Noordin laptop videos show bomb planning

Indonesian police have released a series of files from slain terror leader Noordin Mohammed Top’s laptop showing detailed and chillingly nonchalant planning behind the July bombings in Jakarta.

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Videos on the computer seized in the Central Java raid this month that killed Noordin, 41, show suicide bombers and other militants discussing and making preparations for the July 17 attacks, which killed seven people.

In one video, the two suicide bombers, Dani Dwi Permana, 18, and Nana Ikhwan Maulana, 28, are seen doing stretches near an empty lot in front of the targeted JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

In another video, the bombers and hotel florist Ibrohim — who police say helped stage the attack from the inside — picnic on biscuits and apples on the grass in front of the hotels.

Syaifudin Jaelani, a fourth militant still on the run from police, says off camera: “America, destroyed; Australia, destroyed; Indonesia, destroyed.”

In yet another clip, teenage bomber Dani is seen in front of the hotels saying: “This is not suicide, this is a good deed.”

“We see how they are preparing themselves, how they have filmed their plans and their surveys of targets through their own eyes,” police spokesman Nanan Soekarna told reporters.

“We see how they really did prepare themselves, that this isn’t just something the police have been saying.”

“We found the laptop on Noordin’s back,” he said.

Other files found on Noordin’s laptop included videos showing shopping and discussions of the impending attacks, as well as letters by Jaelani intended for his family that describe the operation’s organisational structure.

“We’re an organisation with efficient leadership, there are administrators, those who manage funding… those who look after the families of holy warriors, those who find transport, look for explosives, look for weapons, handle internal and overseas affairs,” Jaelani wrote.

Detective Tito Karnavian said police still regard the network Noordin built as a potent threat despite his death.

“This network has the capability to build new cells — for example, Syaifudin’s (Jaelani’s) cell, which has not been destroyed yet,” Karnavian said.

“The targets previously were the far enemy (such as the United States and Australia) but now they are also targeting the Indonesian government which they say is promoting democracy, which is being pushed by the West,” he said.

Noordin, a Malaysian who headed a violent splinter faction of the radical Jemaah Islamiyah network, was killed along with three of his militants during a September 17 raid on a village house outside Solo city.

Noordin headed an organisation he dubbed “Al-Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago” and was one of Asia’s most wanted men for allegedly masterminding attacks including a 2003 bombing of the Marriott that killed 12 people.

He was also wanted for the 2004 bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta and 2005 attacks on tourist restaurants on the holiday island of Bali.

Gates makes surprise visit to Afghanistan

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates flew into Kabul for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and commanders about Washington’s new strategy to send 30,000 extra troops to fight the Taliban.

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It is the first official US visit since President Barack Obama last week announced he would boost the the US deployment in Afghanistan to 100,000 to counter an increasingly virulent Taliban insurgency.

The Pentagon has said the first wave of 1,500 extra US Marines will begin arriving in southern Afghanistan next week as the top military officer said there was a short window to seize back the initiative from the Taliban.

Open to talks

“We want to talk with President Karzai and (Defence) Minister Wardak about the president’s decision and the implementation of that decision, how we will use our troops and the additional troops from our allies in partnership with the Afghan national security forces,” Gates told journalists.

The Pentagon chief said he would raise the issue of stepping up the training and retention of Afghanistan’s fledgling army and police, a cornerstone of Obama’s strategy which hopes to bring a quick end to the war.

In an interview with CNN, Karzai said Afghans wanted to be in charge of security “sooner, rather than later” but said it would take two years to train Afghan forces to the point where they can lead operations in many areas.

Concerns mount for Afghan youth

Experts warn that Afghanistan lacks literate young men, veterans with leadership skills, facilities for training and money for weapons.

A senior NATO commander has warned that the current police force of around 68,000 is prone to corruption. Out of 94,000 soldiers trained so far, 10,000 have defected and 15 percent of the armed forces are drug addicts.

Obama’s plan to start withdrawing US troops in July 2011 has sparked major concern in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan that the Taliban could sit out the surge, regroup and attack a pared down US force in 18 months’ time.

