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SWITZERLAND, August 29, 2018 (News Wires) - World champions Caster Semenya and Luvo Manyonga will lead the charge this week, with a large South African contingent taking on the global elite at the IAAF Diamond League finals on Thursday and Friday.

At the first Meeting of the two-leg series final to be held in Zurich, Switzerland on Thursday night, eight SA athletes will be in action.Semenya has opted to focus on the 800m Women contest, after qualifying for the 800m and 1 500m finals, and she will target her third straight Diamond League season title over the two-lap distance.

Having earned the Commonwealth Games and African Championships titles this year, she will be confident of retaining her Diamond League crown before she closes out her season at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic next month.

Manyonga, meanwhile, will be eager to prove he is still the best in the Long Jump on the international circuit.

Even though his Cuban rival Juan Miguel Echevarria is not in the start lists, Manyonga will line up against compatriot Ruswahl Samaai, who edged him out to retain the African title in Asaba, Nigeria earlier this month, and promising an exciting battle on the cards.

On Thursday, national record holder Carina Horn goes into the 100m Women race, SA champion Luxolo Adams lines up in the 200m Men, Pieter Conradie is in the 400m Men sprint, and experienced athletes Cornel Fredericks and Wenda Nel enter the blocks in the men's and women's 400m Hurdles events, respectively.

Sprinter Akani Simbine will be the only SA athlete chasing a Diamond League title at the second leg of the finals in Brussels, Belgium on Friday evening. Simbine, who has produced consistent performances throughout the 2018 campaign, will contest 100m Men.

Though Nel is also in the start list for the Brussels meeting, the 400m Women Hurdles race is not a Diamond League discipline and she will compete in the pre-programme.

BRUSSELS, August 16, 2018 (AP) — Brussels is highlighting its sun-splashed summer with a Mexican-themed carpet of over half a million flowers on its historic Grand-Place.

The UNESCO World Heritage site on Thursday opened up the cobblestones of its market square for a giant display of flowers depicting scenes and symbols from Guanajuato, a Mexican region with an exceptionally rich culture and flower tradition.

The city lays down such a flower carpet every two years but the extreme heat of this summer posed special challenges.

Brussels Culture alderwoman Karine Lalieux says that beyond the traditional use of Belgian begonias, dahlias also were used “as this year was very, very hot.”

The carpet, measuring 75 by 24 meters (246 by 79 feet), will be on view until Sunday.

LONDON, July 9, 2018 (News Wires) - British Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said on Monday her cabinet had agreed its Brexit negotiating stance and would press ahead with talks with the European Union, calling on Brussels to "get serious".

"The PM said in her letter to the secretary of state that she didn't agree with his characterisation of the position, an agreement was reached by the cabinet on Friday and now we are moving forward to negotiate that plan," the spokesman told reporters.

"As the prime minister said ... We have set out our position and it is now the EU's turn to move and that she wants the EU to get serious in these negotiation."

The remarks show little willingness to deviate from the government's negotiating position despite the resignation of Brexit minister David Davis late on Sunday night in protest at the plan.

BRUSSELS, June 7, 2018 (News Wires) — NATO defence ministers are gathering in a fresh show of resolve against Russia while hoping to prevent a series of festering trans-Atlantic disputes from undermining unity across the 29-nation military alliance.

At a meeting in Brussels Thursday, the ministers are set to unveil a new plan to reinforce their presence in Europe in the event of any crisis

with the deployment of 30 troop battalions, 30 squadrons of aircraft and 30 warships within 30 days.

Details of the plan, to be in place by 2020, are sketchy. The ministers are also likely to announce a strengthening of maritime operations, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea, where Russian ships have been shadowing allied vessels.

Staffing levels for two new commands covering the Atlantic Ocean and mainland Europe are also to be revealed.

BRUSSELS, March 29 (Reuters) - After most European Union states expelled Russian diplomats over the Salisbury spy poisoning, sources in Brussels expect the bloc to hold the line on Russia sanctions for now.

EU foreign ministers will discuss the bloc's troubled ties with Moscow on April 16, a broad debate planned long before a former Russian spy was found slumped on a public bench together with his daughter in the English town of Salisbury on March 4.

But, diplomats and officials said, any appetite that might have been there at the turn of the year to soften the bloc's line and seek more "selective engagement" with Moscow has dissipated after the toxin attack, which Britain, followed by the rest of the EU, blames on Moscow.

"Just several weeks ago, the Austrians were ready to join the traditional Russia doves in asking for more engagement with Russia. Now, that would not be possible," said a senior diplomat from a country traditionally hawkish on Moscow.

The West responded to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia by expelling more than 100 Russians as undercover spies, including 60 sent home from the United States.

Nineteen of the EU's 28 states have told Russian diplomats to leave, and three others recalled their own ambassadors. Only Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Portugal, Slovenia and Austria have not joined the coordinated action.