Shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist to seek asylum in Switzerland

Switzerland Shoe-throwingGeneva, Jan. 19 : The Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at U. S. President George W. Bush during the latter''s surprise visit to Baghdad last month, will seek political asylum in Switzerland, his Geneva-based lawyer has said.

According to a foreign news agency report, lawyer Mauro Poggia says Muntadhar al-Zeidi''s life is in danger in Iraq.

Al-Zeidi is currently in an Iraqi jail awaiting trial on charges of assaulting a foreign leader for his December 14 shoe-throwing incident at a news conference in Baghdad.

Pranger wins men's slalom in Wengen

Wengen, Switzerland  - Austria's Manfred Pranger claimed victory in the men's slalom in Wengen Sunday while France's Jean- Baptiste Grange came home sixth to retain his lead in the discipline's World Cup standings.

Pranger registered a winning time of 1 minute 40.36 seconds for his two runs, finishing 34 hundredths ahead of compatriot Reinfried Herbst with Croatia's Ivica Kostelic third in 1:40.75 minutes.

France's Grange continues to lead the slalom standings with 349 points after five of 10 events, followed by Kostelic on 305 and Pranger on 219 points.

Defago triumphs to prevent Miller hat-trick in Wengen downhill

Didier DefagoWengen, Switzerland - Didier Defago gave Swiss fans a home victory in alpine skiing's downhill classic at Wengen on Saturday.

Defago edged Bode Miller by 0.20 seconds to prevent the American winning a hat-trick of World Cup victories on the spectacular 4.445-kilometre-long Lauberhorn course.

It was only a second career World Cup victory for 31-year-old Defago, whose single previous win was in a super-G in December 2002.

Defago posted 2 minutes 31.98 seconds in perfect sunny weather on the World Cup's longest downhill run, with Miller followed on the podium by fellow American Marco Sullivan, 0.39 seconds behind the winner.

Janka delights home crowd with super-combined win

Ski RaceWengen, Switzerland - Carlo Janka gave hosts Switzerland a perfect start into the Lauberhorn ski race weekend on Friday when he won a super-combined World Cup event.

Janka, 22, placed second in the morning's downhill portion and a good slalom run earned him a second career win in a combined total 2 minutes 34.16 minutes.

Peter Fill of Italy trailed by 0.22 seconds in second place with 2:34.38 and Silvain Zurbriggen added more joy for the home fans with third place in 2:34.56 minutes.

"I couldn't expect this. The slalom went very well. The fans really helped me," said Janka.

Swiss nationals arrested in Brazil human-trafficking swoop

Lugano, Switzerland - Six people have been arrested in Switzerland and Brazil accused of running human-trafficking ring, police said on Thursday.

Two Swiss nationals from the canton of Ticino were among the arrested, part of a Swiss-Brazilian gang thought to be involved in the supply of prostitutes to red-light districts.

A 62-year old Swiss man and his Brazilian wife are on remand in the Brazilian city of Anapolis, and Swiss police officials are cooperating in the inquiry, officials said.

Alfredo Bazzocco called the apprehension of the gang an "important success" against human-trafficking, although there were many more organizations active in the trade, he told local media. (dpa)

Sweden's Larsson suffers concussion in downhill practice

Sweden's Larsson suffers concussion in downhill practice Wengen, Switzerland  - Swedish skier Markus Larsson suffered a concussion and facial injuries on Wednesday when he crashed during the first training for the Lauberhorn World Cup downhill ski races.

Race spokesman Hugo Steinegger said that Larsson, 30, briefly lost consciousness when he crashed in the final section of the downhill course. He was taken to a hospital in Interlaken by helicopter.

Lucky number three for GS winner Raich

Adelboden, Switzerland - Benjamin Raich completed a hat-trick of giant slalom victories in Adelboden on Saturday and with it claimed first place in the overall World Cup and discipline standings.

The Austrian Raich, 30, hung on to his first-run lead for a winning total of 2 minutes 24.95 from two runs.

Massimiliano Blardone of Italy came second in 2:25.19 minutes. Rising Norwegian 72 Kjetil Jansrud got his first career podium in third place with 2:25.67 minutes, up from 14th place in the first run.

"It is a very tough hill, that's good for me," said Raich.

Top Swiss banks close bad year with big deals

Geneva  - UBS and Credit Suisse, Switzerland largest banks, made two large deals Wednesday to close off what were bad years for both.

UBS AG announced in a statement that it has sold approximately 3.4 billion of its shares in Bank of China Ltd. to institutional investors.

The second largest bank, Credit Suisse, said it agreed to sell part of its Global Investors asset management business to Aberdeen Asset Management in return for stock worth 361 million dollars, giving it an almost 25 per cent holding in the company.

The sale comes with 70 billion dollars of assets under management.

UNICEF calls for release of child soldiers in Congo

UNICEF LogoGeneva - The ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has caused the displacement of over 250,000 people, has put children at particular risk of recruitment into armed groups, the UN's Children Fund said Wednesday.

UNICEF called on "all armed groups to end the recruitment and use of children," Pierrette Vu Thi, the agency's chief in the DR Congo, said in a statement. They must "immediately release the children within their ranks."

