Sunday, 18 November 2012

Blue oval presents a credible GTI-Fighter



YOU’VE seen this movie before. Ford SVT introduced its hot, 170-hp version of the Focus two-door hatch 10 years ago to much ballyhoo.

Although it was priced at a $5K premium over the common, 130-hp Focus, buyers lined up to pay nearly $20,000. But a year later, the cars were lingering on dealers’ lots, discounted to $13,000.

This time, everything’s different.

One Ford global development guarantees ST production for the rest of the Focus’ life cycle. If every North American who wants a Volkswagen GTI hatchback competitor for $25,000 to $32,000 buys one in the next year, there still will be demand in Europe, where 252- hp, front-drive four-door hatchbacks are their Mustangs and Camaros. This time, North America’s hot Focus is pretty much the same as Europe’s hot Focus, though we won’t get the wagon version. Don’t even ask.

To make its case, One Ford has brought us to the South of France to drive the new Focus ST along fabulous mountain roads north of Nice. Though we’re probably the least enthusiastic enthusiasts’ publication when it comes to the Focus, the ST impresses, at least on smooth European roads.

Chassis dynamics and throttle response sharpen the car’s dull points. Ford’s US Special Vehicle Team and Team RS in Europe worked together to massage the 160-hp, 2.0-litre EcoBoost four into a 252-hp (on premium) powerhouse. The engineering boffins added high-pressure direct-injection, low-inertia turbocharging, Twin-Independent Variable Cam Timing, redesigned intake and exhaust, and unique calibration. Yes, that makes it the same 2.0 EcoBoost that’s optional in the much bigger, heavier Edge and Explorer.

Ford claims the Focus ST zips through a 0-62-mph time of 6.5 seconds on its way to an autobahn- worthy top speed of 154 mph. You can flash your lights without irony to pass that BMW M3—the driver might be impressed with the ST’s special grille filling his rearview mirror.

It’s a large, one-piece maw replacing the Focus’ “kinetic design” affair, like the ’13 Fusion’s new design language, although its look is more piscine than poor man’s Aston. There are LED daytime running lights, wide side skirts, a subtle red ST badge in the grille, and, if you choose, Race Blue or the Moparesque Tangerine Scream among exclusive paint colours.

If he lets you by—it’s still his call—Mr Bimmerphile will see your handsome honeycomb wheels painted gray black with red brake callipers, part of the optional Performance Pack.

They’re shod with 235/40R18 Goodyear Eagles.

The Recaro front seats are spectacular, with snug and effective bolstering. They come with grippy, techy cloth inserts and leather bolsters and Race Blue or Tangerine Scream inserts with the ST2 package, or all-leather with the ST3 package.

The two-tone interior might seem over the top, but if you choose anything other than the ST2 package, you’ll end up with an interior as dark as Kim Jong Un’s heart. The seats have contrast- colour stitching; and there’s a dash-top gauge cluster with water temperature, turbo boost, and oil pressure gauges; a thick, meaty leather-wrapped steering wheel; a darker headliner than in standard Foci; and a red six-speed shift knob pattern.

Everything else is everyday Focus, including questionable ergonomics as a tradeoff for whatever the translation of “kinetic” is into interior designspeak.

The European-specific centre stack controls for climate and the Sony audio system are devoid of North America’s SyncMyFordTouch folderol. The Euro-stack still is lousy with buttons, but it seems a simpler, more straightforward alternative to the Microsoft voice-operated excess.

Sixth gear is one of the most welcome additions to the ST The gearbox feels direct and precise, and it’s a good companion for the downshift-intense needs of the turbo engine. The sixth cog helps Ford get a 32-mpg highway EPA fuel economy rating.

By now you’ve heard that Ford ST engineers added an overboost feature to the engine, which extends the 270 lb-ft of peak torque for up to 15 seconds at a time. While other EcoBoost engines would quickly drop off their torque peak after achieving it, the ST’s overboost feature extends it from 3000 to 4500 rpm. Lay into that extended torque band, and a “sound symposer,” which amplifies the engine’s induction noise into the quiet cabin, converts the EcoBoost’s well-oiled mechanical whirr into a subtle induction woffle.

The ride feels firm, though you’ll have to wait until we get the ST on a properly decrepit American road, say, in Detroit, before we can judge how stiff it is for everyday driving. Ford says the Focus ST is designed to be comfortable in those stop-and-go commutes that take up far too much of our drive time.

The electrically power-assisted steering comes with variable ratio and effort and a Torque Steer Compensation program that’s lacking in consistency.

Steering effort feels higher with the throttle on than with it off, as in entering a corner or scrubbing off speed. Though it may sound counterintuitive, a slice of torque steer seems more predictable.

You can affect electric powerassisted steering and set the electronic stability control by choosing ESC-on/ESC-off, which doesn’t turn off everything completely, or Sport mode, which should work best most of the time.

While the differences are subtle, crediting again the wide tires, Sport mode improves turn-in.

The Focus ST is a serious competitor for the harsh and nervous current-generation MazdaSpeed3 and the balanced and refined Volkswagen GTI.

Thanks to the Mini Cooper S and the last two revitalised VW GTIs, Americans finally are willing to pay semi-premium prices for good hatchbacks. Most Focus ST prospects will consider these and the MazdaSpeed3 before they give a Track Package Mustang V-6 a second glance.

While those three hatchback competitors help the ST’s North American business case, the new question is how this 252-horse FWD hatch will fare against a couple of well-reviewed, agile small coupes with much less power, vestigial rear seats, and RWD.

Trisha Krishnan against cruel experiments on dogs


SOUTHERN actress Trisha Krishnan has written to the government seeking due action to release 70 beagles, who have reportedly been imported from Chinai as ‘pets’, but are likely to be used for some experiments.

Trisha, a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has demanded that the dogs be given to the animal rights organisation for adoption.

The 29-year-old has addressed the letter to MF Farooqui, special secretary in the ministry of environment and forests. “It is my understanding that it is, rightfully, illegal to import animals who are to be used in experiments under the false premise that will go to loving homes,” Trisha wrote in the letter.

“If you don’t intercede, these dogs are likely to be injected with or force fed chemicals, experimental drugs or pesticides until they become very sick and die,” she added.

According to reports, the dogs were falsely marked as pets to get a no-objection certificate from the authorities, and are being used for experiments by a pharmaceutical laboratory, Advinus Therapeutics in Bangalore.

