations lowered its reported revenue by $1.1 billion in the quarter. Its shares fell 1.6 percent to $22.44 in premarket trading, giving back a little of their significant gains over the past year.

As of Thursday’s close, GE has climbed some 41 percent over the past year, reaching levels not seen since the 2008 crisis and sharply outpacing the 22 percent rise of the Dow Jones industrial average.

The company experienced the sharpest revenue growth in its energy infrastructure arm, where sales were up 12 percent. Immelt had bulked up that business in 2010 and 2011 with an $11 billion wave of acquisitions, largely in the oil and gas sector.

Most major industrials have experienced weak demand in Europe for their equipment as a result of the continent’s debt crisis.

GE has been no exception to that trend, though Immelt told investors late last month that European demand has been no worse than the company had expected.

“The most important thing out of the earnings report is that they kept their full 2012 outlook. The fourth quarter, we think, is going to be challenging for companies, especially on the revenue side,” said Oliver Pursche, president of Gary Goldberg Financial Services in Suffern, New York. “Them keeping that outlook intact is a positive.” The Fairfield, Connecticutbased company laid out plans last month to cut its selling, general and administrative costs by $700 million to $1 billion next year in the face of the uncertain economic environment.

Immelt has also committed the company to buy back enough shares to lower its share count below 10 billion - its level in 2008. That year GE sold new shares to raise cash during the financial crisis.

GE said it has bought back $3 billion worth of shares so far this year.

Get a new driving experience with Mercedes-Benz SL


DOHA LIGHTWEIGHT, athletic and luxurious are only some of the attributes that come to mind when one sees the brand new Mercedes-Benz SL which was launched by NBK Automobiles at Katara recently.

The event saw in attendance scores of clients, fans and mediapersons along with Chairman and CEO of NBK Holding Sheikh Nawaf Nasser bin Khaled al Thani and GM of NBK Automobiles Khaled Shaa’ban.

NBK Auto also launched the RFID system which will further deepen the company’s relationship with its clients. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and is considered by many to be the future of retail customer loyalty owing to its capacity to allow for breakthrough shopping experiences.

RFID offers better service with notification when a specific client enters the showroom, real-time messages, recommendation of products or vehicle, ability to build a “wish-list” and faster sales transactions.

Earlier in 2011, NBK Auto launched the QR Code as a way to add entertainment and innovation to its CRM systems.

The company is today taking its customer experience one step further with the RFID in order to exceed their expectations with tailormade services.

The new SL has been produced for the first time almost entirely from aluminium and is lighter by up to 140 kilograms.

The new BlueDIRECT engines are more powerful and up to 29 percent more economical. Other new features include the unique Frontbass system, which turns the luxury sports car into a concert hall and the highly efficient adaptive windscreen Magic Vision Control.

Speaking on the occasion, Sheikh Nawaf Nasser bin Khaled al Thani said: “There are around 900 million cars in the world and thousands of models. But there are only a handful of automotive icons. Our SL is one of them: it has class; it has style; it is the ultimate in comfort and luxury. But it combines all that with incredible sportiness and dynamism. You would struggle to find a car that embodies Gottlieb Daimler’s aspiration more perfectly than the new SL: the best or nothing.”

Khaled Shaa’ban said: “With the completely rebooted SL, Mercedes-Benz continues a tradition that began 60 years ago. The letters “SL” have ever since been synonymous with a symbiosis of sportiness, style and comfort. In short, anyone that talks about the new SL is bound to be talking about the ultimate in passionate, refined motoring.”

Challenges of Parkinson’s disease discussed at WCMC-Q health meet


DOHA THE limitations of diagnosing or tracing the development of the Parkinson’s disease due to lack of reliable tools were discussed at the monthly community health forum titled ‘Medicine and U’ held recently at the Weill Cornell Medical College- Qatar (WCMC-Q).

