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27 May, 2013

Ihsanoglu on Historic Visit to OIC States in Latin America: Suriname & Guyana

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 27 May 2013 (17 Rajab 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



World Islamic Tourism Mart to be held in Kuala Lumpur

The World Islamic Tourism Mart (WITM) and Malaysia International Tourism Exchange (WITM-MITE) 2013 jointly organised by the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) and My Events Sdn Bhd, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Malaysia, MyCeB and Islamic Tourism Centre, amongst others, will be held at the Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur from 6-9 June 2013. WITM-MITE 2013 comprises of: B2B Travel Exchange for Buyers and Sellers to network and expand their market potential, and International Conference, Date: 6-7 June 2013; and Consumer Travel Fair Date: 8-9 June 2013. MATTA is encouraging its Members to participate in WITM-MITE 2013 by taking up booths as SELLERS/EXHIBITORS in the Business-to-Business Travel Exchange and Consumer Travel Fair as well as to attend the international conference featuring world renowned speakers. Top Management from numerous countries will be at WITM-MITE 2013 as Buyers seeking opportunities to expand their business with Malaysian Inbound tourism players. For further information, please click here: http://witm-mite2013.com

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


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.


“Weighing the Causes And Costs Of Global Wars And Conflict” and other columns gagged by the Bangkok Post

For 15 years (January 1997-July 2012), Imtiaz Muqbil penned a hard-hitting fortnightly column called “Soul-Searching” in the Bangkok Post. In July 2012, two editors (Sunday Post Editor Paul Ruffini and Managing Editor Chiratas Nivatpumin) 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 this column Weighing the causes and costs of global wars and conflict, and several others, by clicking here.

Examples of some columns:

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus: How to Alleviate Poverty and Insecurity

Call for Israeli Apology to Palestinians As a Prelude To Peace

Asia Must Influence New World Order, Not Be Influenced by It

“War on Terror” is a War Without End

Surin Pitsuwan to Civil Society: “Hold ASEAN to Account”

No Sign of A Pursuit of Accountability for the Global Financial Crisis

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus: How to Alleviate Poverty and Insecurity




Ihsanoglu on Historic Visit to OIC States in Latin America, Suriname & Guyana

23/05/2013 – Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu will next week begin a tour of OIC Member States in South America, a historic visit being the first by an OIC Secretary General since the Organisation was founded in 1969. The tour will commence next 27 May 2013 when the Secretary General starts with a visit to the Republic of Suriname on the north coast of South America, which is one of the two OIC Member States on the continent.

Ihsanoglu’s visit is at the invitation of the Surinamese President Desi Bouterse. In the Surinamese capital, Paramaribo, Ihsanoglu is expected to meet with the political leadership and hold bilateral talks with the Foreign Minister. He would also visit one of the Surinamese universities and the Centre for Religious Dialogue.

Ihsanoglu had met with President Bouterse on the margins of the United Nations meetings in September 2010 during which they discussed bilateral relations and cooperation between the two sides.

Next Wednesday, the Secretary General would visit the Republic of Guyana, the second Latin American Member State of the OIC, where he would meet with the political leadership and hold intensive talks on strengthening bilateral relations with many senior officials from the country.

Suriname is one of the Latin American countries that recognized Palestine as a free and sovereign state on the borders of 4 June 1967 prior to the United Nations grant of observer status.

Ihsanoglu’s visit to these two states is part of the efforts he started since assuming office as Secretary General to boost Member States’ relations with the OIC General Secretariat, intensify discussions with them, and involve them in the Organisation’s programmes, projects and plans aimed at giving effect to the principle of Islamic solidarity and translating it to lived reality in the political, economic, cultural and social fields.

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ISESCO Chief visits Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou Nat’l Museum & University

Ouagadougou 23/05/2013 – Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), today at the conference hall of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Burkina Faso held a working session with a group of Burkinabe ministers. There were the Minster of Secondary and Higher Education, the Minister of National Education and Literacy, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, the Minister of Communication, Spokesperson of the Government, the Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation, the Minister of Social Action and National Solidarity and the Minister of Youth and Labor.

During this session, the Director General gave a thorough presentation on the priorities of ISESCO’s 2013-2015 Action Plan for education, literacy, adult education, scientific research, cultural tourism, intercultural dialogue and alliance of civilizations, and issues pertaining to the promotion of social conditions in the Member States.

He also discussed with the ministers ways to boost cooperation in the fields of common interest.

Burkinabe Premier Mr Luc Adolphe Tiao later received Dr Altwaijri, and awarded him the title of the Commander of the National Order (one of the highest official decorations in the Republic of Burkina Faso), in recognition of his efforts to enhance relations between ISESCO and Burkina Faso and align ISESCO with leading international organizations.

Talks focused on ways to further strengthen cooperation between the government of Burkina Faso and ISESCO in the areas of education, science, culture and communication, to achieve the goals of sustainable development for Burkina Faso and serve ISESCO’s mission to advance human civilization.

Dr Altwaijri visited the Ouagadougou National Museum, which houses the country’s fine collection of artifacts. The curator provided Dr Altwaijri with background information on collections and upkeep modalities. ISESCO had provided the National Museum in Ouagadougou with financial and technical support after the floods in 2008.

Further, the Director General visited the Multidisciplinary University Center in Ouagadougou (Centre universitaire polyvalent de Ouagadougou), where he was received by the head of the centre and introduced with a brief description of its activity.

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100,000 Tourists At Citrawarna 1malaysia

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia May 23 (NNN-Bernama) — About 100,000 domestic and foreign tourists are targeted to attend the annual tourism promotion bash, Citrawarna 1Malaysia, at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur this Saturday.

Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Aziz said the event themed, ‘Visit Malaysia Year 2014-Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia’, would involve 6,700 participants including members of various associations, youth and students from public and private higher learning institutions.

He said 258 MegaFam participants comprising media practitioners and travel writers from 24 countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand would witness the event and write about it, hence promoting Malaysia to their respective countries.

Nazri disclosed this at a news conference after the ministry’s post-cabinet meeting, here, yesterday. He said the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Malaysian King) Tuanku Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong (Queen) Tuanku Hajah Haminah would grace the occasion, the 15th edition, since it started in 1999.

Nazri said the event with the procession-cultural performance concept and divided into five segments – ecotourism, homestay, sports tourism, shopping, heritage and ‘Magic of the Night’ – would start at 5pm.

Among the highlights will be the procession involving eight decorated floats and 200 Porche cars, and the “Mega Endang” traditional dance involving all the parade participants, while the 1Malaysia food court will offer local culinary delights. Nazri said the full rehearsal for Citrawarna 1Malaysia would be held Thursday with the roads around Dataran Merdeka to be closed to traffic from 8.30pm to midnight.

On the day of the actual event, the affected roads will be Jalan Raja, Jalan Tun Perak, Jalan Dang Wangi, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Raja Laut, Jalan Lebuh Pasar Besar, Jalan Hishamudin, Jalan Damansara, Jalan Maharajalela and Jalan Kinabalu. These roads will be closed to traffic in stages from 6pm.

Nazri said Syarikat Prasarana would extend its RapidKL service to 1am and the LRT service to 12.30 on that day. He said the colourful event would be broadcast live by TV2, MyTourismTV.com portal and TrulyAsiaTV.com, thus widening the opportunity for the country to meet the target of drawing 28 million foreign tourists during Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

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Malaysia: Fruit Orchard To Be Set Up At KL Tower

Kuala Lumpur, May 17 (NNN-Bernama) — An orchard planted with local fruit trees will soon be set up at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur Tower (KL Tower), aimed at bringing significant development by the first quarter of next year. Agriculture and Agro-based Industry secretary-general Hashim Abdullah said, although KL Tower was sited in the middle of the city, it was surrounded by jungle which was suitable for the planting of fruits.

“The area is very attractive and suitable. Orchards can only be found in villages, but now, we want to create one in the middle of a big city…something which has never been done before by any country,” he said. Hashim was speaking to reporters after launching the Mango Fiesta 2013@ KLTower here Friday.

He said the ministry would send several experts to evaluate and propose fruit trees which were suitable after the KL Tower management had identified the site for the orchard.

No tree would be felled for the project, he said. He said the orchard could add to the attraction of the KL Tower as a location for leisure activities for families. In lauding the idea, KL Tower chief executive officer Zuraidah Mohd Said said the idea could boost the attractiveness of KL Tower among local and domestic tourists.

“We will discuss the matter as quickly as possible as a site of around 0.8-1.2 hectare is already available. The orchard will be built in stages but we expect the project will show results by the first quarter of next year,” she said.

On the Mango Fiesta 2013, the programme which started Friday at the Malaysia Cultural Village, KL Tower until Sunday, from 10am to 6pm, she said it was aimed at boosting demand for mangoes.

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Indonesian ‘Hijabers’ buy into an Islamic economy

Jakarta, Thursday, 13 Rajab 1434/23 May 2013 (IINA) – Indonesian event organizer Risti Rahmadi wears an Islamic headscarf, uses halal lipstick and knows that it’s time to pray when an app on her BlackBerry emits the call to prayer five times a day. The 37-year-old, who in her 20s would save up for the latest Guess clothes and Revlon make-up, now strictly buys products that show she is a proud Indonesian Muslim – and she hopes to persuade others to do the same.

