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By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Senator Ted Cruz put a hold late on Friday on President Joe Biden's pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency to pressure the administration to put tough sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project.

The Senate Intelligence Committee this week backed William Burns, a former ambassador to Russia, by a unanimous vote.

Burns has been confirmed by the Senate for five previous jobs over 33 years and is expected to eventually be approved by the full Senate.

The hold is a delaying tactic as the Texas senator pressures the administration to sanction ships and companies helping Russia's state energy company Gazprom build the $11 billion pipeline to take gas under the Baltic Sea to Europe via Germany.

"I’ll release my hold when the Biden admin meets its legal obligation to report and sanction the ships and companies building (Russia President Vladimir) Putin’s pipeline," Cruz wrote on Twitter late on Friday. The move was first reported by Bloomberg.

After a year's delay caused by sanctions, Gazprom is racing to finish the pipeline which analysts expect could happen by September. A second vessel, the Akademik Cherskiy, has joined the construction site off Denmark.

President Joe Biden believes the pipeline is a "bad deal for Europe" the White House has said. The pipeline would bypass Ukraine depriving it of lucrative transit fees and could undermine its efforts against Russian aggression. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. lawmakers from both parties who oppose the project believe about 15 ships are helping to build the pipeline. But the State Department last month only sanctioned one ship in a report to Congress required by sanctions law.

Forty Republican Senators said in a letter to Biden this week that the sanction against the Fortuna vessel will not stop the pipeline, which as of February had about 75 miles (120 km) left to go off Denmark and 19 miles (30 km) off Germany.

The State Department is due to submit to Congress another report on Nord Stream 2 on May 16, which could contain more sanctions, though spokesman Ned Price has said sanctions are only "one of many tools" that can be used.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Christina Fincher)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

Tags: Ukraine, environment, Russia, United States, international trade, Europe, natural gas, Germany

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Tags: news ukraine environment russia united states international trade europe natural gas germany countries news the administration the state department the state department president joe biden republican senator the white house the white house late on friday the pipeline by sanctions the pipeline natural gas to congress nord stream

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2021 Liga MX odds, April 17 picks: Proven soccer expert reveals best bets for Club America vs. Cruz Azul

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It's a battle between crosstown rivals and the top two teams in Mexican Liga MX when Cruz Azul and Club America square off Saturday in El Clasico Joven at Estadio Azteca. Azul has a two-point lead at the top with three matches to play in the Clausura season. Both sides play stifling defense and each comes in having lost just two of 14 matches. America also has one draw and has won seven straight games, while Azul has won every match since starting the season with two losses.

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Kickoff from Mexico City is set for 10 p.m. ET. William Hill Sportsbook lists Club America as the slight +160 money-line (risk $100 to win $160) and 0.5-goal favorite in its latest Club America vs. Cruz Azul odds, while the over-under for total goals scored is 2.5. Before making any Cruz Azul vs. Club America picks, check out the Liga MX predictions from soccer insider Roger Gonzalez. 

Gonzalez grew up playing competitive soccer before becoming one of the world's foremost soccer journalists. After covering soccer all over the globe -- a Champions League final in Italy, Copa America, and professional leagues in Argentina -- Gonzalez returned to the U.S. as CBS Sports' top soccer expert. He has his finger on the pulse of the Mexican league teams.

Now, Gonzalez has broken down Club America vs. Cruz Azul from every angle. You can visit SportsLine now to see his picks. Here are several odds and trends for Cruz Azul:

  • Club America vs. Cruz Azul spread: America -0.5
  • Club America vs. Cruz Azul over-under: 2.5 goals
  • Club America vs. Cruz Azul money line: America +160, Azul +175, Draw +210
  • Club America: Las Aguilas lead the league in percentage of shots on target at 39.3.
  • Cruz Azul: La Maquina leads Liga MX in overall shots with 459 (14.8 per game).
Why you should back Club America

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Both teams play their matches at Azteca, but Las Aguilas are the home team and have not lost a home match this season. They have allowed three goals over the past seven games and just seven overall in the Clausura. One of America's losses (and three of its 10 goals "allowed") was a forfeit against Atlas after an ineligible player was on the bench for a 2-0 victory. The squad will be fighting for what it believes is its rightful place atop the table. It also faces a Cruz Azul team that is legendary in Mexico for its failure to come through in the biggest moments.

The latest disappointment was Azul being ousted from the Apertura semifinals by Pumas in December after a 4-0 first-leg victory. Striker Henry Martin, who has a team-high 14 goals across the two seasons, is expected back from injury, but five other players have scored at least five times in the 31 matches. Sebastian Cordova (seven goals), Roger Martinez (five) and Richard Sanchez (five) are a big part of an organized attack that should be able to close out a victory if it can get on the scoreboard. Six of Azul's last seven victories have been 1-0 affairs.   

Why you should back Cruz Azul

La Maquina has lost just once in its last six matches against America, posting four clean sheets. Cruz Azul has been living a charmed life since losing its opening two games by 1-0 scores. It has been playing a grinding style that frustrates opponents, and it has not been held off the score sheet in the 12 games. It has allowed just five goals across those 12 matches and has a league-best plus-14 goal differential in the Clausura. It often plays a defend and counter-attack game, but it has scored at least twice in 15 of its 31 matches across the two seasons

Cruz Azul is gunning for a Liga MX-record 13th straight victory and is eyeing a run at its first league title since 1997. An 8-0 victory against Haitian side Arcahaie on Thursday in the CONCACAF Champions League has Azul's confidence soaring. America suffered a shocking 1-0 loss to Olimpia of Honduras in that competition, also on Thursday. Jonathan Rodriguez is the league's top scorer with 19 goals in the 31 matches overall, and Luis Roma has a league-best 10 assists, while goalkeeper Jose Corona has kept a league-high 14 clean sheets.    

How to make Liga MX picks for Cruz Azul vs. Club America

Gonzalez has analyzed this matchup, and he's leaning under the total. He also has locked in on a side pick and a prop that returns more than 4-1. He's only sharing his best bets here.

So who wins Cruz Azul vs. Club America? And what huge prop bet would cash in huge? Visit SportsLine now to find out which picks have all the value, all from the soccer expert who has his finger on the pulse of Liga MX.

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