Several celebrities like Celina Jaitly, Neha Dhupia, Sonu Sood and Kunal Khemu have also lent support to the cause by taking to Twitter, and posting: “Help PetaIndia save 70 beagles wrongly transported as pets to India for laboratory testing.”

Thuppakki mints over Rs 100 million IANS in first three days


TAMIL actor Vijay-starrer action-thriller T h u p p a k k i managed to collect a whopping Rs 100 million within the first three days of its release in Tamil Nadu.

“The film collected approximately Rs 100 million from Tamil Nadu in the first three days. This is one of the best openings for a Tamil film released this year.

Thuppakki is doing extraordinary business in other parts of the country too,” Trinath, a trade analyst, said. “The numbers from other parts of the country and overseas are yet to come in,” he added. Thuppakki, which released on November 13 worldwide in over 1,000 theatres, is about a captain from the India Army, played by Vijay, who comes to Bombay on a vacation, but gets himself involved in a terrorist scheme, which is bigger than anticipated.

Kajal Agarwal, Satyan, Mano Bala, Vidyut Jamwal and Jayaram have played key roles in the film, which is directed by AR Murugadoss, and has music by Harris Jeyaraj.

Meanwhile, the Telugu dubbed version of the film titled Thupaki faced release problems on the opening day in Andhra Pradesh.

“The Telugu version of the film couldn’t be released in most theatres in Andhra Pradesh because of some misunderstanding between the distributors and theatre owners, but all that got resolved very soon. The film has done equally good business in Andhra Pradesh too,” added Trinath.

Lohan for image makeover through work



ACTRESS Lindsay Lohan says she felt lonely while struggling to cope with her personal issues and considered giving up her acting career.

The 26-year-old, who is known for her work in movies like Mean Girls, Bobby and I Know Who Killed Me, went through turbulent years as she fought legal battles and faced numerous stints in prison and rehab.

The actress says she did not know what to do in her life ahead, reports dailystar.

“There was a point when it got really lonely. I was being hounded a lot. I didn’t know what to do... I didn’t want to listen to anyone. I was very stubborn... (I asked myself) ‘Do I do this or do I take the easy way out and just stop?’ But I love acting,” Lohan said.

“It’s unfortunate that people began to know me as a celebrity rather than as an actress. I can hope to gain that respect back only through my work.” she added.

Moore, Kutcher come together for charity



THEY may have split, but actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore are committed towards working together in the fight against child sex trafficking.

However, their charitable foundation DNA Foundation will now be known as THORN: Digital Defenders of Children, reports

“For the past three years, we have focused our work broadly on combating child sex trafficking. It has become crystal clear in our efforts that technology plays an increasingly large role in this crime and in the sexual exploitation of children overall. We believe that the technology-driven aspect of these crimes demands its own attention and investment,” the former couple said in a statement.

Demi and Ashton parted ways in 2011 after he allegedly cheated on Moore. They started their foundation together in 2010.

While Kutcher is now dating Mila Kunis, it was recently revealed that Moore has finally come to terms with the end of her marriage and is looking forward to finding romance again.

Man City go on top in EPL; Chelsea lose at West Brom


MANCHESTER MANCHESTER City went top in the Premier League by crushing Aston Villa 5-0 on Saturday, but third-placed Chelsea have now gone four games without a win after losing 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion.

David Silva’s scrappy 43rdminute goal put City ahead at the Etihad Stadium, before penalties from Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez — awarded for handballs by Andreas Weimann and Barry Bannan — made it 3-0.

Aguero beat Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan at his near post to claim his second goal in the 67th minute and Tevez then tapped home the fifth, as City warmed up for Wednesday’s vital Champions League encounter with Real Madrid in style.

The result dropped Villa into the bottom three and took champions City a point clear of former leaders Manchester United, who will return to the summit if they win at Norwich City later on Saturday.

Chelsea’s early-season momentum appears to have fizzled out completely, after their defeat at coach Roberto Di Matteo’s former club left them four points off the pace.

Shane Long put West Brom ahead at the Hawthorns with a 10th-minute header but Eden Hazard drew the visitors level when he nodded in Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross six minutes before half-time.

Peter Odemwingie’s nearpost header from Long’s centre saw the home side reclaim the initiative five minutes into the second half and the introductions of Juan Mata and Oscar could not turn the match in Chelsea’s favour.

West Brom’s victory allowed them to climb to within a point of Chelsea and they clambered over Everton into fourth place after David Moyes’ side were beaten 2-1 at relegation-threatened Reading.

Steven Naismith punished sloppy defending to give Everton a 10th-minute lead but a second-half Adam Le Fondre double — a header followed by a penalty — saw the Royals belatedly register their first win of the campaign.

In the battle of the basement clubs, Southampton won 3-1 at Queens Park Rangers to leave the London club four points adrift at the foot of the table and increase the pressure on coach Mark Hughes.

David Hoilett gave QPR hope when he pulled a goal back after Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon had put the Saints 2-0 up, but a late Anton Ferdinand own goal confirmed a win that took Nigel Adkins’ men to within a point of safety.

Earlier, Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor scored but was then sent off as his former club Arsenal stormed back from behind to win 5-2 in the north London derby at the Emirates Stadium.

The Togolese forward tapped in a 10th-minute opener after Wojciech Szczesny saved from Jermain Defoe but was sent off eight minutes later for an uncontrolled lunge at Santi Cazorla.

Per Mertesacker’s 24thminute header drew Arsenal level and quick-fire goals from Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud put the hosts 3-1 up at half-time.

Cazorla’s tap-in extended Arsenal’s lead, with Gareth Bale reducing the arrears in the 71st minute before Theo Walcott struck in injury time to produce a repeat of the scoreline from last season’s equivalent fixture in February.

“We showed people how good we are today,” Walcott told Sky Sports television.

“It’ll give us tremendous spirit, and we’ve got a lot of players back to fitness and everybody’s very confident.” Elsewhere, in-form Luis Suarez took his tally for the season to 10 league goals with a brace as Liverpool beat Wigan Athletic 3-0.

Goals from Michu and Jonathan de Guzman saw Swansea City win 2-1 at Newcastle United, who replied in injury time through Demba Ba.

Grand double by Waleed


WALEED AL SHARSHANI rounded off the Qatar International Jet Ski Championship, held under the aegis of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation, with a thrilling double at the Wakrah Port on Saturday.

An international sailor with 2006 Asian Games silver medal to his credit, Sharshani of Rip Speed Racing Team emerged the champion in the Runabout Stock and Runabout Super Stock, both being the biggest two races in the third and concluding round.

