Month: April 2019

Italy football clubs pick adviser for TV rights negotiations

Infront, which had been widely expected to win the deal, has held the rights negotiating contract since 2009 and was bidding to have it extended until 2021.

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Lega Serie A, the association of Italy’s top league football clubs, has proposed offering Infront a three-year deal which would be automatically renewable for another three years, dependent on meeting certain pre-agreed targets.

“The assembly unanimously agreed to make an offer to Infront on the basis of which we will open negotiations,” Beretta told reporters in Milan.

The League, which rejected a rival offer from international sports agency IMG, will now hammer out the final details with Infront before signing a final deal, which would run from the 2015-2016 season.

Infront had guaranteed a minimum of 900 million euros (£744.96 million) a year to the clubs for the next three seasons and another 930 million for the three seasons after that in a six-year deal worth 5.5 billion euros.

But the offer covering the second period may be revised during the course of negotiations which will be led by Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli and Claudio Lotito, chairman of Lazio.

Infront’s proposal had the backing of Mediaset, Italy’s biggest television broadcaster, and a group of 13 clubs led by AC Milan. But it faced opposition from other clubs including Juventus and News Corp’s Italian unit Sky Italia.

Sky Italia has long been unhappy with the status quo, which it says holds back development of the game and favours its rival, Mediaset, owned by Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister and boss of Serie A club AC Milan.

In its current form, the contract, unique in Europe, awards television rights on the basis of delivery platform – satellite or digital terrestrial – but charges widely different prices to the two main broadcasters.

Sky has held the rights to broadcast on satellite while Mediaset broadcasts via digital terrestrial. Sky has proposed creating packages of different matches for which broadcasters could bid to offer exclusively but Mediaset has indicated it prefers to maintain the current shared system.

($1 = 0.7394 euros)

(Reporting by Danilo Masoni, writing by James Mackenzie. Editing by Jane Merriman)

Assad consults Russia over peace talks

Syrian officials aligned to President Bashar al-Assad have held closed-door consultations in Moscow amid Russian efforts to flex its diplomatic muscle and help set up peace talks with the opposition.

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Assad’s envoys entered Moscow’s Stalin-era foreign ministry skyscraper on Monday just as UN chief Ban Ki-moon disclosed in Vilnius that he hoped to convene the so-called Geneva II conference in mid-December.

The latest push for peace came amid uninterrupted fighting that saw a top rebel commander die of wounds suffered in a regime air strike and continuing army advances in the flashpoint northern city of Aleppo.

The consultations in Moscow between the Syrian delegation and Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Gennady Gatilov and Mikhail Bogdanov came just days after President Vladimir Putin held his first telephone talks with Assad in more than two years.

The Kremlin said that Putin on Monday also held “detailed” discussions about Syrian peace initiatives with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Russia has been one of the Syrian regime’s most important allies by providing it with backing at the United Nations and supplying its forces with heavy weapons throughout the 32-month war.

Yet Moscow has also assumed an increasingly prominent role in diplomatic negotiations after successfully averting US air strikes in September by having Assad agree to a Russia-US plan to strip him of chemical arms.

The Russian foreign ministry did not comment on the outcome of Monday’s meeting with Assad’s envoys and the Syrian team left the building without speaking to the press.

But a diplomatic source in Moscow said the Syrian regime delegation would continue their discussions on Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The Syrian opposition said Russia had also invited National Coalition president Ahmed Jarba for a three-day visit starting on Monday that would coincide with the regime officials’ stay.

Russia hopes to arrange an informal meeting between the two sides that could help shape the Geneva II talks.

Jarba’s adviser Munzer Aqbiq told AFP on Sunday that the opposition head could not visit Moscow on Monday due to “pre-set official commitments”.

Lavrov for his part told reporters that Jarba was “still studying our invitation”.

The Geneva II conference — meant to bring government and rebel representatives to the negotiating table for the first time — has been delayed for months because of seemingly unreconcilable differences over the terms of the talks.