Decline in global air traffic continues, cargo hit hardest

International Air Transport Association (IATA) LogoGeneva - While airlines have dropped capacity to cope with the expected global economic downturn, the drop in air travel was steeper than the companies could keep up with, statistic released Tuesday showed.

November saw a 4.6 per cent drop in international passenger traffic, the third consecutive month of decline, and cargo fell by 13.5 per cent, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Women's super-g called off

St Moritz, Switzerland  - The women's alpine ski super-G World Cup race in St Moritz was called off Sunday because of stormy weather.

A new date for the race has not yet been set.

The women's World Cup will continue in Semmering, Austria on December 28 and 29 with giant slalom and slalom races. (dpa)

Swiss glaciers melting away at an accelerating rate

Swiss glaciers melting away at an accelerating rateLondon, Dec 20: Two new studies have suggested that the Swiss glaciers are melting away at an accelerating rate and many will vanish this century if climate projections are correct.

According to a report by BBC News, both studies have been done by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

One assessment found that some 10 cubic km of ice have been lost from 1,500 glaciers over the past nine years.

The other study, based on a sample of 30 representative glaciers, indicates the group''s members are now losing a meter of thickness every year.

Paerson gets lucky again in St Moritz

Anja PaersonSt Moritz, Switzerland - World champion Anja Paerson of Sweden got celebrated once again in St Moritz as she claimed a big super combined ski race win on Friday.

The World Cup leader Lindsey Vonn of the US, by contrast, crashed out.

Paerson, 27, led the way after the downhill portion and also mastered the slalom run well for a combined total of 1 minute 41.87 seconds.

It was the first win of the season and the 39th overall for the three-time world champion from 2007, who 12 months ago won the super-combined and downhill World Cup races in St Moritz.

German clubs given tough challenges in UEFA Cup

AC Milan LogoNyon, Switzerland - Werder Bremen will face seven-time European champions AC Milan in the UEFA Cup's round of 32 following the draw made in Nyon, Switzerland, on Friday.

Holders Zenit St Petersburg also face German opposition in the form of VfB Stuttgart while SV Hamburg have been pitted against Dutch side NEC Nijmegen and VfL Wolfsburg take on Paris St Germain.

Big-spending Manchester City will expect to progress at the expense of FC Copenhagen but Aston Villa face a challenging task against CSKA Moscow. Tottenham Hotspur will also need to be at their best if they want to overcome Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.

United up against Inter, Real Madrid face Liverpool

Inter Milan LogoNyon, Switzerland - Defending champions Manchester United will face Inter Milan in one of three English-Italian duels in the European Champions League round of
16 drawn Friday by the ruling body UEFA.

Last year's beaten finalists Chelsea take Juventus, now managed by former Blues boss Claudio Ranieri, and Arsenal play Roma in the other duel between the Serie A and Premier League in the first knockout stage.

The fourth English club, Liverpool, were also given a difficult opponent in record winners Real Madrid at the draw made at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

IOC opens bid process for 2014 Youth Olympics

IOC opens bid process for 2014 Youth Olympics Lausanne, Switzerland - The bidding process for the 2014 Youth Olympics opened on Friday, the International Olympic Committee said.

The IOC said in a statement that interested cities have February 9, 2009, to formally bid for the event bringing together around 3,500 athletes aged 14-18 in the Olympic summer sports.

Bid files have to be submitted by July 2009, a shortlist will be set up in October and the host city elected by the IOC in February 2010.

Delegations arrive for second day of Russia-Georgia talks

Delegations arrive for second day of Russia-Georgia talks Geneva - Officials from Russia and Georgia arrived along with mediators Thursday morning at the United Nations office in Geneva for their final day of talks before the end of the year.

This third round of meetings started the day before.

The sides to the talks - including the United States, European Union, UN and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) - are expected to announce any progress in the afternoon.

Also attending the talks were officials from the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

UN: Cholera has killed over 1,100 in Zimbabwe

UN: Cholera has killed over 1,100 in Zimbabwe Geneva - At least 1,111 people have died of cholera in Zimbabwe, the United Nations said Thursday, noting that 20,581 suspected cases have been reported.

The statistics from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are generally viewed as the minimum number of deaths, and the actual toll may be higher.

Also, the case fatality rate has again increased, standing now at 5.4 per cent, far above the generally accepted rate of less than 1 per cent during a cholera outbreak.

Russia, Georgia delegations in Geneva for third round of talks

UN LogoGeneva - The Russian and Georgian delegations arrived Wednesday afternoon at the United Nations office in Geneva to begin their third round of talks since they went to war in the summer.

The talks are expected to focus on refugees, displaced people and security in the region.

Also expected to attend the meetings are representatives from the United States, European Union, UN and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Spain finish the year top of the FIFA rankings

FIFA LogoZurich - European champions Spain remain top of the world football rankings issued Wednesday by the world governing body FIFA while Turkey jumped three places to move into the top 10.

Spain finish 2008 well clear of Euro 2008 finalists Germany while the Netherlands leapfrog World Champions Italy into third spot.

Brazil remain fifth, followed by Argentina and Croatia. England jump two places to eighth, with Russia dropping one spot to ninth and Turkey up three to 10th.

The Czech Republic and Portugal both drop out of the top 10 while Australia move up nine places to 28th and Kenya are up 17 to 68th. (dpa)

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