Sharshani first clinched the Runabout Stock, which he began as the pole driver and won the 10-lap race in a tight finish. He managed to beat compatriot Mohamed Abdulla al Heidous by less than two seconds and pocketed QR14,000 in prize money. Heidous got QR11,000 for his second-place finish. The third place was taken by Kuwait’s Yousuf Abdul Razak.

But the race of the day, the Runabout Super Stock, had its own twists and turns. Sharshani had placed himself at the pole of this race too on Friday. But when he turned up with a changed scooter, he was forced to begin from the last spot under the rules.

Sharshani, however, thrived in the windy and rough weather conditions, while others struggled. Slowly, he moved up the course with superb control and gained the lead. With constant attack on sharp turns, he claimed the top honours in 24 minutes and 07.84 seconds.

The victory about 46 seconds ahead of Mohamed Abdulla al Heidous, who had won the event in the second round, fetched Sharshani QR24,000. Kuwait’s Razak finished third again and repeated the Runabout Stock’s podium.

Sharshani, who had won the race in the first round, was delighted with his double effort. “I’m very pleased with my show today. I had to start the Runabout Stock from the back row as I had changed my jet ski and I did not know about the rules.

“So I’d a tough challenge in the biggest race. But since I love the strong winds and rough water, I did not have any problems in wresting the lead. As I hit the front, I was able to control the race and won it easily in the end,” added Sharshani.

“The competition level was good and I enjoyed the racing. I would have liked to have more rounds than three. But it is all up to the organisers.

Maybe next season, we’ll have more rounds to contest,” hoped Sharshani.

Rashid Ebrahim al Mannai and Thamer Ahmed Abu Faisal, both Qataris, were adjudged to have violated the start track rules and were penalised with one round penalty.

Later after the race, there were protests by Mannai and Faisal, who were promoted to the fifth and sixth spots, respectively, after a video review of the race. Khamis al Hosni, who was originally fifth, was demoted to seventh.

French driver Ludovic Caumont completed a sweep of the Ski F1 Division. The UAE-based contestant, preparing himself for the forthcoming national championship in Abu Dhabi, had clinched the first two rounds earlier.

Caumont was a comfortable winner ahead of UAE’s Rashid al Owaiss and Kuwait’s Abdulwahab Suhail Issa in 17 minutes and 46.54 seconds.

“I really liked the race conditions and feel I’ve prepared well for the UAE championships, which will be held in January, 2013.

“The weather was not ideal, not letting us maintain the balance and power of the jet skis. But technically, I had a good race,” said the 2010 UAE champion. “I hope to use the experience and preparations in Qatar and do well in the upcoming nationals. I’d like to congratulate the QMSF for holding the event in the best possible ways. I’d have also liked to have more races but I feel the QMSF will enlarge the competition in future,” added Caumont.

Rip Speed Racing Team’s Majed al Sharshani won the Runabout Stock for beginners, beating Mohammed Jassim al Obaidli to the second place by nearly three seconds. Khalid Walid al Shaya of Kuwait secured the third place.

RReesults RRunabout SStockk ((beeginneerrs)):: 1.Majed al Sharshani (Qatar) 10 laps, total time 18 min, 00.54 seconds, prize money QR10,000 2.Mohammed Jassim al Obaidli (Qatar) 10 laps, 18:04.51, QR7,000 3.Khalid Walid al Shaya (Kuwait) 10 laps, QR5,000 4.Hesham Sami Bakhsh (Saudi Arabia), 10 laps, 18:09.66, QR4,000 5.Hamad Yousuf Allanjawi (UAE), 10 laps, 18:15.92, QR2,000 6.Abdulaziz Hamad al Omar (Kuwait), 10 laps, 18:56.40, QR1,000 SSkki F11 DDivvision 1.Ludovic Caumont (UAE) 10 laps, 17:46,54, QR12,000 2.Rashid al Owaiss (UAE), 9 laps, 18:29.76, QR9,000 3.Abdulwahab Suhail Issa (Kuwait), 9 laps, 18:59.35, QR6,000 4.Fahad Najeeb al Musalim (Kuwait), 9 laps, 19:09.54, QR3,000 5.Mubarak Sultan al Sultan (Kuwait) 2 laps, 05:15.77 RRunabout SStockk 1.Waleed al Sharshani (Qatar), 10 laps, 15:41.85, QR14,000 2.Mohamed Abdulla al Heidous (Qatar), 10 laps, 15:43.04, QR11,000 3.Yusuf Abdul Razak (Kuwait), 10 laps, 15:49.14, QR8,000 4.Rashid Ebrahim al Mannai (Qatar), 10 laps, 15:58.68, QR6,000 5.Thamer Ahmad Abu Faisal (Qatar), 10 laps, 17:04.44, QR4,000 6.Bader Yousuf al Zaini (Qatar), 10 laps, 17:24.28, QR2,000 7.Khamis al Hosni (Qatar), 10 laps, 17:28.06, QR1,500 RRunabout SSuppeerr SStockk 1.Waleed al Sharshani (Qatar), 14 laps, 24:07, 84, QR24,000 2.Mohamed Abdulla al Heidous (Qatar), 14 laps, 24:54.63, QR18,000 3.Yousuf Abdul Razak (Kuwait), 14 laps, 25:36.98, QR15,000 4.Ahmad Rashid al Dawas (Kuwait), 14 laps, 25:47.88, QR7,000 5.Rashid Ebrahim al Mannai (Qatar), QR5,000 6.Thamer Ahmad Abu Faisal (Qatar), QR1,500 7.Khamis al Hosni (Qatar), QR15,00 8.Saud Abdulaziz Ahmed (Saudi Arabia), QR1,500 9.Bader Yousuf al Zaini (Qatar), QR1,5000 10.Ali Muhamd Allanjawi (UAE), QR1,500

Five-star Best helps West Indies rout Bangladesh


PACEMAN Tino Best grabbed his maiden five-wicket haul to help the West Indies beat Bangladesh by 77 runs in the first Test in an exciting fifth day finish at Shere Bangla stadium on Saturday.

The 31-year-old paceman took three wickets in the post lunch session and added another in the final session, finishing with 5-24 to rout Bangladesh for a paltry 167 after they were set a 245-run target.

Best dismissed Shahriar Nafees (23), Shakib Al Hasan (two) and Mushfiqur Rahim (16) in quick succession and then had Bangladesh’s top scorer Mohammad Mahmudullah (29) to give his team a 1-0 lead in the two- Test series.

The second and final Test will be played in Khulna from November 21.

