Friday, November 19, 2010

Obama in Lisbon for crucial NATO meeting

President Barack Obama and other world leaders are gathering in Lisbon today for a 48-hour NATO meeting which has been billed as one of the most important in the history of the alliance.

Top of the agenda for the 28 member states are the war in Afghanistan and plans for a missile defence network in Europe.

Iran yesterday launched a war of words on NATO and tested a new air-defence system of its own. NATO has no future, declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“We regard NATO decision-makers as politically backward, and their decisions are of no significance to us, because they are incapable of playing a role in future developments,” said the Iranian leader. He added: “Experience shows that NATO leaders have had a wrong interpretation of international events and all their decisions are based on false information.”

All is not well within the alliance itself. Germany and France are at odds over nuclear disarmament and the proposed European ballistic missile shield.

On the other hand Russia's more relaxed relationship with the West is evident by the presence in Lisbon of the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev. President Obama is keen to ratify a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan will address the meeting tomorrow and is expected to say he wants NATO forces out of his country by the end of 2014.


José Mourinho's new goal: the Ryder Cup

The announcement that José Mourinho is to be an ambassador for Portugal's bid to host the Ryder Cup in 2018 will evoke a mixed reaction in the Algarve.

There will be delight that such a respected and well-known personality in the sports world is to throw his weight behind Portugal's Ryder Cup campaign, which already has the full backing of the Portuguese Government.

There will be wry smiles because Mourinho does not play golf. His formidable expertise on how to play football does not extend to how to control little white balls being knocked around the manicured countryside.

Most of all in some quarters will be the painful reminder that the chosen venue for Portugal's Ryder Cup bid is in the Alentejo, not the Algarve.

The plan is to bring the world's number one golf event to Herdade da Comporta,which is near Mourinho's home town of Setúbal. This could be interpreted as a backhander to the Algarve, famous for some of the finest golf courses in Europe, let alone Portugal.

The Algarve has hosted many major international golf tournaments including three World Championships.

There will also be mixed reaction in Spain, which is competing for the 2018 Ryder Cup along with France, Germany and Holland. Mourinho, former boss at Chelsea, is now the coach at Real Madrid.

"I always play to win and I know everyone connected to the 2018 Portuguese Ryder Cup bid is exactly the same," said Mourinho yesterday.

A decision will be announced next spring.

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