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(generated from captions) This program is captioned live. This morning - The Prime Minister's surprise visit to our troops in Afghanistan. A Paris court finds Willie Brigitte guilty of plotting terror attacks in Australia. And six men arrested and drugs and firearms seized in a series of police raids. VOICE-OVER: This is Seven Morning News with Ann Sanders. Good morning, welcome to Seven News. Prime Minister John Howard has made a secret trip to Australian soldiers serving in some of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. His visit comes as the Government considers sending additional troops to the war-torn country to fight a resurgent Taliban. Security was tight for the Prime Minister's visit. Australian soldiers are serving in some of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan and John Howard, accompanied by Defence Chief Angus Houston, yesterday thanked them for their hard work. I'm very proud of you. The nation is very proud of what you have done. Australia has more than 500 troops in the war-torn country helping with re-construction efforts and providing young Afghans with basic trade skills. The Prime Minister also met with President Hamid Karzai, reaffirming Australia's support for his government. We remain committed as a nation to assisting Afghanistan in resisting terrorism, in resisting the Taliban forces. While there was no formal announcement about our level of commitment to Afghanistan, the Prime Minister says he's still considering whether to send additional troops to help fight a resurgent Taliban. We are looking at the possibility

of some increase in our commitment to Afghanistan. And he has the Opposition's support. We would always respond positively in terms of a reasonable request for additional resources. A Paris court has sentenced French national, Willie Brigitte to nine years in jail

for plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in Australia.

Brigitte now has 10 days to appeal. Seven News correspondent Adrian Brown was in court for the sentencing. Well, Ann, it was all over very quickly indeed. It took the judges less than two minutes to read out their sentence, and as they did, Willy Brigitte stood in the dock, silent, impassive - a man very much resigned to his fate. Now the judges could have given him the maximum sentence of 10 years, but instead gave him 9 years which means technically he could be out in 2.5 years

because of the amount of time he's spent in jail already awaiting trial. Now the judges have accepted the prosecution's version of events - namely that he went to Pakistan

to train with an outlawed terror group linked to al-Qa'ida in 1998 and then came to Australia where he linked up with a man called Faheem Lodhi who was convicted by a Sydney court last year of plotting to blow up the Sydney power grid. The court also heard that Willie Brigitte was being prepared for other attacks on other targets, namely the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney. Brigitte's wife, Melanie Brown, was not in court. The former ADF soldier is in Sydney. He married her just shortly before he was deported from Sydney back to his native France. Outside the court, his lawyers said that Willy Brigitte has lost all faith in the French justice system. He does not have not hope. Willy Brigitte has just disconnected from the system. He thinks that all this is a political game. Brigitte's lawyers say that they have 10 days in which to lodge an appeal.

They'll be recommending to Brigitte that he does. Back to you, Ann. Adrian Brown there in Paris. And in the US, terrorism analysts are scrambling to sort fact from fiction in the confessions of an al-Qa'ida mastermind. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was behind the September 11 attacks on America. Under interrogation at Guantanemo Bay, he's also claimed responsibility for the Bali bombings,

the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl and much, much more. 1.5 years after 9-11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was caught in Pakistan and called the planner of the attacks. Saturday in a tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, he confessed. "I was responsible for the 9-11 operation from A to Z," said the man the US Government calls KSM, and he claimed a role in 30 more al-Qa'ida operations - some successful like the bombings of US embassies in Africa and the USS Cole before 9-11,

the Bali bombing that killed 200 people in '02 and the beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl. KSM said he wielded the knife himself. He claimed he targeted Pope John Paul II, Pakistan President Musharraf, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and claimed he planned attacks on Chicago's Sears Tower, the Empire State Building

and Big Ben in London. It's a stark reminder of the serious intention of al-Qa'ida to conduct attacks globally against the United States at home and abroad. But KSM's bragging confession is suspect to some. For three years he was a captive of the CIA that reportedly forced him to cooperate. It's classic torture. Tom Melanowski of Human Rights Watch. When you torture someone, they almost always talk but they don't always talk the truth. The White House denies any problem. The policy of this government is that we do not engage in torture. In his statement, KSM likened Osama Bin Laden to George Washington - "Both are heroes," said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Six people including two teenagers have been charged with drug and firearm offences after a series of police raids in Sydney. Three of the men were arrested by heavily armed officers near a shopping centre at Wetherill Park in the city's west with witnesses claiming they heard gunshots fired. It was a bit scared, like, you know, guns blazing. I've never seen that, you know, only in the movies, like. Police say firearms, cash and ecstasy tablets were seized in the raids. Some of Australia's most prominent trainers, jockeys and bookmakers have reportedly been caught up in an investigation into missing Melbourne drug boss Tony Mokbel.