Bangladesh, seeking their second win at home and fourth overall in Test cricket, lost openers Tamim Iqbal (five) and Junaid Siddique (20) in a disappointing start.

Siddiqui became Best’s first victim in the innings before lunch.

But worse was to come for the Tigers as Best caught Nafees miscuing a pull off his own bowling and in his next over had Bangladesh’s best batsman Shakib Al Hasan caught behind.

Rahim looked good initially but Best returned for a second spell to trap the Bangladeshi skipper in front of the wicket to derail Bangladesh to 85-5.

Sixteen runs later, Veerasammy Permaul had Naeem Islam lbw after the first innings century maker had made only 26. Permaul also dismissed Nasir Hossain for 21 and Sohag Gazi (19) to finish with 3-32 on his debut.

It was another disappointing batting display by the home team which ended in their 64th defeat in 74 Tests since gaining Test status in 2000 — a matter of great criticism in the cricketing world.

West Indian captain Darren Sammy heaped praise on his bowlers.

“Bangladesh played really well, but credit must go to our bowlers and batsmen. It turned out to be a very good wicket after 1000 runs in the first two innings, but there was something in the final stages of the match,” said Sammy.

“The team has a whole new belief and we are trying to get more consistent in Tests. We are looking to improve with every game.” Sammy’s Bangladesh counterpart, meanwhile, bemoaned a lack of partnerships in his team’s second innings.

“In this Test, we competed well. Test cricket is the biggest challenge and we don’t play that many, but we really did well in the first innings, but lack of partnerships in the second let us down,” said Rahim.

“We are 1-0 down but we have lots of positives from this Test and hopefully we can come back hard.” Earlier, Bangladesh were put on course for a win by offspinner Gazi whose 6-74 are the best figures by a home bowler on debut.

England fight back but India are in command


PRAGYAN OJHA snapped up five wickets to give India a mammoth 330-run lead before England staged a spirited fightback in the second innings to give themselves a slight hope of saving the first Test on Saturday.

England were bundled out for 191 in the first innings with Ojha taking five for 45 while Ravichandran Ashwin took three wickets, prompting India to enforce the follow-on.

But the script changed remarkably in the second innings as skipper Alastair Cook (74 batting) and Nick Compton (34 batting) steered England to 111 for no loss at close on an eventful third day with the visitors still trailing by 219 runs.

With two full days left in the match, India still hold the advantage of going 1-0 up in the four-match series.

England will have to bat out of their skin to save the game on a Sardar Patel track that appears to be getting slower.

The visitors showed better application in the second innings, after India, who scored a massive 521 for eight declared, asked them to follow- on.

Left-arm spinner Ojha claimed his career’s fourth five-wicket haul with figures of five for 45 in 22.2 overs in his 17th Test while Ashwin grabbed three for 80 in 27 overs.

Starting the second innings after an early tea, Cook and debutant Compton, who was out for nine in the first innings, put on an unbeaten century stand to give England a fine start in their quest for avoiding an innings defeat.

Neither Ojha, nor his offspin partner Ashwin, could pose as many problems to the English openers in the second essay as they did in the first.

The spinners, especially Ashwin, also bowled a lot flatter and did not stick to a consistent line of attack on a wicket that became more and more placid as the game progressed.

England still have a huge task on hand and their first job on Sunday would be to wipe out the first-innings deficit.

The manner in which Cook and Compton negotiated the Indian bowlers, in stark contrast to what they did in the first, holds some hope for the visitors.

England, who started the day at 41 for three, were pushed to the brink before they adjourned for the lunch break at 110 for seven. They fought back for a brief while through Matt Prior (48) and Tim Bresnan (19).

Prior was the last man out when he lost his off stump to Ojha.

Prior’s was the top score of the innings with only captain Cook, who scored 41, being the only other batsman to cross 40 in a pathetic display.

Prior, who had come to the wicket at the fall of Ian Bell with the total reading a miserable 69 for five, played with positive intent.

Bresnan faced 112 balls and hit a couple of boundaries, and showed better application than most of the front-line batsmen.

India shuffled their bowlers constantly and Ojha got the breakthrough by dismissing Bresnan and then followed it up with the wicket of Prior after Zaheer got his only wicket of the innings, trapping Stuart Broad leg before.

Inflation China’s key long-term risk, says central bank chief


BEIJING INFLATION is the main long-term risk for China as the economy makes a transition from a planned economy to a market-based one and deeper financial reforms are needed to complete the move, central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan said on Saturday.

“There is a general tendency for overheating impulses during China’s economic transition process and we should always stress the need to control inflation,” Zhou told a financial forum.

“In most occasions, pressures from various sides is to loosen monetary policy to spur growth, but there is less push for preventing economic overheating and inflation,” he said.

A main feature of China’s economic transition is that many entities, including local governments, are not subject to “soft constraints”, which means they tend to spend more and fuel economic overheating, Zhou added.

China’s annual inflation eased to 1.7 percent in October from 1.9 percent in September after a two-year fight by the central bank to bring it back under the government’s 4 percent target after the effects of a 2008-09 economic stimulus program lifted CPI to a three-year high of 6.5 percent in July 2011.

The policy tightening needed to do so pushed required reserve ratios (RRR) at commercial banks to a record high of 21.5 percent as the central bank strove to lock up excess liquidity that fuelled speculative investments and drove up basic prices.

The downturn encountered by China subsequently, as the European Union’s sovereign debt crisis has festered and sapped demand for Chinese exports from its single biggest market, has complicated the policy backdrop.

During the current policy cycle, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) cut interest rates in June and July this year and has lowered required reserve ratios (RRR) three times since late 2011 to free an estimated 1.2 trillion yuan ($190 billion) for lending as part of a yearlong program of pro-growth policy fine-tuning.

The central bank, though, has cautiously held off on more aggressive easing, opting instead to pump shortterm cash into money markets to ease credit strains, a move analysts say reflects Beijing’s concerns about reigniting property speculation and inflation risks.

It also liberalized the interest rate environment with its June and July cuts to give commercial banks more room to set both lending and deposit rates competitively.

The PBOC is not independent, unlike the US Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank, as it needs the cabinet’s green-light on key decisions on interest rates and currency, but analysts say it has been gaining more influence on policies.

No illegal payment for Saudi licence, says Barclays


DUBAI/JEDDAH BARCLAYS did not make any “illegal payment” to win a banking licence in Saudi Arabia, the bank said in a statement in response to a newspaper report last week that said US authorities were looking at whether improper payments were made.

