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31 Dec, 2012

Bruneian, 91, Recalls How He Survived Hiroshima Atom Bomb

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 31 December 2012 (17 Safar 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.

Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.

“Home-Grown Terrorism: One Swamp The U.S. Cannot Drain” and other columns gagged by the “Newspaper You Can Trust”

For 15 years (January 1997-July 2012), Imtiaz Muqbil penned a hard-hitting fortnightly column called “Soul-Searching” in a Bangkok-based English-language newspaper. In July 2012, two editors of the so-called “newspaper you can trust” censored and muzzled it, with no explanation. In defiance against that unprecedented action, and at the behest of many upset readers, a selection of the nearly 400 columns are reproduced here, with more to be added regularly. Read the censored column, and several others, by clicking here.



Penang International Halal Expo & Conference, 18-20 Jan 2013

Halal Penang, an agency of the Penang State responsible for the promotion and development of the halal industry, will be organizing the 4th Penang International Halal Expo & Conference 2013 from 18-20 January 2013. On 19th January 2013 the Penang International Halal Conference, themed “Halal Tourism and Hospitality – Travel the World Muslim Style”, will be held at the Eastin Hotel, Penang. Expected to attract some 200 local and foreign businessmen, hoteliers, travel agents, academics, hospitals and others, the conference will provide a comprehensive platform for the convergence of academic perspectives and business aspects of tourism for Muslim travellers. Travelling has always been an important element of Muslim lifestyle, with the first Muslims being the most advanced traders in Arabia. Furthermore, Muslims are encouraged to travel to acquire knowledge. As Muslim consumers worldwide assert their unique needs, demand for Islamic finance and Halal food is growing the travel and hospitality services market at a rate which is expected to outpace that of other travel segments. The halal-friendly segment of travellers is already spending close to USD 100 billion a year, and projected to hit USD 200 billion by 2020. Hence, the Penang International Halal Expo & Conference is designed to educate participants on the economic perspectives of Islamic tourism and to create interest amongst travel agencies to develop Muslim travel packages. Website:

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.tourism.gov.my/ or

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my

Poet Shihab Ghanem first Arab to receive India’s Tagore Peace Prize

New Delhi, 13 Safar 1434/ 27 December 2012 (IINA) – India’s Asiatic society will award the Tagore Peace Prize to renowned Arab poet Shihab Ghanem, reported the WAM agency.

The peace prize is named after Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali creative talent and India’s first Nobel laureate. Ghanem is the first-ever Arab to receive the prestigious award. Speaking to Al Arabiya Ghanem said: “I was extremely pleased to be selected, especially as the award is associated with Tagore whom I highly admire and who is highly respected by Arabs and the world at large”.

Organized by the Indian government, the award recognized Ghanem’s countless forays into the world of literature. His translation of Indian works into both the Arabic and English language was also appreciated. The award is given to one person every two years. Ghanem was chosen due to the promotion of the human values of love and peace via his poetic works. “I have read poetry almost every day throughout my life. It was a kind of addiction, and perhaps still is,” confessed Ghanem, who as a primary school student found himself fond of the art form.

Ghanem said he was led to poetry by his father, brother and uncle, who have each published their own verses. Ghanem has done his family proud by writing 31 Arabic poems and 36 English poems. He has also published 45 books mainly in Arabic verse. Prior to winning the Tagore Peace Prize, Ghanem received a plethora of awards and commendations. Examples include the Rashid Award for Scientific Excellence in 1989, 1st prize for poetry in the UAE in 1984, and book prize from the Ruler of Sharjah for poetry translation in 2003 and 2007.

The Emirati-poet holds a double degree in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering from Aberdeen, earned in 1964. He completed his education with a Masters and a Ph.D. in Economics from Wales. Ghanem has shared advice for budding poets, urging them to make the best use of their time. “Work for your first life as if you will live forever, and for your hereafter as if you will die tomorrow,” he said. Ghanem will officially receive the Tagore award in a ceremony to be held in Kolkata, India on May 6, 2013.

“I am happy and grateful that they (the award committee) thought of me. Other people who have received this award have been heads of states and Nobel laureates.” “I am open to other cultures. It doesn’t mean I’m not proud of my own values and religion. But I’m willing to hear others. And this has been reflected in my poetry and other creative work.” If I was an ambassador to any country, I would first say to them: “Who are your best poets and their best selected poems?” This is because you can know a people through their poetry. Poetry is the soul of a nation. It’s connected with loftiness in man, which is expressed best in poetry.” He added that poetry was “art no 1” of the Arabs, surpassing their talent for calligraphy.

He said he is nearly done with a 10-year project to compile English proverbs that have equivalence in Arabic… and he has discovered over 1,000 examples.

“This dictionary is a big project, it should be out in a few weeks. The equivalence in Arabic is drawn not just from proverbs but from poetry, the Holy Quran and other sources too. His other main current endeavour is a book about the verses of Al Fatiha, the first chapter of the Quran. “The Holy Quran is such a vast subject, you can write a chapter on each verse. I’ll be reviewing the literature on this and discussing the meanings in depth.” he said.

“Human think in the same way. A proverb shaped by rural life might come to Dubai or London. It’s a very interesting subject.” Dr. Ghanem said. “There’s is humour, philosophy, simple matter of fact ideas and sophisticated thought in it. There are also opposites.” He explained that , for instance, the saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” flies in the face of “more hands make light work.”

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2012: An Eventful Year for Palestine

This year the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly recognised Palestine as a non-member observer state

2012 has been an eventful year for the Palestinians and their struggle. The fourth quarter of the year witnessed some landmark events, including the eight-day Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip that killed and injured as many as 1,000 Palestinians, mostly innocent civilians.

It also witnessed the recognition by the United Nations General Assembly of Palestine as a non-member observer state of the world body. Upset by the overwhelming yes vote, the Israeli government took the rash decision to build a huge Jewish colony in East Jerusalem, which most experts and observers say would cut off the West Bank’s northern part from the occupied territory’s southern part.

The colony, which is slated to include more than 3,000 settler units, along with infrastructure, roads and other facilities, would also separate Arab East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

The year 2012 also witnessed the first visit of its kind by Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal to the Gaza Strip. The high-profile visit coincided with the rising popularity of the Islamist group, partly due to the movement’s perceived steadfastness in the face of the latest Israeli aggression.

Finally, the Palestinian Authority (PA) continued to undergo a severe economic crisis stemming from a phenomenally high cost of living as well as shrinking financial resources due to dwindling and irregular foreign aid and the intentional Israeli blackmailing policy of disrupting the payment of tax and customs revenue to the PA, estimated at a $100 million per month.

EIGHT DAYS OF KILLING: Israel started the orgy of killing on 12 November with the assassination of Ahmed Al-Jabari, the effective chief of staff of Hamas’s resistance wing, the Ezzeddin Al-Qassam Brigades. Al-Jabari had negotiated with Israel, through Egyptian mediation, the release of a few hundred Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in exchange for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He had also negotiated the renewal of a truce with Israel just hours before his assassination.

Responding to the murder of Al-Jabari, resistance fighters in Gaza fired rockets on targets in Israel. The rockets’ reach was unprecedented, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but inflicted very few casualties among Israelis. Israel, calculating that the Palestinians would not retaliate for Al-Jabari’s murder, fearing Israel’s superior fire power, launched massive air strikes, targeting government building as well as other infrastructure and facilities.

Later, the Israeli air force began dropping laser-guided bombs on private homes, alleging that those targeted worked for Hamas. The wanton strikes murdered entire families, such as the Al-Dalu family, which lost 14 members. Israel views the families, relatives and even friends of Palestinian resistance activists as legitimate targets. All in all, the aerial bombing killed as any as 182 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were innocent civilians, including some 40 children.

Around 1,000 other civilians were also injured, many sustaining life-threatening injuries. Israel admitted that it deliberately targeted civilian homes, including the Al-Dalu family residence, claiming that Hamas operatives may have been hiding there. Human Rights Watch and other rights organisations accused Israel of committing war crimes. As usual, Israel dismissed international criticisms, reiterating its favourite mantra that it has the right to defend itself.

MESHAAL IN GAZA: The Hamas leader, whom Israel tried to murder in Amman in 1997, arrived in Gaza on 7 December to a tumultuous welcome by thousands of Gaza citizens and Hamas supporters. His arrival in the coastal enclave marked the first time since 1967 a Palestinian refugee returns home without Israel consent.

In several speeches, Meshaal reasserted his group’s refusal to recognise Israel under any circumstances. “It is unfair to ask the victims to recognise the legitimacy of the criminal. Besides, why is everyone asking the Palestinians to recognise Israel and no one is asking Israel to recognise Palestine? This is an inherently unbalanced equation.”

Meshaal argued that, “We don’t hate Jews for being Jews. We are fighting our oppressors, persecutors, child killers… the usurpers of our land and legitimate rights.”

He said that no Palestinian under the sun, including Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Mahmoud Abbas, had the right to cede the paramount right of return for millions of refugees uprooted from their homes at the hands of Jewish terrorist gangs in 1948. “I have the right to return to Haifa, Jaffa and Safad,” he said.

A few weeks ago, Abbas said in an interview with Israeli television that he had no right to live in Safad, but only to visit his native town. Abbas’s remarks drew an avalanche of angry reactions from many Palestinian quarters, forcing the PA leader to “clarify” his statement.

Meshaal, whose popularity among Palestinians skyrocketed, particularly in the aftermath of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza, also sent a reconciliatory message to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, saying “We both made mistakes and blunders.”

He hinted that the coming weeks and months would witness a real rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas and that the achievement of national reconciliation was in the offing. Some signs of this rapprochement were already looming as Fatah delegates participated in celebrations in Gaza marking the 25th anniversary of Hamas’s founding. Similarly, the Ramallah regime reportedly allowed Hamas to organise a rally in Nablus marking its anniversary.

THE UN RECOGNISES PALESTINE: On 29 November, the UN General Assembly recognised Palestine as an observer member state, causing an unprecedented diplomatic setback for Israel and its guardian ally, the United States. The vote was overwhelming in favour of the Palestinians, with 138 member states voting for the Palestinian request, and only nine states, including Israel and the US, voting against it. Forty-one other states, including several Western countries, abstained.

The vote was celebrated by the Palestinians as a historic occasion, with many Palestinians holding celebrations hailing the UN vote as the first step towards the establishment of a real and viable state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The PA hopes that international recognition will put them in a stronger diplomatic position to resist Israeli hegemony and aggression, especially the unilateral Israeli policy of confiscating Palestinian land and establishing colonies and settlements for Jewish immigrants from overseas.

The Palestinians also hope that the acceptance of Palestine as an observer state will enable them to join the International Criminal Court and sue Israeli war criminals suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against Palestinians. Reacting to the UN vote, the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu decided to build a huge colony between occupied Arab East Jerusalem and the colony of Maali Adumim, four kilometres eastward.

Israel called the UN vote a “terrorist resolution”, charging that the bulk of the international community harboured a certain anti-Semitic tendency. Palestinian officials scoffed at the Israeli statements, saying that Israel sought to devour the land of Palestine and deny the right of 11 million Palestinians to freedom, independence and statehood.

If built, the planned new settlement in East Jerusalem, named E-1, will, using the words of PA official Saeb Ereikat, decapitate any remaining prospects for the establishment of a viable and territorially continuous Palestinian state. It would also cut the West Bank into two separate parts disconnected from each other.