Gates said he was seeking to reassure Kabul of the long-term US commitment, despite strenuous domestic opposition to the war back home.

“Another major message will be the importance of a long-term relationship between the United States, ISAF (the NATO-run multinational force based in the country) and Afghanistan,” he told reporters.

Karzai delayed cabinet

Karzai, who faces huge pressure to form a transparent government after his fraud-tainted re-election in August, has postponed the unveiling of his long-awaited cabinet until Saturday at the earliest, a parliament spokesman said.

Washington has warned Karzai to fight corruption or see his cabinet bypassed in favour of lower level officials to provide services to Afghans as part of the sweeping new war strategy.

Gates emphasised “the importance for us of capable, honest ministers in areas that are critical for our success, such as defence and interior” — calling both the current incumbents “very capable people”.

The Pentagon chief will also hold talks with top US and NATO commanders, but not the overall commander on the ground, US General Stanley McChrystal, who is due to appear before Congress in Washington later Tuesday.

NATO boosts troops

NATO allies have agreed to support the US surge by dispatching another 7,000 troops, which are expected to swell the ranks of foreign forces in Afghanistan next year to 150,000.

With military commanders, Gates is due to discuss the logistical challenges facing the influx of reinforcements after signing deployment orders for the first wave of 17,000 more US troops that will arrive early next year.

“It’s going to require a lot of efforts,” Gates told reporters.

Gates’ visit to Kabul comes four days after more than 1,000 US Marines, British troops and Afghan forces launched a major offensive in the southern province of Helmand, a Taliban heartland and primary opium-growing area.

Most of the first wave of extra US troops will be going to Helmand and neighbouring province Kandahar, the spiritual capital of the Taliban and the scene of the worst fighting since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban.

Soaring violence has made this year the deadliest since the Taliban fell from power, killing record numbers of civilians, Afghan and foreign troops.

Cardinals rally around Pope at Easter

Pope Benedict XVI steered clear of the paedophile priest scandals rocking the Roman Catholic Church in his high-profile Easter speech, while top prelates closed ranks around him.

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“The people of God are with you and do not allow themselves to be impressed by the idle chatter of the moment,” said the dean of the Vatican’s College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano.

The unusual gesture just before Benedict began celebrating Easter mass in St Peter’s Square echoed the embattled pope’s own remarks a week ago when he urged Christians “not be intimidated by the idle chatter of prevailing opinions.”

The pope, in his much-anticipated “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message on Sunday, made no mention of the scandals.

Humankind is in a ‘profound crisis’: Pope

However the pontiff made a broad call for a “spiritual and moral conversion” and said humankind was in a “profound crisis, one which requires deep change, beginning with consciences.”

In contrast, leading bishops in both Belgium and Germany issued forthright condemnations of the Church’s role in covering up for predator priests.

Belgium’s Andre Joseph Leonard, archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel, said in his Easter homily that the Church had mismanaged the crisis “with a guilty silence.”

Freiburg Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, for his part, said: “Today particularly we must set out together and examine inconceivable events, awful crimes, the Church’s dark aspects as well as our shadowy sides.”

Concerns mount over scandal

Vatican expert Bruno Bartoloni said the Church was going through its “hardest period since the publication (in 1968) of the ‘Humanae Vitae’ (Of Human Life)” — a papal encyclical by pope Paul VI that attacked use of the birth control pill as a mortal sin.

“At that time the crisis was as deep, with personal attacks against the pope and the Church in general,” Bartoloni told AFP.

Many of the pilgrims among the tens of thousands huddled under umbrellas for the rain-drenched Easter mass here defended the pope.

Edgar Meier of Germany accused the media of blowing up the affair, saying: “It’s not a typical thing of the Church. Journalists are making it something bigger than it really is.”

Calls for resignation

But another German in the crowd, Claudia Binion, said the pope “should resign because he is too implicated” in the crisis, which she called a “huge problem.”

“For those who have these tendencies, the Church is the best place to go because they are with children and are hidden and protected,” she charged.

The US group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said the victims still seek concrete action from the pope.

“When we speak up and tell how our childhood innocence was shattereed by sexual assaults by priests it is not ‘petty gossip’,” said SNAP president Barbara Blaine. “Lofty statements from Vatican officials do not change the facts.”