She is a member of the “Hijabers Community,” an Islamic all-women business network which is part of a Muslim consumer boom jostling for market share with Western firms keen to take advantage of Indonesia’s strong growth. “I think Indonesia has become too Western,” said Rahmadi, who says her business has increasingly won clients who want to host Islamic events since she joined the Hijabers. “Younger Indonesians spend most of their time hanging out at malls, and they forget to pray.”

Many now share Rahmadi’s view that persuading a new class of consumers to buy Islamic is about more than just shopping habits – it is about combating a rising tide of Western influence that threatens to erode traditional Muslim values. They see Western consumerism as inextricably linked to a rash of imported social ills, from greater promiscuity to increased alcohol consumption, and believe Islamic consumerism can be a counterweight. Successful Islamic products range from celebrity preachers raking in money with live shows to RomantISLAM, a text-message service that gives relationship advice with Koranic references.

Designers are increasingly coming up with clothing and jewelry with an Islamic twist, including pieces that rival high-end, imported goods from the likes of Chanel and Louis Vuitton. In an affluent south Jakarta suburb, jewelry designer and “Hijaber” Reny Feby displays glittering $500 (385-euro) brooches that women can pin to their headscarves, and also has more expensive items such as a diamond ring for $50,000.

“Fifteen years ago, no one wanted to buy my jewelry because it was seen as too Muslim, and I used ‘proudly made in Indonesia’ as my tagline,” said the 42-year-old, wearing orange beads and an electric-blue headscarf. “But now Indonesians are proud to buy local and Islamic fashions, and the elite who buy my pieces use them as status symbols.”

The rise in consumption is driven by the fast expansion of the middle class as Southeast Asia’s top economy booms, notching up growth of more than six percent annually in recent years. Annual per capita income has steadily risen in Indonesia from $890 in 2003 to around $3,000 in 2011, World Bank figures show – although millions still live in abject poverty.

As people’s spending power grows, they are literally “consuming” their Muslim faith “in a very tangible way,” according to Greg Fealy, an Indonesia expert at Australian National University in Canberra. “A lot of the pious Muslims in the middle class want to show to the people around them they’re living pious lifestyles – through their clothes, schools, the shopping they do and the books they read,” he said.

While there was undoubtedly already a desire for products with a Muslim flavor, groups such as the 3,000-strong Hijabers hope to increase this trend. The nationwide organization, which takes its name from the traditional Islamic headscarf, promotes products such as Islamic jewelry and halal beauty products. They are in the vanguard of the campaign against Western consumerism, most visible in the ubiquitous shopping malls and chains such as Starbucks. The Hijabers protested this year against Valentine’s Day, which they believe is encouraging Muslim couples to be more physically affectionate in public.

Inspired by a Pakistani movement to rename it Hijab Day, they handed out pamphlets in several cities instructing women on covering up. Some of the Islamic consumption clearly fits with a shift towards a more conservative form of Islam that has been growing in Indonesia since the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998. Nevertheless, the overall picture remains complex and contradictory in a sprawling archipelago of more than 17,000 islands.

Even as more people buy Islamic products, there has also been an explosion in the popularity of “dangdut” music, an Indonesian fusion of Arabic, Malay, Indian and Western pop notorious for its lewd lyrics and raunchy dance moves. On the other hand, people are buying up properties in an Islamic housing complex just one kilometer (0.6 miles) from a concert venue on Jakarta’s outskirts, where pop stars such as Kylie Minogue and Justin Bieber have performed sold-out shows.

The Bukit Az-Zikra complex, built around a mosque and study center funded by slain Libyan dictator Moammer Qaddafi, is a tobacco- and alcohol-free zone and those who live there must dress according to Islamic law. It aims to “compensate for modern life, business and routines that often make people indifferent and inattentive to religious values,” according to its website.

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Int’l Symposium On Islamic Civilization In Eastern Africa

OIC Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), and the National Records & Archives Authority of the Sultanate of Oman, are jointly organizing, in cooperation with Zanzibar University, the International Symposium on the “History of the Islamic Civilization in Eastern Africa”, in Zanzibar, Tanzania, on 3-6 September 2013.

Africa was the destination of the first Muslim migrants from Mecca to Abyssinia in Africa. From then on, Muslims immigrations extended to include the eastern coast of Africa as a point of destination. Moreover, Muslim Preachers and merchants along with the immigrants reached to Central Africa.

Along with Northern Africa, Eastern Africa was one of the places which were most largely influenced by Islamic civilization. The growth of Muslims immigrations was due to certain reasons. One reason was the geographical proximity of Eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Another one was the environment of Africa with its fertile soil, abundant water, moderate climate and considerable wealth and bounties.

Muslims settled in these regions of Africa and established Islamic dynasties and states that played active roles in local and international policy due to their strategic locations. Some of these dynasties and states are Bata, Mogadishu, Sefalah, Zanzibar and Mombasa. In addition, these dynasties and states played and still play a pioneering role in spreading Islam in that part of the world.

The conference is aimed at highlighting various aspects of Islamic civilization in Eastern Africa and promoting the exchange of views and findings of research on the impact of Islamic civilization in the region. This will be done around the following axes:

1 – Reviewing the historical and cultural dimensions of the Islamic civilization in South Asia and East Africa.

2 – The role and influence of Arab and Muslim migrations on the convergence of the Islamic sects.

3 – The influence of Islamic civilization in the fields of architecture and traditional crafts.

4 – Acquainting with the history of Islamic civilization, in the past and present, and studying its social, economic and political consequences.

5 – Reviewing the geographical aspects that contributed to the spread of the Islamic civilization.

6 – Shedding light on various forms of the intellectual production in East Africa.

7 – The influence of the Islamic civilization on African social life (customs, traditions and daily life areas).

8 – The Arab and Islamic press, and its role in enriching cultural life in Eastern Africa.

9 – Acquainting with the reality of manuscripts, records, archives, and monuments, and identifying the means of their development.

Symposium Themes

Historical Theme

The nature and availability of sources and studies on Eastern Africa.

The impact of Islamic civilization in Central Africa.

The role of Arabs in Islamic civilization and their trade influence in Rwanda and Burundi: Humaid Bin Muhammad Al-Mrajabi “A model”.

The cultural treasures and role of the civilization in Congo: Ahmad Bin Ibrahim Al-Amri “A model”.

Muslims migrations and their impact at internal level.

The role of Omanis in fighting colonialism and promoting Islamic rule.

The role of Omanis in disseminating Islam and its culture in the African mainland.

The role of Muslim scholars (Ulama) in various fields of culture.

The impact of Islamic civilization in Eastern Africa (commercial, economic, social, political and cultural influences).

The role of Ottomans in spreading and protecting Islamic civilization in Eastern Africa.

The accepted research papers will be published after editing in a special booklet for the symposium events. The organizing body holds the copyrights. Before publication the papers will be subject to the applicable Publication Law in the Ministry of Information of the Sultanate of Oman.

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China, Tajikistan establish strategic partnership

BEIJING, May 20 (Xinhua) — China and Tajikistan established a strategic partnership on Monday, pledging to boost bilateral cooperation. The announcement was made during talks held between President Xi Jinping and his visiting Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmon, who visited China from May 19 to 20.

China and Tajikistan share the need to consolidate cooperation, safeguard common interests and address common challenges, Xi said, adding that China will maintain a friendly policy stance toward Tajikistan. Xi highlighted the significance of the strategic partnership, which he said will cement cooperation in multiple fields.

He said both sides should step up their mutual support on issues concerning sovereignty, territorial integrity and security. The two sides should also effectively use cooperation to boost economic growth and intensify coordination on significant international and regional issues, Xi added.

Rakhmon said Tajikistan and China have set an example for other countries by working together as candid and trustful strategic partners, adding that Tajikistan is willing to offer firm support for China on key issues. Rakhmon expressed hope that the Chinese dream of the renewal of the Chinese nation could be realized at an early date. Rakhmon pledged commitment to maintaining high-level exchanges and cooperation with China.

After the talks, the two heads of state also signed a joint declaration concerning the strategic partnership and witnessed the signing of a series of agreements on cooperation.

According to the declaration, China and Tajikistan will support the development paths chosen by their citizens and support each other’s efforts to safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity as well as measures to maintain social stability, boost economic growth and expand foreign exchanges.

The two countries also agreed to push bilateral economic cooperation forward and accelerate the implementation of aviation and cross-border railway and highway projects. Both sides will jointly explore mineral, and oil and gas resources and discuss cooperation in power infrastructure, wind and solar energy, the declaration said.

Both sides will carry out agricultural technology cooperation projects and set up a China-Tajikistan agricultural technology demonstration center and agricultural industrial park in Tajikistan to raise the country’s capability for grain production.

China and Tajikistan will offer financial support for bilateral trade and cooperation, as well as for Chinese enterprises to invest in Tajikistan and settle bilateral trade in their own currencies.

The two nations also pledged to expand cooperation among law enforcement and judicial departments and jointly crack down on terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as drug-related crimes and new threats and challenges.

Both sides decided to boost cooperation in the fields of culture, education, tourism, health and sports. China welcomes Tajik students to study in the country and the Tajik side welcomes more Confucius Institutes to be established in Tajikistan.

The significant role played by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in promoting regional peace and development was emphasized in the declaration. The two countries will work with other SCO member countries to ensure the success of the SCO summit to be held in Bishkek later this year.

