Troops ring Egypt court ahead of election ruling "Ž

Some 200 protesters were gathered outside the court, chanting slogans against Shafiq.

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Egypt’s top court will on Thursday examine a law which could disqualify one of two presidential candidates, in a legal crisis that threatens to derail an already tumultuous transition from Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

The Supreme Constitutional Court is to examine the legality of the political isolation law which bars senior officials of the Mubarak regime and top members of his now-dissolved National Democratic Party from running for public office for 10 years.

The law applies to those who served in the 10 years prior to Mubarak’s ouster on February 11, 2011 after a popular uprising.

If approved, the legislation will mean disqualification for Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, who faces Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi in a presidential runoff on Saturday.

Shafiq was initially disqualified from standing in the election in accordance with the law passed by the Islamist-dominated parliament in April.

But in late April the electoral commission accepted an appeal from Shafiq against his disqualification and the case was referred to the court.

On Thursday, the Supreme Constitutional Court will first examine whether the electoral body had the right to refer the case, and if so, will then look into the legality of the text.

The hearing comes two days before the landmark presidential election to choose a successor for Mubarak.

In the first round of voting on May 23 and 24– which saw 13 candidates compete for the top job– Mursi won 24.7 percent of the vote, slightly ahead of Shafiq’s 23.6 percent.

The race has polarised the nation between those who fear a return to the old regime under Shafiq’s leadership and those wanting to keep religion out of politics and who accuse the Muslim Brotherhood — which already dominates parliament — of monopolising power since last year’s revolt.

The next president will inherit a struggling economy, deteriorating security and the challenge of uniting a nation divided by the uprising and its sometimes deadly aftermath, but his powers are yet to be defined by a new constitution.

At Thursday’s hearing, the court will also examine a High Administrative Court appeal over the constitutionality of aspects of a law governing legislative polls between last November and February that saw Islamists score a crushing victory.

Greece tops G8 agenda

The Group of Eight top economies come together as Greece faces its second election in just six weeks, putting its eurozone future in doubt and dragging down Spain, where the government is struggling to keep its banks afloat.

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“Time is clearly running out,” London-based analysts Capital Economics warned in a note over Greece’s continued political paralysis.

“If the government does not meet the conditions required to receive the next tranche of the bailout, it could run out of money before the end of the summer,” they said, referring to Greece’s EU-IMF loan lifeline.

“It has become obvious that the period up to the Greek elections will be volatile and nervous,” said the debt research wing of Dutch bank ING.

“Speculation regarding a (Greek) eurozone exit will continue and there is hardly anything that can be done about it,” they said.

European stock markets posted sharp losses, mirroring drops in Asia, though Madrid rose in an illustration of the extreme volatility at work.

Money flowed again into Germany, seen as the safest of bets against the risk of contagion from Greece, with investors worried that if Spain needs a bailout, the EU will be hard put to stump up enough rescue funding.

Ratings agency Moody’s downgraded 16 Spanish banks late on Thursday, citing concerns over the crisis, while figures showed the economy slumped in recession and bank bad loans at an 18-year high.

Germany sought to be reassuring on Friday, saying it had no reason to doubt that Spain could help its banks without seeking outside aid — the problem Ireland faced when it had to be bailed out in 2010.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile called for a stable Greek government to be formed quickly after elections June 17 in a telephone call with President Carolos Papoulias on Friday.

Merkel “repeated the German position that we are waiting for the elections and that it is the wish of all European partners… that a government is formed as quickly as possible,” a German spokesman said in Berlin.

In Athens, the prime minister’s office said the chancellor had in addition suggested the holding of a referendum alongside the June 17 vote, apparently with the aim of making the poll absolutely decisive.

Merkel “conveyed thoughts on holding a referendum alongside the election, on the question of whether Greek citizens wish to remain in the eurozone,” the premier’s office said in a statement.

But Merkel’s spokeswoman denied the report. “The information reported that the chancellor had suggested a referendum to the Greek President Carolos Papoulias is wrong,” she said.

