YANGON – While no Asian country is likely to match South Korea’s run to the semi-finals on home soil in 2002, Japan and South Korea have a good chance at repeating their 2010 achievements by qualifying for the knockout rounds in the 2014 World Cup. For Iran and Australia, Asia’s other contenders, escaping the initial pool stages looks less likely, with the Australians drawn in an inescapable-looking cliff-face group.
JERUSALEM – Israel’s Government last week agreed to relax its 4-year long blockade on the Gaza Strip, but the fallout from the recent flotilla incident lingers. With Israeli-US relations somewhat-frayed of late, US President Barack Obama called the move “ a step in the right direction.” Israel has come under intense international criticism for the deaths of nine Turks onboard the Mavi Marmara, one of six boats that tried to breach the naval blockade on May 31 last. Former Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble is one of two foreign observers to a committee set up to look into the clash — but the body has been described as a diversion by critics such as Turkey, who want an international investigation.