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Kuwaiti group denies Liverpool talks

A KUWAITI business group has denied reports that it is in talks to buy Liverpool.

Nasser al-Kharafi, the co-owner of The Kharafi Group, was reported to have met with Liverpool officials this week, fueling speculation that he was ready to buy out the club's American owners.

But Loay al-Kharafi, the group's vice chairman, said on Friday there were no negotiations at all about buying all or part of the club, insisting, "There were no talks with Liverpool."

The reports emerged as a six-month countdown begins for Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. to refinance a bank loan of some 250 million pounds (US$339 million) used to purchase the club.

Representatives of Hicks and Gillett, who bought Liverpool for 218.9 million pounds in March 2007, were also reported to have held discussions last July with Nasser al-Kharafi, though nothing came of the talks.

The Kuwaiti construction and restaurant tycoon was ranked by Forbes magazine in 2008 as the 46th richest man in the world, with an estimated fortune of US$14 billion.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said on Friday he had no knowledge of the reported developments and made it clear he was concentrating solely on football matters.

"The atmosphere here inside the training ground is fine - we do not have problems here," Benitez said. "The players are working together, and there are no problems between them.

"It will be difficult against Everton (in the FA Cup today), so we must focus on only what happens on the pitch...I am only thinking as far as the next game."

Liverpool's American owners have been under pressure from fans since rejecting a 500-million pound takeover bid by the Dubai International Capital group last March and then shelving plans to replace Anfield due to the economic downturn.

Hicks had blocked Gillett's moves to sell his 50 percent share to DIC as the pair feuded over future plans for the club.

Work on a new ground in the adjacent Stanley Park was halted and part of the building site reclaimed as a car park for the existing stadium, which lacks the facilities or capacity to exploit the global interest in the 18-time English champions.

A Liverpool supporters group which met Gillett in September regretted the timing of the speculation.

"We would welcome a sale of LFC to 'fit and proper' owners, true custodians who would look after the values and traditions of our club, and treat it with the respect it deserves," said James McKenna of the Spirit Of Shankly group. But he added: "We need to be sure that any new owners do not place us in the same situation as the current ones.

"January should be a time spent on concluding transfer signings, not having to look into the distance for new owners to save us from the present ones."


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