Easter mass at Dublin’s Pro Cathedral did not go as smoothly as protesters hung pairs of children’s shoes on the railings to represent the victims of predator priests.

Abuse survivors heckled Archbishop Diarmuid Martin as he went inside, and protesters held placards reading: “Hypocrites for Jesus. Catholic Church rapes, abuses, destroys children and covers it up, covers it up, covers it up.”

In his homily, Martin said: “The spotlight of media and public opinion is focused on the failures and the betrayals of Church leaders and a damaging culture which has grown up in the Church.

“The truth will set the Church free, even if the truth is hard to digest,” he said.

Scandals trace back to 1930s

Predominantly Catholic Ireland has been rocked by three judicial reports in the past five years detailing child sex abuse and cover-ups going back to the 1930s.

The pope last month addressed a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics expressing “shame and remorse” over predator priests in Ireland and chided Irish bishops for making “serious mistakes” in responding to allegations.

The scandals have cast a pall over Easter, normally the most joyous day in the Christian calendar, commemorating the day when Jesus Christ is believed to have been resurrected.

In the United States on Saturday, fresh allegations emerged in court documents that Cardinal William Levada — now the head of the Vatican department in charge of disciplining predator priests — had reassigned an alleged child molester in the 1990s without warning his parishioners.

The pope headed the same department — the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — from 1981 to 2005, and himself faces allegations that he helped to protect predator priests both in that role and when he was archbishop of Munich.

Who are the independents?

With a hung parliament looking likely the ‘gang of five’ — four independents and a Greens MP, are crucial to any attempt at forming government.

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Who are they and what are their issues?

After voting failed to deliver a majority Labor or Coalition government, four independent MPs and the first elected Greens MP have been thrown into the spotlight.

INDEPENDENTS:

* Bob Katter, MP for Kennedy, Queensland

* Rob Oakeshott, MP for Lyne, NSW

* Tony Windsor, MP for New England, NSW

* Andrew Wilkie, likely independent MP, Denison, Tasmania

GREENS:

* Andrew Bandt, Greens MP, Melbourne

Sunday morning, there were still 80,000 uncounted votes in four seats – with two tipped to go to Labor, and two to the Coalition – likely leaving both unable to hit the ‘magic number’ of 76.

With pundits forecasting a hung parliament – where a potential government would have difficulty passing legislation – four independent MPs and a lone Greens MP could find themselves very popular.

Independents to hold talks in Canberra

The prospect of a hung parliament has been welcomed by Independent MP Rob Oakeshott.

“It’s a very exciting and enlightening moment,” he told Sky News on Sunday. The NSW MP intends travelling to Canberra later on Sunday for talks with two other independents Tony Windsor (NSW) and Bob Katter (Qld).

Oakeshott says they’ll have to take into account the make-up of the Senate, in which the Australian Greens are expected to wield significant power. Oakeshott was re-elected to the seat of Lyne with a big increase in votes.

In Tasmania, Independent Andrew Wilkie looks set to take Denison in Tasmania after preferences go his way.

Oakeshott, Windsor and Katter were all once Nationals, while Wilkie won headlines as the Iraq war ‘whistleblower’, as well as running as a former Greens candidate.

On top of that, Andrew Bandt has become the first Green elected in a general election, after he took Melbourne from Labor. He has said he would be most likely to support Labor’s attempts to form a government.

Destinies uncertain

But for the independents, it is unclear who they may support.

Bob Katter says ‘the gong goes’ to whoever will help rural Australia, while

Mr Katter says he expects to meet within the next two days with fellow independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. He said they’d worked together well in the past and that should continue.

“… we get on very well together, we work very closely together, we have similar backgrounds and we’ve simply agreed that we’ll walk in a room, close the door and not be taken advantage of by all you cunning media people,” Mr Katter told the ABC.

“(We will) determine a responsible course of conduct to which we can move forward.”

Mr Katter said he’d not yet decided where his support would go but pointed to continuing issues with former Nationals colleagues.

