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SOCHI, Russia, June 22, 2018 (News Wires) - Sweden could be missing a few players for Saturday's group match against defending champion Germany because of illness and injury.

Three players, including starting central defender Pontus Jansson, remained in Gelendzhik on Friday after becoming ill with a stomach bug while the rest of the team flew to Sochi. In a statement posted on the Swedish Football Association website, team doctor Anders Valentin said defenders Jansson and Filip Helander, and midfielder Marcus Rohden all became ill on Thursday night. Unsure if the illness was contagious, the decision was made to keep the three players behind at Sweden's training base.

Sweden coach Janne Andersson said the hope is the three will be feeling well enough to travel to Sochi on Saturday and join the squad ahead of the match against Germany. Jansson was thrust into a starting role for the opening match against South Korea after Victor Lindelof became ill.

"We have no one else showing signs of illness," Andersson said. "We hope it will continue on the path we are seeing right now."

Illness isn't the only issue Sweden is dealing with. Forward Isaac Kiese Thelin hurt his ankle in practice and did not train on Friday when the Swedes worked out at Fisht Stadium. Kiese Thelin came on as a substitute in the 77th minute of the opener against South Korea.

The health of Jansson is the biggest question for the Swedes considering the uncertainty of who will play alongside Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist. Jansson ended up starting against South Korea because Lindelof was unable to play. If Lindelof is healthy enough to play against Germany that will ease some of Sweden's concerns as the Manchester United defender has been the top choice for Andersson. But depth could then become an issue if Jansson isn't healthy.

"You can't be annoyed with poor people who have stomach pains. That's just not OK," Andersson said. "It just happens occasionally. ... We're doing the best we can with this current scenario."

Sweden would certainly prefer to have a first-choice roster facing the defending champions, especially with the situation facing the Germans after losing to Mexico in the opener and needing at the very least a draw to keep alive its hopes of advancing to the knockout round.

Granqvist said the proof of Sweden's ability to play with top competition came in just getting to the World Cup by outlasting the Netherlands in the group stage and defeating Italy in the European playoffs.

"We've played together for a two-year period," Granqvist said. "We've seen excellent results against teams ranked above us."

 

BEIRUT, June 22, 2018 (MENA) - Lebanese House of Representative Speaker Nabih Berri said that talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel tackled a number of issues of mutual interest.

This came as Berri received Merkel in Ain al Tinah on Friday. "Besides relations binding Lebanon and Germany, the European country has a large and key Lebanese community," the speaker noted.

During the meeting, Merkel stressed boosting Germany's contribution to conference in support of Lebanon development and reforms, sources at Ain al Tinah said.

Hariri said his talks with Merkel tackled the support provided by Germany to carry out several development projects in Lebanon in a way that helps improve living conditions, provide job opportunities and implement the country's national framework in education and technical training.

This framework was introduced by Beirut in cooperation with the International Labor Organization and the UNICEF.

Hariri said the Lebanese government’s stance on the Syrian refugees is firm and clear, calling for their safe return to homeland.

On that score, the Lebanese prime minister-designate said it is Lebanon’s duty to receive the Syrian refugees and provide the best living conditions for them.

Lebanon seeks to gain money from the international community not only in light of this issue, but to boost the country’s economy as well, he stressed.

Separately, Hariri said the political powers in Lebanon agree on the necessity of maintaining internal stability amid the current state of instability that prevails in the Arab region.

 

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.

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