Alonso warns that "everything is possible this year"

Alonso warns that "everything is possible this year" Portimao, Portugal  - Fernando Alonso has not yet made his debut at the wheel of the new Renault R29, but he already predicted Monday that the upcoming Formula
1 season is likely to be very exciting.

"This championship should be the most open and the hardest-fought of all we have had so far," the Spaniard said in Portimao, in southern Portugal.

Alonso - who won the Formula 1 World Championship in 2005 and 2006 - spoke at a press conference following initial testing in which he did not however get to drive the new car.

Alonso and an unimpressive "shark": not very sexy

Alonso and an unimpressive "shark": not very sexyPortimao, Portugal  - The Formula 1 circus, which on this crisis year is set to cut its spending by some 30 per cent at the request of the FIA, launched the first joint tests Monday in Portimao, Portugal with a show that was in accordance with the new era: grey, lacklustre and somewhat disappointing.

"It is not at all sexy," an Italian journalist said of the new weapon in the hands of double world champion Fernando Alonso.

Spain and Portugal agree joint bid for 2018 World Cup

2018 World Cup LogoLisbon - Spain and Portugal agreed Monday to make a joint bid to host the 2018 football World Cup.

A deal was reached in Lisbon by Spanish football federation president Angel Maria Villar and Portuguese counterpart Gilberto Madail, Portugal's news agency Lusa reported.

Spain hosted the 1982 World Cup and the European Championship in 1964, while Portugal were hosts of the 2004 European Championships, beating a bid from Spain.

Renault and Williams unveil new Formula One cars

Renault LogoPortimao, Portugal - Renault and Williams unveiled their cars for 2009 Formula One season at presentations in Portugal on Monday.

The cars were rolled out at the Algarve Motor Park circuit at Portimao where F1 teams begin testing this week ahead of the season beginning March 29 in Melbourne, Australia.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr were joined by team boss Flavio Briatore to present the R28 which Renault hopes will mount a stronger challenge for the championship.

The colour scheme is in a more striking yellow and white with the name of new sponsors Total on the front and rear wings of the R29.

Controversy over Christian-Muslim marriages in Portugal

Controversy over Christian-Muslim marriages in PortugalLisbon - Controversy raged in Portugal on Thursday over statements by a leading Catholic clergyman who warned against marriages between Christians and Muslims.

Bishops sided with Lisbon patriarch Jose Policarpo, while human rights activists and people living in mixed marriages slammed him for intolerance.

Cardinal Policarpo advised young Portuguese Catholic women to "be careful" and to "think twice" before marrying Muslims.

Ivory Coast defender Boka renews Stuttgart deal until 2012

Portimao, Portugal - Ivory Coast defender Arthur Boka has renewed his contract at VfB Stuttgart until 2012, the German Bundesliga club said on Thursday.

Boka, 25, came to Stuttgart in 2006 from French side Racing Strasbourg and has played 51 Bundesliga for the 2007 champions. His original deal ran until 2010. Stuttgart made the announcement at a winter break training camp in Portugal. (dpa)

Madeleine's father returns to Portugal to continue search

Madeleine's father returns to Portugal to continue searchLisbon - Gerry McCann, the father of missing British toddler Madeleine, has returned to Portugal one-and-a-half years after her disappearance to continue the search for his daughter.

McCann, 40, told Portuguese journalists late Tuesday he returned to speak to his legal team and to develop new strategies to rekindle the search for Madeleine.

He said that he hoped to find his daughter until her birthday in May. McCann came to Portugal for the first time since returning to Britain in September 2007.

World's oldest person dies at 115

World's oldest person dies at 115Lisbon  - The world's oldest person, Maria de Jesus, died Friday at the age of 115 in a hospital in the Portuguese community of Corujo near the city of Tomar.

She held the Guinness world record for just a month after the death of American Edna Parker.

De Jesus, born September 10, 1983, had never left the small town where she was born and completely avoided both alcohol and coffee, relatives told local media.

Her husband, Jose, died 58 years ago, when she was 57 years old. She had six children, 11 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.

Guinea Bissau alleged coup leader detained

Portugal's new security laws blasted as "totalitarian"  Lisbon- Guinea Bissau security forces have detained five soldiers suspected of attacking the residence of President Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, including their leader, Portuguese media quoted a police spokesman as saying Monday.

The government earlier described the attack as a coup attempt which was defeated by the army.

Former head of bankrupt Portuguese bank taken into custody

Lisbon - The former head of a financially troubled Portuguese bank, Banco Portugues de Negocios (BPN), is in custody accused of fraud, money laundering and embezzlement, Portuguese media reported Saturday.

Jose Oliveira e Costa, 73, who stepped down from his role leading the bank in February, was taken into investigative custody on a judge's orders. He had run the bank for ten years.

The state's attorney's office, which is pressing the case against Costa, says he let the bank slide to the brink of bankruptcy, with accumulated losses of 700 million euros (876 million dollars). The government opted to nationalize the bank earlier this year to save it from collapse.