“Warren Truss was the leader and he attacked me personally last night,” Mr Katter said. “And (Nationals Senate Leader) Barnaby Joyce in a similar piece of incredible unfortunateness.”

Mr Katter refused to divulge if he’d been contacted by Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott, saying only that he’d received phone calls

from “very powerful people” who could influence the course of events.

He said improving the ethanol industry and broadband infrastructure were high on his agenda.

“A privatised broadband, I mean, please, don’t even talk about it, privatised Telstra has been absolutely disastrous for rural

Australia,” he said.

Stability, health, broadband, water, rewnewables

Wilkie has said he wants ‘stable, competent, and ethical’ government.

Oakeshott wants stable government and a parliament that ‘can deliver outcomes’

Mr Windsor said he had received a phone call from Ms Gillard and Liberal frontbencher Joe Hockey, both congratulating him on his win in New England. Windsor told the ABC that the potential stability of a new government would be the most important factor for him in deciding where to go from here. He then listed health, broadband, water and renewable energy as other crucial issues.

He said his discussions with Oakeshott and Katter would try and find what common ground there is, while they may also have to seek advice on the constitutionality of each scenario.

At-a-glance: UK emergency budget

Here are the main points from Britain’s emergency budget, presented by new finance minister George Osborne to the House of Commons Tuesday:

– Structural deficit set to be eliminated within five years

– Seventy-seven percent of this change will come through spending cuts and 23 percent through tax increases

– Welfare cuts worth 11 billion pounds (13 billion euros, 16 billion dollars) by 2014-15, including child benefit frozen for three years, caps on housing benefits and a tougher assessment for disability allowance

– two-year pay freeze for public sector workers

– Government accelerating moves to raise the state pension age to 66

– Most government departments face cuts of around 25 percent over four years, an overall figure of 17 billion pounds by 2014-15

– Payments to Queen Elizabeth II for carrying out royal duties frozen this year and subsequently facing a shake-up

– Value-added tax (VAT), a form of sales tax, to rise from 17.

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5 percent to 20 percent from January 2011

– Corporation tax to be cut next year to 27 percent and then by one percent annually for the next three years, giving Britain what Osborne said was “the lowest rate of any major economy”

– Capital gains tax for higher earners to increase from 18 percent to 28 percent

– Growth forecast lowered from 2.6 percent to 2.3 percent next year and set to rise back to 2.7 percent in 2014 and 2015

– In a joint move with France and Germany, government introducing bank levy covering British banks and the British operations of foreign banks, which is expected to raise two billion pounds annually

– Unemployment expected to peak this year at 8.1 percent and then fall each year to reach 6.1 percent in 2015

World tennis rankings: Changes places

Former world No.

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1 Rafael Nadal has slipped two places while Andy Murray climbs to third in world rankings published on Monday.

The Spaniard, who pulled out of his quarter-final with Andy Murray at the Australian Open due to injury, has not been ranked outside the top three since before his first French Open victory in 2005.

Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt is up three places to 19th.

Britain’s Murray lost to Roger Federer in the Melbourne decider but his run to the final sees him climb a place to third.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic was beaten by Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the last eight but he moves up to second, 510 points ahead of Murray.

Croatia’s Marin Cilic, who reached his first ever Grand Slam semi-final at Melbourne Park, makes the top 10 for the first time in his career.

ATP world rankings:

1. Roger Federer (SUI) 11,350 points

2. Novak Djokovic (SRB) 8,310 (+1)

3. Andy Murray (GBR) 7,800 (+1)

4. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 7,670 (-2)

5. Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) 6,400

6. Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) 5,290

7. Andy Roddick (USA) 4,150

8. Robin Soderling (SWE) 3,375

9. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 3,235 (+1)

10. Marin Cilic (CRO) 2,970 (+4)

11. Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) 2,870

12. Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 2,760 (-3)

13. Gael Monfils (FRA) 2,520 (-1)

14. Radek Stepanek (CZE) 2,445 (-1)

15. Tommy Robredo (ESP) 2,005 (+1)

16. Gilles Simon (FRA) 1,915 (-1)

17. Tommy Haas (GER) 1,855

18. David Ferrer (ESP) 1,780

19. Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) 1,770 (+3)

20. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 1,770

Over 700 freed in attack on Nigerian prison

Police hunted hundreds of inmates Thursday who escaped when suspected Islamists used machine guns and bombs in a Nigerian prison attack, while authorities warned other jails may be vulnerable.