“Unlike other medical conditions that can be diagnosed through blood tests or biopsies, there is no definitive test or ‘biomarker’ that can identify Parkinson’s disease or trace its development,” said Dr Claire Henchcliffe, director of the Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Institute at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.

“Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common nervous system disorders among the elderly. A disorder of the brain, the disease leads to tremors and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination. As it affects both men and women after the age of 50, the younger adults can also acquire it if there’s family history of the disease,” Dr Henchcliffe pointed out.

An expert on Parkinson’s disease, Dr Henchcliffe has witnessed the limitations of diagnosing the disease due to lack of reliable tools.

“A biomarker would enable physicians to diagnose Parkinson’s earlier, perhaps even before physical symptoms appear. This, in turn, would allow for earlier treatment including the testing of therapies that may prevent Parkinson’s,” Dr Henchcliffe said.

“Since people with Parkinson’s do not fall into a single category, their treatment should not either. A biomarker would allow physicians to detect differences among patients and therefore develop individualised treatments,” she added.

Dr Henchcliffe is currently studying two potential avenues for bio-marking that will assist in the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Over 6,000 enjoy Qtel’s free cricket screening


DOHA MORE than 6,000 cricket fans enjoyed watching the thrilling ICC World Twenty20 semifinals and finals held recently in Sri Lanka at a free screening in the Industrial Area, courtesy of Qatar Telecom’s (Qtel) Mobile Money service.

Qtel also took the opportunity to distribute T-shirts, caps and fresh water among those who watched the screening. In addition, 10 lucky winners received cricket bats for winning a free raffle draw. The event was held in the Souk Attiya Building in Sanaiya earlier in the month.

Excited fans, mostly from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and the Philippines, watched the West Indies win their first ICC World Twenty20 championship by narrowly defeating the host country Sri Lanka in the finals.

On the occasion, a large number of customers signed up for the innovative Qtel Mobile Money financial service. Mobile Money is perfect for customers who do not have bank accounts or who have limited access to banking services.

Mobile Money enables customers to transfer money domestically or internationally 24/7 using the mWallet. Mobile Money can also be used to top-up pre-paid Hala accounts. The service is easyto- use, quick, safe and convenient. Customers no longer have to keep cash on hand or stand in long queues at exchange houses.

Customers can register for Mobile Money by dialling *140#, then deposit money into the account at a Qtel Self Service Machine or Qtel Shop.

Top experts take part in QU’s carbon capture workshop


DOHA QATAR University’s Gas Processing Centre (GPC) held a high-level workshop ‘Horizons and challenges of carbon capture and storage’ (CCS) recently, drawing local and international experts in the field.

The event was part of a series of activities organised by the GPC aimed to promote and explore new research opportunities at the Centre to support the local gas industry. Oryx GTL, Sasol and QAPCO were Platinum, Gold, and Silver sponsors of the event.

QU VP for Research Dr Hassan al Derham delivered the welcome speech in which he thank at the outset all the participants in this high-profile event which he described as a golden opportunity to discuss and explore solutions for CO2 mitigation in Qatar. He said, “CCS is one of the top research priorities for the GPC as evidenced by the Carbon Capture and Management Road Map that was drafted for Qatar as part of the many initiatives being developed at the Centre. This event is very timely, given the ongoing global dialogue on climate change and carbon management.”

The workshop discussed current trends in CCS and the challenges associated with its implementation in general, and in Qatar in particular. It also drew attention to the GPC’s CO2 road map and identified the major technological barriers hindering its implementation.

The star speakers at the event were Prof Malcolm Wilson of Petroleum Technology Research Centre, Canada, and co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize; Prof Michael Scurrell, Wits University, South Africa; Prof Paitoon Tontiwachwuthikul, International Test Center (ITC), Canada; Prof Colin Snape, University of Nottingham, UK; Prof Dominic Foo, University of Nottingham- Malaysia campus; David Kawesha, Sasol Research and Technology, South Africa; Dr Earl Goetheer, TNO Science and Industry, Netherlands; Dr Abdelbaki Benamor, QU Gas Processing Centre and Dr Mert Atilhan, QU Chemical Engineering Department.