The PA warned that the building of the Israeli colony would put an end to the two-state solution strategy and perpetuate the Middle East conflict. The international community, including the US and EU, have come out against the Israeli plan. However, it is uncertain whether these countries, widely considered allies of Israel, will transform their verbal denunciations of the Israeli plan into proactive and tangible measures to stop it.

Israel has dismissed international criticisms over the planned settlement as a passing summer cloud. Flying in the face of the international community, Israel this week invited tenders to build the first 92 settler units of a 3,000 total, sparking international condemnation. Israel is slated to hold early general elections in January with opinion polls suggesting right wing and quasi-fascist parties will receive the lion’s share of Israeli votes.

The elections are likely to have a drastic negative effect on the survival of the already moribund peace process and on the increasingly tense regional situation.

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Israel Denies Islamic Cultural Organisation Chief Entry into Palestine

Rabat 25/12/2012 – Mrs Irina Bokova, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), denounced Israel’s denial of entry into Palestine to Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), who was to head a delegation from ISESCO as part of an official visit.

In a letter sent to ISESCO Director General, Mrs Bokova deplored Israeli decision to prevent this visit aimed at promoting peace and stepping up the educational efforts deployed by the competent authorities in the State of Palestine. Mrs Bokova also stressed that she will bring this regrettable incident to the attention of the Israeli Permanent Delegation to UNESCO.

For the record, ISESCO Director General had intended to make a visit at the end of this month of December to Palestine in response to the invitation of President Mahmoud Abbas to assess the needs of educational, scientific and cultural institutions in Palestine.

On 13 December 2012, ISESCO released a communiqué wherein it faulted the Israeli decision as a flagrant breach of international rules, underlying that Palestine, both as a Member State of ISESCO and UNESCO, and as a non-member observer State of the United Nations, has the full right to receive visiting delegations from the Muslim world and beyond, including personalities offering educational, scientific and cultural services to the Palestinian people.

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Indonesia, Muslim World League launch Islamic media website

Jakarta, 10 Safar 1434/ 24 December 2012 (IINA) – Indonesias Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL) have launched an international Islamic media website to increase the publics awareness of Islam. The launching was held in the presence of Abdullah Al-Turki, secretary general of MWL, and Indonesia`s Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali.

Speaking on the occasion, Suryadharma Ali said the Government of Indonesia and MWL have worked hard to launch the website (www.islamicnewsmedia.org). “Indonesia was chosen to provide the content for the Islamic media website,” said Ali. He said Indonesia was chosen because it is a multicultural society, where people of various ethnic groups live peacefully. “Indonesia is considered a democratic country, with the largest Muslim population in the world. In addition, Indonesia has managed to maintain peace in the country (where various ethnic groups live),” said Ali. The Islamic Media Website displays content that is uploaded by the administrator and people around the world. People can post their comments, thoughts and opinions on Islam. “People can also download and share the comments through social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube,” said Ali.

Meanwhile, Al-Turki, said the Islamic media website enables Muslims to disseminate information related to Islam. “Through this website, we can disseminate information (pertaining to Islam) to the international community. The website is a tool though which Muslims can eradicate the public`s misconceptions about Islam,” he said. “It is our responsibility to inform the world that Islam is a religion that promotes peace. We have to show the world that Islam has respect for people of all religions. We can inform the world by sharing appropriate content, pictures and videos on the website.”

The launch of the Islamic media website coincides with the International Conference of Fatwa (held from December 24 to 26), which is organised by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Muslim World League. Muslim delegations from 22 countries will be attending the conference.

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Turks pay 50 mln euros annually for Schengen visa

BRUSSELS – Anatolia News Agency, December/28/2012 – As Turkey struggles to ease visa requirements for European Union countries, European Commission data has shown that approximately 700,000 Turkish citizens pay a total of 50 million euros annually to obtain Schengen visas. While the visa application process has been accepted as “unfair” by many European Union countries’ courts – notably the European Court of Justice – in general, Schengen countries require a 60-euro application fee and about 20 additional euros for other operations.

The Schengen countries earn about 50 million euros in visa applications from Turkish citizens every year, the data for 2011 has shown. The Commission’s data also reflects that Schengen visa applications from Turkey increased to 624,361 by an 11.5 percent increase from 2010 to 2011. The 5 percent of these applications that were rejected did not have their application fees refunded.

The commission’s report said Turkey ranked fourth – after Russia, Ukraine and China – among countries whose citizens apply for Schengen visas. However, Russia and Ukraine, the first and second countries on the list, have signed visa facilitation agreements with the European Union that reduce visa application fees and the rate of rejections.

Turkish citizens apply for visas to the French Consulate most often, with 106,060 applications.

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EU grants Turkish service providers 3-month visa for Germany, Holland

The European Commission has decided to grant residence permits of up to three months to Turkish nationals providing services in three European countries — Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. Turkish citizens providing services in these countries will be allowed to stay two months in Germany and three months in the Netherlands and Denmark. In a letter the commission sent to member nations as a result of the revision of the Schengen policy handbook, the EU body said Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark will not require visas for Turkish nationals providing service for up to three months in accordance with a Feb. 19, 2009 decision of the European Court of Justice.

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91-Year-Old Bruneian Recalls How He Survived The Atom Bomb

Bandar Seri Begawan, Borneo Bulletin – Hiroshima University yesterday said it would bestow honorary doctorate on Yang Pengiran Haji Muhammad Yusof bin Pengiran Haji Abdul Rahim, 91, as one of the three former students of Southeast Asia who survived the 1945 atomic bombing of the Japanese city.

Before this, the famous author and poet who scripted the country’s National Anthem and goes by his famous pen name “Yura Halim”, was also conferred with First Class Order of the Rising Sun, one of the highest honours bestowed by Emperor Hirohito.

Haji Muhammad Yusof is a State Dignitary Representative of the Legislative Council. He has held the posts of State Secretary, Chief Minister, High Commissioner of Brunei to Malaysia, Ambassador of Brunei to Japan and Deputy Chairman of QAF Holdings Berhad. In the literary world, he is also a recipient of various awards including among others SEA Write Award and most recently the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Education Award.

In an interview, Yura Halim recalled the moment when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima while he was just about to begin his lecture at Hiroshima University. “The explosion was loud and the ground and buildings rattled, debris was everywhere, the university was in total ruin and we were inside and somehow by the Will of Allah the Almighty I was unharmed,” recalled the 91-year-old. “I would not have been here and talking to you if not for Allah’s Will. I was outside the lecture hall in the yard still hanging out with my other Japanese colleagues waiting for our sensei (teacher), we wanted to stay outside but somehow we went in. When we went in, we saw our sensei was already there. We took the usual Japanese bow to apologise just before the big explosion happened,” he said.

“I was around 20 plus years old, I do not remember exactly how old I was, and of course, such a big explosion was never heard before. It was the first atomic bomb dropped in a living, breathing city full of population. The university crumbled and I was on the floor. I had to crawl myself out by following patches of light rays from the sun and finally myself and some other students got out,” he vividly recalled.

“When we were out, we met a professor by the name of something like Professor Osada, I can’t remember his exact name, forgive me, and he told us to return to our student residence (dormitory).”

He said the bomb that was so devastating and deadly should not have been made and no country should develop one for whatever reason they may have. He said today more powerful bombs have been made, such as nuclear and hydrogen bombs, and this time the likelihood of survival when these types of bombs are dropped “would be anyone’s guess”.

One thing he also learnt from the incident was that it was the will of Allah the Almighty that determines everything, including death. “If Allah the Almighty does not want you to die, then whatever happens including the dropping of an atomic bomb over you will not kill you. And it was Allah’s Will that left me with little scratches during the atomic explosion although given the circumstances it could have been worse,” said the nonagenarian.

“Similarly, if Allah has fated someone to die, then whatever the circumstances are, whatever precautions you take, you will die because Allah has fated that you will. For example, forgive me to say this, when you return home later and as you take various precautions and safety, if Allah has fated you to go, you will still go,” he said.

“Therefore, always remember Allah in whatever circumstances and conditions. This is what I learnt when the atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima,” he stated.

He said there was nothing much he could remember after that but for the vivid memory of the explosion and the immediate circumstances he was in. He said peace is something the world needs to cherish and guard gallantly.

His feelings for the importance of the sanctity of world peace is depicted in his front yard where a memorial dedicated to world peace that reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth” proudly stands written in various languages, including Japanese.

Meanwhile, AFP reported that the honorary doctorate will be given to three former students including YAM Pengiran Haji Muhammad Yusof, 91, Hasan Rahaya, 91, a former Indonesian parliamentarian, and Abdul Razak, 87, who taught Japanese in Malaysia.

The three were among a group of students from Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia studying in Japan during World War II under a programme designed to provide young foreigners with pro-Japanese education. According to the university, the three were forced to stop their studies after the western Japanese city was hit by the atomic bomb dropped by US forces, killing an estimated 140,000 people instantly.

There were nine foreign students at the university who were exposed to radiation from the bomb, a university official said, adding that two of them died instantly. The university is planning to send officials to the three countries early next year to present the degrees to the three.

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Indonesia free of major natural disasters in 2012

December 25 2012, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia, a country which is prone to natural disasters – floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, droughts, tsunamis and forest fires – did not experience major disasters in 2012.

A total of 730 natural disasters have hit Indonesia this year, but none of them have had devastating effects, said Indonesias National Disaster Mitigation Agencys (BNPB) spokesman, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, on December 20, 2012.

“The number of natural disasters this year has decreased compared to 2011. In 2011, there had been 1,663 natural disasters. In 2009, there had been 1,287 natural disasters. Most of the natural disasters in 2012 were floods, droughts and whirlwinds,” he said. In 2010, as many as 644 natural disasters had hit the country.

Sutopo said natural disasters have claimed a total of 487 lives in 2012. As many as 675,798 people were forced to leave their homes and 7,891 houses were destroyed. “Most of the natural disasters took place between January and April,” he noted.

The mishap of MV Putri Ayu in the waters of Maluku on June 16, 2012 left 92 people dead. The Putri Ayu boat, which was also carrying food and building materials, had been hit by huge waves and strong winds during its journey to Namrole (on the island of Buru), Maluku Province.

In April 2012, two consecutive earthquakes measuring 8.6 and 8.3 on the Richter scale killed five people in Aceh. Aceh is prone to earthquakes. The province was destroyed by a powerful earthquake that measured 8.6 on the Richter scale. Aceh was also hit by a tsunami on December 26, 2004. A total of 200,000 people lost their lives and one million people were left homeless.

Indonesia only has two seasons (rainy and dry). The rainy season starts in November and ends in March. The dry season begins in June and ends in October. Currently, a number of provinces are experiencing floods and landslides.

Many officials in Jakarta are anticipating major floods, which occur once every five years. According to them, Jakarta is likely to be hit by major floods, either this year or early next year. In 2007, Indonesia witnessed major floods in the country. Some 80 people in Jakarta and its surrounding areas were killed because of floods.

“Major floods were earlier expected to take place this year but it seems they will come early next year,” said Pardjono, head of Jakarta`s Manggarai water gate, on Monday (December 24).