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The Islamist sect suspected in the attack that freed more than 700 prisoners had launched an uprising in the country’s north last year put down by a brutal assault, and Nigeria’s government said it would move to prevent a repeat.

More than 100 alleged members of the extremist group were among those who escaped in the Tuesday night siege in the northern city of Bauchi, police said.

The interior minister said the attackers, believed to be from a sect known as Boko Haram, used “overwhelming firepower,” and police described them as being armed with machine guns and homemade bombs.

They set fire to a section of the prison complex and fought a fierce gun battle with authorities. Police said four people were killed.

“We also wish to warn any potential troublemakers that the federal government will not fold its arms and allow the situation to degenerate unchecked,” Interior Minister Emmanuel Ihenacho said.

Leaflets were found at the scene after the attack warning of further violence and saying in the Hausa language that “this holy work was made possible by Allah’s grace, under the auspices of your mujahideen brethren.”

The head of Nigeria’s prisons visited the jail on Wednesday and said security would be tightened at other detention centres, particularly in areas that have been targeted in the past by the Islamists.

“We know there are some vulnerable prisons around,” said Olusola Ogundipe, naming two northern areas in particular, including Maiduguri, which was the centre of last year’s uprising. “We have beefed up security in these places.”

A military officer said on condition of anonymity that night patrols in the area would be conducted between 6:00 pm and 7:00 am.

Extra deployments would also be in place throughout the day Friday for the Eid holiday, with major events planned in celebrations that high-ranking politicians were expected to attend, the officer said.

Police said a total of 721 inmates were freed in the attack, including 105 suspected sect members. Thirty-five had been re-arrested, they said.

According to Ogundipe, more than 120 prisoners had returned on their own. He said authorities were “combing everywhere” to find the suspects and escaped prisoners, and checkpoints were set up throughout the area.

Bauchi state police commissioner Danlami Yar’Adua said 11 suspected sect members had been arrested.

The attackers numbered around 200, officials said, and witnesses described terrifying scenes.

Bullet casings littered the area on Thursday and the front gate to the prison was partly blackened by fire.

“They came in large numbers, heavily armed, and began shooting at the prison gate,” a prison guard, Salisu Mohammed, told AFP. “Some of us were hit while others fled.”

He said the attackers “gained access and moved from cell to cell, breaking in and freeing the inmates. They set fire to a section of the prison and burnt the vehicles parked outside the gate.”

One resident said the alleged sect members were chanting “Allahu Akbar” — or God is great — when they arrived.

Recent shootings blamed on sect members had signalled the group might be preparing to strike again in Africa’s most populous nation, roughly divided in half between Christians and Muslims.

Last year’s uprising began with attacks on police posts, and police were among the victims of the recent attacks by motorcycle-riding gunmen in northern Nigeria.

The 2009 uprising was crushed by a police and military assault, with hundreds eventually killed and the sect’s headquarters and mosque left in ruins.

Tuesday’s attack came on the same day officials announced January 22 as the date for Nigeria’s presidential vote and was an ominous sign in a country where elections have often been tainted by violence.

Boko Haram means “Western education is sin” in local Hausa dialect, though the sect has been known by various names, including the Nigerian Taliban. It had fought for the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria.

Bangladesh blocks Facebook over caricatures

Bangladesh has blocked social networking website Facebook over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed and “obnoxious” images of the Muslim-majority country’s leaders.

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The move came after Pakistan banned access to Facebook, video website YouTube and 1200 web pages over a row about “blasphemous” content on the internet.

Facebook was blocked in Bangladesh late Saturday, the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission said.

The move was ordered as cartoons of Mohammed on the popular website “hurt the religious sentiments of the country’s Muslim population”, said BTRC acting chairman Hasan Mahmud Delwar.

“Some links in the site also contained obnoxious images of our leaders including the father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and the leader of the opposition,” he said.

He said Facebook would be re-opened once Bangladesh had permanently blocked the offending pages.