The workshop included presentations that highlighted high-level perspectives on CO2 capture, storage, utilisation and conversion technologies, particularly current and future trends and their relevance to Qatar. It also featured discussions among all the participants on issues related to CCS technology applications locally.

Drop in aid to LCDs worries Qatar


NEW YORK QATAR expressed concern over the significant reduction in aid to the least developed countries (LDCs).

Articulating Qatar’s views on this issue at the Second Committee of the 67th UN General Assembly on the item (23 a) titled ‘Follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on LDCs,’ Maha Mohammed al Maadadi, member of Qatar’s delegation to the event, noted in her speech that the importance of discussing the implementation of the programme of the decade 2011- 2020 for the LDCs lies in the fact that it comes in the context of the massive global challenges emerging in the form of the financial meltdown and their impacts on LDCs, as a result of the deterioration of the international financial crisis that led to slower growth and lower exports rates.

She also noted that these countries continue to suffer from constant marginalisation in the global economy.

Speaking of Qatar’s efforts in terms of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, al Maadadi said that Qatar has consistently allocated 0.7 percent of its total national income for official development assistance, and has also offered aid through bilateral means and through the United Nations and its specialised agencies.

She added that Qatar has donated $10 million for the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) in addition to bilateral assistance and relief aid provided at emergencies and disasters.

The Qatari official highlighted her country’s mediation to bring peace to Darfur, which culminated in July 2011 by the adoption of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) as an important step in the peace process.

In order to support the development reconstruction efforts in the region, al Maadadi said in her concluding remarks, the Emir His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani had announced in 2010 the establishment of the Darfur Development Bank (DDB) with a capital of $2 billion and an open door for interested countries and organisations who wished to contribute to the acceleration of development in Darfur.

15 Yemeni soldiers killed in attack

AFP ADEN ALQAEDAmilitants set off an explosives-laden car inside an army base in southern Yemen at dawn on Friday, killing at least 15 soldiers and wounding 29 others, military officials said.

Eight Qaeda militants were also killed in the attack, military officials said.

The militants drove through several checkpoints before entering the base of the Yemeni army’s 115th brigade in Abyan province, where a drone raid killed at least seven Al-Qaeda members the day before, one official told AFP.

“Four members of Al Qaeda with explosive belts... travelling in a military vehicle managed to pass through several army checkpoints to reach the camp” at Shaqra, 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the Abyan capital Zinjibar, another official said.

“Two soldiers were killed at the entrance of the base by the assailants who then continued their journey to the camp where three of the four occupants got out of their vehicle, while the driver blew himself up,” said the official.

In all 15 soldiers were killed and 29 others wounded.

The army killed the three militants who got out of the vehicle, including one who managed to escape briefly, officials said, adding that four other militants who stormed the base following the explosion were also killed.

A military official confirmed that eight militants, including the suicide bomber, were killed, according to Saba state news agency.

The militants used a Yemen army vehicle which was part of equipment extremists seized last year when they overran towns in the province of Abyan before the areas were regained by authorities in an all-out offensive in May.

The attack came 24 hours after rockets fired from a drone near the southern city of Jaar killed at least seven suspected members of the terror network, including a local leader, an official in the restive region said.

Several military sources said the attack was in response to the raid.

Officials say Al Qaeda militants have been trying to position themselves near Yemen’s main southern cities to carry out operations against the army and the Popular Resistance Committees, local pro-army militias.

In May, the army launched an all out offensive against Al Qaeda in Abyan province, forcing them to retreat from major strongholds including Jaar and Abyan’s capital Zinjibar.

The campaign was backed by US drones which in recent months have been deployed in strikes against Al Qaeda targets in the south and east of the country.

An official said “several bodies” had been identified after the raid, including that of Nader Al-Shadadi, Al Qaeda’s leader in Jaar.

