Spain refuses ransom to Al Qaeda

Spain refuses ransom to Al QaedaMadrid, Jan 8 - Spain has said it won't pay any ransom for three of its aid workers kidnapped in Mauritania by the Al Qaeda group in Islamic Maghreb.

"The Spanish government does not pay ransom," said Prime Minister Jose Luis Rdriguez Zapatero Thursday.

"That position is clear and firm," Moratinos said at a summit here, stressing that Madrid was determined to resolve the situation in a manner consistent with its international commitments towards the fight against terrorism.

Cocaine found in banana boxes in Spanish supermarkets

Cocaine found in banana boxes in Spanish supermarketsMadrid, Jan 5 - Police are trying to trace the origin of some 100 kg of cocaine hidden in boxes of bananas that were about to go on sale at several supermarkets in Madrid and two other cities in Spain.

The investigation started when an employee at one of the supermarkets emptied out a box of bananas and found a "block" of cocaine inside, police spokesmen told EFE over the weekend.

Spain's New Year fete features EU theme

Spain's New Year fete features EU themeMadrid, Jan 2 - At midnight Spain greeted its half-year rotating presidency of the European Union (EU), lighting up a dozen public buildings with the blue of the EU flag.

After the bells rang 12 times to bring in the New Year, Madrid witnessed the illumination of the Puerta de Alcala monumental arch, the Royal Palace, the Royal Theater and the Picasso Tower.

Also illuminated were the Roman aqueduct in Segovia, the Arch of Trajan in Merida, the Tower of Hercules in A Coruna, Bellver Castle in Palma de Mallorca and the Quart Towers in Valencia, among others.

Barcelona aiming to take winning streak into 2010

Barcelona aiming to take winning streak into 2010  Madrid, Dec 31 : Barcelona are hoping to start 2010 in the same way that they finished 2009, by playing well and winning.

Josep Guardiola's talented team crowned their "annus mirabilis" by winning the World Club Cup in Abu Dhabi, their sixth trophy of the year.

Now they aim to star 2010 by beating dangerous Villarreal at home on Saturday.

The match will be preceded by a parade of the six trophies. Guardiola, however, is trying to make his players leave these triumphs behind them - and think about the future.

Ronaldo determined to become the best player in history

Ronaldo determined to become the best player in historyMadrid, Dec 30 : Cristiano Ronaldo told sports daily Marca Wednesday that he is determined to become "the best player in history".

The Real Madrid megastar also made it clear that he aimed to regain the European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player awards in 2010.    

Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA award in 2008 but came second in the voting this year for both accolades behind Barcelona's Lionel Messi.    

Now he is determined to win back both awards.    

Spain's smoking ban set to extend to bars, restaurants

Spain's smoking ban set to extend to bars, restaurantsMadrid, Dec 30 :The Spanish government is planning to extend its smoking ban at workplaces to bars, cafes, restaurants and other enclosed public spaces by amending the anti- tobacco law next year, officials said.

Health and social rights groups have welcomed the government's proposal.

About 30 percent of the population in Spain admitted to smoking either daily or occasionally during a recent health survey in the country.

Zaragoza's negotiations with Victor break down, Gay to continue

footballMadrid, Dec 24 : Spanish football club Zaragoza announced Thursday that negotiations with Victor Munoz had broken down - and that Jose Gay would be their coach until the end of the season.

It seemed Wednesday that Victor was all set to return to Zaragoza for a second spell as coach. However, negotiations then broke down because of disagreement about the length of the contract.

According to sports dailies AS and Marca Thursday, Victor wanted the contract to run until 2011, whilst Zaragoza were only prepared to offer him a second season if results drastically improved this season.

Lillo appointed by struggling Almeria

Lillo appointed by struggling Almeria Madrid, Dec 24 : Spanish football club Almeria announced on Thursday that Juan Manuel Lillo will be their new coach.

Lillo, 44, takes over from Mexican Hugo Sanchez, who was sacked a week ago with the team fourth from bottom of La Liga.

Lillo started out as a coach in the Spanish lower divisions aged just 20 and has been in charge at Salamanca, Oviedo, Tenerife and Zaragoza, as well as Dorados Sinaloa in Mexico.

Spanish airline shutdown leaves Christmas travellers stranded

Spanish airline shutdown leaves Christmas travellers strandedMadrid, Dec 23 - Thousands of travellers, many of them Latin American immigrants trying to head home for Christmas, remained stranded here after Spanish airline Air Comet shutdown its operations.

The low-cost carrier, which flies between Spain and several Latin American countries, announced Monday it was shutting down after a British judge ordered its fleet of leased aircraft impounded amid a pile of unpaid bills.

Wonderful year for Messi crowned with another award

Lionel MessiMadrid, Dec 22 : It has been a wonderful year for Barcelona's Lionel Messi, who Monday was crowned with the FIFA World Player of the Year award, based on the votes of the managers and captains of the world's national teams.

Messi, 22, came second in the voting in 2007 and 2009 but this time managed to finish ahead of Real Madrid stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, as well as Spaniards Xavi and Andres Iniesta, the previous winners.

Few people would dispute his position as Planet Football's leading play right now.

Rarely in the history of football has one player achieved so much in one calendar year.

