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SOCHI, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - Sweden scout Roger Sandberg is not expecting Germany to make many changes for their World Cup game on Saturday, despite the world champions' flat performance in a 1-0 defeat by Mexico in their opening match.

The Germans are in danger of failing to make it past the group stage for the first time in 80 years if they fail to beat Sweden in Sochi on Saturday.

"(Coach) Jogi (Joachim) Loew in particular has shown that he has great confidence in the players he chooses, and even if they've had setbacks he has continued to show confidence in them," Sandberg said on Thursday.

"There is a risk that one could under-estimate them after some poor games, but it would be very regrettable to fall into that trap," he added.

"They are a skilful football team, even in the recent past. I saw a game against Spain in March where they were fantastic for large parts of the game," Sandberg said.

"They're a great team that one should have great respect for, but maybe you don't need to be afraid of your life of them."

The 46-year-old former Swedish league defender was given the unenviable task of studying Germany with a view to finding their vulnerabilities.

"Every team has weaknesses, regardless of whether we are talking about the world champions or the Allsvenskan ... (but) the weaknesses in Germany are maybe not so obvious," he said.

The Swedes, 1-0 winners over Peru in their first Group F game, have not beaten the Germans in a competitive game in 60 years, but they could send the Germans home after the first round for the first time since 1938.

With that scenario on the horizon, many German players have come in for criticism with calls for under-performing players to be dropped form the team.

"(Mesut) Ozil is one of the players that has had the most criticism, and that has happened over a long time in both the club and the national team," Sandberg said.

"If he was dropped it wouldn't be a huge shock, they have many good alternatives in that position, but it's not what I expect," he added.

Sandberg expects Germany to play the same way they always do.

"If you take Ozil or (Marco) Reus, if won't affect how they play - as individuals they have different strengths and weaknesses and we'll prepare the players for that," he said.

BERLIN, June 20, 2018 (News Wires) - A Tunisian man arrested in Germany in possession of the deadly poison ricin and bomb-making material was planning a biological attack, the national police chief said Wednesday.

"Very concrete preparations had been made for an act with a ... biological bomb, which is a first for Germany," Holger Muench, head of the Federal Criminal Police Office, told public broadcaster ARD.

German police commandos on June 12 stormed the Cologne apartment of the 29-year-old Tunisian migrant identified only as Sief Allah H. and discovered "toxic substances" that turned out to be ricin.

Produced by processing castor beans, ricin is 6,000 times more lethal than cyanide and has no known antidote.

German news weekly Der Spiegel has reported the man was thought to have been following instructions disseminated by the Islamic State group on how to build a bomb containing ricin.

Prosecutors have charged that he was "strongly suspected of intentionally manufacturing biological weapons", but it remained unclear whether he was actively plotting an attack.

Muench said "we became aware of this person a few months ago, and then evidence emerged pointing to links to the so-called Islamic State".

The case was an example of "good cooperation between security authorities, nationally and internationally", he said.

Bild daily has reported Germany received a tip-off from the CIA based on the suspect's online purchases.

During the raid, said Muench, "we found a large number of castor seeds from which to make it (ricin), as well as the utensils you need to make an explosive device".

"Which concrete target he had in mind we don't know yet ... and the question of possible accomplices also remains open," said Muench.

Prosecutors say Sief Allah H. started buying the equipment and ingredients to make ricin in mid-May -- including an online purchase of "a thousand castor seeds and an electric coffee grinder".

He succeeded in manufacturing the toxin earlier this month.

The case comes less than a month after French authorities said they had foiled a terror attack possibly involving the use of ricin. Two brothers of Egyptian origin were arrested.

Germany remains on high alert after several deadly attacks claimed by the IS group, including a 2016 truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market by Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri that claimed 12 lives.

BERLIN, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - The leaders of Germany and France agreed Tuesday to create a Eurozone budget they hope will boost investment and provide a safety mechanism for the 19 nations using the euro currency, and also to seek a European solution to migration issues.

The announcement from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron came after a meeting in Berlin to coordinate the two major powers' positions on the future of the European Union ahead of next week's EU summit.

Though Merkel had been lukewarm on Macron's idea of a European budget, in a declaration adopted by both leaders following the meeting they said they had agreed upon a proposal to establish one aimed at "competitiveness and convergence."

"It could finance new investments and come in substitution of national spending," they said.