Greek voters rejected painful spending cuts in a May 6 poll and could do so again June 17, raising concerns about the fate of the latest 237 billion euros ($300 billion) EU-IMF bailout package.

In Washington French President Francois Hollande said Greece should remain in the eurozone as Obama noted after talks that the region was of “extraordinary importance” not only to the people of Europe but to the global economy.

Latest opinion polls in Greece showed meanwhile that the conservative New Democracy party, which supported the EU-IMF rescue terms, would have 23.1 percent of the vote, up from the 18.85 percent it won on May 6.

The radical left Syriza party, which opposes the deal, was on 21 percent, up from its second-place finish with 16.8 percent, with analysts expecting the vote to turn into a straight fight over Greece’s future in the eurozone.

Many EU leaders insist that there can be no change to the terms of the debt deal but have also begun to allow some room for movement, especially as Hollande won power this month on a growth pledge.

European parliament chief Martin Schulz warned that a Greek exit from the eurozone could see its economy collapse in days, with untold consequences.

“Many people believe that it would be the end of a negative cycle but for me it would be the beginning of an even more negative cycle,” Schulz told German radio from Athens.

“We are all in the same boat,” Schulz added after a meeting with conservative leader Antonis Samaras.

In Athens, a caretaker government took office on Thursday after the May 6 vote left Greece in limbo.

Since there is no provision for an orderly exit from the 17-nation currency bloc, the prospect is for chaos if Athens cannot stick to the tough terms of the latest bailout deal.

Panagiotis Pikrammenos, 67, Greece’s caretaker premier, told his colleagues: “We must not forget that all of Europe is watching us… The country must honour the obligations it has undertaken.”

Mortgage market ‘not rotten’ in Denmark

It’s been 200 years since someone defaulted on home loan payment in Demark and the unique model uses the same ‘toxic’ assets that led to the sub-prime crisis.

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Danes have the reputation of being life-loving, friendly people with a developed sense of environmental awareness.

They aren’t known as particularly talented finance engineers – but this could all change. In the first four months of 2012, the OMX-C-20, the leading index on the Copenhagen stock exchange, took a sprint forward that left everybody else well behind.

The Danes pride themselves on being the best in the world in one very specific area: mortgages.

They have a good reason for being so proud: the Danish mortgage model is truly worthy of admiration.

It was created in 1795, following the Great Fire in Copenhagen. In its 200 years of existence, the mortgage bond market has never known a single case of default.

Yet the market is relatively huge: the country’s 5.5 million citizens have a collective mortgage debt of over 320 billion euros, which is about 50% higher than the national debt.

By way of comparison, Switzerland with its 8 million people has 800 billion Swiss francs (666 billion euros) in property loans, amounting to 3.7 times the national debt.

And while Scandinavians in general have the reputation for being pro-state, the Danish mortgage bond market is a real market – but one that’s intelligently constructed and sensibly regulated. It’s based on a few simple principles.

House owners take out long-term loans, with an 80% lending limit for residential property and 60% limit for business real estate.

The terms of the mortgages are not negotiated between a bank and the borrower. Rather, financial institutions act as brokers, who bundle loans into obligations and sell them on to investors who buy directly or via general, specialized funds.

The mortgage institutions earn a small margin on these transactions.

COLLATERAL DEBT OBLIGATIONS DON’T HAVE TO BE TOXIC

Bundling mortgages and selling them on the market as obligations? That idea should get a few alarm bells ringing.

Because exactly that is the underlying idea behind Collateral Debt Obligations, the nefarious CDOs that made the American subprime market possible and led to the irresponsible sale of over-valued real estate to under-capitalized wannabee homeowners.

CDOs relieved the banks of their control duties and contributed significantly to the US real estate bubble, the bursting of which unleashed the world financial crisis.

Nowadays, CDOs are considered toxic junk that responsible investors won’t touch. Yet this system is supposed to work in some miraculous way for the Danes?

The Danish mortgage bond market works because it differs from the failed American bond experiment in critical ways – the main one being the “balance principle” which stipulates that the needs of both lenders and borrowers have to be in synch.