The Financial Times had reported on November 10 that the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) was investigating whether Barclays made any improper payments to win a banking license in Saudi Arabia to operate a wealth-management arm and investment bank, citing people familiar with the investigation.

“The board of directors of Barclays Saudi Arabia and its executive management takes the issue raised by the media very seriously,” the bank said on Saturday.

“Barclays Saudi Arabia confirms that it did not make any illegal payment to the CMA (Capital Markets Authority) or any of its officials regarding the granting of Saudi licence.” “Barclays SA will continue to conduct business in the kingdom in accordance with the highest professional standards and is fully committed to the development of Saudi Arabia’s financial market,” the bank said.

Barclays was licenced to start business in Saudi Arabia in August 2009 and given final approval to begin securities trading in May 2010 after the Saudi regulator said the bank had met all requirements.

The CMA said last week that it was not aware of any investigations and had not received any inquiries from regulatory bodies on the issue.

Barclays is facing a series of investigations into its business, including one by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Financial Services Authority which are scrutinising payments made by Barclays to Qatar as part of a 2008 fundraising.

The bank has come under scrutiny regarding manipulation of benchmark interest rate Libor and could face fines over an investigation into the manipulation of power prices the United States. Barclays Saudi Arabia is a closed joint stock company regulated by the CMA.

Political give-and-take casts shadow on Wall Street


NEW YORK ALL these events, in the end, turned out to be buying opportunities for stocks. So will the “fiscal cliff,” some investors say as they watch favourite stocks tumble during the political give-and-take happening in Washington.

The first round of talks aimed at avoiding the “fiscal cliff” caused a temporary rise in equities on Friday, signaling Wall Street’s recent declines could be a buying opportunity. The gains were small and sentiment remains weak, but it suggests hope for market bulls.

Though shares ended moderately higher on Friday, it was not enough to offset losses for the week. The S&P was down 1.5 percent, while both the Dow and the Nasdaq fell 1.8 percent.

The S&P 500 is down more than 5 percent in the seven sessions that followed President Barack Obama’s reelection.

Uncertainty arose as attention turned to Washington’s task of dealing with mandated tax hikes and spending cuts that could take the US economy back into recession.

Some see the market’s move as an overreaction to hyperbolic headlines about policy gridlock in Washington, believing stocks may start to rebound in what should be a quiet few days ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday next Thursday.

“It just doesn’t seem to make any sense that you suddenly wake up the day after the election and realise we’ve got a fiscal cliff,” said Krishna Kumar, partner at New York hedge fund Goose Hollow Alpha Advisors.

Not long ago the S&P was on target for its second-best year in the last 10, riding a 17 percent advance in 2012.

That’s been halved to about 8 percent, which isn’t bad but disappointing compared with just a month ago.

Investors have been selling the year’s winners. Apple is down 25 percent from its peak above $700. General Electric is down 14 percent; Google has lost 16 percent.

Overall, the stocks that make up the top 10 percent of performers in the month prior to Election Day have been the worst performers since, according to Bespoke Investment Group of Harrison, New York.

“I think it’s a good opportunity to be long stocks at these levels,” said Kumar.

Hikes on capital gains and dividend taxes are on the line, and Obama has dug in his heels on what he sees as a mandate to make the tax code more progressive.

He seems to have the upper hand in dealings with Congress because Republican lawmakers don’t want to see tax rates increase, which is what will happen if no solution is found by the beginning of 2013. Republicans don’t want to take the blame for driving the economy over the cliff.

The current crisis is similar to last year’s fight to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, which led to the downgrade of the United States’ top credit rating in early August 2011.

During the dealings, the S&P 500 lost 18.8 percent between its peak in July 2011 and its bottom in August. As the market slid, the political standoff badly hurt investors’ confidence in Washington, setting off a spike in volatility.

In the end a deal was announced that raised the ceiling and put off longerterm fiscal decisions until January 1, 2013, setting the stage for today’s “fiscal cliff” crisis. After staying flat through September 2011, the S&P 500 jumped 31 percent between its October low and the end of March.

GCC insulated from severe global growth shock: QNB



THE outlook for the global economy remains gloomy with some key risks: a looming fiscal crisis in the US, potential for further disruption from eurozone sovereign debt crises and a potential slowdown in the Chinese economy from previously high growth. However, according to analysis from QNB Group, the GCC is well positioned to sustain a severe and sustained shock to global GDP.

Slower growth in the US, Eurozone and China would have knock-on effects in the GCC, mainly through weaker demand for oil and the impact on oil prices.

The IMF estimates that 1 percent lower real GDP in either the US or Euro Area would lead to 0.4 percent lower GDP in the GCC a year later, while a 1 percent fall in China’s growth would lead to a 0.1 percent fall in the GCC.

Over a fifth of GCC exports are to China, the EU and the US, so a simultaneous demand shock in these countries could have a significant impact on demand for GCC exports.

More importantly, slower growth in these major economies—responsible for 44 percent of oil and 35 percent of gas consumption—would be likely to drive down hydrocarbon prices. This in turn would have a stronger impact on GCC export revenue, reducing fiscal and current- account surpluses and potentially leading to weaker economic activity.

During the global recession in 2009, oil prices fell by 37 percent and liquefied natural gas (LNG) spot prices by 27 percent. As well as reducing export revenue, this contributed to a 0.2 percent contraction in GDP in the GCC as oil production was lowered in response to lower demand and prices. Consequently, some investment plans were scaled back with the deteriorating economic climate.

Qtel unveils ‘The Value Leader’


DOHA QTEL launched ‘The Value Leader’ programme recently.

Held in partnership with HECParis, the programme was graced by Qtel CEO Sheikh Saud bin Nasser al Thani.

‘The Value Leader’ programme is one of Qtel’s most significant initiatives for enhanced training and development, and plays a key role in the company’s long-term Qatarization strategy.

Now in its second year, Qtel has selected a group of 30 senior managers to participate in the year-long programme. Senior executives attended the launch event with the CEO to demonstrate their commitment and support long-term professional development of the next level of senior managers.

In partnership with HECParis in Qatar, Qtel is enhancing its efforts to be an employer of choice in Qatar.

HEC-Paris in Qatar’s programmes focus on building corporate competitiveness within the global economy, and are fully aligned with the Qatar National Vision 2030 to support the emergence of an advanced, competitive and knowledgebased economy.

For Qtel, which is putting increasing emphasis on enhancing the customer experience and driving effectiveness and efficiency throughout its operations, ‘The Value Leader’ programme is essential.

