Liberia’s Sirleaf poised for re-election

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is poised to win a second term in a run-off marked by low turnout after a deadly shooting that her rival says was an assassination bid against him.

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Amnesty International called for an investigation into the shooting in which the opposition says up to eight of its supporters were killed on Monday, casting the shadow of Liberia’s bloody past over the west African country’s second post-war polls.

Sirleaf’s challenger Winston Tubman, who cried foul after trailing the Nobel Peace laureate in last month’s first round, has accused his rival of using her security forces to try to assassinate him during the opposition rally.

US President Barack Obama dismissed Tubman’s fraud concerns as baseless and scolded him over his boycott call.

Whether heeding Tubman’s call or fearful of a repeat of Monday’s deadly incident, voters turned out in small numbers for an election that looked certain to return the 73-year-old Sirleaf to office.

No lines remained as polls closed on Tuesday night. The electoral commission said no incidents were reported during the day and counting began immediately.

“I have come to vote, but I am not happy for what happened yesterday,” said Rita Queegbay, 39, at a polling station in a Monrovia suburb earlier in the day.

“After all we are all Liberian and no-one should be happy seeing other Liberians being killed.”

UN peacekeepers kept a strong presence around the city during the vote, and a UN helicopter circled overhead.

Tubman said he had unconfirmed reports that at least eight of his supporters were shot dead after clashes broke out with riot police on Monday who sought to prevent his rally from turning into a march.

AFP journalists saw two bodies with gunshot wounds to the head.

Tubman said police had warned him not to embark on the unauthorised march, but before protesters could return to the party compound, they were sprayed with tear gas, which continued even as the crowd moved back.

Police have said the Congress for Democratic Change supporters were armed and had fired the first shot, which Tubman denies.

“I was getting out of the car, a young man pushed me back and … a bullet that we believe was aimed at me by a sniper hit him instead of me, and he died,” Tubman told international journalists in an interview at his home.

“I am of the belief that they (police) were acting under orders, and those orders indicated they were ordered to eliminate me.”

Tubman, a Harvard-trained former diplomat whose running mate is 2005 runner-up and former football star George Weah, was confident of victory before the October 11 first round.

However he finished more than 10 percentage points behind Sirleaf, and claimed the ballot was riddled with irregularities, despite the vote being given a clean bill of health from hundreds of local and foreign poll monitors.

Tubman’s boycott earned him little sympathy abroad, and in a statement issued after the election-eve violence, Obama said important gains by Liberia “must not be set back by individuals who seek to disrupt the political process”.

Sirleaf’s fellow Liberian Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee turned out to vote, saying the election was a “defining moment” for her country’s fragile democracy.

“Liberians lived in fear for so many years and today people … have defied fear and intimidation and stepped out to vote,” she said.

Aussie market soars on Italy news

Australian shares gained more than one per cent as markets focused on Italy and stronger commodity prices prompted local investors to buy mining stocks.

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At 1615 AEDT, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 52.3 points, or 1.22 per cent, at 4,346.1, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 49.4 points, or 1.14 per cent, at 4,406.2.

The December share price index futures contract was 60 points higher at 4,340, with 30,477 contracts traded.

The materials sector led local gains after Wall Street and stronger metals prices provided a boost to the market. Wall Street rose after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he would resign once a new budget was passed. Italy has become a key focus for investors this week, with Berlusconi seen as an obstacle to sweeping economic reforms needed to help Italy cut its debt load and avoid sinking into a debt crisis.

IG Markets analyst Stan Shamu said the Australian market had opened strongly, due to the positive lead from Wall Street overnight.

“Reports suggest Silvio Berlusconi is on his way out and markets seem to have taken kindly to that news,” Mr Shamu said.

The general theme of risk taking had continued, with the materials sector rising 1.7 per cent.

BHP Billiton shares were up up 58 cents, or 1.5 per cent, at $38.33, Rio Tinto had added 98 cents to $70.75. Fortescue Metals was eight cents higher, or 1.6 per cent, at $5.10. An Aboriginal corporation has been denied the opportunity to speak at Fortescue Metals Group’s annual general meeting.