Portugal sees Obama as an "opportunity for change"

Lisbon, PortugalLisbon - Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates on Wednesday described US president-elect Barack Obama as giving "an opportunity of change to the United States and the world."

"The voice of Barack Obama is a voice of hope," Socrates said in his congratulatory message to the new US president.

Obama's victory "represents possibilities for a new cycle of relations between the United States and Europe in the service of peace, cooperation and of a fairer and more regulated globalization," the Portuguese premier said. (dpa)

Eight presidents leave Iberian-American Summit before closing

Eight presidents leave Iberian-American Summit before closing San Salvador - Eight presidents left the Iberian American Summit in San Salvador before it closed Friday, in a mass escape that made the gathering's last day lacklustre.

Between midday Thursday and early Friday, the leaders of Brazil, Nicaragua, Argentina, Panama, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic left the Salvadorian capital. The presidents of Venezuela, Cuba and Uruguay directly skipped the summit.

OAS chief: Capitalist system not the problem

OAS chief: Capitalist system not the problem San Salvador, El Salvador - The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) said Thursday in San Salvador that the current global financial crisis should not lead to a drastic change in the world economic system.

"I do not think the capitalist system is the problem in itself," Chilean Jose Miguel Insulza said.

Upon arrival in the Salvadorian capital to take part in the 18th Iberian American Summit, he noted that there have been "very serious mistakes in policies and blunders" that are the responsibility of "concrete authorities."

Zapatero calls for "new financial world order"

Zapatero calls for "new financial world order" San Salvador, El Salvador - Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Thursday joined calls for a "new financial world order" with stronger mechanisms for control and transparency.

At the Iberian American Summit in San Salvador, the centre-left Rodriguez Zapatero criticized the "myth of deregulation" which according to him put speculation and greed, and the unbounded craving for greater benefits, above the productive economy.

Portuguese parliament rejects gay marriage

Gay MarriageLisbon - The Portuguese parliament Friday rejected a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage with an overwhelming majority, with the governing Socialists arguing that the time was not ripe.

The draft legislation had been tabled by the Greens and the Left Bloc.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates' Socialists and the opposition conservative parties voted against.

The Socialists were against discrimination, but the question of gay marriage should not be allowed to split Portuguese society, Socialist legislator Jorge Strech said.

Portugal announces recognition of Kosovo

Portugal announces recognition of KosovoLisbon - Portugal announced Tuesday evening its official recognition of Kosovo, which last February had unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia.

The office of Foreign Minister Luis Amado announced the move, which reduced the number of European Union states still opposed to recognizing Kosovo's independence.

Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Romania and the Czech Republic are still opposed to Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence which they regard as contrary to international law.

Portuguese far-right leader handed four-year sentence

PortugalLisbon- Portugal's main skinhead leader was Friday sentenced to 4 years and 10 months in prison, judicial sources said.

Mario Machado, leader of the Portuguese section of the Hammerskin far-right group, was found guilty of racial discrimination, illegal possession of weapons, threats and violence.

Six others were also handed prison terms, the length of which was not immediately given.

Seventeen were given suspended prison sentences, seven were handed fines, and five were acquitted.

Portugal preparing to recognize Kosovo: reports

Lisbon - Portugal is preparing to recognize the independence of Kosovo, media reported Friday.

Foreign Minister Luis Amado may disclose the date of recognition on Tuesday, when he will inform a parliamentary foreign affairs commission about Portugal's stance, the daily Publico said.

Amado is currently holding meetings with the parliamentary parties to discuss the issue.

Portugal wanted align itself with most other European Union countries, which have backed the February 17 independence declaration of the former Serbian province, the daily said.

Work stoppage paralyzes part of Portuguese public sector

Lisbon - A day of strikes against precarious labour conditions affected hospitals, schools, railways and garbage disposal in Portugal on Wednesday, trade unions said.

Unions said 75 per cent of their members followed the strike call, but government officials estimated the figure at 11 per cent.

Hundreds of schools remained closed, trade union representative Ana Avoila said. Garbage also piled up on the streets, and buses and trains stopped running in many places.

The 24-hour stoppage, which unions called a "protest," was called to press demands for better salaries and work conditions.

Europe's oldest person celebrates 115th birthday

Maria De JesusLisbon - Portuguese woman Maria de Jesus, Europe's oldest person and the world's second oldest, celebrated her 115th birthday on Wednesday, the daily Diario de Noticias reported.

"We are not planning a special celebration, because my mother has become a bit apathetic in relation to her surroundings," said Maria de Jesus' 84-year-old daughter Maria Madalena, who looks after her in the central Portugal village of Corujo.

Maria de Jesus, who worked in agriculture for seven decades, has always eaten "what the earth offers," Maria Madalena said when asked to explain the reasons for her mother's longevity.

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