Thursday’s drone strike was the second such since October 4 when two cars carrying suspected Al Qaeda gunmen in the southern province of Shabwa were hit, killing five militants.

Al Qaeda took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government in an uprising last year against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.

Vrede arriveert gezant Brahimi in Damascus

AFP UN and Arab League Envoy DAMASCUS that Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Damascus on Friday as he bids to a 19-month truce to secure Syria conflict, an AFP journalist said.

"We have had talks with the Government, political parties and civil society about the situation in Syria," Brahimi told journalists at the airport in Damascus.

"We will talk about the need for the current violence and about whether it is possible to stop for the occasion of Eid al-Adha," he said about the major Islamic holiday next week.

The four-day Eid al Adha, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, caps begins in the Islamic world on 26 October.

Brahimi by Syria was Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Muqdad, received at the airport from Damascus and was scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Saturday.

Brahimi will meet President Bashar al-Assad "very, very quickly," spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told AFP on Thursday.

The Envoy arrived in Syria after a regional tour to countries who play an influential role in the crisis — Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

The Envoy stressed on Thursday that a temporary ceasefire in Syria can form the basis for a real truce in the-torn country, where more than 34,000 people have been killed since March last year.

"If the truce is implemented, we can build and make it a real truce, as well as the beginning of a political process that would help the Syrians solve their problems and the reconstruction of their country," Brahimi said in Amman.

Syrian warplanes keep pounding rebel held city

AFP MAARET AL-NUMAN WARPLANES pounded an important rebel-hold city in Syria for a second straight day on Friday as violence continued on the ground, with loyalists of President Bashar al Assad and rebels locked in an all-out fight for the city of Maaret al Numan on the highway between Syria two largest cities.

Assad's forces, who holds supremacy in the air, battered the northwestern city at dawn, a day after strikes on a residential area killed dozens, nearly half of them children, rescuers told an AFP reporter on the scene.

The raids are aimed at trying to regain control of the highway to resupply units under fire in the Northern metropolis of Aleppo for the past three months and 250 troops to help in their Wadi Deif base besieged.

Fighter jets overflew at high altitude before nosediving to four to five hits on targets in the outskirts of the city, such as helicopter gunships buzzed the area, said the correspondent.

The Syrian Observatory for human rights said targets included rebels camped near Wadi Deif, who is also a large storage facility for heavy armour and fuel.

"Military aircraft dropped bombs that targeted rebels camped near (the base) Wadi Deif to concentrate their firepower on the villages ' Talmans and Maashemsha, it said. The rebels say that they have launched a "final attack" at Wadi Deif, who is surrounded by about 2,500 insurgents, says the Observatory, adding at least six soldiers have been killed so far.

They responded to the air raids by opening fire from heavy machine guns mounted on vehicles with four wheel drive.

"It doesn't matter if we die.

We need to shoot in these areas, "said one of the crew of a machine gun fighters.

Also with an interval of 15-20 minutes, some of them rained down on Maaret al-Numan rockets fired by soldiers holed up in Wadi Deif.

On Thursday, warplanes aimed at residential areas of Maaret al-Numan killed at least 49 people, including 23 children, rescuers said.

The strikes destroyed two complexes of the casing and a mosque, where many women and children had entrenched, with bodies still trapped under the rubble of the mosque, the Medici and the rescuers said.

Among the dead was a nine-month-old baby.

Plump feet resting on the bike pedals and a decapitated head were all that was left of a boy caught know by the blitz as he played outside his house.

Violence across Syria 195 people were killed on Thursday — 89 citizens, 61 soldiers and 45 rebels, said the Observatory, which is based on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers for his information.

The exiled opposition said it would be a ceasefire but insisted that it was for the Government to stop its daily bombing.

Italy WINS final, Brazil takes women's title


DOHA Diatec TRENTINO maintained the Italian stranglehold on the FIVB World Women's Volleyball Championship Clubs men's Crown in the Sports Hall in Aspire Zone on Friday by overcoming Sada Cruzeiro from Brazil in the final giant slalom with some gripping volleyball, especially in the third set to clinch a 25-18, 25-15, 29-27 triumph for her fourth Crown here.