In other words, a borrower can only get a mortgage after a bank has established under what terms he or she could reasonably be expected to service that loan, and if the lender is agreed.

Selling the debts to third parties is forbidden, as is granting mortgages to borrowers with low credit. Added to the 80% limit there is enough protection to prevent a U.S.-style real estate crisis.

Yet there’s also enough room within the system to be able to use market advantages. Danish homeowners don’t have to opt for long-term mortgages with fixed interest or LIBOR rates to get cheap interest rates. The can refinance, or pay a mortgage back and then take out another one at a lower rate.

As a rule, the return on Danish mortgage obligations is 100 to 150 basis points higher than the return on Danish government bonds.

Favourite ‘son’ Suarez should heed fans: Rodgers

British media reported the north London club had offered 40 million and one pound ($61.

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47 million) for Suarez prompting Liverpool owner John W. Henry to ask on Twitter: “What do you think they are smoking over there at Emirates?”

Arsenal’s unusual bid ties in with media reports that an offer of more than 40 million pounds triggers a clause in the Uruguay international’s contract that says Liverpool must inform the striker of their Premier League rivals’ interest.

“There’s no doubt the market these days for top players is very small so Luis will always be linked with top clubs,” Rodgers told reporters after Suarez made a cameo appearance in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over local club Melbourne Victory.

“But I think the support that he’s received from the supporters and the people of the city of Liverpool has been unrivalled.

“In the period of time, he’s missed a lot of games for the club through various reasons. And the people have stood by him like a son and really looked after him.

“So I’m sure whatever happens in the coming weeks, that will be in his mind because it’s certainly something you can never forget.”

Suarez was due to discuss his future with Rodgers in Melbourne after rampant speculation about his future went up a notch following reports Arsenal had made a second bid for the 26-year-old.

Suarez has said he wants to leave Liverpool to play in Spain, blaming the British media for making his life impossible in England.

Rodgers, who left Suarez on the bench until the last 20 minutes in front of more than 95,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, said he had already shared several chats with his tempestuous striker since he landed in Melbourne.

STORM OF CRITICISM

Suarez, who signed for Liverpool from Ajax Amsterdam in January 2011 and was second top scorer in the Premier League with 23 goals last season, has tempered his brilliance on the pitch with a series of controversial misdemeanours.

He still has to serve six matches of a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in April, which excludes pre-season friendlies.

Suarez also sparked a storm of criticism the previous season when he was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and earned an eight-game suspension.

Rodgers had “nothing to report” on reports of the latest move by Arsenal, who have already had one bid for Suarez rejected by Liverpool.

“The only talks have been between me and Luis,” he said.

Suarez provided a reminder of his value to the club when his entry onto the MCG’s temporary soccer pitch sparked a thunderous roar from the terraces packed with red-clad fans.

While his body language on the pitch prompted debate about his current commitment, he signed off his brief appearance with some trademark trickery.

Receiving a pass from a corner, he jinked into the box and steered a low cross through a crowd of players for Iago Aspas to tap home.

“He’s a little bit tired at the moment,” Rodgers said. “He’s trained a double session on Monday after being off for three weeks so he was a little bit tired and, obviously, he came on and played that 20-odd minutes or so.”

Suarez was among the last players to leave the MCG turf, saluting cheering fans in a victory lap, some of whom may wonder whether it was a valedictory bow in Liverpool colours.

“He’s very much a Liverpool player,” Rodgers added. “Over the course of the next number of weeks we’ve got to get him up to speed.”

($1 = 0.6508 British pounds)

(Editing by Toby Davis)

Comment: Israeli elections — the return of the centre

By Binoy Kampmark, RMIT University

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bruising victory in Israel’s election was costly.

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The hawkish atmosphere over electing members of the 19th Knesset saw the highest voter turnout since 1999 and some surprise. The wind did blow to the right of politics, which is not to say that it did not deliver its host of surprises. Israel’s political representatives have ratcheted up the rhetoric.

