Tomas Rosicky has revealed he considered leaving Arsenal in January following a lack of first-team football, but hopes to play a full part in the Gunners’ end-of-season run-in. “Since the start of the year things have improved, the team has started to play better football and what’s more I’m playing. Compared to the first six months, it’s much better. We’ll see how it goes from here,” Rosicky said to Czech press, quoted by www.isport.blesk.cz. “I don’t really know [why I didn’t play]. It’s a good question, I would also like to know. “The coach gave me a chance towards the end the year and then began to give me more playing time. I don’t know, maybe it was a watershed moment.” Rosicky added: “We had talked about [me leaving in January] in previous meetings back in September and October, but then the market closed and I couldn’t do anything. “When you don’t play a single game in December and the market opens, [the prospect of leaving] is obviously on the agenda. Then you start to have second thoughts. “It was an exception for me though, I really thought about it. Then Arsenal said stay and that was that. “The rest of the season will go quickly, then we’ll look for a solution. “Arsenal is still an option for me next season, the ball is in their court. When I get back from international duty we will start to talk about it. After not starting in the Barclays Premier League until the Boxing Day win over QPR, the Czech playmaker has now chalked up some 23 appearances overall as Arsenal moved back into the top four and also booked a place in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley. Rosicky, 34, has not ruled out extending his stay at the Emirates Stadium club, which has been hampered by an unfortunate series of injuries. “There are two options open to me [stay at Arsenal or go elsewhere]. At the moment I am in a situation where I make the decision.” Captain Mikel Arteta is another player whose future has to be resolved, the Spaniard out of contract in the summer, but expected to be offered a one-year extension. Arsenal have most of their first-team squad away on international duty. German midfielder Mesut Ozil missed the win at Newcastle on Saturday through a minor illness, but was subsequently spotted in a Berlin nightclub. While Ozil was set to leave for Germany on Saturday night anyway, Arsenal are expected to seek the player’s version of events when he reports back for training ahead of the crucial Premier League match with Liverpool on April 4. Press Association
BAGHDAD – Iraqi investigators have a videotape that shows Blackwater USA guards opened fire against civilians without provocation in a shooting last week that left 11 people dead, a senior Iraqi official said Saturday. He said the case was referred to the Iraqi judiciary. Iraq’s president, meanwhile, demanded that the Americans release an Iranian arrested this week on suspicion of smuggling weapons to Shiite militias. The demand adds new strains to U.S.-Iraqi relations only days before a meeting between President Bush and Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said Iraqi authorities had completed an investigation into the Sept. 16 shooting in Nisoor Square in western Baghdad and concluded that Blackwater guards were responsible for the deaths. “These six cases will support the case against Blackwater, because they show that it has a criminal record,” Khalaf said. Khalaf said the report was “sent to the judiciary” although he would not specify whether that amounted to filing of criminal charges. Under Iraqi law, an investigating judge reviews criminal complaints and decides whether there is enough evidence for a trial. Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh denied that authorities had decided to file charges against the Blackwater guards and said Saturday that no decision had been taken whether to seek punishment. “The necessary measures will be taken that will preserve the honor of the Iraqi people,” he said in New York, where al-Maliki arrived Friday for the U.N. General Assembly session. “We have ongoing high-level meetings with the U.S. side about this issue.” Al-Maliki is expected to raise the issue with Bush during a meeting Monday in New York. It is doubtful that foreign security contractors could be prosecuted under Iraqi law. A directive issued by U.S. occupation authorities in 2004 granted contractors, U.S. troops and many other foreign officials immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law. Security contractors are also not subject to U.S. military law under which U.S. troopers face prosecution for killing or abusing Iraqis. Casualty update As of Saturday, at least 3,795 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 3,095 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers. The AP count is seven higher than the Defense Department’s tally, last updated Friday. The British military has reported 169 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Romania, South Korea, one death each.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! He told The Associated Press that the conclusion was based on witness statements as well as videotape shot by cameras at the nearby headquarters of the national police command. He said eight people were killed at the scene and three of the 15 wounded died in hospitals. Blackwater, which provides most of the security for U.S. diplomats and civilian officials in Iraq, has insisted that its guards came under fire from armed insurgents and shot back only to defend themselves. Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said Saturday that she knew nothing about the videotape and was contractually prohibited from discussing details of the shooting. Khalaf also said the ministry was looking into six other fatal shootings involving the Moyock, N.C.-based company in which 10 Iraqis were killed and 15 wounded. Among the shootings was one Feb. 7 outside Iraqi state television in Baghdad that killed three building guards.