‘The Value Leader’ programme is one of the many aspects of Qtel’s innovative Talent Development Strategy.

Leadership is at the heart of Qtel’s strategy for success, and the programme is of the many ways that the company promotes professional growth for its employees.

Qtel and HEC-Paris in Qatar began their collaboration in 2010 by identifying areas and providing access to Qtel expert testimonials in the classroom.

Qtel graduated its first class from ‘The Value Leader’ programme in July 2012, and already the company has seen strong results from their efforts.

Dhow festival ends with award presentation


DOHA The second edition of the annual Traditional Dhow Festival concluded on Saturday with a fireworks display and an award ceremony where a team of pearl divers received prizes for nurturing their traditions.

Chairman of Administrative Control and Transparency Authority HE Abdullah bin Hamad al Attiyah, who visited the event on Saturday, toured a number of the pavilions, including heritage, boats and dhow stands.

Addressing the press, Katara General Manager Dr Khalid bin Ibrahim al Sulaiti said, “The second edition of Dhow Festival reflected the true heritage and history of the Qatari people. The festival highlighted the importance of the seas in Qatari culture. Till today, we still value the significance of our waters. The event showcased this heritage through various traditional and cultural performances.

It is a way to connect the Qatari people with their past and traditions.” The five-day event, which received high-profile visitors, including Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage HE Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz al Kawari, featured a series of lectures on the history of Dhow with a deeper understanding of its socio-cultural and economic significance.

The festival also included a variety of events including dhow cruises, pearl-diving competition, traditional performances, live dhow building shows as well as various children’s workshops and display of items from different museums across the Gulf region.

The pearl-diving contest, which was won by Al Rayyan team from Qatar for collecting the most pearls, saw 156 members from 12 teams embarking on a three-day journey to collect pearls, using the traditional methods and tools.

The festival showcased over 100 dhows of 13 kinds from Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman.

Dhow Festival Committee Manager Ahmed al Hitmi said, “It has been truly inspiring to see people of all ages and races come together and engage in the variety of activities on offer at this event. We thank the men who dedicated their lives to diving into the sea in search of pearls.”

TII, French bodies in pacts to promote language


DOHA The Translation and Interpreting Institute (TII) at the Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) recently signed two memorandums of understanding (MoUs) and an agreement with two French organisations to promote French language in Qatar.

Under the agreements, the TII will collaborate with the Institut Français and Sorbonne Nouvelle University Paris 3’s École Supérieure d’Interprètes et de Traducteurs (ESIT) and encourage exchange of expertise in cultural and linguistic fields as well as in research and higher education.

Ambassador of France to Qatar HE Jean-Christophe Peaucelle, President of HBKU Dr Abdulla bin Ali al Thani, Sorbonne Nouvelle President Prof Marie-Christine Lemardeley and Counsellor of Cooperation and Cultural Affairs at the French embassy in Doha Regis Dantaux were present at the signing ceremony.

The agreements aim to promote French language among the HBKU’s graduate students and the citizens of Qatar.

TII Executive Director Dr Amal Mohammed al Malki said the agreements would help the TII to realise its vision of providing top-class education for translators and interpreters and contributing to Qatar’s growth as a knowledge-based economy.

She explained: “We aim to build the linguistic and cultural capacity in Qatar and enhance the calibre of professionals and researchers in the fields of translation and interpreting.

To achieve these, we are collaborating with prominent colleges and universities such as ESIT to exchange best practices and expertise.” The agreements will further the TII’s services, expertise and offerings in areas related to French language and culture. The TII will work with the Institut Français du Qatar to promote linguistic and cultural exchange among the Arab and French expatriate communities in Qatar. The Institut français du Qatar is the official French government centre of language and culture in Qatar, one of 150 French institutes around the world.

The Institut français du Qatar is dedicated to promoting French language and culture and encouraging cross-cultural exchange between France and Qatar. As a promoter of French language and culture, the Institut français du Qatar will deliver quality French language courses in partnership with the TII. The institute will also propose a wide range of official language tests as well as cultural programmes to the TII learners.

The MoU between the TII and Sorbonne Nouvelle University Paris 3’s ESIT will enrich the academic experience of both parties by offering exchange and collaboration opportunities to their respective students and faculty members.

The TII aims to provide Qatar and GCC countries with top-of-the-line translation and interpretation education and training in several languages.

The institute is also working to raise awareness of the rich contribution of Arab culture to global knowledge in literature, sciences and art through translation.

TEDxYouth speakers talk about ‘failing better’


DOHA THE TEDxYouth@Doha event held at the Virginia Commonwealth University - Qatar (VCUQ) on Saturday showcased 17 young speakers who delivered inspiring talks on the theme ‘fail better’, and shared their experiences in attaining success after overcoming repeated failures and struggles through perseverance.

The event was held as part of the UN Universal Children’s Day which is celebrated around the world on November 20.

This year, Qatar joined more than 100 cities which have been celebrating the day for the past two years by hosting TEDxYouth events.

During the programme, 19- year-old Tejas Kumar, a web developer, talked about overcoming his lifelong illness.

Born with haemophilia, Kumar grew up being called a blue moon kid at school. Due to his fragile health condition, he could only spend around 45 days at school in a whole year. But he chose not to live in self-pity.

He invested his free time in developing his newfound passion - webmaking.

In 2008, he won the Qatar University website contest and was granted full scholarship for a Bachelor of Science degree.

He said, “All of us struggle with something. It could be money, intellect, popularity, etc. We’re all going to struggle and life is not going to be easy. But here’s my radical idea, let’s struggle well and let’s make it worthwhile. Let’s learn from it. You may not succeed or win instantly and things may be hard, but let’s push through”.

Farrah Abu-Shaban, a student at American School of Doha, has always dreamt of having her artworks published.

In 2003, she joined a drawing contest launched by a local daily in hopes that she would finally fulfil her dream.

Four months after, she still never realised her dream. In 2009, she joined an international drawing competition on the king of pop Michael Jackson.

Her drawing made it to the final 20 out of the 200,000 other contestants.

Talking to the audience, she said, “The saying that success is a journey and not an outcome is true. It comes through multiple attempts.

And in trying, what was developed was more than skill, but my perseverance.” Al Jazeera reporter Bilal Renderee, also spoke about his own journey, and touched upon his personal and professional adventures. He said, “We eventually decided on the title ‘A series of (un)fortunate events’, with brackets being used to indicate that you never really know if an experience will be negative or positive until you see the repercussions from it.

“The theme ‘fail better’ runs through my whole talk. Every step of the way, things happened that could have led to major failures, but ultimately things turned out very differently”.