The country’s anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said it had arrested one man over the images of political leaders.

“A special intelligence team arrested him and he has been charged with spreading malice,” senior RAB official Enamul Kabir said.

Kabir said the arrested man used at least six Facebook accounts to post the images but officials declined to give details of the depictions, which were not immediately showing up on the site Sunday.

On Friday thousands of Bangladeshis took to the streets of the capital Dhaka, demanding that the government ban Facebook over what they called “anti-Islamic propaganda”.

The protests were triggered by an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” campaign on Facebook, which its anonymous promoters said was in defence of freedom of expression.

Cartoon controversy

Muslims regard all depictions of Islam’s founding prophet as blasphemous.

“Drawing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed is an attack on Islam and is extremely humiliating for Islam,” Dhaka protest organiser A.T.M. Hemayet Uddin told thousands of cheering supporters.

In a counter-demonstration, Dhaka University students held a rally on the campus late Saturday, urging authorities to lift the Facebook block immediately, according to the Daily Star newspaper.

“This was a wrong decision and should be withdrawn immediately,” said Mohammad Zafar Iqbal, professor of Computer Science at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology.

“Instead of freezing the whole system, efforts should be made to find and punish the guilty.”

Publications of similar cartoons in Danish newspapers in 2005 sparked violent protests in Muslim countries.

Deadly demonstrations

Around 50 people were killed in 2006 demonstrations over the cartoons.

Pakistan has restored access to YouTube, but Facebook and 1,200 other web pages remain blocked.

Bangladesh has nearly one million Facebook account holders, according to the BTRC. Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia have fan pages on Facebook.

The site has previously attracted government ire over allegations it spreads pornography and fraudulent money-making schemes.

“There have been growing cyber-crimes related to Facebook and other social networking sites. The laws are inadequate to fight these crimes,” RAB spokesman Mohammad Sohail said.

In March, officers arrested a Dhaka-based stocks tipster with more than 10,000 Facebook followers on charges of manipulating Bangladesh’s stock exchange.

Springboks, All Blacks face ‘ultimate test’

With the top-ranked rugby side chasing revenge against the world champions the stage is set for the “ultimate Test” when the All Blacks and Springboks open the Tri-Nations series.

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The All Blacks are still fuming after losing all three Tests against their arch rivals last year when they relinquished the Tri-Nations crown they had held for the four previous years.

The Test also carries intriguing Eden Park subplots with the All Blacks unbeaten in their past 20 Tests at the stadium, where South Africa have not won since 1937 and which will be the venue for next year’s World Cup final.

“The All Blacks Test has always been the ultimate Test,” Springboks captain John Smit said as he contemplated all that was at stake.

“It’s that Test match you look forward to and the butterflies are flapping around.”

The All Blacks can ill afford a fourth consecutive loss to South Africa as they pit the run-at-all-costs style of play they have pinned their faith in against the muscle power and kicking combination that has served the Springboks well.

Although the All Blacks have tried to sidestep talk of “revenge”, captain Richie McCaw admitted at their final training run on Friday of a need to set the record straight.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say there’s a little bit in there,” McCaw conceded.

“For those of us who were there last year it was a bit frustrating that we didn’t perform the way we would like, so we want to do that this week.”

He said the All Blacks were happy with the way they played on their end of year tour last year and in their first three Tests this year but against the Springboks “with the top two teams in the world playing we will see where we are at.”

There are four changes to the All Blacks’ side which started their most recent Test against Wales with Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith returning from injury along with the recalled Joe Rokocoko and Owen Franks.

Smit played down concerns about the Eden Park hoodoo, pointing to how his world champion side had notched up their first ever wins against the All Blacks in Dunedin and Hamilton in the past two years.

He said frequent trips to New Zealand by South African sides in the Super 14 competition had helped them break through historical barriers.

“Any kind of away win helps. It creates a belief inside you that you can perhaps do it again.”

Looming in the background is the psychological advantage to the winner with the World Cup just over a year away.

Smit said the South Africans realised it would be harder to defend the Cup than it was to win it and to beat the All Blacks now at Eden Park would be a step in the right direction.