The Australian Crime Commission has uncovered ghost bookmaking accounts that allowed Mokbel to place bets

after he was bailed on drugs charges. The 'Age' newspaper says the racing identities aren't considered suspects, but will be asked if they have any information about the issue. The government says Labor's plan to invest in green cars amounts to a tax. Labor will spend $500 million to focus manufacturing on fuel efficient and hybrid cars and ask manufacturers to contribute as well. Kevin Rudd has told 'Sunrise' he's planning to act because the government won't. We don't, in this country, as yet have,

our own Australian-made hybrid cars and because transport currently creates 13% of greenhouse gases. What can you do about it? Well, you can have more fuel efficient engines. Mr Rudd says the plan will secure car industry jobs and protect the environment. Next in Seven News - our business and finance report and why Heather Mills-McCartney is being called a serial complainer. It doesn't get any bigger than this. Nissan's Big One. Grab the extreme Nissan X-Trail compact 4-wheel drive. Now from just $29,990 drive away. That's worth making a big deal about. Or get the powerful Nissan Navara ST-X.

Get into your Nissan dealer for Garuda crash victim Liz O'Neill. The Australian spokesperson for our embassy in Jakarta was one of five Australians killed in last week's disaster. Meanwhile, a lawyer in Indonesia says relatives of two crash victims are considering suing the manufacturers of the doomed plane. But it's unclear if they're relatives of Australian victims. One of the Australian survivors of the crash has had a skin graft operation in Singapore. The sister of Tasmanian banker Roger Tallboys says he should be out of hospital in about two weeks. Mr Tallboys suffered severe burns when the plane crash-landed in Indonesia. Fellow survivor Cynthia Banham has been taken off the critical list. The 34-year-old journalist is recovering in a Perth hospital. The six Bali Nine members facing the death penalty for drug smuggling may die by a lethal injection rather than a firing squad.

The Indonesian Government says it's considering the change because an injection is more humane. But it's ruled out abandoning the death penalty as a form of punishment. No date has been set for the group's final appeal. The soon-to-be ex-wife of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney is being accused of crying wolf. Heather Mills-McCartney

keeps calling the British emergency line 999 - our equivalent of Triple-0. But officers say they're spending a disproportionate amount of time dealing with her complaints. Heather Mills-McCartney was today happy to be in the spotlight.

She wanted to talk about pig welfare. But at other times, she's not been so keen on the press. The story of her marriage and impending divorce from Paul McCartney, she says, has led to her being harassed by the paparazzi. She dialled 999 four times yesterday. Each time police turned up but said there was no call for further action. And today they issued a warning about overusing the service.

But she says she's not been resorting to 999 too quickly. I didn't waste any police time and they've actually encouraged me to use them when I'm being harassed. In 10 months, I probably called them six times. So yesterday was just a very intense day because they were jumping on the cars and pushing me and it would count as assault. Of course her marriage to Paul McCartney

was always going to attract attention, but she feels she's been the victim of a smear campaign. Nevertheless, she'll continue to seek press attention for her causes and the next campaign, she says, will be to try to change the laws covering the press. For years, German drivers have been using highways with no speed limits, but they may now be forced to hit the brakes. The European Commission wants to enforce a speed limit of just under 130km/h

in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In He drives very fast on the

autobahn, very fast, because most of

Germany has no speed limit. I have a fast

fast car and it is fun to drive

fast car and it is fun to drive fast so why should I not drive fast? But

German drivers are under pressure to slow down.