Before voting, Netanyahu sensed danger from such contenders as Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, a grouping keen to abolish military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox civilians along with a host of generous subsidies.

Atid eventually came in with 19 seats, second to Netanyahu’s Likud at 31 (down from 11 seats from the previous election).

“The Likud government is in danger, go vote for us for the sake of the country’s future,” Netanyahu proclaimed on the eve of the election.

Prior to the election, Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu coalition was obsessed by a battle of the right wings. Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home), lead by Naftali Bennett, former head of the Judea and Samaria Settlement Council, was seeking to position himself as a possible “powerbroker”. As the new glamorous reactionary, he did not do quite as well as he had hoped. His influence is, however, unmistakable.

Given the nature of Israeli politics, coalitions are a frequent thing. Netanyahu will be in search of allies. They are not likely to stem from Bennett’s side, given that the software tycoon is more than happy to go the distance with reactionary politics. His position, in part, makes Netanyahu look like an enlightened progressive. For one, Bennett has decided that Israel should give up the ghost on reaching any consensus with the Palestinians. His party, as noted in The Economist, is “a brash reincarnation of the venerable but moribund National Religious Party.” Jewish settlements in the West Bank are promoted with fire brand conviction, and annexation has not been ruled out as a possibility.

Bennett’s views have found sympathy with many of Netanyahu’s own party, and these feel that a miscalculation was made when the Prime Minister threw Likud’s lot in with Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right Yisrael Beitenu. Those unhappy with the move are gravitating towards Bennett, certainly in light of Lieberman’s fall from grace with inconclusive investigations into bribery and money-laundering.

The impressive performance of such groupings as Yesh Atid have confused the punditry, meaning that Netanyahu may have to seek moderates to swell the fold. Being keen on seeking some form of compromise with the Palestinians, there may be a very different political Israeli landscape forming.

The 2013 election itself has drawn complaints. It was deemed sudden, declared in a blink of an eye and a confused result. Netanyahu did not face a coherent united front. In Allison Kaplan Sommer’s words, writing for Haaretz, “there was no real horse race to watch and not enough suspense.” Sommer may well have to be reconsidering that assessment.

The fact that Netanyahu has won makes the chances of a calmer approach to the divisions with Palestinians, and more broadly the Middle East, more difficult.

Domestically, Israel is considered to be suffering an erosion of its civic culture, an attempt orchestrated as much out of fear than anything else. Mohammed Ishtayeh, aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, spoke of Abbas’ concern that the continued emphasis on settlements would eventually threaten Israeli democracy, given the reluctance of Netanyahu to embrace the two-state solution.

Ishtayeh himself suggested that the continued policy might eventually produce “an apartheid-styled state” given that a single state solution would only lead to an Arab majority being controlled by a Jewish minority.

Organisations such as the US-based Freedom House will have none of that, claiming that Israel remains the Middle East’s “only free country”.

While it is true that laws have been proposed that eat away at the structure of free speech and rights of civil society organisations, many such measures have failed to pass in the Knesset, or been given short shrift by the Israeli Supreme Court. But the country’s relationship with human rights is a stormy one. Keeping one’s nerve alongside one’s rights is a herculean task.

Then, there is the case of how Israel will deal with the Palestinian factions in the West Bank and Gaza, not to mention its neighbours. The Netanyahu of the Arab Spring cut a negative figure suspicious of those seeking to change authoritarian regimes. While this was hardly a very democratic sentiment, it certainly matches the Likud’s realpolitik vision: let Israel maintain a monopoly on democracy – the rest don’t need it.

As for Iran, a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear facilities remains very much on the cards. Whether a new centrist focus will change this is speculative. Such relationships are viewed through the prism of insecurity rather than that of seeking peace – whether embargoes should be tightened; whether rockets are fired, or not fired; whether troops are sent in periodically or otherwise.

The new Netanyahu is unlikely to deviate from this line, a circuitous, inescapable rationale for violence, but the necessity to form a differently constituted coalition may change the game altogether.