Joko Widodo, the Governor of Jakarta, said his administration is well-prepared to deal with floods. “All the necessary facilities and personnel are ready,” he said, during a flood simulation exercise near the National Monument in Central Jakarta on November 6, 2012.

As many as 2,425 houses in Jakarta, particularly in Jatinegara and Kalibata sub districts, were affected by floods. The water level reached two meters. Floods had occurred because of heavy rains in the upstream areas of Bogor and Puncak, West Java.

A total of 60.9 million people live in Indonesia`s 315 districts/cities that are prone to floods. 124 million live in 270 districts/cities that are prone to landslides. In the last two months, floods and landslides have also been reported in several provinces across Indonesia – Aceh, West Sulawesi, West Java, North Sumatra, Riau, Bengkulu and Banten. In Aceh, six sub districts had been affected by floods, forcing more than 1,000 people to evacuate this week.

In early November, in the Mamasa district, West Sulawesi, flash floods and landslides had hit East Batangharu village. The natural disasters had killed 14 people. Three people had been reported missing.

Indonesia is located in the Pacific Ocean`s “Ring of Fire” of volcanoes and earthquakes. Indonesia was hit by 363 earthquakes (above 3.6 on the Richter scale) from January to December 10, 2012, according to the BNPB spokesman. During this period, Indonesia witnessed a number of major earthquakes measuring between 7.4 and 8.3 on the Richter scale.

Some 17 people were injured, 559 people were evacuated and 3,615 houses were damaged. 641 houses were seriously damaged, 675 houses were moderately damaged and 2,299 houses were slightly damaged. Whirlwinds also affect Indonesians every year. As a result of global warming, the number of whirlwinds is on the rise every year, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

“Global warming leads to the formation of clouds (cumulonimbus) that can trigger whirlwinds,” he said. Indonesia has been hit by 258 whirlwinds (36 percent of the total number of disasters that have struck the country) this year.

Some 115 million people reside in 404 districts/cities in Sumatra, Northern Java, East Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi. These places are prone to whirlwinds. Sutopo believes that the frequency and intensity of hydro meteorological disasters, such as floods, landslides, droughts, forest fires and whirlwinds will increase next year.

According to the National Meteorological, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), whirlwinds are likely to occur between March and April 2013, while floods and landslides are most likely to occur between January and March.

Forest fires can occur during the dry season next year in eight provinces: North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and East Kalimantan.

The country is likely to be affected by droughts from August to October 2013, particularly in Java, Bali and East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).

Sutopo said earthquakes cannot be predicted. 157 million people live in 386 districts/cities that are prone to earthquakes. A powerful earthquake usually occurs after a tsunami. Since 1629, Indonesia has been hit by 172 tsunamis. 233 districts/cities are prone to tsunamis. Close to 5 million people live in these areas.

“There are six active volcanoes – Raung, Rokatenda, Sangeangapi, Lokon, Karangetang and Ijen. Other volcanoes that may become active are Gamalama, Bromo, Talang, Krakatau, Kerinci, Gamkonora, Ibu, Papandayan, Ili Lewotolo, Sinabung, Dukono, Semeru and Merapi,” Sutopo noted.

“Next year, the disaster mitigation agency will implement a Tsunami Mitigation Master Plan to improve the public`s awareness of the tsunami early warning system,” he stated. “The government has allocated funds amounting to Rp1 trillion (in 2013). Rp16.7 trillion will be required for the implementation of the master plan in the next five years,” Sutopo added.

Some of the tsunami-prone regions in the country are Mentawai (West Sumatra), Sunda Straits, Java`s southern coast, the southern coast of Bali-Nusa Tenggara and Papua.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, during his speech at the 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Yogyakarta (in October 2012), said, “Natural disasters and other crises could push millions of people into poverty”.

“Indonesia will ensure that the post-2015 development agenda includes the natural disaster component,” said Yudhoyono. “Natural disasters – tsunamis, earthquakes, forest fires, floods, landslides and volcanic eruptions, are a threat to our national security and the public`s well-being. These natural disasters have also resulted in the destruction of various properties,” he said.

Held once every two years, the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is organised by Indonesia`s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). Some 2,600 participants from 72 countries and 25 officials had attended the last meeting.

President Yudhoyono is the first United Nations global champion for disaster risk reduction.

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Brunei’s Empire Hotel named second best golf resort in Asia-Pacific

Bandar Seri Begawan, Borneo Bulletin – The Empire Hotel & Country Club was chosen as the runner-up for the ‘Best Golf Resort in Asia-Pacific’ Award for 2012 by Asian Golf Monthly Magazine recently, further putting the spotlight on Brunei as one of the top golfing destinations in Asia.

The hotel’s 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course has been ranked in the top three spots for the last three years. According to the hotel, the recognition has further improved the hotel’s reputation as a top destination for golfing, as evident in the recently held Royal Trophy Golf Tournament from December 14 to 16.

The hotel was placed first in 2010 and 2011, while this year’s award went to Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, US. The Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Hj Yahya bin Hj Bakar presented the award to Hj Ali bin Hj Apong, Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and also Chairman of JPH Sdn Bhd, who accepted it on behalf of the hotel.

The golf course has also played host to the annual Brunei Open, contested by the Professional Asian Tour, the Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters Tournaments and the Faldo Series tournament.

The Empire Hotel & Country Club’s championship par-71 course is the flagship golf destination in Brunei, and it first made its mark when it was voted as ‘Asia’s Leading Golf Resort’ in the World Travel Awards. It is now an established venue for many golf tournaments.

Designed and built by 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus, the Empire Golf Course is the epitome of championship golf, encompassing lush green fairways and tropical landscapes fringed by jungles with magnificent views of the South China Sea.

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Famed Islamic scholar delivers talk on international banking, monetary systems

Bandar Seri Begawan, Borneo Bulletin – Bestselling author and famed international Islamic philosopher Imran Nazar Hosein yesterday presented a talk at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) entitled “The Quranic Foundation & Structure of Muslim Society”. The forum attracted an audience mainly from financial Islamic institutions, government personnel, university undergraduates, bankers and students. Members of the audience were enthralled by his take and views on various aspects that included international banking and monetary systems.

Imran Nazar Hosein is a graduate of the Aleemiyah Institute in Karachi. He has studied at several institutions of higher learning including the University of Karachi, the University of the West Indies, Al-Azhar University and the Graduate Institute of International Relations in Switzerland. He lived in New York for 10 years during which time he served as the Director of Islamic Studies for the Joint Committee of Muslim Organisations of Greater New York.

He attracts a vast following from his lectures on Islam in several American and Canadian universities, colleges, churches, synagogues, prisons and community halls. He also participated in many inter-faith dialogues with Christian and Jewish scholars while representing Islam in USA.

Imran was the Imam, for sometime, at Masjid Dar al-Qur’an in Long Island, New York and led the weekly mass prayers and delivered the sermon at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan once a month for 10 years continuously.

He has also written more than a dozen books on Islam. One of his books, ‘Jerusalem in the Quran – An Islamic View of the Destiny of Jerusalem’ has become a bestseller and has been translated and published into several languages. Imran Nazar Hosein is also famous for his strong views on issues in the Middle East, and those views are reflected in his writings.

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Christians in Turkey celebrate Christmas

12/26/2012 http://trkne.ws/383024 – Thousands of Christians in Turkey began their Christmas celebrations this week with religious ceremonies being held in different churches across the country. Christians in Istanbul gathered at St. Anthony of Padua Church on Istiklal Avenue in the crowded Taksim neighborhood on Dec. 24.

Worshipers recited prayers in Turkish, English and Italian. The Fener Greek Orthodox patriarch in Istanbul held a Christmas ritual at the Church of St. George early in the morning. Along with local Orthodox Christians, hundreds of Orthodox Christians from different provinces of Turkey and abroad attended the service, led by Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

A Christmas ritual took place at the House of Virgin Mary in Seljuk town of Izmir. Christians in the southeastern province of Hatay, bordering Syria, also celebrated Christmas at the Greek Orthodox Church in Iskenderun district. It was also celebrated in Mardin’s Midyat district, which has a large population of Syrian Orthodox (Assyrian) people. Worshippers gathered in Mort Ismuni Church and held a religious service on Christmas Day.

The Catholic Church of Mersin in the southern province held a Masse. Also rituals took place at the Virgin Mary Church in the eastern province of Diyarbakir.

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Pakistan President lauds services of Christian Community

ISLAMABAD, Dec 25 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari, lauding the role Christian brethren in Pakistan in all fields, said the nation was proud of their great participation for the development of the country. In a message to the Christian community on Christmas, the President said “the nation deeply admires their loyalty to the state and commitment to abide by the law.”

The President said he has no doubt that the Christian community will continue to play their positive role for peace, progress and prosperity of Pakistan. He said the equality of all citizens of the state has been enshrined in the Constitution and said Quaid-e-Azam made it clear in his address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947.President Zardari said the democratic Government of Pakistan was committed to pursue policies aimed at creating greater harmony and cohesion between people of different faiths.

“I wish to reiterate that we will continue to fight religious apartheid.” the President said. “Let it also be made clear that we will not permit the persecution of members of other faiths in the name of religion nor permit their hounding by misuse of laws and abuse of judicial processes.”

He felicitated the Christian community on the eve of Christmas and said “I extend heartiest greetings to our Christian brethren all over the world and in particular to those living in Pakistan.” The President said christmas was a time for celebration and rejoicing and also a time to reflect on the message of Jesus Christ (May Allah be pleased with him), the eternal message of love, peace and forgiveness.

“We as Muslims deeply revere Jesus Christ as one of the great messengers of Allah Almighty. His universal message of love and peace transcending race, color and geographical boundaries holds great promise in today’s world that has increasingly become bereft of tolerance, harmony and peace.” The President said it was time of rededication to his teachings and to seek forgiveness for sins.

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Fehmida felicitates Christians on eve of Christmas

ISLAMABAD, Dec 24 (APP): Speaker National Assembly Dr. Fehmida Mirza has extended felicitation to Christian members of the parliament and the Christian community on eve of Christmas. She said that this day may bring bounties for the Christian community and peace and prosperity in the country. She said that the day is celebrated as the birthday of Jesus Christ who was not only the prophet of Christian community but also he was much more revered by the Muslims as we believed on all the prophets of Almighty Allah and their teachings were cradle for us. Hazrat Essa (AS) advocated selfless services for humanity and preached the philosophy of non-violence , love, peace , tolerance and brotherhood.

Dr. Fehmida Mirza also extended her appreciation of the Christian community for their deep sense of patriotism and dedicated services for the progress and prosperity for the country. Their unmatched contributions in the process of national building, especially in the field of health and education were a glowing chapter of our national history, she said. The speaker reiterated that society would be purged of the menace of terrorism and militancy by following the Christ’s philosophy of non-violence, love and peace to face the currently challenging situation in the country, she said.

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UNESCO Shocked At Destruction Of Timbuktu Mausoleums

ACCRA, Dec 28 (NNN-GNA) — The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), Irina Bokova, has expressed shock at the ferocity which has marked the latest round of destruction of ancient mausoleums in Timbuktu in Mali. She was reacting Thursday to reports that at least three mausoleums in the area were destroyed on Dec 23, including that of the Al Hassan and Al Houseyni twins, according to a press statement from UNESCO received by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra.

