Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde blames Ousmane Dembele inexperience for injury

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Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde believes Ousmane Dembele’s inexperience was partly to blame for the hamstring injury which will keep him out for around four months. The 20-year-old France winger backheeled the ball while running at speed in the 25th minute of Barca’s 2-1 win at Getafe in La Liga on Saturday and immediately pulled up injured.

Dembele, who joined the club from Borussia Dortmund for 105 million euros ($125.22 million) in the close season, was diagnosed on Sunday with a hamstring rupture which Barcelona said will sideline him until around Christmas.

“What’s clear is that this is a player who has never had a muscular problem, he doesn’t have the experience to recognise the little pains,” Valverde told a news conference on Monday.

“A player at that speed that makes this backheel move getting hurt, it’s not normal but it’s one of the possibilities. A veteran player might not have done that.”

Dembele is in Finland to have his hamstring operated on and Valverde hopes the youngster can cope with being sidelined.

“It’s the hardest thing for a player, he’s injured and can’t help. He has to be very patient, it’s what he has to do,” said the Barcelona coach.

“It’s just one more problem he will encounter in his career. You never want it to happen but we’ve all had muscle problems, knee injuries. You have to look at it from a long-term perspective.”

League leaders Barca face Eibar on Tuesday at the Camp Nou and Valverde said any one of Gerard Deulofeu, Aleix Vidal, Denis Suarez or Andre Gomes might be chosen to replace Dembele.

While the winger’s absence might not be felt for this game, Dembele is also set to miss the rest of Barcelona’s Champions League group fixtures and crucial domestic league clashes with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

Pietro Pellegri gives Genoa something to celebrate

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Genoa have had little to celebrate in the last few months but 16-year-old striker Pietro Pellegri has given Italy’s oldest club at least one reason to be cheerful.

He became the youngest player to score twice in a Serie A match when he was on target in the 3-2 home defeat by Lazio on Sunday, bringing tears to the eyes of his father Marco who is the assistant coach and watched from the bench.

Pellegri had already become the joint-youngest player to play in Serie A when he made his debut in December at the age of 15 years and 280 days, and in May became the first player born in 2001 to score when he was on target against AS Roma.

His performance on Sunday led Corriere dello Sport to label him ‘The Italian Mbappe’ after 18-year-old Kylian, who joined Paris St Germain from Monaco in August for a huge fee.

Mbappe joined initially on loan but PSG will complete a permanent deal in 12 months’ time worth about 180 million euros ($214.79 million), which would make the exciting France international the world’s second most expensive player.

Genoa coach Ivan Juric, whose future is in doubt because of poor results over the past few months, tried to keep a lid on expectations, saying Pellegri must focus on improving.

“Pellegri is a lad who works really hard, he really wants to improve his movement on the pitch,” said Juric, whose team have taken one point from their opening four games.

“He’s 16 years old and it will not be a problem to manage him. He has great power, when shooting and when running.”

“Last year, he never attacked the penalty area, he wanted to play with his back to goal. We’ve worked really hard on this aspect,” added Juric.

“He still has huge potential for improvement and he can do that if he keeps working the way he is now.”

Error-prone Liverpool have not improved under Jurgen Klopp, says Alan Shearer

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Former England striker Alan Shearer has said Liverpool have made no significant headway under Jurgen Klopp since the German replaced Brendan Rodgers as the Merseyside club’s manager in 2015.

Rodgers was sacked with Liverpool struggling at both ends of the pitch and Klopp’s appointment was seen as something of a coup for Liverpool’s owners, the Boston-based Fenway Sports Group.

Klopp’s success over seven years at Borussia Dortmund made him one of Europe’s most sought after managers, but with Liverpool struggling defensively, former Newcastle United captain Shearer said he was no better than his predecessor.

“The truth… is that Liverpool are no different under boss Klopp than they were under Brendan Rodgers,” Shearer wrote in his column for The Sun newspaper on Monday, after Liverpool were held to a 1-1 Premier League draw at home by Burnley at the weekend.

“What I witnessed on Saturday in their draw at home to Burnley was laughable. I am left wondering just what he does on the training ground when the same defensive errors are repeated week in, week out.”

Liverpool’s defensive frailties have come to the fore this season after the club drew 3-3 with Watford in their league opener last month.