Some restrictions are already

Some restrictions are already in place. Now the European Union wants

speed limits on all the autobahns to tackle

tackle climate change. It would cut

down greenhouse emissions directly

by 2% or 3%. That is

by 2% or 3%. That is a significant part. Germans pride themselves on

being one of the greenest nations the being one of the greenest nations in

the world. A country which cares

deeply for the environment. But

behind the wheel of a car on the

motorway they are transformed into a

nation of Schumacher and that is why

saving the planet takes second place

to speed.

to speed. German's top motoring club

says it is dangerous. The danger is

it is very boring and you can make a

crash because you are bored. Car

makers are not impressed either. BMW

claims its latest models produce

less CO2 and Thurston won't be

slowing down. We have so much gases

all over the world that this small

piece of driving fast, this is such

a small thing of this that it

a small thing of this that it make noz difference. Which shows that

Germans will take some convincing

before they give up life in the fast lane. To business and finance news now, and joining us is Sally Auld from the ANZ. Good morning, Sally. What's the story with the local equity market this morning?

Despite some good gains on Wall

Street, the market is flat. We are

seeing some short-term traders take

profits after yesterday's robust 2%

rise. The resources sectors that are

out performing and that is thanks to

large rises in base metals. BHP

large rises in base metals. BHP and Rio Tinto led the way in

Rio Tinto led the way in early trade. The Aussie dollar is up again.

again. What is driving that? The

Aussie dollar has done very well in

the last 24 hours. We have seen some

pretty strong economic data here in

Australia. Base metal prices and a

more positive tone to global equity

markets is helping markets is helping the Aussie

dollar. It is trading just shy of 79

cents but we have seen it make some

good gains against the euro. How are

you reading the numbers for the

implication of interest rates? We

have seen a run of good economic

data. We saw rising employment

numbers and some strong housing

finance numbers. They are telling us

that the economy has started 2007

with good momentum and perhaps the

three rate rises in 2006 did not

have as much a negative impact. Even

though we don't think the Reserve

Bank will do much, if there is some

change the probability of a rate

rise is much higher than the

probability of a rate cut. Thank you for the update. Coming up next - sport, and what we can expect over a big weekend of rugby league and AFL. ETHEREAL MUSIC One of the great things about country NSW is the huge diversity it offers, from down south in the Murray to up north on the Queensland border.

When I jump in the car and I'm heading out of town, out of the city, it's just like the weight on my shoulders... I just start to relax. The colours start to change from the grey of the city to the colours of the countryside. Even when I see the browns and the...and the dry ground, then there comes the lush spots where it's really nice and green and they've had a drop of rain and the colours just amaze me. I have trouble keeping my eyes on the road 'cause I'm always looking elsewhere to see

"Wow, look at...there's Singleton" or up at Tenterfield or out Mudgee. So I'm always trying to catch as much as I can of what's around me. You get off the beaten track, take one of those dirt roads, and you just find one of those little hidden places, those towns, those sleepy towns, that are just amazing. Then you might hit one of the bigger towns like Tamworth, Mudgee or Wagga and they've just got absolutely everything there. I love it when I'm hitting a town and it's just on sundown. I'm just really getting that whole relaxed, lazy vibe and settling back for the night, a nice quiet one, and so then the lights just start to sparkle and I feel like I'm coming alive. There's so much to see, discovering new places, meeting the locals - it's just an amazing time. Look, there's a real authenticity about going out to the country. The people are real and that's what's so special. People that come out and visit just end up having the best time. MAN: West of the Great Divide from the Murray River north to the border.

The heart of country NSW - there's no place like it. call:

Or go to: Rugby league returns tonight with a couple of crackerjack games to kick off the 2007 season. To give us the rundown on all the weekend's action, we're joined by Seven sports reporter Matt Carmichael. That's right. Good morning, Ann. Benji Marshall is back for the Wests Tigers. His shoulder injuries are now behind him and he has actually bulked up for this year and it sets up what could be one of the great one-on-one clashes and it's only the first game of the season. Benji Marshall versus new Melbourne five-eighth Greg Inglis. Now, the Tigers are big outsiders for this game against the premiership favourites and they know they have a massive challenge ahead of them. the premiership for themselves but, you know, they set the standard last year

and it's a good test to see where we're at the big sides of the competition. Oh, should be a great game - go the Tiges. Now, we've also got an all-Queensland derby tonight, Matt. Yes, Ann. It is a massive game in Brisbane.