The statement reiterated Unesco’s commitment to stand by the people of Mali as it did during the first wave of destruction last July. It said two emergency missions were subsequently carried out to assess damage, and the World Heritage Committee adopted a resolution to create an emergency fund for the rehabilitation and safeguarding of Mali’s cultural heritage.

“I call on the whole of the international community to act, as a matter of urgency, and take the measures necessary to guarantee the protection of this heritage, which is such an important part of Mali’s cultural identity, and of humanity‘s history,” the statement said. It said such wanton destruction on the inestimable treasures was a crime against the people of Mali, who had always shown great tolerance towards different religious and spiritual beliefs and practices.

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Indonesia: Palembang`S Floating Houses To Attract Tourists

PALEMBANG, Indonesia Dec 24 (NNN-ANTARA) — The floating houses (along the bank of Musi River) will attract tourists to Palembang, South Sumatra, according to a regional administration official. “We hope to increase tourism in this region by promoting the activities of the locals,” said Aris Munandar, head of the Palembang Development Planning Board`s strategy and layout division, on Monday. “Floating houses are unique. Hence, tourism will increase significantly,” he noted.

Musi River has many unique features that cannot be found in other regions, he said. Munandar said the locals live in floating houses. However, these houses will be developed into production houses, where special crafts related to the Musi River will be displayed. “Souvenirs and food items will be a part of the floating house tourism,” he pointed out. “Hopefully, Musi River will attract more visitors and become a tourist spot in the near future,” he added.

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Azerbaijan raises apple exports to Russia

28 December 2012 – In line with the official information of Rosstat, from the beginning of the season of 2012/13 Russia imported 43,000 tonnes of apples, which is a growth of 41% over a year earlier. This is the highest volume of apple supply to the Russian market over the past three seasons, Russian media report.

Overall, by the forecasts of the Foreign agricultural service of the United States, apple export from Azerbaijan will remain almost on the level of the last season and will be about 50,000 tonnes. At the same time, the volumes of import, according to experts, will grow to 15,000 tonnes which is caused by the increase in apples consumption in the country.

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ISESCO training session in Gambia on the role of radio programmes in promoting Islamic culture

Rabat 26/12/2012 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), jointly with the Khartoum-based Munazzamat Al-Da’awa Al-Islamyya, is holding a sub-regional training session on “the Use of Media in Da’awa and Promoting Islamic Culture in West Africa: Broadcasting as Case in Point”, in Banjul, Gambia, over the period from 27 through 29 December. Specialists in Da’wa and guidance from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Gambia will take part in the training.

The training session will seek to improve methods of disseminating Islamic values through the media, particularly via broadcasting, promote a culture of peace and contribute to fostering dialogue among civilizations, cultures and religions, addressing Islamophobia, developing the knowledge and expertise of trainees with regard to the preparation of specialized radio programmes, and expanding regional cooperation between the participating countries in the area of Da’awa-oriented media.

The agenda of the training features various theoretical presentations on the resources used in Da’awa, and the role of audiovisual media in developing Islamic culture. In the same vein, a round table on the use of radio broadcasting in preaching will be organized to discuss the problems of society from an Islamic perspective. Mr Papa Toumané Ndiaye, programme specialist at the Directorate of Culture and Communication, will represent ISESCO in the training session.

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Solar plant opened in Astana

News (26.12.2012) – The programme of the Kazakhstan silicon industry development has now entered its final stage. On Tuesday, the President of Kazakhstan launched the Astana Solar Plant to be manufacturing solar panels. This plant will be producing solar batteries of silica extracted in Kazakhstan. The project capacity of the plant is 217 thousand of 50 megawatt solar panels annually. In the near future, the plant is planning to double its output. The construction of this innovative plant cost 5 billion tenge and lasted for about one year. The head of state congratulated the plant’s personnel on the establishment of this enterprise and noted that the opening of the new production was a big present for the whole of Kazakhstan.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan: – When we talk about industrialization, we first of all mean innovations or types of technologies, which were absent before. Kazakhstan never had a plant producing solar panels before. Green economy is our future and companies that use this kind of energy, will be the most progressive ones. If we master these panels and wind power, Kazakhstan will benefit a lot. It will be a technological revolution. The future is connected with innovations.

At present, only five countries in the world can afford a full cycle of solar panel manufacturing and Kazakhstan is proud to be one of them. This is Kazakhstan’s third plant, which was established as part of the silicon industry of the country. This system provides assistance in the creation of a fully integrated industrial line manufacturing renewable sources of energy.

Zharkyn Zhangasiyev, Deputy General Director, Astana Solar LLP: In March, the city of Ushtobe launched a plant producing metallurgical silicon. Currently, Ust-Kamenogorsk is constructing a plant designed to produce photoelectric cells, which is the next stage after the metallurgical silicon. We are the third stage of this system. We produce solar panels.

The plant pays particular attention to staff training. At present, the enterprise employs twenty-eight people. Next year, it is planned to increase this number to 175 specialists from Kazakhstan. Some of them have already taken training abroad.

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Cabinet approves bill facilitating creation of businesses for youth


ALGIERS- Council of Ministers has approved Wednesday a bill modifying and complementing the law relating to the terms and conditions for the creation of businesses and jobs for young people.

“The bill aims at adapting the provisions of the law 04-08 of 14 August 2004 in accordance with the evolutions in the commercial activities, easing administrative procedures and facilitating the creation of businesses and jobs for young people,” said Cabinet’s release.

In this regard, President of the Republic Abdelaziz Bouteflika underlined “the support measures for the creation of small businesses require an appropriate framework governing the economic activities with the main objective of national economic development,” the release said.

Other developments in Algeria

Tourism: Seven development plans “ZET” to be adopted shortly

ALGIERS, 26 December 2012 – A bill of seven development plans of tourism extension zones (ZET) will be shortly submitted to the government for adoption, said Mohamed Amine HADJ SAID, Secretary of State to the Minister of Tourism and Craft Industry, in charge of Tourism.

For launching Arabic calligraphy speciality in Beaux-Arts School

ORAN (Algeria) 26 December 2012 – Participants in the regional survey days on Arabic calligraphy teaching, organized Tuesday in Oran (432 km west of Algiers), underlined the need to launch the Arabic calligraphy speciality in the schools of Beaux-Arts nationwide and to intensify the training of lecturers.

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UAE ‘top destination for European expats’

28 December 2012 – UAE is one of the top destinations for European expatriates looking for new opportunities and an improved quality of life, according to the latest study by Damac Properties. With average unemployment across the Eurozone countries at record levels (11.6 per cent in September, according to Eurostat, the statistical agency for the European Union), expatriates are increasingly looking to build a new life abroad.

Senior executives at Damac Properties, the Middle East’s largest luxury private developer, said it has experienced a strong upturn in investments from Europe as people look to move their money to a more stable and secure environment.

“As the global financial crisis continues to hang over the Eurozone, we have seen a significant increase in clients from Europe looking to improve their standard of living and benefit from the tax-free incomes on offer in Dubai,” said Niall McLoughlin, senior vice president, Damac Properties. “The crisis, and the high levels of unemployment, has been the catalyst for many people to say ‘enough is enough’ and make the move improve their family’s way of life.”

The strengthening of the Dubai property market, and recent announcements of heavy investment by the UAE government to kick start the expansion of Dubai, has reinvigorated the jobs market, attracting more people to consider moving to the Emirate.

A recent study undertaken by Lloyds TSB International lists the UAE, New Zealand and Spain as the top three countries British expatriates are turning to as a way of improving their quality of life.

The Lloyds TSB International report showed that two thirds of expats reported they are happier in their new countries than in the UK. Wealth management experts, deVere Group recently supported this by reporting that, in Q3 2012, there was a 36 per cent rise in the number of under-40’s enquiring about moving overseas, suggesting the working population are looking for new opportunities.

Dubai’s hotels gross operating profit per available room (Goppar) has increased 14.1 per cent to $160.07 for the first nine months of the year as more people see Dubai as an attractive destination, according to TRI Hospitality Consulting. “It is not only clients in Europe that are looking at Dubai as an appealing place to live and work, but also the many Arab expats looking to invest in Dubai as a safe haven in the Middle East,” McLoughlin said.

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Saudi to build two new medical cities

28 December 2012 – Saudi Arabia has announced plans to build two new medical cities in Riyadh and Jeddah.

Interior Minister Prince Muhammad bin Naif was quoted as saying by an Arab News report. The minister said King Abdullah’s gesture reflects his care for the security officers and their families, and added that the medical cities will provide specialised health services to all citizens.

Meanwhile, a 800-bed hospital will be established at Taibah University in Madinah. Higher Education Minister Khaled Al-Anqari has signed a contract to implement the project, the report said.

It will have 750 doctors and teaching staff, 2,350 students, 475 nurses, 800 patients, 700 administrators and workers, 2,850 visitors and will have a capacity to hold more than 10,000 people.

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Dubai Airports eyes 66m passengers in 2013

28 December 2012 – Passenger traffic at Dubai International is all set to surpass the projected target of 56.5 million for 2012, as the world’s fourth busiest hub for international passengers racked up another month of double digit growth this November with an eye on 66 million passengers next year, according to a report.

With monthly traffic in November reaching 4.87 million, up 10 per cent over 4.43 million in the corresponding month in 2011, the airport continued to enjoy double-digit growth in passenger numbers in all but two months of the year so far, the Dubai Airports said in its monthly traffic report.

Dubai Airports, which owns and manages the operation of both Dubai International as well as Dubai World Central, revealed that traffic is forecast to reach 66 million in 2013. The year to date traffic in November totalled 52.3 million compared to 46.2 million during the same period last year, thus registering an increase of 13.1 per cent, it stated.

Western Europe recorded the largest increase in total passenger numbers in November (with more than 153,089 passengers), followed by the Indian subcontinent (over 94,876), Asia (over 48,237), and Africa (over 42,683). However, the report pointed out that the contraction in traffic on Middle Eastern routes continued (-53,444) owing to the impact of the ongoing situation in certain parts of the region.

The strongest markets in terms of percentage passenger growth were South America (over 98.9 per cent) driven by new Emirates airline’s operations to destinations there, followed by Russia and CIS (over 22.6 per cent), Australasia (21 per cent ) and North America (over 20 per cent) as a result of increase in demand on US routes launched during the year.

The aircraft movements in November increased by 2.3 per cent to 29,749 from 29,093 recorded during the same month in 2011. The year to date movements totalled 313,300, up 5.6 per cent from 296,799 movements between January and November 2011.

Dubai International handled 200,060 tonnes of cargo in November, an increase of 4.4 per cent compared to 191,658 tonnes recorded during the same month in 2011. The year to date freight volumes reached 2,077,676 tonnes compared to 2,004,671 tonnes handled during the corresponding period last year, an increase of 3.6 per cent.

Commenting on the growth, Paul Griffiths, the CEO of Dubai Airports said, “We are very glad with the traffic growth this year and are all set to surpass our target of 56.5 million passengers by a margin, taking us closer to operating Dubai International at full capacity.”

“It is no coincidence that Concourse A, the A380 facility that underwent operational readiness trial recently, will open in early 2013 providing much needed capacity,” he added. Concourse A is part of the Terminal 3 complex which will increase Dubai International’s annual passenger capacity from 60 million to 75 million when it opens next year.