Myer shares were among the best performers as the consumer discretionary sector posted solid gains.

Myer shares were up 15 cents, or 6.4 per cent, at $2.48 after it reiterated its guidance for flat sales for the full financial year.

Other retailers were also higher, with David Jones up 15 cents at $3.29 and Harvey Norman was seven cents higher at $2.19. In other news, resources and media company Seven Group Holdings expects its first half profit to be higher than for the same period last year.

Its shares were up 20 cents, or 2.64 per cent, at $7.78.

National turnover at 1650 AEDT was 1.84 billion securities worth $4.62 billion, with 657 stocks up, 397 down and 359 steady. AAP krc/shd 09-11-11 1651

Saudi arraigned over blast on US ship

The main suspect in the USS Cole bombing has been formally arraigned at Guantanamo in the first such case since US President Barack Obama reversed course and ordered controversial military trials to resume.

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Saudi-born Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 46, who was appearing in court for the first time since his 2002 arrest, faces the death penalty if convicted of planning and preparing the October 2000 attack on the US Navy destroyer in Yemen’s port of Aden.

Militants riding an explosives-laden skiff blew a 10 metre by 10 metre hole in the USS Cole, killing 17 sailors and wounding 40 more.

Nashiri, who has not been seen publicly since his 2002 capture in the Gulf and subsequent incarceration at secret CIA prisons, appeared wearing prison clothes with short hair and a stubble.

But he was neither handcuffed nor in ankle chains, and he appeared relaxed, smiling on several occasions in answering questions put to him by the judge, Colonel James Pohl.

Speaking in Arabic with the aid of an interpreter, Nashiri said he had chosen to wear the prison dress, that his lawyers were “doing the right job”, and that he would attend all the sessions.

The Pentagon believes Nashiri bought the small boat and explosives used in the Cole attack.

He is also accused of involvement in an attempted attack against another American warship in Aden, the USS The Sullivans, in January 2000.

US military prosecutors also accuse Nashiri of planning an attack on French civilian oil tanker MV Limburg in the Gulf of Aden in 2002 that left one Bulgarian crew member dead and caused an oil spill of 90,000 barrels.

His trial will begin no earlier than November 2012, but it could be delayed beyond that if the defence requests it, said Pohl. Nashiri’s lawyers refused to say how he would plead.

Nashiri, who is believed to have met several times with late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is accused of murder, acts of terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and attacks against civilians.

He is being held along with five men accused of orchestrating the September 11, 2001 attacks, and could be the first terror suspect sentenced to death by a military court.

A congressional investigation found that Nashiri was water-boarded while in custody, and that handlers loaded a gun and turned on a power drill near his head.

Obama has denounced waterboarding – a type of simulated or near-drowning – as torture, and Nashiri’s defence team said on Tuesday the United States had lost “all moral authority” to try their client.

“By torturing Mr Nashiri, the United States has lost all moral authority to try Mr Nashiri,” his civilian lawyer Richard Kammen told reporters.

“This is a big part of the case – what happened and how he was treated is important to a death penalty case, should we get to a death penalty case.”

Mark Martins, the military commission’s chief prosecutor for the case, said on Tuesday that “no statement obtained as a result of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” would be admitted into evidence.

During the four-hour hearing, the judge ruled in favour of a defence motion protesting the monitoring of mail between Nashiri and his lawyers.

“The defence is asking to protect the detainee-attorney privilege… to protect confidentiality especially in a death penalty case,” said another defence lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Stephen Reyes.

A military prosecutor, Lieutenant Commander Andrea Lockhart, admitted that Nashiri’s mail had been “scanned” to protect national security. A prison official, testifying as a witness, said Nashiri’s legal mail bin had been seized on orders of the prison’s commander.

In another first, Wednesday’s arraignment was being broadcast to locations in the United States to allow relatives of Cole victims and representatives from rights organisations to watch the proceedings. Journalists could also watch a feed set up at the US Army’s Fort Meade in Maryland.

The broadcasts were subject to a 40-second delay imposed by military censors, who have a kill switch at their disposal to stop the feed, if necessary, in order to protect classified information.