The opposition Coalition has agreed to attend the conference only if it leads to a transitional period that would see Assad’s departure from power.

Both Russia and Syria’s regime have rejected the demand. Moscow also want to see Syrian ally Iran join the negotiations — a condition rejected by Western states.

The accelerating diplomatic effort came as the rebels confirmed the death of the top commander of the Qatar-backed Liwa al-Tawhid Brigade.

“Abdel Qader Saleh has been martyred,” the rebels said a posting on a Facebook page linked to the brigade.

Thursday’s strike also killed Yussef al-Abbas — known as Abu al-Tayyeb — Liwa al-Tawhid’s intelligence chief.

Putin calls Rouhani ahead of nuclear talks

World powers and Iran are gearing up for fresh nuclear negotiations, with Russian President Vladimir Putin telling Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani he was upbeat about prospects for a landmark accord.

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Speaking by phone on Monday before the talks resume in Geneva, Putin “stressed that a real chance has now emerged for finding a solution to this longstanding problem,” the Kremlin said.

Rouhani, who has raised big hopes for an end to the decade-old standoff, told Putin that “excessive demands could complicate the process towards a win-win agreement,” an Iranian government website said.

The comments came a day after French President Francois Hollande laid out in Israel the “essential” steps that Tehran must agree with the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, known collectively as the P5+1 group.

These include stopping the enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent purity, reducing enriched uranium stockpiles, and stopping construction of a new reactor at Arak, Hollande said.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the minor and reversible sanctions relief that the P5+1 is offering in return will be enough to persuade Tehran to play ball.

Iran’s economy has been punished by a string of international sanctions. US and EU sanctions have more than halved its oil sales, sent the currency plummeting and inflation soaring.

One potential sticking point is Iran’s previous demand the powers recognise it has a “right” to enrich uranium.

“No agreement will be reached without securing the rights of the Iranian nation,” Iran’s lead negotiator Abbas Araqchi said Sunday, predicting “difficult” talks.

Iran says it is enriching uranium to purities of up to five and 20 per cent for civilian purposes. When further enriched to 90 per cent, uranium can be used as fissile material in a nuclear bomb.

Iran’s ability to enrich to 20 per cent is of particular concern because this is most of the way to producing weapons-grade uranium.

Its stockpile is already large enough in theory to make several bombs.

At present, the UN atomic watchdog would detect any attempt to enrich to weapons-grade. But the fear is that soon this may no longer be the case as Iran adds to its 19,000 centrifuges, thus shortening its “breakout” time.

Another worry is the reactor being built at Arak, which theoretically could provide Iran with plutonium, an alternative to uranium in a bomb, although this is a longer-term concern.

Even though it would only be a “first phase” initial deal, an accord in Geneva would be a major breakthrough after a decade of rising tensions and failed diplomatic initiatives.

If Sweden stop Ronaldo, others will score – Portugal coach Bento

Bento is confident his team, leading 1-0 from the first leg, can conjure goals from sources other than their prolific captain.

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“I think it will be a similar situation to our own, when we try to stop the organisation of Sweden and us having in mind of course trying to stop (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic,” he told a news conference on Monday.

“There is no way to stop a single player, we have to do it collectively. I think Swede will also try to stop Ronaldo as a team, but what we will try to do is attack well, not only counting on Ronaldo of course.

“If there is a special marking on Ronaldo that may give us an opportunity to score from other players and zones on the pitch.”

Portugal lead the tie thanks to a goal from Ronaldo, who bravely dived in among flying boots to notch a late winner in Lisbon.

Sweden captain Zlatan was largely anonymous in the first leg but Bento again downplayed the role of the two marquee players, saying that the match was a clash between two national teams with great mutual respect.

“We respect the Swedish national team a lot, they’ve got an excellent group of players and of course they’ve got Ibrahimovic, everybody knows his quality.

“But we will try to do as we did in the first game and try to control Sweden as a whole, and not only a single player.”

Bento said that his side would be going for victory at the sold-out Friends Arena in Stockholm as they attempt to book their place at the World Cup finals in Brazil.