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Tunisia-Tourism: Clear improvement, but a timid pace

28 December 2012 – In an attempt to boost investment in the tourism sector, the ministry focused on the launch of the new development strategy of tourism in Tunisia by 2016. This strategy will be officially launched on February 19, 2013 during a national forum to be attended by a thousand participants and several foreign guests.

Among the major axes of the strategy, the diversification of the offer, promotion and marketing, governance and restructuring of the finance sector, mastery of new information and communication technologies and development of air transport. Through this initiative Tunisia aims to attract 10 million tourists in 2016.

Investments in the tourism sector declined by 50% during the first 11 months in 2012. In parallel, and during the same period, Tunisia hosted 5,554,000 tourists to November 30, 2012, against 4,456,000 in 2011 and 6,487,000 in 2010. Tourism revenues amounted, in turn, to 2.9 billion dinars during the first 11 months of 2012 against 2.2 billion in 2011 and 3.2 billion in 2010.

The distribution of market entries between January 1 and November 30, 2012, also shows a marked improvement in almost all tourist-generating countries to Tunisia compared to 2011, but a generalized regression compared to 2010.

Similarly, entries of European tourists increased 40.6% compared to 2010 and decreased by – 22.1% compared with 2010. Entries of Maghreb tourists grew 18.4% in comparison with 2011 and decreased by -3.7% compared to 2010. Entries of North Americans rose 29.5% compared to last year and dropped 20.9% compared with 2010.

With regard to the overall indebtedness of hoteliers, it stands at 3.5 billion dinars. Worse, between 600 and 800 million dinars are contested claims that will be paid by an assets management company.

The Tunisia destination targets indeed at least 6.8 million tourists in 2013. Despite tensions in Tunisia, travel agents, alternative tourism, tourist guides, restaurants, communicators and the sector’s experts stress the need to ensure coordination between the Ministries of Transport and Tourism and opt for close cooperation in order to improve the performance of the Tunisian destination.

Compared with competing destinations, the cost of air travel in Tunisia remains irrational, leading many tour operators to abandon the Tunisian destination to move towards others, such as Morocco, Spain, Turkey. ..

Similarly, professionals recommend launching a major campaign to improve the image of Tunisia and putting in place incentives to encourage tour operators to invest more in the Tunisian destination.

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Paintings by physically challenged Iranian artists on display in Kuwait

TEHRAN, Dec. 27 (MNA) – An exhibition of paintings by two physically challenged Iranian artists is currently underway at the Museum of Modern Art in Kuwait.

Zohreh Etezado-saltaneh and Arash Rezqi-Barez arrived in Kuwait on Monday to attend the opening ceremony of the exhibition. Iranian Ambassador Ruhollah Qahremani-Chabok, cultural attaché Abbas Khameyar, Kuwait’s National Council of Culture, Arts and Letters Secretary-General Ali Al-Yoha, and some South Korean, Chinese, Indian, Iraqi and Afghani diplomats were also in attendance during the ceremony.

The exhibit is organized by the Iranian cultural attaché’s office and Kuwait’s National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters. The organizers also showcased a collection by Iranian painter Jahanbakhsh Sadeqi on the sidelines of the exhibit in order to commemorate the physically challenged artist who died in November. The exhibit will run until December 30 at the museum.

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Tunisia: First World Sustainable Energy Forum opens in Tunis

28 December 2012 – The first edition of the World Sustainable Energy Forum “Enersol 2012” was opened on Wednesday at the Kram Exhibition Centre (Northern suburbs of Tunis).

The event is a private initiative supported by the public sector (ANME, APII, STEG, FIPA, and OACA) in collaboration with local institutions and partnership structures such as the Tunisian-American Chamber of Commerce (ATACC), the German Cooperation Agency (GIZ) and the Tunisian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AHK).

The three-day meeting on sustainable energy and green technologies, whose works were opened by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, aims to be a forum for exchange of knowledge on novelties, policies and recent projects in the fields of sustainable energy and green technologies.

In addition to the exhibition and the gallery of innovation, “Enersol” will be marked by three major forums dedicated to “General Policy and Business,” “Science and Technology” and “Civil Society and Green Jobs.”

The forum is attended by representatives of international companies operative in the areas of energy and experts from several countries: Germany, Austria, China, France, Greece, Italy, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, UAE and USA. In a statement to the media, Mr. Jebali confirmed the willingness of Tunisia to further explore the path of renewable energy.

“These are future energies and inexhaustible resources,” he said, noting that much remains to be done to achieve the objectives in this area. He stressed, in this context, the need to revise the legislative framework, to promote research and to adapt education systems to the country’s energy needs.

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Mauritania removed from international aviation security watch list

28 December 2012 – The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has welcomed the aviation sector reforms embarked upon by Mauritanian authorities which culminated in the removal of the north west African nation from ICAO’s “safety watch list”.

In a letter of commendation, addressed to the Director General of the Mauritanian National Agency of Civil Aviation (ANAC) and obtained by PANA here Saturday, the ICAO said that in view of the latest development, Mauritanian certified air carriers can now operate in European air spaces after a two-year ban for “serious breaches of civil aviation safety and security”.

The carriers are expected to resume flights to Europe as from February 2013 with services extended to Las Palmas and the Spanish archipelago of the Canaries. ICAO also urged other countries facing similar challenges to learn from the Mauritanian experience.

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Marketing season start for Ivorian coffee

28 December 2012 – The 2012-2013 marketing season for Ivorian coffee will start on Friday, 21 December, according to a communiqué released at the end of the council of ministers.’ meeting. A kilogramme of dried, husked and sorted coffee will be sold CFA F 620, an increase of CFA F 120 over last year’s figure, the communiqué indicated. It said the new price follows government’s desire to boost the sector by raising the quality of its coffee. Cote d’Ivoire, ranked third among the world’s largest coffee producing countries, lost this position due to recurring political crises in the West African country.

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Kabul IT Institute Holds Graduation Ceremony

December 26, 2012, Kabul (BNA) In a graduation ceremony held by the information technology institute here yesterday, certificates were distributed to the third course of graduation which attended by minister for communication and information technology Amirzai Sangin and officials from other ministries.

In his remarks, Sangin said that youth and those graduated from the institute are the asset of the country and they can take the country towards prioress. Engineer Mohammad Shafi the director of information technology also spoke on the occasion, saying so far these years’ 49 students including boys and girls have been graduated and absorbed by the ministry for communication and companies provide GSM services.

Other officials including Bari Sediqi the deputy to higher education ministry also spoke at the ceremony. At the end certificates were awarded to the graduates. Ninety seven students have been graduated from the institute over the past three courses.

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Afghan High Council For Urbanization Approves 4 Cities

December 22, 2012, Kabul (BNA) – The High Council for Urbanization of Afghanistan in its meeting had approved four cities which include Pul-e-Khumri, Maidan Shahr, Trinkot and Farah. Presided over by Dr. Hassan Abdullahi the minister for urban development and attended by officials from several ministries, the minister Abdullahi emphasized that each city will be built on plans based on population and other factors. After hectic debates, the High Council for Urbanization stated that the necessary Plans will be implemented in Pul-e-Khumri, Maidan Shahr, Trinkot and Farah within the next 15 years.

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First Flight Between Quetta-Kandahar Starts

December 26, 2012, Kandahar (BNA) The PIA company of Pakistan started its first flight from Quetta to Kandahar province. The aircraft which accommodated 30 passengers started its first flight in Kandahar province yesterday and will have 2 flights from Quetta to Kandahar. Toryalai Wesa governor of Kandahar said that in near future, the airplanes of Afghanistan companies will carry out flights to Quetta.

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6th round of India-Pakistan talks on Conventional CBMs held

New Delhi, Dec 28, IRNA — The Sixth Round of Expert Level talks on Conventional CBMs (confidence-building measures) between India and Pakistan held were here on Thursday. The talks were held in pursuant to the agreement between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan during their meeting on September 8, 2012 in Islamabad.

The talks were held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere, said a joint statement issued by Ministry of External Affairs after the meeting. The two sides reviewed the implementation of existing CBMs, including the ceasefire along the LoC, exchanged ideas to further advance the CBM process and reaffirmed their commitment to continue discussions with the aim of strengthening conventional CBMs.

The two sides also agreed to report the progress made during the current round of talks to their respective Foreign Secretaries, it said.

The Indian delegation to the talks was led by Mr. Y.K. Sinha, Additional Secretary (PAI), Ministry of External Affairs. Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Additional Secretary (UN&EC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Pakistan delegation. The last expert-level meetings on Conventional and Nuclear CBMs between India and Pakistan were held on December 26-27, 2011 in Islamabad.

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Chinese solar company firm invests in Turkey

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News – China Sunergy, a specialized solar cell and module manufacturer, yesterday announced that it had set up a new manufacturing facility in Istanbul with its local partner, Seul Energy Investment. Seul is a solar system provider, solar project developer and installer based in Turkey, the Chinese company said in a press release yesterday.

In September, the two companies signed agreements to invest jointly in three newly established companies under the name “CSUN Eurasia” to produce solar cells and modules in Turkey and to invest in downstream solar projects in Turkey and neighboring countries. The first 150 MW solar module line installed in the new facility will begin producing solar panels in January 2013, while the 100 MW solar cell line is now being installed and will start manufacturing in March 2013, the statement read.

The company is planning to move additional 200 MW equipment to the Turkey plant from its facilities in Shanghai in the first quarter of 2013 and to gradually ramp up production in the first half of next year, a plan subject to market dynamics and the Turkey plant’s production progress, it said, without elaborating on the volume of the investment.

However, China Sunergy expects the new plant to create over 1,200 job opportunities locally in Istanbul. The company expects Turkey to become its second-largest manufacturing base after China.

“We are delighted to see our facilities in Turkey established and ready for production. Solar projects in Turkey enjoy higher feed-in tariffs when adopting locally manufactured cells and modules. Therefore, we believe our cooperation with the strong local partner Seul Energy will help us capture substantial market share in the region,” said Stephen Cai, CEO of China Sunergy, in the press release.

Çağrı Seymen, CEO of SEUL Energy said: “Turkey’s energy demand has dramatically increased over the past decade, and we believe with one of the highest solar radiation in Europe, Turkey is poised to become the next new solar energy dynamo in the region.”

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Islamic countries, Turkic Speaking States to boost cooperation

22/12/2012 (OIC News release) – At the invitation of Secretary General of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, Halil Akıncı, Secretary General of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council) and his delegation paid an official visit to the Headquarters of the OIC in Jeddah on 22 December 2012.

This is the first visit from the Turkic Council to the OIC and the first official meeting between the two organizations.

At the meeting, the two Secretaries General discussed issues of common interest including ways of deepening cooperation between the two organizations to address the common challenges facing the Muslim World. They also shared views on regional and global matters and how to jointly contribute to peace, security, stability and prosperity of their common region and the world at large.

Mr. Halil Akıncı, with a view to establish working relations between the two organizations on an institutional basis, stated that the Turkic Council is interested in gaining Observer Status at the OIC and that the due process will be initiated at the earliest. The four members of the Turkic Council, namely Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey are also members of the OIC. Both Secretaries General welcomed the prospect of working more closely together.

Various departments of the OIC made individual presentations to the Turkic Council delegation on the activities of the OIC and prospective areas of cooperation. The Turkic Council delegation also briefed the officials of the OIC and the representatives of the diplomatic and consular corps in Jeddah about the structure and activities of the Turkic Council.