A Champions League qualifying win over Hoffenheim across two legs, a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace and a 4-0 dismantling of Arsenal gave rise to early optimism, but the team have not won any of their last three games in all competitions.

Liverpool were beaten 5-0 at Manchester City in the league after the Arsenal game and conceded a late equaliser to draw 2-2 at home with Sevilla in the Champions League in midweek, before Saturday’s disappointing draw against Burnley.

Klopp’s team travel to Leicester City in the League Cup on Tuesday, with the manager indicating that he will give new signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his first start of the season.

France floats idea of strengthening Iran nuclear deal post-2025 while Israel lobbies against Tehran

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France on Monday raised the possibility of strengthening the provisions of the international accord on Iran’s nuclear program that expire in 2025 and defended the pact against the Trump administration’s misgivings, saying its collapse would risk a regional arms race. The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers faces a stern test at the United Nations this week as Europeans try to persuade the United States to keep it, while Israel lobbies to turn up the pressure on Tehran.

US President Donald Trump, who must make a decision by mid-October that could undermine the agreement, last Thursday repeated his view that Iran was violating “the spirit” of the deal under which sanctions were loosened on Tehran in return for curbing its nuclear progra

The Republican president has called the agreement, struck under his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, “the worst deal ever negotiated.” The prospect of Washington reneging on the agreement has worried some of the US allies that helped negotiate it, especially as the world grapples with another nuclear crisis, North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development.

“It is essential to maintain it to avoid proliferation. In this period when we see the risks with North Korea, we must maintain this line,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.

“France will try to convince President Trump of the pertinence of this choice (keeping the accord) even if work can be done to complement the accord after 2025,” he said. Trump must decide in October whether to certify that Iran is complying with the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). If he does not, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the deal.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on Sunday that Tehran would react strongly to any “wrong move” by Washington on the nuclear deal. French President Emmanuel Macron will meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani immediately after Trump to tell him that Tehran must play its role in not stoking American anger through its activities in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, a French presidential source said.

At the UN General Assembly on Monday, Trump meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed by Macron, who like Trump, is making his inaugural appearance at the annual gathering of world leaders.

Both have very different messages to deliver.

“Our position is straightforward. This is a bad deal. Either fix it — or cancel it. This is Israel’s position,” Netanyahu said in Argentina last Tuesday as he toured Latin America. Israeli officials said he would also relay concerns over what Israel describes as Tehran’s growing military entrenchment in Syria and its post-civil war role in that country. They said changes that Israel was seeking in JCPOA included lengthening the 10-year freeze on Iran’s nuclear development program or even making that suspension permanent and destroying centrifuges rather than temporarily halting their operation.

FRANCE SEES NO ALTERNATIVE

The deal was brokered by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, Germany and France. The six will meet with Iran at the ministerial level on Wednesday. Paris took one of the hardest lines against Tehran in the negotiations, but has been quick to restore trade ties and Macron has said repeatedly there is no alternative to the deal. French officials say Iran is respecting the JCPOA and that were the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to say otherwise, a mechanism exists to reimpose sanctions. The IAEA is the body ensuring the accord is carried out, but the United States and Iran quarrelled over how Tehran’s nuclear activities should be policed at an IAEA meeting on Monday after a call by Washington last month for wider inspections.

DIVIDING WORLD POWERS

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson argued on Sept. 15 that Washington must consider the full threat it says Iran poses to the Middle East when crafting its new policy toward Tehran. A senior French diplomat underlined that the nuclear deal was achieved in large part because it was not linked to all the other grievances the United States may have had with Iran. With Europeans not on the same page as the Trump administration, Iranian officials say they have an opportunity to divide the P5+1 group that negotiated the deal with Iran. A senior Iranian diplomat and a former nuclear negotiator said he believed the Europeans had no intention in following Trump’s overtly aggressive Iran policy. “They are wise. Look at the region. Crisis everywhere. From Iraq to Lebanon. Iran is a reliable regional partner for Europe, not only a trade partner but a political one as well,” the diplomat said.