Around 500 visitors attended the event which also featured photo booths and a community art project that let the young audience think up their own fails and write them on a series of x-shapes to embrace the theme of ‘fail better’.

Head of Communications Florent D’Souza said, “This is a culmination of months of hard work, preparation, and planning. We will still be doing workshops and more over the next 12 months to engage young people in this country. Qatar is growing and changing rapidly, it is important we develop a generation of future leaders and thinkers. We hope that TEDxYouth@Doha can contribute to that need in some way”.

Other speakers at the event also spoke about preserving the Arabic language, overcoming stereotypes faced by women in the Gulf, re-imagining gadgets, genes and mutations, and basic life support training among others

Liquor baron, brother kill each other in Delhi


NEW DELHI CONTROVERSIAL liquor baron Ponty Chadha and his brother were killed when both sides opened fire at each other during a meeting to find a resolution to their ongoing property dispute in a farmhouse in south Delhi on Saturday.

55-year-old Ponty and his brother Hardeep, with whom he had a strained relationship due to property dispute, were shot at in their chests during the meeting at the former’s farmhouse in Chhattarpur at around one pm, police said.

The meeting was called to resolve the dispute over ownership of some property and it started on a peaceful note but it soon turned ugly following which Hardeep allegedly opened fire at his brother, sources said.

This enraged the guards of Ponty who returned the fire in which Hardeep was killed.

However, there was also another version which said both Hardeep and Ponty, whose real name is Gurpreet Chadha, opened fire at each other and their guards also joined in the firing.

Both the brothers were rushed to AIIMS but were declared dead at arrival by doctors. Ponty is believed to have taken six bullets on his body.

This is the second incident of firing at Ponty Chadha’s residence. On October five, firing took place at his ancestral home in Moradabad.

Chadha’s business empire encompasses distilleries, multiplexes, sugar and paper mills, real estate, poultry and films. He was producer of the Sunny Deol starrer ‘Jo Bole So Nihaal’.

Chadha, who is considered close to UP politicians, is one of the prominent names in liquor business in Uttar Pradesh and was granted the sole distributorship for liquor.

Forensic and crime teams rushed to the spot and have lifted finger prints and other evidences from the spot.

Empty cartridges have also been recovered.

Ponty Chadha had hit the headlines earlier this year when the I-T department conducted searches at his premises in February covering 13 locations in Delhi, including the posh Sainik Farms, Lajpat Nagar, New Friends Colony, and in six locations in Noida, Moradabad and Lucknow.

Ponty is believed to have taken six bullets on his body.

This is the second incident of firing at Ponty Chadha’s residence. On October five, firing had taken place at his ancestral home in Moradabad.

Chadha’s business empire encompasses distilleries, multiplexes, sugar and paper mills, real estate, poultry and films. He was producer of the Sunny Deol starrer ‘Jo Bole So Nihaal’.

Chadha, considered close to UP politicians, is one of the prominent names in liquor business in Uttar Pradesh and was granted the sole distributorship for liquor.

Turkey, Egypt place onus on Israel to end Gaza fighting

AFP CAIRO EGYPT and Turkey put the onus on Israel on Saturday to end the fighting around Gaza as Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Cairo a day after Washington urged the two governments to pressure the Palestinians.

Erdogan, who headed straight into talks with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi after landing in Cairo, blamed Israel for the latest upsurge in violence.

“It’s a tactic of Israel’s to point the finger at Hamas and attack Gaza,” he told reporters in Ankara before leaving for Cairo. “Israel continues to make an international racket with its three dead.” he said of three Israelis killed by a rocket fired from Gaza by Hamas militants.

“In fact it is Israel that violated the ceasefire.” After a meeting with his counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr said they both agreed on “denouncing Israel’s aggression and on the need to swiftly stop this aggression.” A foreign ministry spokesman later issued a statement expressing “astonishment at the international community’s feeble stance towards this aggression, and some countries’ attempts to blame the Palestinians.” “All that’s left is to blame the children in Gaza for standing under Israeli missiles,” the spokesman, Amr Roshdy, sarcastically added.

Erdogan’s visit, with more than a dozen ministers and a large entourage of Turkish businessmen, had been planned for weeks.

But the fighting in Gaza, which escalated on Wednesday when Israel killed Hamas’s military chief in an air strike, has overshadowed Turkey’s largest ministerial and trade mission to Egypt in decades.

Both Egypt and Turkey have in the past mediated ceasefires and a prisoner exchange between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Ahmed al Jaabari, the military chief killed in Wednesday’s air strike, was Hamas’s pointman in those mediation efforts.

Both have longstanding ties with Israel that have grown increasingly cold in recent years over Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. Morsi, elected in June, recalled his ambassador in Tel Aviv after Wednesday’s air strikes and sent his PM to Gaza in a show of support.

Israel raids kill 9, destroy Hamas govt hqs in Gaza

AFP GAZA CITY ISRAELI strikes on Gaza killed nine Palestinians and destroyed the Hamas government headquarters on Saturday as Israel called up thousands more reservists for a possible ground war.

After Palestinian militants fired rockets at the heart of Israel on Friday, around 180 airstrikes were carried out overnight, Israeli television reported.

Palestinian medics said 39 Gazans have been killed and 345 wounded since Israel launched the aerial campaign on the Palestinian enclave on Wednesday, with at least four militants among the nine people killed in the latest raids.

Since the start of its operation, the Israeli army says militants have fired more than 600 rockets over the border, of which 404 hit and 230 were intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system.

In the same period, three Israelis have been killed and 18 injured, including 10 soldiers, while the army say it has carried out more than 830 air strikes in its operation “Pillar of Defence.” On Saturday, four Israeli soldiers and five civilians were hurt in separate rocket attacks on the south which hit a building and a car, police and the army said.

The military said it had sealed off all main roads around Gaza and declared a closed military zone, in the latest sign it was poised to launch a first ground offensive on the Palestinian territory since December 2008-January 2009.

Overnight, the Israeli air force hit Gaza City, targeting the headquarters of prime minister Ismail Haniya and other government buildings including the interior ministry and the police compound, as well as militant training facilities and “dozens of terror sites,” a statement said.

Haniya’s Islamist government said four strikes “completely destroyed” its headquarters and that neighbouring houses were damaged.

Correspondents at the scene said the building had been flattened and reduced to a pile of rubble but there were no reports of casualties.

Airstrikes on Rafah in southern Gaza killed five people and three people died in an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in central Gaza, medics said.