China will offer full support for Tajikistan after the country assumes the SCO rotating presidency following the Bishkek summit, the declaration added.

Both sides also pledged to enhance cooperation under the multi-lateral frameworks including the United Nations to jointly cope with global and regional challenges so as to promote world and regional peace, security and development.

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Pakistan, China sign pacts on Economic Corridor, maritime links

ISLAMABAD, May 22 (APP): Pakistan and China Wednesday inked several Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) that mainly included the long-term Economic Corridor plan, maritime cooperation and satellite navigation. President Asif Ali Zardari and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang witnessed the signing ceremony as the representatives of the two countries inked the documents at a ceremony held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr.

The MoU on Maritime Cooperation between the two governments, an Agreement on Boundary Management System between China’s Xinjiang and Gilgit-Baltistan area, and another Agreement on Border Ports and their Management System was signed by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani.

The MoU on cooperation for long-term plan on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor between the two governments was inked by Xu Shao Shi, Chairman National Development and Reform Commission, China and Shahid Amjad Chaudhry, Advisor to the Prime Minister.

China’s Minister for Commerce Gao Hucheng and Pakistan’s Secretary Economic Affairs Division Shahzad Arbab signed the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation and the handing over certificate of Seismographic Network.

The MoU on cooperation in the field of marine science and technology between the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) of China and the Ministry of Science and Technology of Pakistan was signed by Administrator SOA and Secretary Ministry of Science and Technology Akhlaq Ahmad Tarar.

The Agreement between China Satellite Navigation Office (CSNO) and Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission for Cooperation (SUPARCO) was inked by Director CSNO, Ran Chengqi and Major General (Retd) Ahmed Bilal.

The Agreement on establishment of Confucius Institute at the Karachi University was signed by Xu Lin, Head of National Office for Chinese Language and Muhammad Qaiser, Vice Chancellor Karachi University. The other documents that were signed included Annual Blister Purchase Contract and Greige Fabric Contract.

Separately the visiting Chinese high powered business delegation signed procurement agreements worth 450 million dollars to help Pakistan business to utilize the tremendous potential of China.

The agreements were signed between Chinese companies SDIC Trade, CTEC, Sinopharm, Sino Steel Raw Materials, Sino Fiber and Sinochem and Pakistani companies JNTC, Brother Resources, Texchain, Sea Trade, Aideen and UGI.

The two sides agreed to deepen comprehensive strategic cooperation in the following eight areas:

POLITICAL RELATIONS: China reaffirmed that China-Pakistan relationship is always a priority in its foreign policy, and will continue to steadily push forward this strategic partnership of cooperation with Pakistan. China appreciates Pakistan’s long-term, staunch support on issues concerning China’s core interests. China will continue to support Pakistan’sefforts to uphold its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, respect the development path chosen by the Pakistani people according to their national priorities, and support Pakistan in maintaining social stability and economic development.

Pakistan reiterated that friendship with China is the cornerstone of its foreign policy enjoying a national consensus. Pakistan appreciates the support and assistance of the Chinese government and people for Pakistan’s economic and social development, Pakistan will continue to vigorously pursue this time-tested and all weather friendship with China.

Pakistan will continue to adhere to one-China policy, oppose “Taiwan independence” and “Tibet independence,” support the peaceful development of the relations across the Taiwan Straits and China’s cause of reunification, and support China’s efforts in combating the “Three Evil Forces” of extremism, terrorism and separatism.

“We regard ETIM as our common threat and stand united in upholding sovereignty and territorial integrity of China,” the joint statement said.

According to the statement, the two sides believe that maintaining the tradition of frequent exchange of visits and meetings between their leaders, and fully leverage such mechanisms as annual meetings between their leaders is of great importance in advancing bilateral relations.

They agree to fully leverage such mechanisms as Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue, Strategic Dialogue and other consultative mechanisms between the relevant ministries and departments, so as to strengthen the strategic communication and coordination between the two countries.

ECONOMIC COOPERATION AND TRADE: Both sides reaffirmed that expanding bilateral economic relations was a high priority. The two sides agreed to establish an interface between China’s strategy to develop its western region and Pakistan’s domestic economic development with a view to translate their high-level political relationship into results of pragmatic cooperation. To this end, the two sides will strengthen cooperation in trade, investment, energy, agriculture, finance and other fields.

The two sides agree to fully implement the Additional Agreement to Extend the Five Year Development Programme on China- Pakistan Trade and Economic Cooperation and the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement, fast track work on the projects identified under the Five Year Development Program, press ahead with the second phase of negotiations of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement, further liberalize trade, and advance economic integration between them. China stresses that it will continue to encourage and support Chinese enterprises’ investment in Pakistan, which will contribute to the improvement of Pakistan’s economy and people’s well-being.

China will continue to push relevant financial institutions to help finance those bilateral economic cooperation projects that are ripe for implementation. The two sides agreed to start work on the China-Pakistan Agriculture Demonstration Zones on priority.

The Joint Statement said that the two sides agreed to enhance exchanges between young entrepreneurs, and will strengthen communication on trade and investment cooperation.

The two sides agree to jointly carry out economic and technical cooperation in agriculture, health, education and projects that benefit the people. They will hold the third meeting of the China – Pakistan Joint Energy Working Group at an early date to deepen cooperation in conventional energy, renewable energy and civil nuclear energy. The two sides agree to continue the implementation of the currency-swap agreement and strengthen cooperation in the financial sector.

CONNECTIVITY: The two sides believe that enhancing connectivity between China and Pakistan, an area where they already enjoy good cooperation, is conducive to tapping the potential of trade, logistics and flow of personnel between the two countries as well as the economic integration of the two countries and the region.

The two sides will make concerted efforts to continuously improve connectivity between China and Pakistan, accelerate work on the Attabad Lake blocking the Karakorum Highway (KKH), carry forward the project of the upgrading of the KKH and the national highway network post-flood rehabilitation project, and promote cooperation in building transport infrastructure.

The two sides agree to jointly develop the Long-Term Plan for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on the basis of thorough study, so as to promote greater connectivity and further development of investment, trade and economic cooperation between China and Pakistan. Both sides decided to establish a joint working group under the National Reform Development Commission of China and the Planning Commission of Pakistan which will study relevant connectivity ventures.

MARITIME COOPERATION: The two sides believe that enlarging and deepening maritime cooperation between the two countries is of great importance to enriching the China-Pakistan strategic partnership of cooperation and improving the wellbeing of the two peoples.

The two sides agree to enhance bilateral cooperation in the fields of maritime security, search and rescue and disaster relief at sea, maritime scientific research and environmental protection, and blue economy.

They also agree to jointly support the construction and development of the China -Pakistan Joint Maritime Research Center, tackle the growing non-traditional threats to maritime security, and effectively safeguard the security of international sea-lanes. The two sides signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Maritime Cooperation Between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the field of Marine Science and Technology Between the State Oceanic Administration of the People’s Republic of China and the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

AVIATION AND AEROSPACE: The two sides see their cooperation in aviation and aerospace as an important reflection of their high-level strategic cooperation. They agree to earnestly implement the 2012-2020 Space Cooperation Outline Between China National Space Administration and Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission to further enhance bilateral exchanges and cooperation in this field.

The two sides welcome the signing of the agreement for cooperation on BeiDou Satellite Navigation System in Pakistan, and will make continual progress in the remote-sensing satellite system project.

The two sides will take necessary measures to actively explore expanding air routes for passenger travel and cargo transportation between the two countries, and increase the number of flights.

PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE EXCHANGES: The two sides believe that the growing people-to-people exchanges and cooperation help to build strong public support for China-Pakistan friendship. The Chinese side supports efforts of the Pakistani side to expand teaching of the Chinese language and will train 1000

Chinese-language teachers for Pakistan in five years. The Pakistani side supports the establishment of a Confucius Institute in Karachi University, and the gradual increase in number of Confucius Institutes in Pakistan.

The two sides agree to launch inter-governmental consultations at an early date to implement the Digital Television Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcasting (DTMB) in Pakistan.

They will deepen exchanges between universities, think thanks, press media, and film and television industries, and push forward the establishment of cultural centers in each other’s countries. They will maintain the exchange of youth delegations, and strengthen cooperation in the training of young cadres, the exchanges between young entrepreneurs and volunteers.

Both sides agreed to celebrate 2015 as China-Pakistan Year of Friendly Exchanges for which various activities will be arranged through mutual consultations.

DEFENCE AND SECURITY COOPERATION: The two sides believe that the exchanges and collaboration between the armed forces of China and Pakistan are an important pillar of their friendly relations. They highly commend the China-Pakistan Defence and Security Consultations Mechanism, and will maintain the momentum of high-level visits between the armed forces of the two countries, deepen cooperation in counter-terrorism personnel training, joint training, equipment and technology, and exchanges between military academics, and identify new areas for exchanges and cooperation.

The two sides agreed to further enhance cooperation in defence technology and production.

The two sides believe that terrorism, separatism and extremism pose serious threats to regional peace, stability and security, and reaffirm their resolve to continue their practical cooperation to jointly combat the “Three Evil Forces” within bilateral and multilateral frameworks.