Three trials have taken place at Guantanamo since Obama took office in January 2009, but those proceedings began under Bush.

In one of his first moves as president, Obama froze proceedings at the Guantanamo military tribunal as part of his ill-fated promise to close the US naval base in southeastern Cuba within a year of entering the White House.

Anzac archive photos discovered

The more than 500 portraits will be linked to online records already available through the National Archives of Australia.

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The crisp black and white images show young men in uniform, hair done and beards shaven, ready for battle.

Veterans Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon told his own story of using the archives to discover information about relatives who volunteered for war.

“I had grand uncles at Gallipoli … I wasn’t aware of it until this year,” he told reporters at the archives in Canberra on Friday.

The archives were important for anyone who wanted to make a connection with a family member who died in battle and was buried in a foreign land.

“I think it’s very emotional,” Mr Snowdon said.

The photos were discovered by archives staff member Courtney Page-Allen at London’s Imperial War Museum and form part of a collection of 16,000 WWI images.

One of the records pieced together tells the story of Lieutenant William Allen.

He joined the army in August 1914 and fought with 4th Light Horse Regiment at Gallipoli before being killed in action in February 1917 at Holly Ridge in France.

Included in the collection is a letter from Allen’s mother written to the Army Records Office in the wake of her son’s death.

“I was his widowed mother and he was my only child,” Mrs Allen writes.

“My late husband his father died when he was an infant, three weeks old.”

It is just one tragic story from a war filled with them.

Some of the portraits and accompanying stories are available at 南宁桑拿,dva.gov广西桑拿网, and further information can be found at 南宁桑拿,mappingouranzacs.naa.gov广西桑拿网,

Europe hails Aussie carbon tax

Australia’s adoption of a carbon tax has been applauded by European nations, with the move generating international interest comparable to that of apologising to the stolen generation, says the ambassador to the European Union.

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Brendan Nelson said he has received “universally positive” feedback about the new legislation from his Brussels-based peers.

“The European Union has been universally positive about the decision made in Australia to introduce a price to carbon,” he told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.

“Over the last three years a series of things have drawn Europe’s attention to Australia. The ratification of the Kyoto Protocol got their attention late in 2007, then the parliamentary apology to the forcibly removed generations (of) indigenous Australians is something that they still speak to me about very positively.”

The former federal Liberal leader, who began his Belgium diplomatic posting in February last year, said Australia’s relationship with China also continues to impress European nations.

“But the other (impressive) thing is the determination of the Australian government to price carbon,” Dr Nelson said.

“Europe has an emissions trading scheme, it has its obvious and recognised faults and weaknesses, which have been progressively tightened up here, but when a country like Australia chose to move to price carbon it was very much welcomed by the Europeans, including David Cameron.”

Succeeded as Liberal leader in 2008 by Malcolm Turnbull and the incumbent Tony Abbott, the prolonged carbon debate is commonly seen as one of the factors that saw Dr Nelson lose the top job.

Mr Abbott has sworn to repeal the new legislation should his party reclaim government.

Labor’s pollution price regime will begin in mid-2012 with a $23-a-tonne carbon price.

It will then transform to an emissions trading scheme with a floating price in mid-2015.

ASX soars on Greek referendum news

Global markets also rallied overnight on news of a surprise interest cut by the European Central Bank of a quarter of a percentage point, while stronger commodity prices helped boost the domestic bourse.

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The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 109.3 points, or 2.62 per cent, at 4,281.1, while the broader All Ordinaries index gained 105 points, or 2.48 per cent, to 4,342.5.

On the ASX 24 at 1644 AEDT, the December share price index futures contract was 102 points higher at 4,285, with 33,290 contracts traded.

Mr Papandreou, who faces a confidence vote in parliament, said he was prepared to drop the referendum on the debt-laden nation’s bailout plan in order to reach a deal with the opposition leader on a national unity government.

IG Markets institutional dealer Chris Weston said it was positive the Greek debt issue was being addressed but the devil was in the detail. “How are they going to do this?” Mr Weston said.

“Greece has no growth policies out there at all. “It’s all about austerity.

“At what stage do Italy, Portugal and Ireland ask for 50 per cent (debt) write-offs as well?” Mr Weston said investors had heightened expectations of positive US non-farm payroll figures overnight.