Binoy Kampmark does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Next UN chief sworn in

The 62-year-old South Korean is to officially take up his post on January 1, 2007.

“I add my voice to the many tributes that have been paid to you today,” Mr Ban told Mr Annan, who is to step down on December 31 after completing two five-year terms.

He vowed to build on the legacy of the outgoing Ghanaian UN chief, adding that one of his priorities would be to “breathe new life and inject renewed confidence into the sometimes weary (UN) Secretariat.”

Mindful of the recent corruption and sexual abuse scandals that have tarnished the world body, Ban promised to “set the highest ethical standard” and to “lead by example”.

Addressing a news conference later in the day, the secretary general-designate described the tragedy in Sudan’s Darfur region as “unacceptable” and pledged to be personally engaged in efforts to end the bloodshed there.

And he took Iran to task for hosting a conference casting doubt on the Holocaust.

“The denial of the Holocaust is not acceptable,” he said. “Nor is it acceptable to call for the elimination of any state or people,” he added in reference to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s remarks that Israel should be “wiped off” the map and “would soon disappear”.

He also said the deteriorating Middle East situation would be one of his priorities, particularly the need to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He also urged Iran to resume negotiations with European powers to settle the standoff with the Security Council over its nuclear program “in a peaceful way”.

French test flunked

On a lighter note, Ban flunked a French language test when he was unable to answer a reporter’s question posed in French as to why French should remain the second working language of the world body, after English.

After he fumbled a “je n’ai pas pu (I was not able)”, an aide came to his rescue and translated the question into English, to which Mr Ban replied that the decision to give priority to French was made by UN member states for reasons of “convenience and practicality.”

By tradition, the UN secretary general is required to have a working knowledge of French.

Mr Ban has been working assiduously on his French since he launched his bid to succeed Annan early this year. France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere certified that Ban’s French was adequate.

Meanwhile the US acting Ambassador to the UN, Alejandro Wolff, whose country played a key role in Ban’s appointment, said the South Korean “commands our full respect.”

Earlier the 192-member General Assembly paid a warm tribute to Annan, hailing his “exceptional contribution to international peace and security”.

The assembly gave Annan a standing ovation and adopted by acclamation a resolution “acknowledging with deep gratitude” his “indefatigable efforts and dedicated service” over the past 10 years.

Mr Ban has been at UN headquarters in New York since November working on setting up a transition team ahead of his official assumption of duties.

His election by the General Assembly last October was a mere formality after the powerful 15-member Security Council recommended him.

Ban will become the UN’s eighth secretary general and the first Asian UN chief since U Thant of Burma led the organization from 1961 to 1971. He will lead a staff of over 15,000, drawn from more than 170 nations.

Aussies ahead with the ball

Andrew Symonds’ 2-8 from four overs left England teetering at 6-122 at lunch, which ensured the home side was on top at a critical juncture in the match after conceding the tourists first-day honours.

With England unable to build a partnership of any substance, Australia’s first innings total of 244 suddenly looked sizeable on a wicket still playing well, although it is expected to slow the longer the match runs.

Glenn McGrath and Stuart Clark also claimed wickets today to leave the pressure of carrying England’s innings firmly on the shoulders of Kevin Pietersen, who was 27 not out at the break.

Australia showed its intentions in the opening overs of the day by building the pressure on England’s batsmen through some tight bowling, and it was not long until McGrath had Paul Collingwood (11) snapped up in the gully by Matthew Hayden.

England opener Andrew Strauss was then dealt his second questionable decision in succession, after compiling a steadying 42, he was adjudged caught behind off Clark despite doubt the left-hander had got any bat on a delivery slanting across him.

Although Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist went up immediately, Strauss stood his ground for a moment after umpire Rudi Koertzen slowly raised his finger, and was consoled by Pietersen as he left the ground.

Strauss was also unluckily given out bat pad in the second innings of the second Test in Adelaide, which triggered England’s calamitous collapse and sent it spiralling to 2-0 down in the series.