However, as compensation for this loss, the Brazilian team Sollys Nestle pulled a one-sided victory against the Rabita Baku in Azerbaijan in the final holder of the women's tournament.

Sollys Nestle exhibited its high class and really strong character, her excellent capping run in the tournament.

With five of the players who helped Brazil win the gold medal in the Olympic Games in London in August, Sollys Nestle cut from the 25-16 25-14 25-17 victory in 68 minutes.

The Italian Trentino, began after the Brazilian team in the group stage via a line of exciting 3-2-score have beaten with confidence.

Looked through the Minister for Home Affairs his Excellency Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani and new FIVB President Dr. Ary Grace, the European team took the game to elevated levels and the challengers demure in 81 minutes.

The two teams were egged on by a powerful vocal support from the crowd and when Cruzeiro failed to convert one of the four sets points in the third set, Trentino, unbeaten in Doha since 2009, earned his first match point through Osmany Juantorena smash. Filipe Ferraz then hit the ball long and Trentino won the Crown amid thundering applause.

Trentino won the purse of $ 250,000 and Cruzeiro at home $ 170,000.

Arab League, UN urge Eid ceasefire in Syria


NEW YORK the heads of the Arab League and the United Nations issued a joint call to Syria the warring parties on Friday, urging them to observe a ceasefire over the three-day Eid al Adha holiday, starting on 26 October.

Nabil al Arabi and Ban Ki-moon pleaded with those fighting "to listen to the call of the special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who arrived in Damascus on Friday, of a ceasefire and a cessation of all violence in all its forms during the period of the Eid al-Adha." It calls on "all regional and international actors to support this appeal." Such a truce must last a long time, they said, such as ' could make the space so that a peaceful political process that the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for democracy, equality and justice realizes '. The Eid al Adha festival, which coincides with the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the holiest periods in the Islamic calendar.

Ban and Arabi said they "urge everyone, especially the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic as the stronger party, wisdom and vision and stop killing and destruction so that all issues, however complex, can be tackled by peaceful means." Brahimi will Syrian officials meet in the next few days in an attempt to a brief armistice in the worsening war between Government and rebels forces of President Bashar al Assad.

Top official among 7 dead, 96 hurt in Beirut


BEIRUT A powerful car bomb in Beirut killed a senior official associated with the anti-Damascus camp in Lebanon on Friday, officials said, further increase tensions on the war in the neighbouring country.

The bombing on a busy square in the predominantly Christian district of Ashrafieh rush hour killed at least seven other people and wounded 96, Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told reporters on the scene. An official said that the head of Lebanon's internal security forces, General Intelligence Wissam al Hassan, was among the dead.

Hassan was close to Saad Hariri, leader of the Lebanese opposition and hostile to the regime in Syria. He had been tipped to take over as ISF head at the end of this year.

The ISF played a central role in the arrest in August of former Lebanese information Minister Michel Samaha, who has close ties to Damascus and was charged with planning attacks in Lebanon and transport of explosives.

The Agency was also closely involved in the search for the arrest of those responsible for a host of attacks and murders between 2005 and 2008, starting with the assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri.

Friday blast occurred (meters) just 200 metres from the headquarters of the Christian Party, the Phalanx, which is also anti-Damascus.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Nadim Gemayel quickly accused of orchestrating phalanx MP of Syria.

"The Syrian regime is not alien to such a explosions. This is an eminently political blast, "Gemayel told LBC television.

"This regime, that crumbling, trying to export his conflict to Lebanon," he said.

Syrian Minister of information Omran al Zohbi, meanwhile, condemned what he called a "terrorist, cowardly" attack, saying such incidents "are not justified where they occur." The incident has touched from painful memories of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war and the political turmoil that has much of the difficult post-war years linked to Syrian influence in the country.