China recognizes that Pakistan has made great efforts and sacrifices to combat terrorism, and reiterates that it respects the anti-terrorism strategy developed and implemented by the Pakistani side in light of its own conditions. Pakistan reaffirms its resolve to combat terrorism, and commits to continuous, active collaboration with and assistance to China in combating terrorist forces including the ETIM. China expresses its appreciation and continued willingness to help Pakistan build up counter-terrorism capacity.

INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL ISSUES: The Asia-Pacific region plays an increasingly important role in global affairs. The two sides are of the view that all regional countries should make united efforts to tackle global and regional issues, maintain peace and stability, resolve disputes peacefully and promote regional common development, as well as to establish an open, transparent, equal and inclusive security and cooperation framework, based on the fundamental principles of International Law.

The two sides agree to continue encouraging relevant countries in the region to resolve their differences through consultations and negotiations in accordance with relevant principles of UN Charter. The two sides support multilateral cooperation mechanisms in Asia, and take a positive view of each other’s participation in regional and sub-regional cooperation processes.

According to the Joint Statement, the two sides recognize that they hold identical views on many international and regional issues of mutual interest. They agree to maintain close communication and mutual support and collaboration in various multilateral fora including the United Nations, the Asia-Europe Meeting, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Istanbul Process.

The two sides stress that they will enhance communication and cooperation on important global issues such as climate change, food and energy security and UN reform. China and Pakistan are committed to strengthening the solidarity and cooperation between developing countries and safeguarding their common interests.

The two sides believe that the evolving situation in Afghanistan has great implications for the regional security and stability, and the political reconciliation is a key step towards peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The two sides reaffirm their support for the “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led” peace and reconciliation process, and will work with the regional countries and the international community to help Afghanistan achieve peace, stability and security. China and Pakistan will strengthen bilateral, trilateral and multilateral consultations on the issue of Afghanistan.

The two sides signed documents of cooperation in political, economic, maritime, aerospace, energy, transportation and cultural fields. Premier Li Keqiang expressed appreciation for the warm hospitality accorded to him and his delegation.

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Turkey to increase $1 bln credit line to Egypt by $250 mln

Reuters and Ahram Online, 20 May 2013 – Turkey will increase its $1 billion credit line to Egypt by $250 million, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said. Turkey was expected to transfer the remaining $1 billion of a $2 billion budget support package agreed last year for Egypt this month.

Under the Egyptian-Turkish agreement, announced last September during a visit to Ankara by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Turkey’s treasury loaned Egypt the first $1 billion.

Egypt’s ailing finances received considerable lifelines from friendly nations in recent weeks in an attempt to shore up the country’s economy. An $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has yet to be signed.

The newly appointed minister of finance Fayad Abdel-Moneim said recently that talks between IMF and the Egyptian government are “serious,” and the negotiations with the global lender are ongoing.

Earlier in May, officials said Qatar had deposited $3 billion in the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) for the purpose of buying treasury bonds at the rate of 3.5 percent. Last month, Libya deposited another $2 billion in the CBE which helped Egypt’s foreign currency reserves to register their first increase in five months, recording $14.42 billion by the end of April.

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Police, Royal Automobile Museums reopen in Cairo’s Citadel

Nevine El-Aref , 26 May 2013, AlahramOnline – The Police and Royal Automobile Museums in Cairo’s Salaheddin Citadel were re-opened yesterday within Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) framework to restore and open new archaeological sites and museums to encourage tourism.

The head of the museum department, Ahmed Sharaf said that both museums were closed for almost a year for restoration. Walls were consolidated; cracks that once spread all over its walls were filled and restored. Floors and tiles were cleaned and deteriorated ones were removed and replaced with new ones of similar materials. New ventilation and lighting system were installed and a new security system was connected to monitoring cameras and TV circuits. New guiding plates were also installed outside on the road leading to the museum as well as the visitors’ path inside.

During the opening MSA Minister Ahmed Eissa told reporters that a rehabilitation project for some of the closed archaeological Citadel buildings is now being studied. This project aims to restore all these buildings and reopen them to the public.

The Police National Museum is located northwest of the Grand Mohammed Ali Mosque. It was first open to visitors in 1986 and displayed a large collection of artefacts and objects related to the history of the Egyptian police to contemporary times.

The museum’s six halls houses different collections of police weapons from the ancient Egyptian period to present, extending to Egypt’s Islamic era. Well-known crimes are also highlighted, such as the infamous Alexandrian sisters Raya and Sekina, who would lure women into their apartment to rob, kill and bury them in the basement of their home.

One hall is devoted to the police and Ismailia citizens’ different struggles against the British colonisation. Another hall displays different police logos and costumes from the monarchy until the 1952 Revolution. A collection of counterfeiting devices is also on display at the museum, along with the oldest extinguisher cars used by Egyptians in the 18th and 19th century.

The Royal Automobile Museum is very small and was once part of the British officers’ areas during the colonial period. The museum includes one large hall displaying eight royal carriages that were used in different official events. Uniforms of the workers responsible for these carriages are also on exhibition.

Among the most important royal carriages on display is the one used by Khedive Ismail to welcome French Empress Eugenie during her visit to Egypt for the official opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Also, the carriage used during the official opening of the first-ever Egyptian parliament in 1924 is exhibited.

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Egypt’s Ismailia Film Festival to include 10 world premieres

Ahram Online, 26 May 2013 – The Ismailia International Film Festival for Documentaries and Shorts has announced there will be more than 52 films from 30 countries, including 10 world premieres, participating in the festival.

The festival will also include a co-production platform for documentary films that will entail 10 films in production and two films in post-production. The filmmakers are invited to the festival to be part of a peer review workshop, with access to experts and funding that could help the filmakers achieve their projects. A prize of $20,000 will also be up for grabs.

“In a first time collaboration with Screen Institute Beirut, the festival is also organising an editing workshop for three projects in the post-production phase. Three professional tutors from Denmark, Syria and Egypt will conduct the workshop sessions. We started working on this initiative four months ago. The aim is to enhance the film industry,” Mohamed Hefzy, festival director and founder of Film Clinic, said at the festival’s press conference.

The festival will debut 15 films from the National Cinema Centre’s archive, featuring the Suez Canal and the role played by the province’s residents from 1954 until 1974, through times of war.

The festival administration has also assigned 100 volunteers from Ismailia and nearby cities and areas in order to enhance collaboration amongst the festival’s community.

Jury members include internationally acclaimed Egyptian documentary filmmaker Tahani Rached, and Safinez Bousbia, director of the critically acclaimed El-Gusto. The jury for the short films and animation section will be presided over by Michelle Driguez and includes Chadi Zinnedine and Egyptian filmmaker Sherif El-Bindary.

Viola Shafik (Germany/Egypt) will act as the jury president for the co-production platform with Hania Mroueh and Malek Khoury, head of the film programme at the American University in Cairo, acting as jury members.

The Ismailia International Film Festival for Documentaries and Shorts first launched in 1991, organised by the Egyptian Film Centre. The coastal city of Ismailia, which was established in 1863 with the construction of the Suez Canal by Khedive Ismail, has hosted 15 editions of the festival.

The Ismailia festival awards the best two films in the four main competitions — long documentary films, short documentary films, short feature films, and animation films.

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Spread Islam Campaign kicks off

Jeddah, 16 Rajab 1434/26 May 2013 (IINA) – A religious campaign titled “Want to Travel? Take Us With You!” which seeks to spread Islam – kicked off recently. The campaign is part of activities and initiatives of the e-Dialogue Center in the Eastern Province.

The campaign utilizes simple cards that contain messages which introduce Islam to non-Muslims and help them understand the culture related to it. Announced on Friday, over 14,000 cards have already been published and distributed to those traveling abroad this summer. According to Majed Al-Osaimi, head of the e-Dialogue Center, since the center was established in 2011, they set four goals of which three have already been fulfilled. They include creating online religious dialogue through their website, e-academy for new converts and training people to carry out Dawah work. The fourth goal is to produce short, educational clips on Islam.

Over the past two years the center has aided 2.5 million people and over 700 million viewed its advertisements. “Some do not accept Islam and we are not here to compel them to become Muslims. That is why we started the dialogue by giving people a chance to talk before we offer what we have,” said Al-Osaimi. Dr. Abdullah Al-Sharif, an Islamic researcher, believes the only way to introduce Islam to others is through good manners. “That is how Islam was introduced to communities in Indonesia and India. Islam was conveyed to others through the positive behaviors of traders who were approaching the Far East,” he said.

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Oman approves Master Plan for tourism

Oman Tribune – 21 May, 2013 – Approval of a master plan to develop Port Sultan Qaboos into a dedicated tourist hub highlights government’s initiatives aimed at expanding facilities for visitors, and thereby giving this vital economic sector a major boost.

In response to the Royal directives of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, whose visionary leadership has led the country on the path to great progress and prosperity, Dr Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Communications, approved the master plan that entails setting up a specialised company to develop the ambitious project.

When completed, the terminal will have eight dedicated areas with state of the art facilities for arriving passengers. The plan includes building of marinas for cruise ships, yachts and other sailing vessels.

The terminal will feature shops, service centres, yards, aisles, recreational facilities, a yacht club, hotels, restaurants and other utilities to cater to the tourists. The number of cruise vessels that visit the country’s ports in Salalah and Muscat will go up once the project has been completed.