“All the leading indicators that we’ve seen for non-farms suggest that we’re going to get a good number tonight,” he said.

Mr Weston said there was only modest selling after the Reserve Bank of Australia lowered its inflation outlook and warned Australia’s economy could be dragged down by Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

“The market was pretty well prepared for that. “It’s one of the reasons they cut (interest) rates on Tuesday.”

The materials and energy sectors led the gains following a return of risk appetite among investors. Among the major miners, Rio Tinto was up $3.52, or 5.3 per cent, at $69.97, BHP Billiton advanced $1.41, or 3.86 per cent, to $37.95 and Fortescue Metals jumped 37 cents, or 7.86 per cent, to $5.08.

Rio Tinto chairman Jan Du Plessis told a business function in Sydney that he couldn’t see European leaders coming up with a sustainable solution to the region’s financial problems.

In the energy space, Santos was up 44 cents, or 3.47 per cent, at $13.12, Woodside was 47 cents, or 1.3 per cent, higher at $36.67 and Oil Search had added five cents to $6.43.

The big four banks were all stronger. Westpac was the best performer, appreciating 57 cents, or 2.65 per cent, to $22.08, ANZ was up 53 cents, or 2.59 per cent, at $21.02, Commonwealth Bank found $1.02 to $49.03 and National Australia Bank improved 52 cents to $25.19.

Making headlines on Friday, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told a parliamentary inquiry that proposed legislative changes would limit the airline’s plans to expand into Asia and, as a result, would cost jobs.

Qantas shares were up four cents, or 2.54 per cent, at $1.615. National turnover was 1.6 billion shares worth $4.5 billion, with 699 stocks up, 313 down and 375 steady.

Uncapped trio in Wallabies squad

Queensland Reds backs Tapuai and Lucas and NSW Waratahs loose forward Dennis join Western Force prop Pek Cowan as the only members of the 26-man touring party to come from outside the squad used at the recent Rugby World Cup.

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Nine World Cup players were unavailable for the tour, which features a clash with the Barbarains at Twickenham on November 26 and a Test against Wales at Millennium Stadium on December 3.

Kurtley Beale (hamstring), Drew Mitchell (hamstring), Pat McCabe (shoulder), Quade Cooper (knee), Wycliff Palu (hamstring), Rocky Elsom (hamstring), Dan Vickerman (shoulder), Sekope Kepu (eye) and Luke Burgess (French rugby) were all unavailable.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said the new trio had the chance to make their mark.

“It’s a great opportunity for the three of them to take the next step in their careers,” he said.

Cowan was a member of the victorious Australian Tri Nations squad, playing the most recent of his four Tests off the bench during the 39-20 win over South Africa in Sydney in July.

“While this is a relatively brief visit by current standards, both fixtures promise to be exceedingly demanding,” Deans said.

“We’ve just seen at the Rugby World Cup how much and how quickly playing resources can be taxed.”

Wallabies squad: Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Pekahou Cowan, Dave Dennis, Anthony Faingaa, Will Genia, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Rob Horne, James Horwill (capt), Digby Ioane, Ben Lucas, Salesi Ma’afu, Ben McCalman, Stephen Moore, James O’Connor, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota Nau, Radike Samo, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Ben Tapuai, Lachie Turner.

NZ preview panel

Trans-Tasman netball league preview panel for the five New Zealand-based teams.

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NORTHERN MYSTICS

Based: Auckland

Coach: Debbie Fuller

Finish last year: Seventh

Main gains: Serena Guthrie (England), Camilla Lees, Paula Griffin

Main losses: Julie Corletto (Swifts), Bailey Mes, Erikana Pedersen

Comment: The Mystics need a strong start this year after losing four of their first five games last season. Shooters Maria Tutaia and Cathrine Latu were strangely sub-par, and the Laura Langman-headed midcourt also looked out of sorts. But with Kayla Cullen back from injury, England international Serena Guthrie a canny off-season recruitment and last year’s defensive find Temalisi Fakahokotau looking good, this could be the season the Mystics finally deliver. The inclusion of former Magic mentor Noeline Taurua as specialist coach adds another dimension to the Mystics mix.