Tourist arrivals to Spain down 8.9 percent

Tourist arrivals to Spain down 8.9 percentMadrid, Dec 22 - A total of 49.5 million foreign visitors arrived in Spain between January and November, placing the drop in tourist arrivals at 8.9 percent for that period, according to government data.

Through October, the decline in international tourist arrivals had been 9.3 percent, while in the high season - July, August and September - the accumulated fall-off was around 10 percent, according to survey results published by the Industry, Tourism and Commerce Ministry Monday.

What next for Barca?

Spanish leagueOn Saturday Barcelona made history by becoming the first ever team to win six trophies in a calendar year.

Their dramatic 2-1 defeat of Argentine side Estudiantes in Saturday's World Club Cup final means that Josep Guardiola’s talented team have won six trophies in 2009: the Spanish King's Cup, the Spanish league, the Champions League, the Spanish Supercup, the European Supercup — and now, for the first time in the club's history, the world crown as well.

Valencia battle out draw in la Coruna and stay fourth

Valencia battle out draw in la Coruna and stay fourthMadrid, Dec 21 : Valencia managed to battle out a 0-0 draw away to luckless Deportivo Coruna, a result which keeps "Los Ches" in fourth place in La Liga.

Deportivo would have snatched fourth place of Valencia with a win, but they were foiled by a solid visiting defence - and by the crossbar late Sunday.

Deportivo veteran Juan Carlos Valeron headed against the Valencia crossbar, then Sergio Adrian went close for the hosts.

Coach Hugo Sanchez sacked by troubled Almeria

Hugo SanchezMadrid, Dec 21 : Troubled Spanish Liga club Almeria has announced the sacking of Mexican coach Hugo Sanchez.

The final nail in Sanchez's coffin was Sunday's 2-0 defeat away to Espanyol.

Almeria have picked up just four points in their last eight matches and are fourth from the bottom.

Sanchez, 51, took over at Almeria in July 2008 after Unai Emery - the coach who had guided them to promotion and then to eighth place in La Liga - had left for Valencia.

Costa to remain in charge of Spanish Davis Cup squad

Costa to remain in charge of Spanish Davis Cup squad Barcelona, Dec 18 : There will be no change at the top of the spectacularly successful Spanish Davis Cup team after captain Albert Costa confirmed he will remain in the job.

The 2002 French Open champion will now try and follow up a breakthrough first year in which he led the Rafael Nadal-Fernando Verdasco side to a fourth trophy of the decade in the international team competition.

All details were worked out satisfactorily as the Spanish federation extended his contract less than a fortnight after the sweeping finals victory over the Czech Republic.

Spain to send 500 more troops to Afghanistan

Spain to send 500 more troops to AfghanistanMadrid, Dec 18 - Spain will send 511 more troops to join its contingent in Afghanistan, bringing the total to more than 1,500 soldiers, defence minister Carme Chacon announced Thursday.

The new troops will help train Afghan soldiers and provide security in Badghis province, the minister told parliament.

Spain was responding to the appeal of US President Barack Obama and of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Messi doubtful for Catalan derby after Kiev injury

Messi doubtful for Catalan derby after Kiev injury  Madrid, Dec 10 : European Footballer of the Year Lionel Messi is doubtful for Saturday's Catalan derby between Barcelona and Espanyol.

The Argentine winger suffered a bad foul at the end of Wednesday's 2-1 win - in which he scored the winning goal - away to Dynamo Kiev and has a sprained right ankle. He will undergo teststo determine the extent of the injury.

Barca have no other injury worries ahead of the derby, now that defender Gabi Milito is finally fit after 18 months out of action.

Real Madrid to be without injured Kaka until January

KakaMadrid, Dec 7 : Real Madrid will be without Kaka until January, according to sports daily AS Monday.

The Brazilian playmaker suffered an acute groin strain in Real's 1-0 defeat away to Barcelona on November 29 and has not played since.

AS claims that the injury is more serious than it appeared at first sight and that Kaka will need another month to recover from it.

Kaka, 27, has not found his best form since joining Real from AC Milan in July and has scored just one goal in La Liga.

Valencia third after dramatic late win in Bilbao

Valencia third after dramatic late win in BilbaoMadrid, Dec 7 : Valencia moved up to third in the Spanish Liga late Sunday with a dramatic 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao.

A colourless first half in old San Mames was followed by an incident-packed second half.

Teenage idol Iker Munian gave Bilbao the lead in the 58th minute by netting the rebound after a shot from Javi Martinez was blocked. Just three minutes later, league top scorer David Villa levelled for Valencia by turning in a centre from Pablo.

The hosts then had left-back Kiokili sent off, and Valencia moved up for the kill.

Deportivo next target for rampant Barcelona

Deportivo next target for rampant Barcelona Madrid, Dec 3 : The next team in the gunsights of rampant Barcelona is Deportivo La Coruna in the Spanish Primera Liga.

Barca will go to Riazor Saturday in their best form of the season. They defeated Inter Milan 2-0 to all but guarantee their place in the knockout stage of the Champions League, followed it up with a 1-0 over big rivals Real Madrid in the latest league "Clasico" and moved five points clear atop La Liga with a 2-0 win at bottom team Xerez.

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