“We have to wait and see what Sweden will do, (but) we will try to win,” he said. “Our strategy tomorrow is to go out and win the match and we will have to attack as well as we can to achieve that goal.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Indonesia recalls ambassador over spy claims

Indonesia has recalled its ambassador to Australia and will review all information exchanges and cooperation amid growing anger in Jakarta over fresh spying allegations.

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The Indonesian government on Monday demanded a full explanation following revelations Australian spies targeted the mobile phones of the country’s president, his wife and other senior figures.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said his country’s ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema would return to Jakarta immediately to discuss the matter.

Dr Natalegawa has also foreshadowed the possibility of further actions on the diplomatic front, which he described as applying the “principal of reciprocity so that we have corresponding level and nature of cooperation.”

Asked if this meant Australian officials could be expelled, Dr Natalegawa said he would “not enter into who shall be leaving, who will not be leaving”.

“It is – I want to make it absolutely clear – an unfriendly act unbecoming of relations between strategic partners,” Dr Natalegawa said of the fresh claims of phone-tapping.

The comments came after more top secret documents relating to Australia’s spying operations were leaked by fugitive US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Defence Signals Directorate documents, obtained and published by the ABC and The Guardian, list 10 officials and their phone details – beginning with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and wife Ani.

Vice President Boediono and Indonesia’s former vice president Jusuf Kalla were also targeted.

The papers suggest the president’s mobile activity was tracked for 15 days and at least one eavesdropping attempt was made.

“This is not a clever thing to do. It’s not a smart thing to do,” Dr Natalegawa said.

“It violates every single decent and legal instrument I can think of; national in Indonesia, national in Australia, international as well.”

Dr Natalegawa said the allegations, as well as others made recently that Australia’s embassy in Jakarta was part of a US-led spy network in the region, were “having a very serious impact on bilateral relations”.

“They should be able to say in a crystal clear, in the most clearest way possible, we are not in the business of tapping foreign leaders, or anyone,” he said.

“I have not used the word reprisal, I have not used the word expel. What I have simply said is that we are reviewing the state of Indonesia-Australia cooperation in the exchange of information.”

He suggested the Lombok Treaty would also be reviewed.

“I need quite desperately an explanation how a private conversation involving the president of the Republic of Indonesia, involving the first lady of the Republic of Indonesia, how they can even have a hint, even a hint of relevance impacting on the security of Australia,” he said.

“The ball now is very much in Australia’s court.”

Dr Natalegawa said he would attempt to call Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Monday night.

Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto earlier said Australia must give a public explanation and make a commitment that it would not monitor the phones again.

Australia’s deputy ambassador to Indonesia David Engel was summoned to the Foreign Ministry earlier in the day. He said he had “a very good meeting” when he emerged 20 minutes after arriving.

The latest spying allegations have also prompted an angry response from other members of the Indonesian political elite.

Mahfudz Siddiq, head of the Indonesian parliament’s foreign affairs and defence committee and a member of the ruling coalition, said the president should review all cooperation with Australia.

“It’s clear that Australia is not a good neighbour, and even a threat,” he said.

The committee’s Deputy chairman, T.B. Hasanuddin, warned the allegations could lead to an explosion in anti-Australian sentiment.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to comment on the specific claims but defended Australia’s intelligence activities.

“All governments know that every other government gathers information,” he told parliament.

The prime minister said Australia uses all the resources at its disposal, including information, “to help our friends and our allies, not to harm them”.

“My first duty is to protect Australia and to advance our national interest and I will never ever depart from that,” he said.

“Consistent with that duty I will never say or do anything that might damage the strong relationship and the close cooperation that we have with Indonesia.”

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek, who was in the Labor government under whom the alleged phone tapping occurred, was circumspect in her comments.

“Indonesia is a close neighbour, trading partner, and good friend. Our relationship is important for our region,” Ms Plibersek said in a statement.

“Tony Abbott must work hard to reassure Indonesia of the Australian government’s goodwill.”