The defending premiers the Broncos host the Cowboys who are highly fancied in this year's premiership. Now the big change for Brisbane is Test full-back Karmichael Hunt is moving into half-back to partner Darren Lockyer. Now they'll face off against Jonathan Thurston and the veteran, Jason Smith.

Now Thurston, the new Cowboys captain - I think he sums it up best for all players in the competition. I just think everyone wants to play. It's round one, it's a packed house and you couldn't ask for a better start. And Ann, it will be packed again in Brisbane on Sunday when the Titans make their debut against St George Illawarra who, of course, are missing Mark Gasnier. Seven teams have new coaches. We also have the re-emergence of Souths as a possible premiership threat. It really should be probably the toughest premiership race in the history of the competition. And Ann, we can't wait for it to get started. Enjoy the footy. Thanks for joining us this morning, Matt Carmichael. Switching codes now, and the AFL's illicit drug policy is once again in the spotlight with West Coast Eagles boss Dalton Gooding admitting his club does have a drug problem. For more, we're joined by Seven sports reporter Jim Wilson. Good morning, Jim. This issue just won't go away, will it?

No, it is again under serious

pressure and there are calls to

change it again. He has come out and

said that a review has to take place

and a first offence the players

should be named. At this stage it is

not until a third offence that the

player's name is made public. I

think it is out of date, it is

archaic and the AFL is under enormous

enormous pressure to change it. Last

night the comments is there is a

small minority who have drug

alcohol problems. Some strict action small minority who have drug and

has to be

has to be taken right now and there

is pressure on the AFL to

is pressure on the AFL to do something. In better news, the NAB

Cup final, who are you tipping? My

heart says Carlton. Certainly for

heart says Carlton. Certainly for the Brisbane Lions it's a

the Brisbane Lions it's a big occasion. A big occasion for

Jonathan Brown. He is back on the

Brisbane side and he hasn't played

since round 10. I think Carlton will

win this. Brendan Fevola has been

outstanding for the Blues. I think

it will be a tight contest. This

weekend is one for the petrol heads.

How is our Aussie hope looking? I

don't know about Mark Webber. He

don't know about Mark Webber. He switched teams this year. He went

switched teams this year. He went to Red Bull. Maybe he should have stuck

with the Williams. They Look like they

they are getting their act together. They are

They are missing the V8s.

They are missing the V8s. The Formula One people know that.

Hopefully the V8s will be back

Hopefully the V8s will be back next year. You also got the world

swimming championships getting under way?

way? Yes, there is a big media day.

There is one star after

There is one star after another

star. Stefan is also in the pool but

counting down to the opening

ceremony of the world championships

and it begins at Rod Laver for a

purpose built pool next purpose built pool next Sunday. Have

a great weekend and lovely to a great weekend and lovely to talk to you. Stay with me here on Seven's Morning News. I'll be back with all the weekend weather details after this break.

Time now to check the national weather. Troughs are triggering showers and storms over Victoria, New South Wales and WA. Warm northerly winds for New South Wales also. A front will bring cool showery winds to Tasmania and South Australia, while storms continue across the tropics. Looking ahead - a fine weekend for Brisbane with a top of 32. Partly cloudy for Sydney tomorrow.

Partly cloudy in Canberra. Fine in Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide.

Hot in Perth. A stormy weekend for Darwin. It looks like leopards can change their spots after all. Scientists have discovered a new species of big cat with markings unlike any other. Stalking through the forests of Borneo, the clouded leopard, an entirely new species of cat. Undiscovered until now, it has hidden away

living in the forest canopy, shy of humans - a great survival technique. New scientific evidence has come to light which proves just how different this cat is. To have a discovery that's a cat and also really a poster cat as well is extremely rare and this animal should have its 15 minutes of fame.

We're gonna have to wait an awful long time

before this happens again. The animal is striking, clouds of dark colour on its coat, covered with smaller dark spots, and head to tail two dark stripes. Scientist describe these forests as a lost world but this new discovery has surprised them all, especially as there seems to be so many of these secretive cats alive, maybe up to 7,000 in total. And that's Seven's Morning News to now. We'll keep you up to date throughout the day and in our bulletins at 4:30 and 6:00. We leave you today with images of the Sydney Harbour Bridge which celebrates its 75th birthday this weekend. I'm Ann Sanders. Thanks for your company. Have a great day. Supertext captions by the Australian Caption Centre.