Symonds again found the WACA wicket to his liking when, bowling his medium pacers around the 130km/h mark, he enticed edges from England skipper Andrew Flintoff (11) and the sorely out-of-nick wicketkeeper Geraint Jones (duck), which left England 6-114.

Flintoff had earlier wafted loosely at a couple of Brett Lee fireballs and eventually got an edge to Symonds, which Shane Warne snaffled at slip moving low and to his right.

In Symonds’ next over, Jones slashed to backward point to register his third successive duck, after zeroes in the Lilac Hill festival match and during the tour match against Western Australia, and a double failure of one and 10 in Adelaide.

Son of Palestinian PM shot

He was not seriously wounded, officials said.

Hamas followers of Haniyeh exchanged fire with rival Fatah forces several times during the day, and the gunfire continued as Haniyeh’s convoy passed through the checkpoint from Egypt after a long wait.

Israel had tried to prevent the Palestinian Prime Minister from entering the area after a money raising tour of Arab states, Palestinian and European sources said.

“Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has passed. European observers were present but left immedately after he crossed,” Maria Telleria, a spokeswoman for the observers, told AFP.

A Palestinian official confirmed that Haniya crossed into Gaza following an eight-hour wait during which Israel closed the crossing.

Dozens of Hamas gunmen left the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza after they were ordered to allow Haniya to return.

The gunmen left after Hamas leaders called for them to do so through
loudspeakers.

Only forces of the presidential security guard, who are in charge of guarding the terminal building, remained inside.

But European Union observers — who have to be present in order for anyone to pass through the border crossing — had not yet returned.

It was unclear whether they would do so shortly.

The monitors fled the terminal after dozens of Hamas gunmen stormed the building following reports that Israel had closed the border crossing to prevent Haniya from returning with millions of dollars in cash.

The militants later went on a rampage inside, smashing windows and furniture, and firing automatic weapons into the air and at the building itself.

At least 13 Palestinians were wounded, medics said.

Haniya was expected to cross back into Gaza after a deal struck between Egypt and Israel, under which he was to leave behind the money, to be deposited into a bank account and then transferred to the Palestinian Authority, an Egyptian security source said.

Aussies eye Ashes sweep

Captain Ricky Ponting has made it clear he will not relax until Australia has avenged its defeat in England last year by winning the final Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.

“We want to win every game that we play,” Ponting said.

“You want to do the best you can whenever you’ve got the baggy green cap on. That’s what I’ll be saying to the rest of the guys leading up to the Boxing Day Test.”

Ponting said the team review after the loss of the Ashes last year had produced a new intensity in the Australian team.

“We’ve set a new standard for ourselves now as individual players and as a team on the way to prepare and the way to play, and it’s up to all the players to make sure we keep toeing that line.”

England crestfallen

Meanwhile in Britain, English cricket fans who couldn’t bring themselves to stay up watching or listening to the final day of the third Test woke up to the grim news.

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said Ricky Ponting’s team had obviously been on a mission since losing cricket’s prized urn in 2005.

“I cannot recall seeing a team so driven and focused,” he told the BBC website.

“One can’t help but fear that their revenge will only be absolutely complete when they bury England 5-0 at Sydney over New Year.”

Former England captain Nasser Hussain said coach Duncan Fletcher, who has come under fire for his selection decisions, would face even more criticism in the wake of his team’s defeat.

“When I worked with him he got 95 per cent of selections right – that’s why England went on to win the Ashes,” Hussain told Sky Sports.

In England, The Guardian newspaper, like its British counterparts, went to print long before the final day’s play was over, but with the result beyond doubt and turned its attention to the future.

Australian PM salutes team

Prime Minister John Howard has congratulated the Australian cricket team for a “fantastic job” in winning back the Ashes.

“On behalf of every Australian I am sure, I congratulate Ricky Ponting and the boys for a magnificent victory,” Mr Howard said.

“Winning back the Ashes after only 16 months has really warmed every Australian heart, and they’ve done a fantastic job in our name.

“Congratulations and let them celebrate long and hard tonight for a well-deserved victory.”