Another man died of injuries sustained in a morning strike on Gaza City.

Saturday’s violence came as Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem paid a brief solidarity visit to Gaza, a day after a similar trip by Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil. The world must stop Israel’s “blatant aggression,” Abdessalem told AFP on his arrival in Gaza City, where he visited the ruins of the cabinet building where a day earlier Haniya had received Qandil.

The Tunisian minister called on the Arab League to act to halt the aggression as it gathers for talks in Cairo.

AAFP correspondents in Gaza City reported a heavy bombardment in the city’s west, after raids on the Hamas police headquarters in the same area and the government’s internal security headquarters in the north.

President Barack Obama reiterated US support for Israel’s right to defend itself during a telephone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Late on Friday, Israeli ministers approved the call-up of as many as 75,000 reservists several hours after Hamas’s military wing said it fired a rocket at Jerusalem, and another crashed into the sea off Tel Aviv. The two rockets were the farthest Gaza militants have ever fired into Israel.

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

DTFF opens with screening of Mira Nair’s film


DOHA THE much awaited fourth edition of Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF 2012) opened amidst much fanfare with the screening of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, a movie by Mira Nair, at Souq Waqif on Saturday.

Based on the best-selling novel of Pakistani author Mohsin Ahmed and starring Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber, the movie goes beyond stereotyping and makes a balanced portrayal of the East and the West in the wake of 9/11 attacks, says the film’s director Mira Nair. Nair led the red carpet event along with Hollywood’s Robert De Niro and other stars and filmmakers taking part in the fourth DTFF.

Addressing the media at a press conference held in Al Mirqab Boutique Hotel earlier, the Indiaborn and New York-based director said it was her intention to show another ‘face’ of the 9/11 attacks through the main character Changez played by Riz Ahmed.

“I am deeply inspired by the novel and the subject matter. I’m tired of seeing the world from one perspective,” said Nair. It took the director and her team five years to complete the film.

She said her inspiration came from her first trip to Pakistan in 2004. “The film is about modernday Pakistan and a dialogue about America,” she said.

“While making the film, I went to Pakistan five times. The music was entirely produced there.

Shooting in Lahore took four days and some of the scenes were shot in Delhi. DFI was the first backer of the film and a believer in it from inception. They stood by us and helped this film turn from a dream into reality,” Nair added.

The film, shot in Lahore, New York, Atlanta, Istanbul and Delhi, explores the cultural divide between the East and the West in the backdrop of 9/11 through the journey of Pakistani professor Changez (Riz Ahmed) from the Wall Street back to his native land. As he recounts his experience to American journalist Bobby (Liev Schreiber), the protagonist also portrays another angle to the terror, panic and stereotyping brought on by the tragedy.

Nair said she tried to portray the human side of the terror attack through the portrayal of Changez’s motivation and principles, as he finds himself caught between his love for America and loyalty to his homeland.

The movie will be opening in US cinemas on April 26.

Nair said that prior to her film’s screening during the Venice Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival she was also curious about the reaction of the West.

“People longed from this dialogue. They longed to know the other side of the story. We made this film with particular attention on balancing in terms of speaking about both worlds,” she pointed out.

Talking about the story he has presented in his novel, Mohsin Hamid said, “It is not autobiographical. The story of Changez is not my story. The choices he makes are different from mine but he comes from a world I come from.

The story is similar to my own but different,” he said. He also underlined the importance of the love story unfolding between the lead role and American girl Erica (Kate Hudson) in sending out a message to the viewers.

“Through the love story of the characters you can see how one can love America but still be disappointed and heartbroken by it,” he said.

Doha Film Institute CEO Abdulaziz al Khater hailed the relevance of the movie to the theme of the eight-day film festival. He said, “Celebration of cultural diversity is an important theme of this year’s edition of Doha Tribeca Film Festival. “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” talks across cultural divides.”

PM slams ‘wasteful’ Arab League meetings


CAIRO PRIME Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al Thani on Saturday delivered a biting criticism of Arab League meetings during emergency talks in Cairo, and called for a review of the pan-Arab body’s dealing with the Palestinian issue.

“Our meetings have become a waste of money and a waste of time,” the PM told Arab foreign ministers gathered to draw up a response to Israel’s attack on Gaza.

“We are meeting today and we will issue a statement. The statement will mean nothing,” he said.

“The whole situation needs a clear and honest review... We can’t keep giving hope without delivering,” the premier said.

He said money pledged to the Palestinians after previous Israeli attacks had failed to reach the Palestinians.

“They received nothing... Gaza needs to receive the money we have already pledged.” “They need housing, schools, hospitals.

This is what we should be offering them. We have been used to pledging things and not carrying them through,” the PM said.

“There must be a clear policy to deal with the situation. It’s not the first time Gaza has been attacked... We need a clear plan.

This situation has divided the Arab world,” he said.

“The peace process is not working, the Quartet (the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia) is not working... We are not declaring war, we want a peaceful process... I’m not talking about war, I know our capabilities... I’m talking about standing by our Palestinian brothers,” he said.

Qatar to give Egypt $10 mn to help Gaza


DOHA QATAR is to give Egypt $10 million (7.8 million euros) to help treat Palestinians wounded in Israeli air strikes on the neighbouring Gaza Strip, state news agency QNA reported on Saturday.

Qatar will also send emergency aid including medical equipment and medicines to Hamas-controlled Gaza, it said.

The Emir His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani made the decision on a visit to Cairo to meet President Mohammed Morsi to discuss the Gaza crisis, QNA said.

Morsi sent his Prime Minister Hisham Qandil to Gaza on Friday on a visit to show solidarity with the Palestinian territory.

Qatar said in October it would invest $400 million in rebuilding Gaza.

The investment announcement was made during a visit by HH the Emir, the first by a head of state to Gaza since Hamas took control of it in 2007.

Israeli air strikes in the territory killed 14 people on Saturday, raising the total number of Palestinians killed to 44 in just over 72 hours of bombardment that began on Wednesday, according to Gaza’s emergency services.

A further 393 Palestinians have been injured, they said. In the same period, three Israelis have been killed by rocket fire from Gaza and another 18 injured, 10 of them soldiers, police and the army said.

Meanwhile, Arab League chief Nabil al Arabi will head a delegation to Gaza in a show of solidarity after Arab ministers decided on Saturday to show their support for the Palestinians.

The delegation will travel to Gaza to affirm solidarity with the Palestinians, either on Sunday or Monday.

Also, Tunisia’s Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem travelled to Gaza on a solidarity visit on Saturday.