One of the highlights of the project will be the façade of the structure which will be designed to reflect the Omani maritime heritage. The project will create huge job opportunities for nationals across all levels, not only in tourism-specific categories but also in related infrastructural facilities and services.

Sultanate is among the top tourist destinations in the world – the country’s varied topography, culture and history have drawn visitors since ancient times, and over the past four decades the tourism sector has grown by leaps and bounds. Strategic initiatives of the Ministry of Tourism, that include creating awareness of Oman’s rich bio-diversity and rich cultural and historical legacy, have been hugely successful.

Other public sector undertakings and allied industries and establishments have all contributed towards the success of the tourist trade. An important point to note is that great care is taken during development of tourist facilities in the country; the target being sustainable and environmental-friendly development.

In this direction, the focus is on local people who inhabit villages and hamlets in near-by and remote tourist-oriented regions. It is essential that any development in such areas is of benefit to them – the people should get the opportunity to better their economic livelihood through such developments.

And, this responsible approach to developing this sector is to be welcomed as it ensures preservation of the country’s natural wealth that has been so instrumental in attracting visitors from around the world, and contributing to the nation’s economy.

As development of tourism infrastructure is a continuous process in the country, investors have a great opportunity to tap into its vast potential. Although there are challenges to be met, government has always aimed at boosting investor-confidence by ensuring implementation of plans, funding and management.

Expansion of the tourism sector is an integral part of the nation’s overall development march under the wise leadership of the Sultan. The aim is greater economic and social development of the country and an improved quality of life for citizens.

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Dubai sets sail for billion dirham cruise industry

Emirates 24/7 – 22 May, 2013 – Its full speed ahead for Dubai as it sets sail for a bullish cruise tourism sector that has chartered a course to generate more than Dh1 billion in annual income by 2020.

Speaking to Emirates 24|7 onboard the maiden call of Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas to the emirate, Director of Cruise Tourism, Jamal Humaid Al Falasi, from the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) said: “We are still very much on course for the cruise tourism sector to grow to Dh840m in annual income by 2015. We are hopeful to double this number in 2020, as we continue are talks with several cruise companies, along with facilitating the opening of the new cruise terminal by Q1 2014.”

Dr Ahmad A Belhoul, CEO, Strategy and Tourism Sector Development, DTCM confirmed that the cruise tourism sector today contributes to five per cent of the UAE’s annual Gross Domestic Product or GDP.

He said: “There is annual eight to nine per cent of annual growth over the sector, with our aim to hit double digit figures by 2020 in terms of GDP contribution of the cruise segment.”

During the 2012-2013, the emirate hosted 407,825 passengers and 105 ships, which is expected to rise to 420,000 or 110 ships by end of the upcoming season; by 2015, this number is set to rise to 450,000 cruise passengers.

Currently, 21 cruise lines include Dubai on its itinerary, with the DTCM in talks to bring in more players to the seas in the coming months. Looking further ahead, the 2014-2015 already has it growth strategy in place with TUI Cruises resuming its operations in the region.

C.S. Mein Schiff 2 will operate seven-night long Gulf cruises from Dubai, with destinations expected to include Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Bahrain. The liner will have a throughput of over 75,000 cruise tourist from its 20 turnaround calls to Dubai.

Additionally, Dubai will host a ‘Double Call’ when both the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth will port in Dubai on the same day – the first time ever that the two Cunard Cruise liners have arrived in Dubai simultaneously for a full passenger turnaround.

Speaking onboard the Mariner of the Seas, Lakshmi Durai, Executive Director, Middle East for RCI, said the cruise line had not ruled out returning to the emirate in the near future after it announced earlier it would pull out at the end of 2013 season.

“We are not in all probability aiming for the 2013-2014 season, but possibly the 2014-2015 is when we can be hopeful of future deployment; we are waiting and eager to return,” she said. In the last four years of its operations in Dubai, Durai said that the RCI liners have ferried nearly 45,000 passengers along to the emirate every winter season.

Of the source markets, DTCM’s Al Falasi said that they were looking to increase tourists from China, India and Russia in the coming seasons.

Meanwhile, tourists at Port Rashid yesterday that were eagerly awaiting their embarking onboard the Mariner of the Seas, which will have its final port of call in Shanghai, were greeted with a traditional ceremony at Mina Rashid, which included the creation of huge heritage village replica that featured a variety of traditional activities such as live cooking stations, a performance by the Harbiya band, Arabic hospitality (Gahwah), a falcon display, and a henna station.

The luxury liner – which can carry more than 3,800 passengers – is offering a wide variety of itineraries, ranging from three nights to 12 nights from China and Singapore to Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea throughout the rest of the year. Dubai Cruise Tourism currently operates three facilities on a pier stretch of 1900 meters that can accommodate up to six cruise ships simultaneously.

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Kashmir ready to host Saudi tourists

Arab News – 22 May, 2013 – Kashmir, the northwestern region in India, has often been called paradise on earth for its natural beauty. When it became a valley of conflict due to territorial disputes between India, Pakistan and China, Kashmir lost its tourists and therefore, its main source of economic growth.

Arab News interviewed Ghulam Ahmed Mir, the minister of tourism for Jammu and Kashmir, during his recent visit to Jeddah as part of the India Tourism Road Show that aims to attract tourists to India and Kashmir.

Mir said that tourist attractions in Kashmir are as safe as Jeddah. “We want Arab and Saudi tourists to visit us, as we have many things in common. Our culture, religion and habitat will make visitors from Saudi Arabia and Arab countries feel very comfortable and at home. Halal food is available in many varieties,” he said.

Last year, 1.2 million people from around the world visited Kashmir. “We made a pact with the people of Jammu and Kashmir for peace and security and to keep politics away from tourism as tourism is related to economic prosperity,” he explained.

Infrastructure development has been a priority in different parts of the state. There are numerous golf courses, among which the Royal Springs Golf Course in Srinagar, which was awarded best picturesque golf course in Asia. Other courses can be found in Gulmarg, Pahalgam and soon, the highest golf course in the world will be completed in Leh.

Lovers of adventure sports such as skiing, heli-skiing, ice skating, ice hockey, polo, archery, angling, paragliding, trekking, mountaineering and rafting will find what they need in Kashmir.

“In Gulmarg, you can ride one of Asia’s highest ropeways Gulmarg Gondola. In Pahalgam, you cannot escape the beauty of the Betaab valley, Aaroo or the serene pastures of Langanbal.

“Sonamarg gives you a feel for white water and glaciated mountains. Another unique attraction of Kashmir is houseboats and Shikaras,” said Mir. “We are very keen to invite Saudi holiday makers to come to Kashmir and experience its great culture, heritage, history, people, delectable cuisine, intricate handicrafts, world famous dry fruit and last but not least, Kashmiri saffron and honey,” he said.

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Oman sea taxi to support tourism, economy

Oman Daily Observer – 23 May, 2013 – The proposed sea taxi connecting Muscat Governorate with Barka and all the adjoining wilayats en-route will have a substantial impact on the tourism sector while giving a major fillip to national economy. The National Ferries Company (NFC) has expressed its interest to launch marine taxis in Muscat Governorate last week the pilot project and other vital facts and figures were submitted to the concerned ministries and to the municipality last week.

“The sea taxi service will have substantial impact on the tourism sector and on the economy of the nation as a whole”, NFC sources told the Observer.

“A number of boat jetties across the coastal areas of these stations, feeder services, and allied businesses will help flourish commercial activities in these areas while collectively contributing to the country in the long run”, he added. The proposal, based on a comprehensive traffic study for Muscat Governorate on the short, medium and long run up to 2030 envisages the increasing traffic on the main highways in the years to come and to resolve the bottlenecks to a great extent.

The study, recently completed by Muscat Municipality in tie-up with government agencies, came out with many recommendations including providing transport through the ferries company with an aim to alleviate traffic congestion in the Muscat Governorate’s streets. “The project which is in the feasibility study stage will encourage mass transportation means and boost tourism sites on the Muscat Governorate coasts”, Mahdi bin Mohammed al Abdwani, CEO of the NFC, had earlier said.

He said the proposed marine boats will be provided with features and technical specifications that suit the Omani marine environment. “Moreover, these kinds of boats don’t need costly facilities during the embarking and disembarking processes, as the terminal will be only a point for transferring employees, students and tourists to and from the marine boats,” he said. Al Abdwani hoped that the service can also be implemented in Musandam Governorate to cover the residential areas in the wilayats of Musandam which could not be accessed by express ferry boats.

“We can also implement the sea taxi service in the Musandam Governorate to serve the residential areas which cannot be accessed by speed ferry boats. The success of the service depends largely upon availing land transport to and from the marine terminals for the boats”, he added. National Ferries Company is a major contributor to the maritime transport infrastructure and development in the Sultanate.

It has been observed that the long coastline of the Sultanate make this ferry service a necessity for the population and tourists alike as it provides vital links between ports while saving the travelling time. On passage between destinations, passengers get to enjoy the picturesque and majestic coastline of the country by relaxing in the high comfortable seats and first class service onboard.

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Dubai-Salalah flight launched

Oman Daily Observer – 23 May, 2013 – flydubai launched thrice-weekly flight on Dubai-Salalah sector on Tuesday. The first flight from Dubai touched the ground at the Salalah Airport at 6.55 pm with 44 passengers including dignitaries from United Arab Emirates and senior officials of flydubai airlines. The same flight left for Dubai at 7.40 pm. The flight landed amid a brief ceremony at the arrival area of the airport as host of dignitaries from Salalah received the passengers and took them to the VIP lounge.