“European powers have been committed to the deal. The IAEA has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s commitment to the deal. Trump’s insistence on his hostile policy towards Iran will further deepen the gap among the P5+1 countries,” the diplomat said

Russia to supply 600,000 tonnes of wheat to Venezuela

Russia will supply around 600,000 tonnes of wheat to Venezuela in the current marketing year ending next June, Russia’s agriculture minister told Reuters, deepening the Kremlin’s support for Venezuela’s troubled economy. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro agreed a grain supply deal in May, providing a lifeline to the South American country which has faced soaring bread prices in recent years and queuing at bakeries has become common.

Russia, which last season did not ship any wheat to Venezuela, had not previously confirmed how much wheat it planned to supply under the deal. The supplies to Venezuela will be carried out as part of commercial contracts between Russian and Venezuelan state companies, Russian Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev said in an interview for the Reuters Russia Investment Summit. Pilot batches have already been sent to Venezuela, he said in written answers to Reuters’ questions. Tkachev did not provide further details.

Venezuela’s unravelling socialist government is increasingly turning to ally Russia for the cash and credit it needs to survive, according to a Reuters report published last month. Russian state-controlled grain trader United Grain Company previously said that it would supply 300,000 tonnes of grain to Venezuela in 2017/18.

Agriculture is not the only sector with which Moscow has been cooperating with Caracas. Venezuela borrowed from Russia in 2011 but failed to keep up with payments on the debt in 2016. Russia wants to find a solution on how Venezuela will fulfil its debt obligations to Moscow by the end of this year, a senior Russian official said in September.

BUMPER CROP

Russia is widely expected to harvest a record grain crop and become the world’s largest wheat exporter in the 2017/18 season which started on July 1.

The bumper harvest has led to bottlenecks at some points in Russia’s transport infrastructure, prompting a search for ways to diversify transport routes. The agriculture ministry has recently proposed providing state subsidies for grain supplies by rail to Russia’s Black Sea ports. Tkachev said these subsidies will cost the budget about 3 billion roubles ($52 million) and will make exports of up to 1.7 million tonnes of grain attractive for suppliers from Siberia, Urals, Volga and Central regions of Russia. “This will allow us to balance domestic prices and ease pressure in those regions which have a long transport leg,” he added.

The ministry currently sees Russia’s 2017/18 total grain exports at 44 million tonnes, up 4 million tonnes from the previous estimate, he added. He said there were some bottlenecks in Russia but in general the infrastructure was coping with the current crop.

Russia is currently building two grain terminals near the border with China which will add 3 million tonnes and 8 million tonnes, respectively, to total grain export capacity towards 2020, he said. Investors are also considering construction of a grain terminal in the Baltic Sea port of Ust-Luga, according to the minister.

STATE STOCKS

The ministry has been considering exporting 500,000 tonnes of grain from its stockpile to free up storage space in case it needs to accommodate a part of the currently arriving crop, and to reduce budget spending on servicing the stock.

“We are waiting for a window when commercial suppliers make a pause and we’re not jostling with each other,” Tkachev said about the timing for the sale.

He added that the ministry was keeping its forecast for Russia’s 2017 grain crop unchanged at 110 million tonnes, lower than unofficial analysts’ estimates of around 133 million tonnes. Asked about the reason for this difference, he said there was a risk that Russia’s Volga, North-Western and Urals regions, which had delayed the harvest by 2-3 weeks, would not be able to harvest their grain before the cold weather sets in. Farmers have already harvested 110 million tonnes of grain, before drying and cleaning, from 73 percent of the total area. ($1 = 57.6330 roubles)

In German rustbelt, Angela Merkel challenger Martin Schulz’s social justice pitch falls flat

The steelworks in Duisburg employed 3,000 people when it was closed in 1985. Today, the disused factory, now a park showcasing the city’s industrial heritage, gives work to dozens of curators, artists and athletes. Its fate is a symbol of the Ruhr, the mining and heavy industry region that drove West Germany’s post-World War Two economic recovery and whose working class communities provided the backbone of the centre-left’s Social Democrats (SPD).

Martin Schulz, the party’s leader, has been targeting the Ruhr with his campaign to fight inequality, arguing headline figures showing a healthy German economy masks pockets of deep poverty in parts of the country. But with unemployment at its lowest in decades, that message has gained little traction, and the SPD, up to 17 points behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in the polls, looks set to be roundly beaten in Sunday’s elections.