Merkel said the two also agreed to enhance the effectiveness of the European Stability Mechanism, or ESM, which was established in 2012 to provide eurozone nations access to financial assistance in the event of crisis.

"We are opening a new chapter," she said.

Macron said details were intentionally being kept general on the budget idea at the moment, so that other member nations would be able to have their voices heard. He said the idea is for the budget to be in place by 2021 as a "backstop to ensure financial stability."

On migration, Merkel's insistence on finding common European solutions to reducing migrant numbers and other issues has met stiff resistance in her own conservative bloc, leading to a showdown over the last week with her interior minister who has insisted some categories of migrants should be turned away at Germany's borders.

On Monday, a potential crisis was averted after Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and his Bavaria-only Christian Social Union agreed to give Merkel two weeks to make deals with other European countries on migrants - specifically after the upcoming EU summit.

In their joint declaration, the leaders cautioned that "if member states started to act unilaterally, this would end up in an overall increase of migration into Europe."

Merkel told reporters she was still convinced that Europe needed to work together to combat the causes of the refugee flow by helping improve conditions in the countries of origin while at the same time increasing security at Europe's outer borders and cracking down on smugglers.

"Our goal remains a European answer to these challenges," she said.

Macron agreed to the need for "a European response to the challenge of migration," saying Europe must have "more capacity" to monitor its external borders but also more "solidarity mechanisms both outside and inside our borders" faced with migrant arrivals.

Both leaders said they wanted to increase personnel at Frontex, Europe's border security agency.

"We want more sovereignty and unity," Macron said. "We're at a moment of truth in Europe."

CAIRO, June 19, 2018 (MENA) - Head of the Evangelical Church in Egypt Andrea Zaki met during his recent visit to Germany with leaders of the Evangelical Church and Arab churches in Europe, said a statement issued by the church on Tuesday.

The statement added that Zaki will visit during his current Western tour the US cities of St. Louis, Chicago and Washington to give lectures and will also meet US officials and Congressmen as well as leaders of Arab and US churches in the United States.

PRAGUE, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - A demand by Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Bavarian allies for border checks within the EU to curb migrant arrivals into Germany is unacceptable to the neighbouring Czech Republic, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Tuesday.

Babis said the 28-country European Union still has a lot to do on migration, but it should not forget its core principles, including the freedom of movement. The Czech Republic is a member of the EU's Schengen open-border area.

"Recent disputes over migration in Germany leads to proposals of closing borders and renewal of border controls which is unacceptable for us," Babis said at a conference on the EU in Prague.

 

BRUSSELS, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - The European Union will agree next week to look into creating disembarkation platforms in north Africa and elsewhere to decide asylum requests before claimants get to Europe, a draft statement ahead of an EU summit showed.

European capitals from Rome to Budapest have called for such centres as the bloc has struggled since 2015 to deal with higher immigration, but concerns that processing people outside EU borders could violate the law have so far prevented such moves.

Now, however, Italy's new anti-establishment government has demanded that Europe does more to help it handle refugees and migrants arriving from across the Mediterranean.

"Such platforms should provide for rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, and reduce the incentive to embark on perilous journeys," the draft statement of EU leaders said.

The document, whose wording might still change, is not public but was seen by Reuters before the June 28-29 EU summit, where all 28 EU leaders will lock horns again over migration, an issue that has bitterly divided them.

Though arrival numbers have long been decreasing and are now low, migration has shot back to the top of Europe's political agenda also because German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partner issued an ultimatum for an EU-wide deal on migration.

Otherwise, Berlin would introduce right after the summit a unilateral ban on refugees already registered in other EU states, said the junior governing Christian Social Union, which holds the interior ministry.

The EU border agency Frontex said more than 90 percent of those arriving in Italy, Greece and Spain register for asylum there. But they still often go north, including to Germany.

That phenomenon, known as "secondary movements", is against EU law but has been widespread since 2015, the peak of Europe's migration crisis.

"Secondary movements of asylum seekers between Member States put the integrity of the Asylum System severely at risk. Member States should take all necessary internal legislative and administrative measures to counter such movements and to closely cooperate amongst each other to this end," the text said in an indirect response to German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

The text is aimed at helping Rome and Berlin agree on migration at the summit.

As the bloc struggled to find a compromise on reforming its internal asylum rules - which broke down under 2015 arrivals - it has instead looked to tighten its borders and prevent people reaching its shores in the first place.

The EU has given aid and money to countries from Turkey and Jordan to Libya and Niger.

 

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