Hamad Obaidalla, Chief Commercial Officer, flydubai, briefed the media after cake cutting ceremony and expressed happiness over flydubai’s engagement with Salalah. “Oman has always been an important destination for us and this is our pleasure to launch second destination in less than three years.” “We started in Oman with two daily flights between Dubai and Muscat in early 2010 and in less than three years we increased the flight frequency up to four daily flights. Depending upon load factor between Salalah and Dubai, especially during the Khareef season, we would certainly love to increase the flight frequency,” he said and added “Salalah is the 60th operational destination of flydubai.”

Operating on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday every week, the flydubai flight to Salalah from Dubai International Airport will depart at 4.20 pm and arrive in Salalah at 6.20 pm. The return flight will depart from Salalah on the same days at 7.20 pm and arrive in Dubai at 9.30 pm.

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Oman’s rail project to spawn services industry

Oman Daily Observer – 23 May, 2013 – The Oman National Railway Project is expected to catalyse the growth of manufacturing industries and support services, all of which will also contribute significantly to employment generation, say authorities overseeing the development of the multibillion rial scheme.

With a view to jumpstarting the growth of a new economic sector, the Ministry of Transport and Communications will host a public forum in September designed to solicit investor feedback on business and commercial opportunities associated with the railway project.

The forum, according to Abdulrahman al Hatmi, Director of Oman Railway Project, will also provide an opportunity for the government to spell out its long-term vision for the development of rail-based freight and passenger travel in the Sultanate, and the huge multiplier effect it would have on the country’s socio-economic growth. In terms of its direct contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP), the national railway project is projected to account for around 5 per cent of the Sultanate’s national product. This figure will be considerably higher if the project’s indirect contribution is also taken into account, he noted.

The September forum, said Al Hatmi, will be an opportunity to “engage” investors and take their ideas on board as the government prepares to implement the mammoth project, estimated to cost in the order of RO 6 billion. These inputs from the private sector will be winnowed and proposals considered feasible will be incorporated into the overall master plan for the implementation of the rail project, he said.

Outlining prospects for private sector investment, he said the government envisaged opportunities across a variety of manufacturing industries, production of spares, maintenance workshops, services, catering, and so on. Commercial opportunities will also be plentiful in the vicinity of stations planned along the length of the network, he said.

Furthermore, avenues for investment in the manufacture of railway tracks, cables, and other hardware — whether in the north or south of the country — would be assessed during the September symposium, Al Hatmi said. Importantly, in nurturing the growth of an economic sector around the rail project, the government will endeavour to maintain the flow of investment within Oman as far as possible, the official said.

A key goal, he said, is to support the establishment of industries and services in the areas of design, construction, and operation and maintenance. These activities will necessarily have to be of an international quality and competitive level, so that Omani products can be ultimately exported to foreign markets, he stressed.

Development of the rail project and the associated economic sector would in part be guided by the success stories of equivalent economies, whether in South America, East Europe, or elsewhere, he said. The goal, he said, is to maximise opportunities for the private sector while looking at the experiences of other countries that have successfully developed rail based transportation networks.

The Oman venture will be benchmarked against some of these international success stories with a view to evaluating the contribution of railway networks in the emergence of towns and villages along the alignment, as well as the overall prosperity of the country in question, he noted.

In parallel with this effort, the Ministry will also put in place concrete plans for the development of Omani human capital that will play a key part during the construction and operational phases of the rail project, Al Hatmi said. The ultimate goal is to position Oman as a Centre of Excellence in the training and development of professionals for regional rail networks, thereby creating opportunities for skilled Omani resources across the region.

Plans drawn up by the Ministry in this regard envision a 10-year strategy for the development of Omani human capital to lead the railway sector in the Sultanate. It includes an initiative to recruit 50 engineering graduates who will be seconded to the Preliminary Design Consultant (PDC) and the Project Management Consultant. At the same time, the Ministry plans to join hands with a strategic partner in the development and operation of a Centre of Excellence in Oman. Courses related to careers in rail-based transportation will also be included in the syllabus of universities and colleges, Al Hatmi added.

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Ajman regulates tourism and hotel sectors

Khaleej Times – 23 May, 2013 – Shaikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Member of Supreme Council and Ruler of Ajman, has issued an Emiri Decree regulating the hotel and tourism sector in the emirate. Decree No. 02 of 2013, issued on a recommendation by the Ajman Tourism Development Department, responds to the growing movement of tourists into the emirate. The decree grants the department the full authority to regulate and develop the local tourism sector and its services. Under the decree, no one is allowed to practice any business related to the hotel or tourism sector without obtaining a prior permit from the Department.

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GCC program finances numerous projects in Gaza

Kuwait News Agency – 23 May, 2013 – Numerous projects funded by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Program for the reconstruction of several provinces in the Gaza Strip were announced here on Thursday. The initiative also included provision of financial support to the different municipalities of this region.

The GCC program also included the rehabilitation and maintenance of streets and several major roads in the Gaza Strip as well as supporting Gaza municipalities with about USD 35 million. The sector is suffering difficult economic conditions and is being funded by the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah.

Head of the General Administration for the coordination and facilitation of aid in the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) Eng. Wael Salah said these projects included the maintenance of several roads and streets.

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Jeddah food and hotel expo sets new standards

Arab News – 24 May, 2013 – Saudi Food & Hotel and Hospitality Expo 2013 has been hailed as a major success as it concluded a four-day run in Jeddah. Organizers said the next edition will take place on April 13-16, 2014, at the Jeddah Center for Forums and Events.

They said this year’s show attracted 18,000 visitors and saw millions of riyals worth of trade transactions. Around 400 exhibitors from 18 countries took part in the event. While there were on-the-spot deals between the overseas participants and their local partners to the tune of more than SR 200 million.

“The exhibition had set new standards with record attendance and unprecedented business volumes,” said Zahoor Siddique, vice president for exhibitions, ACE. “We are glad to meet the needs of the industry by providing a platform for restaurants, hotels, retailers and businesses to network, gather the latest industry information, and forge new business opportunities,” said Siddique.

Joao Paulo Paixao, international business executive at Arab Brazil Chamber of Commerce, said: “The fair, provided an excellent opportunity for us to introduce our products and services to the wider Saudi Arabia market.”

He said: “The visitor turnout was notable. The exhibition allowed us to make new contacts and further our goals in establishing our brand in Saudi Arabia and the region.”

He said the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce encourages and supports both Brazilian and Saudi organizations to strengthen ties between these partners.“As a result of this support we were able to increase Brazil’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia to reach $ 15 billion,” he said.

Mohammed Khalid Abbasi Abdul Razak, consul general of Malaysia, said: “Eleven Malaysian companies were taking part in a big way at the Saudi Food & Hotel and Hospitality exhibition showcasing their goods and services in various food products such as processed canned food, chocolates products, healthy food and beauty products, nutraceutical and functional food related products, pre-instant mixed coffee and variety of buns, bread and biscuits.”

Taking part at exhibition for the fifth year, Dieter Fiebelkorn, GM, Kaechele, Germany, said: “Varieties of hotel linen had received a number of inquiries. We see great demand here for our linen— different varieties and qualities of tablecloth, chair cover, curtain and uniform.”

He added: “The Saudi market is big and difficult but participating in this exhibition made things easy for us to meet partners.” The office of Agriculture Affairs at the Embassy of the US in Riyadh introduced its products that are known worldwide for their variety and quality.

Hassan Ahmed, agriculture attache, commented “It is a great opportunity for us to introduce the variety of agriculture products here in the Saudi market which is considered as a good market for us.”

He pointed out that the trade volume between Saudi Arabia and US in agriculture and food had reached $ 1.3 billion and added that the opportunities for trade between the two countries will continue to grow because the Saudi economy is growing rapidly and both countries enjoy robust bilateral trade relationship.

The expo was organized by Al-Harithy Company for Exhibitions (ACE). The event, which was double the size of last year’s exhibition, attracted thousands of visitors with a major influx of specialized and business visitors in the last couple of days.

Mohammed Cheettih, assistant director of Algerian Agency Trade Promotion Exterior, emphasized the importance in taking part of such fairs to promote his country’s products.

“We have around seven companies who came to Jeddah to showcase their products and I hope it is time to expand our bilateral trade relationship with Saudi Arabia and other regional states,” he said.

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Air Arabia now flies to Abha

Saudi Gazette – 24 May, 2013 – Air Arabia’s inaugural flight touched down in Abha, Saudi Arabia, from its primary hub in Sharjah. Air Arabia is the first and largest low-cost carrier (LCC) in the Middle East and North Africa.

The new service from the carrier’s primary hub in Sharjah marks Air Arabia’s eighth destination in the Kingdom and 85th worldwide. Air Arabia offers two weekly flights to Abha, making it easier and more convenient for passengers to travel between the two cities.

Operating on Mondays and Saturdays, Air Arabia’s Abha service will depart from Sharjah International Airport at 13:50 and arrive Abha International Airport at 15:40. Return flights will depart from Abha on the same days at 16:20 and arrive in Sharjah at 20:10.