‘Ashes too frail’ to return to England

After reclaiming the Ashes following a fifteen month “loan” to the English, Ponting says the historic urn symbolising the 124-year old cricket rivalry should stay in Australia for good.

“Surely it’s got to be too frail to fly back,” Ponting said after his side’s 206-run win in Perth.

“They’ve always said it’s been too frail for it to fly out here. … it’s been here for a month now so it’s got to be even worse.”

Ponting was referring to the fact the historic urn currently resides in Australia, winding its way around the country on a tour of capital cities during the five-Test series.

It is only the second time the urn has been to Australia, the first being in 1988 for the bicentenary celebrations.

Warne’s record

Boxing Day is guaranteed to be a huge occasion with home town hero Shane Warne needing only one wicket to become the first man in history to take 700 in Tests.

“What an amazing, remarkable milestone that will be,” Ponting said.

“Shane couldn’t even have scripted the whole thing any better. It couldn’t have worked out any better for him.

“The crowd down there is going to be huge.”

England captain Andrew Flintoff said his team was hurting but would be lifted by their own pride before the final two Tests.

England has not won a game on tour but is determined to show that it can still compete with Australia.

“It is going to be a tough couple of days … but there is a lot if lads that want to prove that we can win a Test match in Australia, prove that we can play,” he said.

Bushmen win right to return

In a majority verdict, a panel of three judges ruled the Botswana government had not acted unlawfully when cutting off vital supplies to the Bushmen in the Kalahari desert, but had failed to hold adequate consultations with them beforehand and had no right to deny them permission to return after the ouster.

The Bushmen and their lawyers reacted to the verdict with delight, saying their years-long battle for justice had been finally vindicated after presiding judge Maruping Dibotelo delivered the verdict in the city of Lobatse in Botswana.

“Prior to January 31 2002, the applicants were in possession of the land which they lawfully occupied in the CKGR (central Kalahari game reserve),” Judge Dibotelo told the court.

“The applicants were deprived of such possessions forcibly or wrongly and without their consent.”

The government’s subsequent refusal to allow the Bushmen a permit to return to their land “is unlawful and unconstitutional”, the judge added.

Since a group of around 200 indigenous Bushmen first filed an application in April 2002 challenging their eviction from a game reserve, the case has become a cause celebre with the applicants gathering the backing of celebrities including Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and film star Colin Firth.

The case was thrown out on a technicality but the high court agreed in 2004 to hear the complaint.

The Bushmen maintain they were driven out of the Kalahari to make way for diamond mining, a claim the world’s top diamond producer has denied.

Speaking outside the courtroom, veteran Bushmen leader Roy Sesana said he wanted to get back to his homeland as soon as possible after having had to spend the last few years living in a relocation camp.

Asked when he planned to return to the Kalahari, MrSesana said: “Anytime starting from today.

“I think my ancestors need me there. They are waiting for me.

“To me, we have won the case. The court has given me the right to go back.”

The Bushmen’s lawyer Gordon Bennett said the verdict was “a vindication of the position my clients had adopted.”

“Their right to return to the reserve has been unequivocally confirmed by the court,” he told news agency AFP.

Discovered in 1967, one year after independence from Britain, diamonds have catapulted Botswana from poor backwater poverty to middle-income wealth.

Once numbering millions, roughly 100,000 San are left in southern Africa, with almost half of them — 48,000 — in Botswana. Others are spread across Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Botswana government says the brouhaha surrounding the Bushmen is fed by a western view of the “so-called Bushmen as some sort of exotic race living in splendid isolation from other peoples as subsistence hunter gatherers.”

South Africa’s Nobel laureate Tutu last month spoke out eloquently on behalf of the Bushmen saying their ancient culture was “one of the world’s treasures”.

The state however argued that the reserve is located on government land and that the Bushmen were relocated to villages with “better services.”

Mr Bennett said that he hoped that the dispute would now be “resolved by sensible discussion.”

“We want to resolve this amicably, not in a court of appeal but the table of negotiations.”

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