Secretary General of the OIC and Secretary General of the Turkic Council expressed their hope that this visit would be the beginning of a fruitful cooperation that will serve the common interests of both organizations.

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Pakistan inaugurates new cricket stadium in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh

GARHI KHUDA BAKHSH, Dec 26 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday inaugurated Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto International Cricket Stadium here at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, Naudero. Addressing the gathering after the inauguration ceremony, the President said that one of the missions of the Government was to provide healthy activities for the youth so that their energies are diverted towards positive activities and away from extremism. “We will continue to provide facilities for healthy sports activities,” he said on the occasion.

The President complimented Pakistan Cricket Board, its Chairman Zaka Ashraf and all those who helped build the cricket stadium. He said that sometime back as the Patron of Pakistan Cricket Board he had asked the Board to build an international standard cricket stadium at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh to provide an opportunity to the local children to test their skills, train and become the best in the world.

This vision, he said, has been translated into reality today as the first phase of the cricket stadium has been inaugurated.

The President on the occasion also congratulated the youth of Larkana, and the whole province, on the setting up of this facility. According to prepared text of his remarks, the President said that for years there was a sense of deprivation amongst the rural population of Sindh.

Lack of sport facilities in Sindh had prevented talented youth to produce world class athletes, he added. He said that in the next phase, a cricket academy with state-of-the-art facilities and best coaches to train the local players would also be set up in the area.

He said, “I can see that quite a few players representing Pakistan internationally will come from this area.” Noting the addition of Larkana, Dera Murad Jamali, FATA and Bahawalpur in the cricket setup recently, the President remarked that this would promote cricket across the country and upgrade skills of the local cricketers.

He said that cricket was a passion for Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Cricket, he said, is a passion for him and for millions of people all over Pakistan. It is a unifying force and it can be used to project the message of peace, he added.

Complimenting Zaka Ashraf, Chairman PCB, and his team for putting this show together in a short span of time, the President wished him and the PCB well with their plans of bringing international cricket to the country. Chairman PCB Zaka Ashraf also spoke on the occasion and thanked the President for his personal interest in promotion of the cricket in the country. Earlier, the President also visited the mazars of Shuhuda in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh and offered Fateha for the departed souls.

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Kuala Namu Airport to boost economies of Sumatra & Western Indonesia

Jakarta, December 27 2012, (ANTARA News) – The new Kuala Namu International Airport in North Sumatra will be inaugurated in March 2013. People believe that the airport will boost the national and regional economic growth. The much awaited airport – located in Kuala Namu, Deli Serdang – will become the new international transit centre in Sumatra and other western parts of Indonesia.

Spread over 1,365 hectares, the Kuala Namu Airport will be Indonesia`s second largest airport after the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta. Speaking at the Sumatra Governors Coordination Meeting in Medan, Joko Waskito, the airport’s project manager, expressed hope that the airport will be operational by March 2013. “90 percent of the airport is completed. The airport will be operational before March 2013,” he said.

Waskito explained that the 1,365-hectare airport has a terminal area measuring 118,930 sq meters, a parking area measuring 50,820 sq meters and a cargo garage measuring 13,000 sq meters. “The airport has sophisticated equipment. The airport can accommodate up to 8.1 million passengers every year,” he said.

According to him, the airport will have a 3,750 meter long runway, which is 80 meters wide, and 53 airport aprons, where aircrafts can be parked, including the Airbus A380. The airport will serve the city of Medan, Sumatra.

The provincial administration has also started constructing a toll road that will connect the airport to the provincial town of Binjai.

Indonesia’s Transportation Minister, EE Mangindaan, said there is a possibility that the Polonia Airport will be closed once the new Kuala Namu aerodrome becomes operational. Several planes had crashed at the Polonia Airport because it has a short runway, making it difficult for planes to take off.

Aviation facilities at the Kuala Namu Airport will be controlled by the Indonesian government, while facilities on land will be owned by PT Angkasa Pura II, which is expected to provide $350 million as an initial investment, in return for a 30-year lease, after which the government will take the ownership. Wiratman & Associates is looking into the design of the airport. The firm has also designed other airports and offices in Indonesia.

International tourism in the province will increase once the airport becomes operational. In addition, the airport will boost the region’s economic growth.

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Bangladesh moves to lower maternity mortality rate

GAIBANDHA, Dec 28,2012 (BSS) – A two-day long ‘Health Fair’ ended at the Civil Surgeon (CS) office here yesterday with a call to ensure healthcare facilities for women to decrease maternal mortality rate. Department of Health organized the fair in cooperation with Naripokkho and Gana Unnayan Kendra under Nari Bandhab Karmasuchi funded by UNICEF in a bid to inform all about the women friendly hospital.

Civil Surgeon (CS) Dr Ahad Ali chaired the concluding ceremony. Administrator of Zilla Parishad (ZP) Advocate Syed Shams-ul- Alam Hiru addressed the function as the chief guest and Gaibandha Poura Mayor Shamsul Alam was present as the special guest.

Syed Shams-ul-Alam Hiru urged the doctors, technicians and other staffs of hospitals to be more dedicated and serious to provide the treatment to the women properly so that they were not deprived of health services.

Earlier, local lawmaker Mahbub Ara Begum Gini formally inaugurated the fair on Wednesday as the chief guest and deputy commissioner Dr Quazi Anwarul Haque and superintendent of police AKM Nahidul Islam were present as special guests. A total of 11 stalls were set up in the fair where different health related posters, banners, leaflets and booklets were displayed for the visitors.

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Abu Dhabi to start 2013 marketing with India roadshow

Abu Dhabi, 26 Dec. 2012 (WAM) – Abu Dhabi Tourism ‘&’ Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) is to begin 2013 with a five-city road show taking in key cities in India as it looks to build inbound tourism from the Republic, which is now the emirate’s second largest international hotel guest source market. The authority, together with its trade partner Lama Tours, will lead a 12-strong industry delegation representing its attractions, hotels and airline sectors in a five-day whistle-stop promotion taking in New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai from 7-11 January.

“This is the first time we have included Ahmedabad and this is to leverage the recent launch, by Etihad Airways, of a daily flight from this largest Gujarat city to Abu Dhabi,” said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, International Promotions Manager, TCA Abu Dhabi. Weddings and MICE business is high on the delegation’s agenda. One member – the five-star The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, which was recently named the ‘Ultimate Beach Destination’ by leading European online agent E-Bookers, already has a large Indian wedding booked for next month.

The luxury, multi-award-winning Jumeirah at Etihad Towers meanwhile has Indian MICE business firmly in its sights. “We are focusing in 2013 on the Indian business and MICE segments, and to some degree leisure, because Indian visitors are proving to be people who appreciate luxury hospitality and gourmet experiences,” said Doris Greif, General Manager, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers.

“The Indian market is important to our overall client mix, especially given its relative proximity and propensity to travel. It is hoped that not only will our general business and leisure client base further expand, but that opportunities for MICE travel and events that utilize our luxury and state-of-the-art conference centre will also increase.” Abu Dhabi’s stunning Yas Marina Circuit – home to the annual F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – is hitting the road with the TCA Abu Dhabi’s Promotion Department looking to push its ability to host large-scale events and banquets, conferences and exhibitions.

“In many ways this is a fact-finding visit for us. When we know more about the market we will be happy to look into tailoring products specifically for Indian clientele. We have had relatively small incentive bookings from India using our premium retail products, such as the Aston Martin experiences so far. The Indian market is definitely attracted by luxury products and bespoke events. We work with DMCs on this kind of business and would like to see corporate events from India being hosted in Yas Marina Circuit,” said Tariq Zuroub, Communications Executive, Yas Marina Circuit.

“India is a developing neighbour, a strong emerging market on our doorstep. It has volume business because of its sheer size with no language barrier.” Other road show partners are: Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Emirates Palace, Hyatt Capital Gate, the soon-to-open Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Rotana, Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort ‘&’ Spa, the Anantara group which operates three properties in Abu Dhabi including the newly-opened Eastern Mangroves Hotel ‘&’ Spa and Etihad, which now flies from nine Indian destinations to Abu Dhabi International Airport.

“Improving air access is key to the Indian market and now with Abu Dhabi receiving 124 flights a week from the country, we have capacity to leverage,” said Al Nuaimi. “We also have major events which will appeal to the Indian market most notably January’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and February’s Gourmet Abu Dhabi culinary festival.

“So far we have taken the pulse of the Indian market by taking part in exhibitions and road shows – now we are upping the stakes with a plan for full-time, on-the-ground representation and increasing in-country promotions, which will include being present at India’s main travel fair, SATTE, next month,” added Al Nuaimi.

From January to the end of November this year some 125,180 Indian guests stayed in Abu Dhabi’s hotels and hotel apartments – a 30% increase on the first 11 months of last year – and they accounted for 496,581 guest nights, which is a 34% rise on the 2011 comparative period. Indian guests are staying in Abu Dhabi’s hotels for an average of 3.97 nights.

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Etihad Rail’s gets first batch of rail wagons for national network

2012-12-26, WAM, ABU DHABI: Etihad Rail – the developer and operator of the UAE’s national railway network -announced today that the first shipment of wagons, to be used in Stage One of the rail project linking Shah and Habshan to Ruwais in the Western Region, arrived earlier this week at Abu Dhabi’s historic port, Mina Zayed, aboard the King Spirit. Senior delegates from Etihad Rail were on hand to receive and inspect the wagons upon arrival.

Commenting on the arrival of the King Spirit, Dr. Nasser Saif Al-Mansoori, CEO of Etihad Rail said, “the timely arrival of the wagons is yet another indicator of the rapid progress being made on this strategic national project. Construction activity for the first stage of the rail project, which is being developed in partnership with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), is far along and we are on track to see the first trains run from Habshan to Ruwais within a year using these wagons. Etihad Rail’s wagons were carefully manufactured and designed based on several studies and integrated research efforts conducted in collaboration with Etihad Rail’s different suppliers, leading us to adopt some of the most advanced rail technologies available in the world.

The rail project will change the face of transportation in the UAE, playing a significant role in building a sustainable economy by promoting growth in various business sectors, providing jobs for the local workforce, and contributing to environmental preservation, since one fully loaded train produces 70-80% less CO2 emissions than that of the trucks required to transport the same tonnage.” Etihad Rail contracted China South Locomotive ‘&’ Rolling Stock Corporation Limited (CSR) last year to supply 240 covered wagons for the transport of granulated sulphur in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi. Etihad Rail has also contracted United States-based Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD), one of the world’s largest builders of diesel-electric locomotives, to design and manufacture seven heavy haul freight locomotives.

The wagons were designed with the highest available safety standards to accommodate the core purpose of Stage One, the transport of granulated sulphur. For example, the wagons’ top-hatch covers for loading maintain the purity of the sulphur at 99.9%. Furthermore, train transport allows for a capacity of up to 22,000 tonnes of sulphur per day. It would take 360 trucks to transport the equivalent tonnage.

Mina Zayed, developed by Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC) and managed and operated by Abu Dhabi Terminals (ADT), has already received other equipment necessary for the construction of Stage One, including one locomotive (to switch the wagons), and will continue to act as Etihad Rail’s gateway to vital suppliers from around the globe. Locomotives to be used in Stage One will be arriving in the UAE in Q1 of 2013.