“The launch of Abha in Saudi Arabia is a continuation of Air Arabia’s commitment to offer multiple destinations in the Kingdom,” said, Adel Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer, Air Arabia. “Saudi Arabia remains a key focus for the airline as we continue to explore opportunities for growth in this market. With the launch of twice weekly direct flights from Sharjah, we are confident that our customers will benefit from a unique value driven product, while further strengthening the ever increasing economic ties between the UAE and KSA.”

Offering 88 weekly non-stop flights to Saudi Arabia from Sharjah, and its Alexandria hub in Egypt, Air Arabia continues to strengthen its intra-regional Arab network offering customers a wider choice for affordable air travel. In addition to Abha, Air Arabia operates non-stop flights the Riyadh, Jeddah, Madinah, Dammam, Qassim, Yanbu, and Taif in Saudi Arabia.

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Jordan’s Aqaba Special Economic Zone, Turkish Free Zones Ink MoU

Aqaba (Jordan), May 23 (NNN-Petra) — Jordan’s Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) and Turkish Free Zones (TFZ) on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) covering the exchange of expertise in information technology and the development of free zones.

The MoU also covered drafting joint plans to attract investments, develop legislation to regulate economic activities especially tax systems and tax incentives improve the investment climate, and motivate the Turkish and Jordanian private sectors to increase the volume of trade and economic exchange between TFZ and ASEZA.

ASEZA’s Chief Commissioner Kamel Mahadin, who signed the MoU with Ugur Oztürk, Director General for Free Zones, Foreign Investments, and Services at the Turkish Ministry of Economy, called on corporations in the real estate , tourism, and hospitality sectors to seize the investment initiative at ASEZA.

Mahadin said the visit of the Turkish technical economic delegation had been planned to evaluate investment opportunities and the environment in ASEZA, following the recent visits by His Majesty King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour to discuss areas of joint cooperation and investment between the two countries.

He pointed out that Aqaba today has become an international and regional logistics gateway for anyone interested in investments, especially in the areas of port operations, logistics, and related services .

Mahadin noted that several opportunities for production and investment were still open in ASEZA in the areas of information technology, trade, tourist-boat building and maintenance, and entertainment parks.

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Mozambique, UAE sign air transport pact

Khaleej Times – 18 May, 2013 – Mozambique and the UAE on Thursday in Dubai signed a bilateral accord covering air transport. The agreement will pave the way for airlines to launch services for the movement of passengers and cargo, and will serve as a basis for the growth of trade and investment and the development of partnerships in sectors such as tourism.

The accord was signed by UAE Minister of Economy Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri and Mozambique’s Transport Minister Paulo Zucula. According to the Mozambican Civil Aviation Institute (IACM), the accord is the culmination of more than seven years of negotiations and consultations. The accord designates five UAE airlines including Emirates, Etihad and RAK Airways. In addition, a public tender will soon be held for Mozambican companies wishing to fly the route.

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Tourism campaign to promote Duqm

Oman Daily Observer – 18 May, 2013 – The Ministry of Tourism represented by the tourism department in Al Wusta and Al Dakhiliyah governorates yesterday launched a tourism campaign in the Wilayat of Al Duqm under the title ‘Discover the Beauty’. The move comes as part of the ministry’s efforts aimed at stimulating domestic tourism and promoting the natural and geological potential of Al Duqm. The event includes cultural, sports and recreational activities as well as exploration tours across the wilayat.

Duqm is currently at the centre of a major development to establish itself as a commercial, industrial and tourism centre in the Wusta Governorate. The developments include an international airport and expansion of the docks with the goal of attracting businesses and holidaymakers. Omran, the Sultanate’s premier tourism-related investment, development and management company, has invested around RO 50 million in two hotels.

The 4-star Duqm Crowne Plaza Hotel will be managed by parent company, the InterContinental Hotels Group. The property features 213 rooms which includes 16 junior suites. The strategy to develop a 4-star hotel at Duqm, Oman’s fastest growing new city close to the new sea harbour, airport and industrial zone, is to support it to become a city in its own right like Sohar; giving employment to local communities.

With its strategic location between Muscat and Salalah and additionally in the Indian Ocean, Duqm has the potential to take away the risks of oil and gas shipment compared to ports located in the Straits of Hormuz.

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Leading Muslim architect tapped for Saudi metro project

Arab News – 19 May, 2013 – The ArRiyadh Development Authority has tapped the world’s leading Muslim architect Zaha Hadid to design its metro station at the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh. Completion is expected in four years. The 20,434-square-meter metro station will be a focal point for the city, not only as a hub for commuters but also as a landmark. The station is expected to help ease traffic congestion in the area.

The monorail will feature six platforms on four public floors and will be integrated within the financial district. It’s intended to be multifunctional public space.

“The metro station will be placed amid a tangle of pathways, sky bridges and metro lines, all of which have been mapped and structured to clearly delineate the pedestrian routes within the building, optimize internal circulation and avoid congestion,” according to the Zaha Hadid Architects website. “… the metro station has a unique, undulating facade that mimics the daily flow of traffic in Riyadh, where there are 5 million residents.”

Hadid, an Iraqi-British architect, is the founding partner of London-based Zaha Hadid Architects. She directs a staff of 350 architects, lead designers and associates. She was the first Muslim and woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, which is the architecture version of the Nobel Price. In 2010 and 2011, she won the Stirling Price.

She designed the Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park in Seoul, South Korea. Among her other projects are the BMW Central Building in Leipzig, Germany, the Guangzhou Opera House and the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Riyadh. The firm also designed Aquatics Center for the London 2012 Olympic Games and high-speed train stations in Naples.

The ArRiyadh Development Authority said the city’s public transport plan includes the six metro lines that will serve as the backbone for public transport in the city.

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DHA’s strategy will promote Dubai as health tourism hub

Khaleej Times – 20 May, 2013 – Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was briefed on Sunday on the four-pronged strategy of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), which builds on Shaikh Mohammed’s long-term sustainable development vision for promoting Dubai as a favourite destination for health tourism in the Gulf, Middle East and world.

During a visit to the DHA’s headquarters, Shaikh Mohammed attended a presentation by DHA Director-General Isa Al Maidour about the DHA strategy 2013-2025, which seeks to deliver four goals: prevention and awareness; easy access to health services; quality; and investment and competitiveness.

Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai; Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai; and a number of senior officials were also present on the occasion.

Al Maidour told Shaikh Mohammed that the strategy would be delivered through 43 initiatives backed by an enhanced control plan and Key Performance Indicators (KPI).

Shaikh Mohammed was also informed about the DHA’s three-phase plan to find urgent solutions to pressing challenges dealing with customer service in the short term, administrative and technical affairs in the medium term and strategic issues in the long term.

During the presentation, Shaikh Mohammed viewed designs for proposed health projects within the strategy, including: the rebuilding of Rashid Hospital at a total cost of Dh3 billion, with a capacity of 900 beds, expanding the current trauma centre to 160 beds; expanding the out-patient clinics to 160 treatment rooms; establishing new centres for heart, cancer, kidney and cosmetic surgeries in addition to six new specialised centres.

The strategy, he said, also envisaged two five-star hotels to serve those accompanying patients. Other future projects viewed by Shaikh Mohammed include the expansion of the Care Home for the Elderly and three other hospitals : Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Hospital, Al Maktoum Hospital and Al Khawaneej Hospital. Shaikh Mohammed also launched a website for measuring customer satisfaction.

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Forum to map out tourism strategies

Gulf Daily News – 20 May, 2013 – Representatives of Arab countries are meeting in Manama to map out strategies to woo tourists to a region hit by political upheaval. The Arab Tourism Ministers Council began discussions at the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage, near Bahrain National Museum, yesterday.

Those present included Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa; Sudanese Tourism, Archaeology and Environment Minister Mohammed Abdulkareem Alhidd; Arab League economic affairs deputy secretary-general Mohammed Al Tawajri; Arab Organisation of Tourism president Dr Bandar bin Fihaid Al Fihaid; and representatives of the Arab Tourism Writers Union.

“This meeting is important in terms of tourism because it discusses points that will led to essential decisions,” said Mr Al Tawajri. “Tourism is an important source of national income – both steady and long-term. We could look at the tourism witnessed by Bahrain, which has had a deep impact. And the same thing applies to the Emirates and Egypt.”

However, tourism in several countries in the region has been hit by violent uprisings since 2011, which have persuaded many potential visitors to look for alternative travel destinations. This has had a knock-on effect on tourism-related business in the region, such as hotels and airlines.

However, Mr Al Tawajri said one way to win back tourists was to promote the rich history of Arab countries, at the same time tapping into the latest trends in travel. “We have a long history in the Arab countries and we have to showcase it,” he said. “But we also have to see what is happening in the world in terms of latest trends and adopt it to further the Arab economy.”

He added that tourism strategies in this part of the world were being undermined by inaccurate statistics. “We suffer from a weakness in the statistical base and adopt long international estimates, which are based on inaccurate statistics,” said Dr Al Tawajri.

However, there was some opposition during the meeting to the nomination of Erbil, a city in Iraq, as Capital of Arab Tourism for next year. Shaikha Mai called for a rethink over the way such cities are selected. “I think we have to look at the process through which cities are chosen,” she said. “Erbil is known to lean more towards a Kurdish identity than an Arab one and, as such, I feel it is an inappropriate place to choose as Capital of Arab Tourism. “The places chosen as capital of tourism should, by their nature, have an Arab identity.”

