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16:09, 27 February 2014 Thursday

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Ex-Murdoch editor: I sanctioned payments to officials
Ex-Murdoch editor: I sanctioned payments to officials

Brooks is accused of authorising almost 40,000 pounds ($66,000) in illegal payments from a reporter on Murdoch's Sun tabloid to a Ministry of Defence official

World Bulletin/News Desk

Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch's former British newspaper boss, told a London court on Thursday she had sanctioned payments to public officials but denied authorising illegal sums for which she is on trial.

Brooks is accused of authorising almost 40,000 pounds ($66,000) in illegal payments from a reporter on Murdoch's Sun tabloid to a Ministry of Defence official while she was editor of the paper.

She denies the charge, and other offences of conspiracy to hack phones and perverting the course of justice.

Asked by her defence lawyer on Thursday if she had ever sanctioned payments to public officials, something which is illegal, Brooks replied: "Yes, probably since I was deputy editor of the Sun ... a handful of occasions, half a dozen."

Her lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw said he would return to the issue later to give further explanation.

Earlier, Brooks had said her view was that "there had to be an overwhelming public interest to justify payment" and only in "very narrow circumstances."

Giving evidence for a fifth day, Brooks was asked about the specific charge relating to authorising illegal payments. She had said she did not know who the reporter's source was for a number of stories about Britain's military nor that the source was a public official.

Asked if the journalist should have raised this with her, she told London's Old Bailey court: "He probably should have brought it to my attention, absolutely."

MISTAKES

Earlier Brooks, who edited Murdoch's News of the World and Sun tabloids from 2000 to 2009, told her trial that she had made lots of errors and regretted some stories and headlines, saying some were cruel, harsh and "just wrong".

"I personally made lots of mistakes", said the 45-year-old, who was the boss of News Corp's British paper arm until 2011.

The jury were shown a series of newspaper stories from the Sun, Britain's biggest-selling daily, where Brooks said the "speed of decisions" at the helm had led to lapses in judgement.

The first concerned former British heavyweight boxer Frank Bruno and the headline above a story about him which read "Bonkers Bruno locked up".

"This day I had been involved in many, many meetings," she said. "It was a terrible mistake I made."

She said she had immediately had the headline changed after her ex-husband had pointed it out to her when she got home.

Another incident where she had "gone too far" was a personal attack on former Labour minister Clare Short over her opposition to daily pictures of topless models on page three of the Sun, a traditional feature of the paper since 1970.

The Sun responded to Short by publishing a doctored photograph of her bare-breasted, accused her of being "jealous", and parked a busload of models outside her house.

Brooks said this had been "cruel" and "harsh". "It was just too personal, it was just wrong," she added.

Earlier she told the court she had been brought to the Sun from the News of the World Sunday tabloid, because of her zeal for campaigning.

"Mr Murdoch had been quite pleased with the campaigning tone of the News of the World and wanted to take that to the Sun," she said.



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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.