Commenting on the arrival of the wagons, Martijn Van de Linde, CEO of Abu Dhabi Terminals, said, “Though the management and operation of Mina Zayed, Mussafah Port, Freeport and the recently inaugurated Khalifa Port, the region’s first semi-automatic port, ADT is playing a key role in supporting the development of Abu Dhabi’s strategic national infrastructure. ADT’s work to ensure that wagons and other equipment vital to the development of the Etihad Rail network, that arrive from around the world, are efficiently sent to where they are needed is a testimony to ADT’s commitment to working closely with other key organizations and entities sharing similar objectives related to contributing to Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030.

The recently inaugurated Khalifa Port, constructed by ADPC, will be linked to Etihad Rail’s network during Stage Two of Etihad Rail’s construction process. Linking Abu Dhabi’s ports with the Etihad Rail network will create a multi-modal transportation system that will contribute to Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030.

Tony Douglas, CEO, ADPC commented: “We congratulate Etihad Rail on the delivery of its wagons at Mina Zayed. We’re looking forward in particular to the company running its freight service to Khalifa Port from 2016. This will boost the port’s transport services and is a vital milestone for the megaproject Khalifa Port and Kizad”.

Construction on the 264 km route for Stage One of Etihad Rail, which links Shah and Habshan to Ruwais, is well under way. The tendering process is already in progress for Stage Two, which will connect the railway to Mussafah Port, to the UAE’s Khalifa Port and Jebel Ali Port and further to the Saudi and Omani borders, spanning 628 km.

Stage Three, at 279 km, will connect the rest of the Northern Emirates and will inaugurate Etihad Rail’s passenger service. Upon completion, the Etihad Rail network – which will cater to both freight and passengers – will extend approximately 1,200 km across the Emirates. It will connect urban and remote communities, facilitate trade, open up communication channels and foster economic development. The network will also form a vital part of the GCC Railway Network – linking the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east.

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Tobacco packs in UAE to display health warnings, as of 2013

2012-12-26, WAM, ABU DHABI: All cigarettes and other tobacco products which do not carry a graphic health warning on packs will be totally banned in the UAE from 1st of January 2013, the acting director general of the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) Mohammed Saleh Badri announced.

Badri said:” the move was in line with the Cabinet’s approval of a mandatory updated UAE standard on tobacco products that was published in the gazette on 29 November 2011.” The decision will be executed in cooperation with all competent ministries and authorities nation-wide, he added.

Accordingly, all cigarette packs and other tobacco products in the UAE will be required to have a graphic picture showing the ill effects of smoking, he explained. The Cabinet’s decision was to take effect on 9 August 2012. Tobacco companies requested enough time to get rid of imported stocks of the products which already are in the local market and which packs do not comply with the graphic warning decision, the ESMA official noted.

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First Int’l Baku Forum on “State and Religion: Strengthening Tolerance in the Changing World”

Baku 20/12/2012 – In an address read out on his behalf at First International Baku Forum on “State and Religion: Strengthening Tolerance in the Changing World”, Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, the Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), said that religion, from the Islamic perspective, is not separate from the state, and that religion is one of the bases upon which the state is founded. In the same vein, he added that this Islamic vision contradicts with the western vision, which departs from secular principles for historical reasons known to the researchers in the history of conflict between science and the Church in the West, which resulted into an intellectual and religious conflict, the outcome of which was the separation of the Church from the public life and the establishment of ruling systems on non-religious foundations.

Likewise, he pointed out that the choice of the Conference’s theme reflects the deep understanding of the nature of the conflicts threatening the stability of human societies at this juncture. He also underlined that the association between the state and religion, if objective conditions are provided, and negative factors resulting from blinding fanaticism are discarded, always lead to the promotion of tolerance, which draws peoples closer together, fosters peaceful coexistence, boosts cooperation, based on mutual respect among the adherents to cultures and religions, united by their belief in the lofty principles and noble values advocated by the monotheistic religions.

Furthermore, he underscored that this serious conflict between what is religious and earthly, between science and faith or between state and religion doesn’t exist in Islam, for Islamic law (Sharia) has laid the rules and laws that regulate and govern the life of the individual and society both in its earthly and religious dimensions, without extremism, seclusion or rejection of the other.

Moreover, he underlined, that the state in the Islamic sense doesn’t mean the religious state as opposed to the secular state. “Islam is both a religion and state, but this doesn’t mean that it is a religious state, as depicted in the western culture, upon which contemporary political and constitutional thought was built”, he highlighted. In this regard, he added that the term of “religious state” is alien to the Islamic culture. He also underscored that peace is a common property to all religions without exception. “Therefore, secluding religion from the state, or isolating the state from religion is dangerous”, he pointed out. In the same vein, he emphasized that religion should reject fanaticism and extremism, which are the sources of all the catastrophes ruining the human life.

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Morsi pledges “all necessary changes for the sake of Egypt”

27 December 2012 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) – Addressing the nation on 26/12/2012, President Mohamed Morsi said the Egyptian people have managed to show the whole world that their time honored civilization is still alive. In a televised statement, the President welcomed disagreement of opinion and rejected violence and violation of law. Morsi said he has assigned Prime Minister Hisham Qandil to undertake a limited Cabinet reshuffle that conforms to the needs of the coming stage.

In his statement, Morsi said the vote on the draft constitution was held in a transparent and fair way. Judges have supervised the referendum, Morsi said in his speech marking the constitution endorsement after 63.8 per cent of Egyptian voters approved it.

The President congratulated the Egyptians for adopting the first post-Revolution constitution. The Egyptian people proved to the world that their ancient civilization is still alive when they voted in a referendum that was totally held in transparent way and was supervised by the judiciary and monitored by NGOs, Morsi added.

The President thanked the High Elections Commission (HEC), judges, the armed forces and police, paying tribute to those who have contributed to rendering successful this big national event. By adopting the new constitution, Egypt can move towards a new stage that will boost security and stability in the country, Morsi underlined.

He asserted that he respects the rights of those who oppose the constitution, but all parties must not resort to violence.

Throughout the last few days and weeks of anticipation and worry, I have done my best to overcome this difficult chapter of our history, Morsi stressed. “I was determined to put the will of Egyptian people into force through a constitution that paves the way for development, prosperity and social justice,” he said. “For this purpose, I have shouldered the responsibility of taking a lot of tough decisions, as he put it. The President renewed his call for dialogue. For the sake of our nation, I renew my call on political parties to take part in the national dialogue,” he said.

Morsi called on all political powers to throw their weight behind efforts aiming at reaching consensus. They should take part in drawing the roadmap of this stage, Morsi noted. The President said the upcoming days will witness more effort to push forward the national economy which is witnessing immense challenges, adding economy has high prospects to grow.

He said he will undertake the changes that conform to the needs of comprehensive development in Egypt. The government is doing its job in difficult circumstances, he remarked, saying he is having consultations with Qandil on the ministerial reshuffle that is needed to satisfy the requirements of the coming stage.

The President said he will do his best to mitigate the suffering of the limited income brackets, adding he, along with the government, will spare no effort to support these classes. He also said the coming days will witness launching many projects in the field of services, production and offering incentives to investors to support Egypt’s economy. Concluding, the President said he will do his best to take care of the homeland interests and to preserve its territorial integrity.

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Latin Patriarch Twal says Israeli Occupation Causes Suffering

BETHLEHEM, December 25, 2012 (WAFA) – Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal said in his Christmas Eve sermon at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza causes severe suffering to the Palestinian people.

“We live under very difficult conditions because of an unending Israeli occupation,” he said in the sermon he gave in Arabic at the midnight mass attended by President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and a number of Palestinian officials, foreign diplomats and international and local guests. “The occupation controls our land and food and confiscates our word, water and air,” he said.

“Christmas is an occasion for celebration, even at a time when many of you are suffering for one reason or another. Thousands of young people are anxiously waiting in prison to regain their freedom. Families are separated and awaiting travel permissions in order to live or gather together under the same roof. You continue to suffer the unending occupation,” he said.

Twal expressed sympathy for the people of Gaza who just came out from an 8-day Israeli military onslaught that killed over 160 people, wounded hundreds others and caused heavy destruction to homes and infrastructure. “Gaza and the south of Israel have just emerged from a war with consequences that are still visible both physically and mentally,” he said. “Our prayer includes all Arab and Jewish families that have been touched by the conflict. May the Lord give them patience, comfort and consolation, and that communities and people all over the world offer them assistance and support.”

The Latin Patriarch called for peace and reconciliation in Palestine and the region. “We, the faithful of the monotheistic religions are in agreement that the divisions between men are the work of the devil, while reconciliation is God’s work,” he said. “From this holy place, I invite politicians and men of good will to work with determination for peace and reconciliation that encompasses Palestine and Israel in the midst of all the sufferings in the Middle East,” he said.

Twal expressed sympathy for the people of Syria who are suffering from a civil war and for other Middle East countries. “Let us pray fervently for our brothers and sisters in Syria, who are dying mercilessly. Let us pray for the people of Egypt who are fighting for national agreement, freedom and equality. Let us pray for unity and reconciliation in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Sudan, in the other countries of the region and the rest of the world. Let us pray for stability and prosperity in Jordan,” he said.

Addressing Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah, Twal called on them “to continue to fight for a just cause to achieve peace and security for the people of the Holy Land.”

“You, Mr. President, with His Majesty King Abdullah II, have been at the forefront of those who worked and continue to work for nonviolence, peace and justice. May the Lord bless and protect you. We appreciate your efforts and the courageous positions you have taken at the regional and international levels,” he said.

Talking to Abbas, Twal said, “Your efforts have borne fruit in the recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state by the United Nations. This recognition should be a decisive step towards peace and security for all. Only justice and peace in the Holy Land can re-establish balance and stability in the region and in the world.”

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Corruption in service sectors comes down in 2012: TIB survey

DHAKA, Dec 28, 2012 (BSS) – The level of overall corruption in service sectors and harassment of service recipients from the health sector have been decreased, but rate of collecting bribe is on rise, according to a survey of the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB). Releasing the report at a press conference at Cirdap auditorium today, TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said data was collected on 13 service sectors and this year’s survey showed a slight mixed trend.

Chairperson of the TIB Board of Trustees Advocate Sultana Kamal was present at the press conference. While presenting the report, TIB official Md Rafiqul Hasan said the level of overall corruption in the service sectors came down to 55.8 percent in 2012 from 84.2 percent in 2010 and. “Corruption and harassment have come down in the service and health sector in 2012 in comparison to the survey in 2010,” he added.

He said around 63.7 percent of service recipient households were victims of different forms of corruption. TIB conducted the survey titled “Service Sector Corruption: National Households Survey 2012” from May 15 to July 4 this year. According to the report, the level of corruption was highest in labour and immigration sector and 77 percent of all households who received services from this sector were victims of corruption.

Law enforcing agencies (75.8 percent), land administration (59 percent) and judiciary (57.1 percent) occupied the second, third and fourth position in the level of corruption. Estimates from the survey shows that Tk 21,955.6 crore is lost annually to bribery or unauthorized payment. The amount is 13.6 percent of the national budget for the fiscal year 2011-12 or 2.4 percent of GDP, he added.

Although there have been some progress in some sectors such as law enforcing agencies, land administration, judiciary, agriculture, power and banking, as per 2012 survey compared with the 2007 survey, it has been found that corruption has mounted sufferings of service recipients.