Merkel’s message, that the economy needs to be rendered fit for the future by investing in digital technologies, appears to resonate more in Germany at a time of strong growth. “Social Democracy was rooted and anchored in the Ruhr, but in past decades that has unwound,” said Stefan Marschall, a politics professor at Duesseldorf University. The SPD’s unexpected loss to the conservatives in a regional election there this year was an early sign that Schulz’s campaign was faltering. The city of Duisburg remains an SDP stronghold, but in the bellwether state of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to a quarter of Germany’s population, the party’s vote share has been slipping for decades as industry cedes its place to a service economy.

DUESSELDORF WINS, DUISBURG DOESN’T

Duesseldorf, the state capital just 30 kilometres (19 miles) away, has been a beneficiary from the transformation, growing richer as the economy shifts towards lighter industry and services. But Duisburg has been a loser in the transition. On Duesseldorf’s Koenigsallee, lined with expensive boutiques and the offices of private banks and law firms, besuited lunchtime shoppers had doubts about Schulz’s message that neighbouring Duisburg needed their solidarity.

“It’s difficult to talk about social justice,” said Ruslana Jebackers, a young mother who was leaning towards voting for the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), a potential coalition ally for Merkel’s conservatives. “We pay a lot of taxes, but we don’t get much social justice of our own, like support for my family,” she added.

For Mahmut Ozdemir, one of the SPD candidates in Duisburg, the city needs support to reinvent itself, developing its inland port – now Europe’s largest – on the Rhine. Under the state’s new conservative-FDP government, the city will suffer, he says. “People will quickly realise what it means when the SPD is not in charge.” Nur, a 17-year-old interviewed in a marketplace in the deprived Duisburg district of Marxloh, liked Ozdemir’s message. “This guy said he cared,” she said, expressing the hope that the lawmaker could help to cut food prices.

Schulz’s message gets a better reception with older voters. “Merkel says we live well and happily in this country, but we don’t all live well,” said Christel Link, walking with a friend down the Koenigsallee. “All my three children are hard-working, they studied but they have difficulty making ends meet. It doesn’t have to be like that.”

Israel and US open first American military base in Israel

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Israel and the US have inaugurated the first American military base on Israeli soil. The base’s opening today comes as Israel faces a slew of regional threats, especially from its arch-foe Iran. The Israeli military says the new base sends a message of readiness to Israel’s enemies. The base, located within an existing Israeli air force base, will serve dozens of US soldiers operating a missile defense system.

The base’s opening is largely symbolic. Previously, American contractors and soldiers operated the system. Now the soldiers will do so from their permanent base in Israel. Together with the US, Israel has developed a multilayered system of defenses against everything from long-range guided missile attacks from Iran to crude rockets fired from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Russian teenage mother gets 10 years jail for starving infant to death

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A teenage mother has been sentenced to ten years in prison in Rostov, western Russia, for abandoning her baby for a week that led to his death, as reported by the Daily Mail. 17-year-old Viktoria Kuznetsova left her nine-month-old baby, Egor, alone in the house to visit her friends, after her husband who works in the military left for service. She waited until her husband was called up for work before locking the baby in the house.

A day before she locked up her child to visit her friends, she reportedly, posted on Facebook that ‘everything is OK’ and said she was ‘hanging out with Nastya’ and that she had dyed her hair black. According to reports, she told the staff at the student dormitory that her baby was staying with an aunt.

After a week, the neighbours of the family grew suspicious at her absence and informed the police. Unfortunately, the police found only the body of the infant starved to death. The woman who is believed to have partied for the week, according to Daily Mail, was arrested soon after. She is said to have confessed to police that she did not want to care for the baby.

The reports further said that when the child was only a month old, she had passed the baby to an orphanage. However, the organisation returned the child back to her when he was seven-month-old. Her devastated husband is said to be seeking divorce.

China opens dual-use highway to Nepal via Tibet

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China has opened a strategic highway in Tibet to the Nepal border which could be used for civilian and defence purposes, a move that Chinese experts said will enable Beijing to make forays into South Asia, according to a media report on Monday. The 40.4-kilometre highway in Tibet between Xigaze airport and Xigaze city centre officially opened to the public on Friday with a short section linking the national highway to the Nepal border.