WAIKATO-BAY OF PLENTY MAGIC

Based: Hamilton

Coach: Julie Fitzgerald

Finish last year: Fourth

Main gains: n/a

Main losses: n/a

Comment: The Magic surprised last year with a new-look squad under new coach Julie Fitzgerald, opening the season with a five-game winning streak and continuing their run of being the only team to make every play-off since the league began in 2008. This season they boast a largely unchanged squad, although the absence of Silver Ferns skipper Casey Kopua as she recovers from a ruptured patella tendon means the Magic defensive end – apart from Leana de Bruin – is young and inexperienced. There’s plenty of experience at the other end of the court where England international Jo Harten returns to reprise her developing combination with Silver Ferns shooter Ellen Halpenny.

CENTRAL PULSE

Based: Wellington

Coach: Robyn Broughton

Finish last year: Sixth

Main gains: Ameliaranne Wells (Firebirds), Jodi Brown

Main losses: Donna Wilkins (retired), Katarina Cooper, Camilla Lees, Paula Griffin

Comment: The Pulse promised much last season, but were punished by an inability to win across the Tasman and finished – once again – out of the play-offs. Former NZ veteran Irene van Dyk has been joined by brand new Silver Fern Ameliaranne Wells (ex Firebirds) and the vastly experienced Jodi Brown (Steel) to boost the shooting circle, while the Katrina Grant-headed defence looks as strong as ever. The midcourt links will be key, with Liana Leota and Elias Shadrock shouldering much of the responsibility.

CANTERBURY TACTIX

Based: Christchurch

Coach: Sue Hawkins

Finish last year: 10th

Main gains: Bailey Mes, Demelza Fellowes (Firebirds), Erikana Pedersen, Jane Watson

Main losses: Jade Clarke (Swifts), Sophia Fenwick, Jane Watson

Comment: Tactix scored a coup in signing new coach Sue Hawkins, a former Australian representative with extensive trans-Tasman experience who also coached England from 2008 for three years. Hawkins replaces retiring former NZ coach Leigh Gibbs, and her expertise will be invaluable in developing Silver Ferns shooter Bailey Mes, a key acquisition from Northern Mystics. The Tactix, who have won just seven games from 65 over the past five years, may struggle in the midcourt after losing English international Jade Clarke to the NSW Swifts.

SOUTHERN STEEL

Based: Invercargill/Dunedin

Coach: Janine Southby

Finish last year: Fifth

Main gains: Sophia Fenwick, Jane Watson, Katarina Cooper

Main losses: Erena Mikaere (Fever), Jodi Brown

Comment: The Steel finished last season strongly, winning their last four games on end to leapfrog above the Pulse on goal difference. Coach Janine Southby made a big call in the off-season, axing sister-in-law and Silver Ferns goal attack Jodi Brown and opting instead to boost youngster Te Paea Selby-Rickit as support for towering Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid. Apart from seasoned midcourters Wendy Frew and Katarina Cooper, the Steel have compiled a youthful squad which nonetheless still boasts a solid core of trans-Tasman experience.

Bangkok floods to last a month

Thailand’s energy minister says the flood crisis in Bangkok is likely to drag on for another month, as authorities issued another evacuation advisory in a northern neighbourhood and floodwaters inched towards the city’s heart.

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Energy Minister Pichai Naripthaphan said, however, that floods may finally begin to subside in the capital by mid-November.

Top officials and experts have given varying estimates of how much Bangkok would flood and how long the threat would loom over the city, with some claiming several weeks ago the biggest window of danger to the sprawling metropolis of nine million people had already passed.

Instead, the flood threat has only intensified, straining sandbag-stacking residents as more and more neighbourhoods are swamped each day.

The seemingly unstoppable floodwaters have overwhelmed canals, seeped up through drains and poured down condominium-lined highways. The water has now begun surrounding the city’s northernmost subway stops, threatening to shut them down.

Evacuations have been ordered in 12 of Bangkok’s 50 districts, with residents of the northern district of Klong Sam Wa told to leave on Monday.