According to the report, the extent of corruption is still high in rural, which only indicates a deepening and widening of this problem. As per the sectoral analysis, 40.2 percent of all households who received services from health sector were victims of corruption while 40.1 percent of service recipients from education sector were victims of corruption.

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Western museums “panic” at Turkey seeks return of artifacts

12/26/2012 http://trkne.ws/383010 – Western museums appear to be panicking as Turkey continues to facilitate the return of many stolen artifacts, says Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay. Turkey remains committed to repatriating all the artifacts that have been stolen from its soil over the years, Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay has said while expressing hopes that regional neighbors will also receive back their ancient treasures. “Western museums are very concerned about the establishment of a joint policy in Eastern Europe and the Middle East,” he recently told the Daily News. “I see that museums in Europe are in panic. People with self-confidence don’t react like that,” said Gunay.

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Thessaloniki hosts Turk artists show

12/26/2012 http://trkne.ws/383021 – Thessaloniki-based art gallery, Artis Causa, is hosting an exclusive exhibition just for Turkish artists in honor of Thessaloniki’s 100th anniversary celebrations. The gallery will host an exhibition of paintings and sculptures by several contemporary Turkish artists in Thessaloniki on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Greek city’s liberation.

The exhibition, titled “Dostluk” (Friendship), opened Dec. 14 as a joint effort between Muhsin Bilge, one of the most significant art collectors of Turkey, who curated the exhibition, and the Turkish Consulate General in Thessaloniki. A selection of works by young Mustafa Ozel, Furuzan Simsek, Aysecan Kurtay, Arda Yalkin, Didem Unlu and Hande Sekerciler are featured in the show, which will run until Jan. 30.

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Istanbul commemorates Rumi in special ceremony

Published: 12/17/2012 http://trkne.ws/382930 – The Sufi mystic Mevlana Muhammad Jelaluddin Rumi is commemorated every December in the Central Anatolian province of Konya, where his tomb is located. But Istanbul was also home to a commemoration ceremony for Rumi over the weekend, marking the first time the cultural capital of Turkey hosted the Sufi event that attracts spectators from around the world annually.

The Istanbul event, held two days ahead of the Dec. 17 ceremony in Konya, drew thousands to the Ulker Sports Arena on Saturday, Turkish news agencies reported. A joint effort between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Greater Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the Istanbul ceremony was held due to strong turnout for ceremonies in Konya, the Anatolia news agency reported Saturday.

The commemorations mark the anniversary of the death of Rumi 739 years ago, on Dec. 17, 1273. In the Istanbul ceremony, famous Turkish stage actor-director Kenan Isik recited selected verses from the “Mesnevi,” Rumi’s world-famous spiritual poems about divine love, to Sufi tunes performed by Yucel Arzen and his orchestra. The 45-minute recital was followed by a Sufi music concert by Sami Savni Ozer. The ceremony culminated with a sema performance, the world-famous Sufi whirling dervish ritual, conducted by the Marmara Turkish Music Ensemble.

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Egypt’s Tourism numbers down

Cairo, (Alahram Online) — As 2012 draws to a close, Egypt’s tourism industry continues to suffer from the overall political instability and lack of security, with Magdi Selim, head of internal tourism at the Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA), saying that he had never felt just how “fragile” the tourism industry was as he had over the past year.

With stern travel warnings coming from numerous countries to their citizens about visiting Egypt, led by the UK, the number of inbound tourists to Egypt has declined significantly over the year. Cairo was severely affected by this year’s events with a hotel occupancy rate of just 18 to 20 per cent.

Luxor and Aswan have been struggling with 18 per cent occupancy rates. “This time of year should be high season for Upper Egypt, so you can imagine how it feels to walk into the temple at Luxor and find no tourists there,” Selim said.

Though there had been signs that the tourism industry might recover in time for the high season, hopes were dashed because of the violence that broke out following the 22 November constitutional declaration and the debate surrounding the draft constitution.

Before that, an increase of some 18 per cent in tourist numbers had been detected over last year, though now the situation has returned to what it was beforehand. According to Selim, some of the growth had been explained by an increase in inbound tourism from countries also suffering from political instability. “It is the first time we have seen so many tourists from Palestine and Libya in September and October,” he said.

The Red Sea governorate has been one of the least affected by the declining numbers of tourists. Last week, Hurghada was still receiving almost daily charter flights, bringing with them up to 11,000 tourists. As a result, hotels in Hurghada are posting up to 80 per cent occupancy rates.

Most tourists coming to the Red Sea are now Russians, Germans, Italians, Poles and Czechs, a new market for the region. According to Ahmed Al-Dou, head of the Red Sea office of the ETA, German tourism officials had supported the Egyptian industry during a recent visit to inaugurate the FTI cruise line, one of Europe’s largest operators, saying that travel warnings would not be issued to German tourists wishing to visit Egypt.

It is FTI cruises’ first winter season in Egypt, and the tours will continue until 15 March, passing through the Red Sea, South Sinai, and Luxor.

In South Sinai, the situation is different, since according to Ahmed Fouad, financial director for Sun Rise Cruises & Resorts, tourists often do not differentiate between South and North Sinai. As a result, if there are security problems in North Sinai, the whole of the Peninsula suffers.

His company had had 50 per cent reservations at 12 resorts in Sharm El-Sheikh and the Red Sea for the Christmas and New Year period up until the first week in December. However, after the recent events in North Sinai, they had seen 10 per cent cancellations.

Selim told Al-Ahram Weekly that he had hoped to see Egypt welcome 10 or 11 million tourists this year, but recent “incidents shook the ground beneath our feet”. Egypt saw one of its highest-ever numbers of inbound tourists in 2010, with 14.7 million tourists, bringing with them some $12.5 billion in income.

In 2011, in the wake of the 25 January Revolution, that number had fallen to 8.5 million, bringing $8 billion in income.

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Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is a strategic project of the region

Baku, December 28 (AzerTAc) – Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim has said that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway is a strategic project of the region and symbolizes regional cooperation. During his visit to Kars province, he noted the project that connected Middle East and Caucasus to Europe and Far East through Turkey would play an important role in developing the region.

The Turkish minister said the construction work was carried out in BTKs 76 km-long Turkish segment. The construction will speed up next year. We want to complete the construction of the railways Baku-Kars segment and to realize test visits. “The projects 26 km-long Georgian section is being constructed, and reconstruction work continues at the facilitys 160 km-long part from Akhalkalaki to Tbilisi and Baku. All this work will cost a toal of 3 billion Turkish liras, while 350 million Turkish liras were invested in Turkish part of the project. The other important issue is the construction of Kars logistics centre and Nakhchivan-Kars railway.”

Stressing the importance of the Nakhchivan-Kars project for the relations between two countries, Yildirim said the feasibility study for the project was carried out. “The 335 km-long railway that amounts $1.5 billion will join Nakhchivan not only to Kars, but also to Erzurum. An alternative route will be built from Nakhchivan to the Middle Asia and Near East.”

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Corner of Korean culture to open in Kyrgyz museum

Bishkek, December 28 / Kabar /. Culture and Tourism Minister of Kyrgyzstan Ibrahim Junusov supported the initiative to open a corner of Korean culture in one the museums of the country. The press service of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Kyrgyz Republic reports. This initiative was proposed by Ambassador of South Korea to Kyrgyzstan Kim Chang Gyu during a meeting with the Kyrgyz Minister. The Ambassador says that the corner of culture should reflect the history, life and cultural heritage of the Korean people. At the meeting the special attention was paid to preservation and development of historical and cultural heritage of both countries, as well as legislation of the countries in the field of culture.

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KIA Motors to build a car assembly plant in Osh

Bishkek, 13 December / Kabar /. Korean KIA Motors plans to build a car assembly plant in Osh. This became known at a meeting of representatives of the Osh Mayor’s Office with the official partner of the KIA Motors Corporation, the press service the Osh Mayor’s Office reports.

Chairman of the committee for foreign relations and investments of the Osh Mayor’s Office Salkynbek Tashbaev said that Osh is a southern logistics center, which connects all of the southern region of the country. “Light and food industries are developed in the city. A very large human potential, more than 500 thousand people live here. And construction of the new plant will attract more attention of the public, because the people will be provided with jobs”, he said.

“We want to develop the industry in our region with your help and are ready to contribute to the development of the city of Osh”, said Director General of the official partner of the corporation KIA Motors De Yong Ho.

He said that they want to build a car assembly plant in Osh city, which will assemble cars KIA and later to open in the region a sales and service center of cars of this brand.

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70,000 tourists visited Sulaiman-Too in 2012

Osh, December 24 / Kabar /. 70 thousand tourists visited Sulaiman-Too sacred mountain in 2012. Director of the historical department of the National Museum of History and Archeology “Sulaiman” Khairullah Ibaidullaev told. “In 2010, after the June events, the number of visitors of this historical legacy has decreased by almost half. This year, about 70 thousand tourists visited there, ” said K. Ibaidullaev. He said, there are about 33 thousand exhibits in the museum found in southern regions of Kyrgyzstan. The oldest finds date back to one thousand years BC.

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‘Kazakhstan 2050’ Strategy a new course of democratization – Turkey Vice PM

ISTANBUL. December 28. KAZINFORM – With the support of the Kazakh Embassy in Ankara, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Bulent Arinc gave an exclusive interview to the “Khabar” Agency. B. Arinc appreciated the Strategy “Kazakhstan-2050” proposed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in his state-of-the-nation address. He noted that the President’s message contains in-depth analysis of the global challenges of the modern world and organizes them into 10 basic points.

“Strategy “Kazakhstan-2050″ is a new course of democratization, strengthening of statehood and national unity in brotherly Kazakhstan,” the Deputy Prime Minister stated.

He focused on the fact that the President of Kazakhstan emphasized the consistency and predictability of foreign policy based on national interests, which makes a significant contribution to further development of the relations between Kazakhstan and Turkey, which this year celebrated 20 years. The Turkish politician congratulated the leadership and people of Kazakhstan on winning the right to host the international exhibition EXPO-2017.

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Kazakh boxers named best by Asian Boxing Confederation

ASTANA. December 28. KAZINFORM – The Asian Boxing Confederation has published the list of winners of ASBC-2012 award, Kazinform has learnt from Astana Sport. Serik Sapiyev from Kazakhstan was named the Best Asian Elite Men Boxer of the Year. Ruslan Myrsatayev from Astana Arlans club won in the nomination the Best Asian WSB Boxer of the Year.

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Baku hosts press conference on ‘Kazakhstan-2050’ Strategy

BAKU. December 25. KAZINFORM – Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan Serik Primbetov has talked about the new “Kazakhstan-2050” Strategy in Baku today. Mr. Primbetov told the Tuesday press conference about Kazakhstan’s success in the international arena, positive results of economic reforms carried out in the country and President Nazarbayev’s role in all that.

“Summing up results of the “Kazakhstan-2030” Developed Strategy it is safe to say Kazakhstan has established itself as a modern, confident state and a reliable partner in the international arena. The new “Kazakshtan-2050″ Strategy has been developed in order to respond to new challenges. It is set to define a vector for sustainable development of the country in the 21st century,” the Kazakh diplomat elaborated.

Besides, Ambassador Primbetov highlighted the key provisions of the strategy and announced Kazakhstan’s plans for future.

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