The highway will shorten the journey from an hour to 30 minutes between the dual-use civil and military airport and Tibet’s second-largest city. State-run ‘Global Times’ quoted experts as saying that the highway “will enable China to forge a route into South Asia in both economic and defence terms” and being a forerunner to a railway line connecting Nepal.

Geographically, any extension of the road and railway connectivity to South Asia is through India, Bhutan and to Bangladesh. Chinese officials have said in the past that the projects are feasible and could become a trade corridor for India and China if New Delhi comes on board. The new road runs parallel with the Xigaze-Lhasa railway and links the city’s ring roads with the 5,476-kilometre G318 highway from Shanghai to Zhangmu on the Nepal border, the report said.

As part of G318, the highway connects the border town of Zhangmu with Lhasa, the provincial capital of Tibet. It can link with the future cross-border Sino-Nepali railway, said Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies. The G318 with Xigaze in the middle connects to Nepal on one end and other end links to Nyingchi, the Tibetan town
close to Arunachal Pradesh border. The highway runs very close to the border.

China has been stepping efforts to improve road connectivity between Tibet and Nepal while speeding up plans to build a railway line connecting to Nepal’s border after K P Sharma Oli, pro-China former Nepalese Prime Minister, signed a Transit Trade Treaty with Beijing last year during his tenure. Oli signed the treaty at the height of the Madhesi agitation and their blockade of Indian goods to provide a
major opening for China to reduce the dependence of the landlocked country on India, even as the transportation of essentials through the Himalayan terrain of Tibet would entail heavy costs for Nepal.

However, since the fall of Oli government, China’s plans to speed up its efforts to make forays into Nepal through infrastructure expansion slowed down even though Kathmandu signed up for Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in May this year. The 25-meter-wide highway between Xigaze peace airport and Xigaze has four double lanes and is classified a first-tier highway, the Tibet Financial Daily reported.

“Highways in China are of a high standard including the one in Tibet. It can be used by armoured vehicles and as a runway for planes to take off when it has to serve a military purpose,” Zhao said. “The road is Tibet’s first real highway. It is our gift toward the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China,” Wei Qianggao, deputy head of the Tibet transportation department was quoted as saying by the Global Times.

As an important infrastructure programme in the 13th Five-Year Plan and a core section of Tibet highway network, the road will benefit the export-oriented economy of Xigaze and the complex traffic around Lhasa, Wei said. Over five years, the standard of highways in Tibet and the traffic network have been gradually improved, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Wang Jinhe, another official from
the Tibet transportation department, the report said. The total highway mileage in Tibet reached more than 80,000 kilometres in 2016, increasing nearly 19,000 kilometres since 2011, Wang said.

Hafiz Saeed’s Jammat-ud-Dawah to contest 2018 general elections in Pakistan

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Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed’s Jammat-ud-Dawah will foray into Pakistan’s political scene by contesting the 2018 general elections, a senior member of the outfit said, a day after its candidate finished third in a crucial by-poll.

Last month, Jamaat-ud-Dawah, a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group that carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack, announced that it was launching the Milli Muslim League. Sheikh Yaqoob, a JuD-backed candidate who was defeated by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom from a parliamentary seat that fell vacant after he was disqualified by the Supreme Court, said the new front “will field candidates in every constituency in the country in next year’s election.”

Yaqoob wanted to contest yesterday’s election from Milli Muslim League, launched just before the NA-120 by-poll, but could not do so as the Election Commission of Pakistan is yet to register it as a political party. Yaqoob was placed in 2012 on a US Treasury sanctions list of those designated as leaders of terrorist organisations, The New York Times reported.

“We have got a very good response in NA-120. It was our first election and people have welcomed us,” said Yaqoob, who contested as an independent candidate. “We are here to stay in the political field. People want a party that talks about making Pakistan strong against its enemies – India, the United States and Israel and at the same time help them in solving their basic livelihood problems,” he said.

The JuD formed Milli Muslim League at the time when Saeed was detained in Lahore. Saeed and his four aides –  Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain – were placed under house arrest in Lahore on January 30 under the anti-terrorism act. The JuD has been declared as a foreign terrorist organisation by the United States in June 2014.

The JuD chief also carries a $10 million American bounty on his head for his role in terror activities.