“Any win is important and it’s going to be a long journey before we are able to pack our bags and get here (for the World Cup) before the squad is chosen and before the task is delivered,” Smit said.

“So there’s a lot of work to be done and if you say to me ‘does one win in Auckland in 2010 make that possible?’, no, it doesn’t make it possible but it does help the journey.”

Teams (15-1)

New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Joe Rokocoko, Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Tom Donnelly, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.

Reserves: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Richard Kahui.

South Africa: Zane Kirchner, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Ricky Januarie; Pierre Spies, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Jannie du Plessis, John Smit (captain), Gurthro Steenkamp.

Reserves: Chiliboy Ralepelle, BJ Botha, Andries Bekker, Danie Rossouw, Ruan Pienaar, Butch James, Gio Aplon.

World leaders descend on Berlin

Twenty years after the Berlin Wall tumbled in a peaceful revolution, world leaders will on Monday meet in a transformed Germany to mark the key anniversary.

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The celebrations will culminate in a gathering of luminaries past and present with an estimated 100,000 revellers at the Brandenburg Gate, a potent symbol of unity that was long on the faultline between East and West.

United Germany is basking in the global spotlight on this 20th anniversary, with events large and small recalling the heady night when East Germany’s communist authorities stunned the world by suddenly opening the border.

After 28 years as prisoners of their own country, euphoric East Germans streamed to checkpoints and rushed past bewildered border guards, many falling tearfully into the arms of West Germans welcoming them on the other side.

The fall of the Wall sent shockwaves around the world that night, abruptly ending the Cold War and paving the way for the unification of Germany, which had been divided since the end of World War II.

“The destruction of the Iron Curtain on November 9, 1989 is still the most remarkable political event of most people’s lifetimes: it set free millions of individuals and it brought to an end a global conflict that threatened nuclear annihilation,” British weekly The Economist said this week.

In the run-up to the festivities, Angela Merkel on Tuesday became the first German chancellor to address a joint session of the US Congress.

With a speech steeped in Wall imagery, she thanked Washington for its firm support of German unification and called for bolstered transatlantic cooperation on crucial issues such as climate change.

“I’m convinced, just as we found the strength in the 20th century to bring about the fall of a wall made of concrete and barbed wire, we shall now show that necessary strength to overcome the walls of the 21st century,” said Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany.

The leaders of Britain, France, Russia are due in Berlin, as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will represent the United States while President Barack Obama tours Asia.

They will be joined by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, ex-Polish president Lech Walesa and German civil rights activists who will meet at Bornholmer Strasse, one of the places where the Wall was first breached.

Gala concert at Brandenburg Gate

Israeli-Argentinian conductor Daniel Barenboim will then lead the State Opera orchestra and choir in a concert at the Gate before Gorbachev topples the first of thousands of giant styrofoam dominoes along two kilometres of the Wall’s former course.

US rockers Bon Jovi and German DJ Paul van Dyk will entertain the crowd into the night.

Bilateral meetings are planned on the sidelines of the ceremonies on urgent issues including Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Afghanistan and the choice of the first permanent European Union president.

Germany, the globe’s number four economic power, has grown in confidence and influence on the world stage in the last two decades, and Berlin has come into its own as one of Europe’s most cutting-edge capitals.

But the country still bears the scars of its division, with unemployment in the east still about twice as high as that in the west and lingering mistrust between “arrogant” Westerners and “ungrateful” Easterners.

Lingering East-West differences

Meanwhile, former communists who built the Wall have joined forces with disaffected Social Democrats to create a new political party, Die Linke, which captured more than 10 per cent of the vote in September’s general election.

Political scientist Jochen Staadt, who researches communist East Germany at Berlin’s Free University, said there were strong lingering differences between Germans from east and west.

“Polls show that when asked which is more important to them, equality or freedom, westerners overwhelmingly say freedom while the easterners say equality, by which they mean economic equality,” he said.

Staadt said Germany had done a better job than many of their fellow eastern bloc nations in facing up to the legacy of their repressive states.

“The federal republic was certainly faster and more thorough in coming to terms with the secret police’s crimes than Poland and even West Germany after World War II,” he said.