The evacuations, which also affect parts of several other districts, are not mandatory, and many people are staying to protect homes and businesses.

On Tuesday, Football Federation Australia said a World Cup qualifier against Thailand scheduled for next week was moved to a smaller stadium in Bangkok because the original venue is being used as a flood evacuation centre.

The FFA said in a statement that the Asian Group D match scheduled for November 15 will be moved from the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok’s suburbs to the Suphachalasai Stadium downtown.

The flooding began in late July and has killed more than 500 people so far, mostly due to drownings.

Some provinces to the north of Bangkok have been inundated for more than a month, and waters have started to recede in recent days as massive pools of run-off flow south.

James Murdoch rejects ‘mafia boss’ claims

James Murdoch has angrily rejected claims that he was like a “mafia boss” and denied misleading British MPs about the extent of his knowledge of phone-hacking at the News of the World.

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In heated exchanges with MPs who were grilling him for a second time about the now-defunct tabloid, the News International chairman instead accused two former executives of keeping him in the dark about the scandal.

Murdoch, 38, was recalled by the parliamentary media committee to explain apparent discrepancies in the evidence he gave during the previous hearing in July alongside his father, media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Opposition Labour MP Tom Watson stunned the hearing on Thursday by accusing News International of being bound by a pact of “omerta”, the Italian mafia’s code of silence.

Murdoch dismissed the comparison as “offensive” but Watson pressed on, saying “Mr Murdoch, you must be the first mafia boss in history who did not know he was running a criminal enterprise.”

The comment prompted gasps in the packed committee room and Murdoch appeared briefly taken aback, before replying: “Mr Watson, please. I think that’s inappropriate.”

The 168-year-old News of the World was shut down in July after it emerged it had hacked into the voicemails of Milly Dowler, a missing British schoolgirl who was later found murdered.

Murdoch fended off repeated questions about accusations by former News of the World editor Colin Myler and legal chief Tom Crone, who said he lied about whether he had seen a “smoking gun” email about the extent of hacking.

He admitted being told of the email at a meeting in 2008 that was aimed at deciding a payout for hacking victim Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers’ Association.

But he repeatedly denied actually being shown the so-called “For Neville” message – which was apparently meant for chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck – or realising it indicated hacking was widespread.

He then tried to shift the blame, saying Myler and Crone had themselves “misled” parliament when they suggested Murdoch knew about the contents of the email, and that they had failed to give him necessary details.

Crone later issued a statement accusing Murdoch of being “disingenuous”.

“The simple truth is that he was told by us in 2008 about the damning email and what it meant in terms of wider News of the World involvement,” he said.

Committee chairman John Whittingdale said after the hearing that there were “direct contradictions” between Murdoch’s evidence and the accounts of Crone and Myler.

Whittingdale also said parliament could impose sanctions if the committee concludes that any of them misled MPs, but did not say what they were.

Murdoch meanwhile repeated his apologies for the scandal.

Damaging new claims in the past week had heaped pressure on the young scion of the Murdoch dynasty, particularly allegations that a private detective hired by the News of the World tracked lawyers of hacking victims.

Murdoch condemned the decision to hire an investigator as “appalling” and said Crone and a second, unnamed, News of the World employee were responsible.

Security was tight for the two-hour-and-37-minute hearing in a building adjoining the Houses of Parliament, after the Murdochs’ previous appearance was disrupted when a man flung a foam pie into Rupert’s face.

James Murdoch’s position at his father’s US-based News Corporation empire has appeared increasingly shaky, and there are doubts over whether he will be re-elected chairman of pay TV-giant BSkyB at an annual general meeting at the end of the month.

In his first appearance at the committee on July 19, James Murdoch maintained he had believed until last year that hacking was carried out by just one “rogue reporter”, former royal editor Clive Goodman.

Goodman was jailed in 2007 along with private detective Glenn Mulcaire after they admitted hacking into royal aides’ phones, after which police closed the hacking probe until January this year when it was revived amid new claims.

After the revelations about Milly Dowler in July, two of Rupert Murdoch’s most trusted executives quit, as well as Britain’s top police officer and one of his deputies following criticism of the original probe.