The forum also discussed creating a Capital of Summer Retreat every year, with the Capital of Arab Tourism at the time nominating the summer destination of choice. Taif, a city in Saudi Arabia, was nominated by Manama as the Capital of Summer Retreat for this year.

The forum also created a committee to select a jury, which will pick the winner of an award for quality tourism in 2012. Encouraging foreign investment in tourism and the importance of Arabs joining forces to fund investments was also highlighted.

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Gambia Airlines Holds Stakeholders Meeting On Hajj Preparations

The Point – 23 May 2013 – The Gambia International Airlines, GIA, on Monday held a stakeholders meeting on Hajj preparations at its office in Yundum. The meeting, which brought together GIA officials, National Hajj Commission, Gambia Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Health and others, was meant to review 2012 Hajj and begin ground works for this year’s Hajj.

In their interventions at the meeting, Matty Boye, PS, at the Ministry of Health and Adama Demba, director of Health Services, said health is a key element for the performance of Hajj, adding that it is also their responsibility to assess the level of preparedness, including medications and vaccinations.

According to them, the Ministry of Health will look at the level of preparedness, starting with laboratory, vaccination and medications. They promised that the health ministry will work to make ensure that proper packaging on medicines has been done at the right time.

On the issue of issuing medical certificates to pilgrims, who may be sick, old or too weak to perform the holy journey, the Ministry of Health will select people who will then issue medical certificates. For the Hajj Commission, Imam Abdoulie Fatty, said every woman who is under the age of 40 must be accompanied by a male partner.

For the GIA officials, they are now doing preparation for the aircrafts and will start going to Saudi to conclude the accommodation arrangements. In an interview with Lamin Cham, Commercial Director, GIA, he said, this year they are working with Eco Bank, where pilgrims will now go and make the Hajj payments.

He said intending pilgrims can now make Hajj deposits with Eco Bank, where they will be given a receipt. He said the deposit that they would collect is D80, 000, but he noted that pilgrims are encouraged to pay something like 100,000 or 140,000 since packaging is not yet known. He then disclosed that sometime in June or July the package would be confirmed.

He said normally they make the deadline two weeks before the departure, but they are still planning and hopefully this year the pilgrims may leave during the last week of September. This, he added, is still not yet confirm.

He called on the pilgrims to come and make early payments, because by doing so it will secure them a seat. He said Hajj is a national issue and is not GIA alone that can do it, that is why they have stakeholders like government which is the number one Hajj stakeholder, Gambia Immigration Departments since one cannot travel without a passport and the Ministry of Health for health of pilgrims.

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Uganda: Reconstruction of Main House At Kasubi Tombs Kicks Off

New Vision – 22 May 2013 – The reconstruction of “Muzibu Azaala Mpanga” the main building and site housing the tombs of the four late Buganda Kings has kicked off. The kingdom’s second deputy premier also in charge for Culture, Heritage, Royal Tombs and Tourism, Muhamood Ssemambo Ssekimpi said the main pillar on which the entire roof of the house is designed has already been raised and completed.

Ssemambo said this while receiving sh8m contribution towards the reconstruction of the tombs from members of the Ffumbe (Civet Cat) Clan. He said they were now done with all the invisible works that needed some cultural norms and rituals before kicking off with the visible construction.

“Now we are done with all that and we have embarked on the real visible construction works. I only urge people to bring in more materials and financial support. At this stage we need many local materials like grass and reeds to make the roof,” Ssekimpi noted.

He said the roofing will be sub-contracted to the Engo (Leopard) and Engeye (White monkey) clans, which are culturally charged with thatching and decorating all royal palaces and tombs. The reconstruction is being carried out by Omega Construction which won the sh2.3bn contract to rebuild the torched structure.

It involves the construction of a perimeter fence around the 64 acres, installing security gadgets, and other things on the five acres on which the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga house sits. He said the entire budget stands at sh10bn which will also be used in rehabilitating other dilapidated tombs in different areas in the Kingdom. Kasubi tombs were torched on March 16, 2010.

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Turkey Pledges to Promote Tourism to Tunisia

Tunis, Afrique Presse – 18 May 2013 – Carthage — Chairmen of Tourism Professional Chambers and the Turkish Travel Agencies Federation pledged on Friday to launch a promotional campaign to better introduce Tunisia’s assets, which according to them “is a charming and attractive destination to tourists.”

During a meeting with President Moncef Marzouki, the Turkish officials expressed will to assist Tunisia in matters of upgrading tourism facilities and training professionals of the sector. “Tunisian tourism could reinforce its position on the world tourism market, in view of the diversity of its products and richness of its heritage and history,” they said, adding that boosting the country’s tourism sector highly depends on devising an efficient promotional and trading strategy.

For his part, the President of the Republic laid emphasis on the importance of intensifying expertise exchange between Tunisia and Turkey in the tourism field, pointing out that Tunisia should draw inspiration from the Turkish experience, notably in matters of promotion of its historical and archeological heritage.

According to a Presidency communiqué, an agreement is to be signed on Saturday, between the Tunisian Federation of Travel Agencies (FTAV) and its Turkish counterpart to promote Tunisia’s destination in Turkey and Europe.

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French film producer to immortalize Ternate tourism

Sat, May 18 2013 Ternate, North Maluku (ANTARA News) – French film producer Zidane William Estel has a profound interest in Ternate tourism sector in North Maluku and wants to immortalize it in a documentary film.

“After being completed, the documentary film about Ternate tourism will be aired by a French TV station on June 2013,” Zidane said here on Saturday. He said he would like to immortalize the tourism of Ternate in the documentary film because the area has a lot of interesting tourism attractions.

Ternate is an island and town in the Maluku Islands of eastern Indonesia, located off the west coast of the larger island of Halmahera.

Zidane noted that the locations to be immortalized in the documentary film are among others the area around Fort Don Gil or known as “Benteng Kota Janji”, a small fort with three bulwarks with four to six cannons; and the panoramic view of Maitara and Tidore islands.

“These locations are very interesting because we can see beauty of Maitara and Tidore islands, as well as the splendid scenery of Gamalama volcano,” Zidane said through his interpreter Miranda Yulianingsih. He also appreciated the hospitality of Ternate people, who would like to cooperate in the production of the documentary film.

Meanwhile, Ternate Deputy Mayor Arifin Djafar said he fully supported the creation of the film to help promote the Ternate tourism potential in Europe. “The city of Ternate has a wealth of culture and history with seven forts of colonial era, and therefore it deserves to be promoted,” Arifin Djafar said.

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Beijing, Bandung to promote tourism cooperation

May 21 2013 Beijing (ANTARA News) – The city administrations of Bandung and Beijing have agreed to expand cooperation between the two cities in tourism promotion. The agreement was marked with the signing of a memorandum of understanding here on Monday night.

Dience Herlina Permana, the secretary of the Bandung city tourism and culture service , said more Chinese tourists have visited Indonesia from year to year. The increase in the number of Chinese visitors to Indonesia has been in line with the rapid expansion of economic cooperation between the two countries, Dience.

However, the Chinese visitors are still far smaller in number compared with those from Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Australia, she said. The cooperation, therefore, is expected to result in an increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Indonesia including Bandung and vice versa, Dience said.

Nicolas Lumanau, chairman of the Bandung Promotion Agency said the two countries have long histories and the cultures of the two countries have strong influence on each other.

Nicolas said most Chinese may not forget that Bandung was the city where the historic Asia Africa Conference was held in 1955 attended by then Prime Minister Zhou En Lai together with other leaders of the emerging Asia and African countries. Until now the building that housed the conference is still well preserved, he said.

Many reasons why tourism cooperation needs to be expanded between the two countries, he said citing the cultural varieties that influenced each other. Deputy chairman of Beijing Promotion Agency Yu Depin said Beijing has become the world`s tourist destination for 3,000 years although it was only 860 years as Chinese capital city. Yu Depin predicted in the next five years there would be 400 million Chinese tourists visiting foreign countries opening the possibility for Indonesia including Bandung to take advantage of the opportunity.

Beijing and Bandung have different characteristics both with varying cultures, therefore, the two cities would have more to give and take from cooperation, he said. The five year cooperation agreement in tourism promotion and marketing could be extended depending on the two cities, he said. The two cities also agreed to jointly undertake tourism research and exchange of information

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Tunisia offers Indonesia gateway to Africa

May 21 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Ambassador of Tunisia for Indonesia Mourad Belhassen offered Indonesia a gateway facility for its products to enter the Africa region. “We can bridge trade and economic relations between Indonesia and Tunisia as well as bridging the country to enter the region as the state is located in a strategic position in the northern part of Africa,” said Belhassen on his visit to ANTARA News Agency here.

Belhassen who was welcomed by managing director of ANTARA News Agency Saiful Hadi conducted the visit to discuss implementation of cooperation agreement. The ambassador said Tunisia has good links with the African countries and there are a lot of commodities from both countries for exports and imports that will enhance trade relations.

Currently, Belhassen added, Tunisia is working on the possibility of inviting Indonesian business delegations to that country to look for potential economic cooperation possibilities.

“We are working with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN) after planning to visit the Middle East region,” said Belhassen. He added the visit will be very important for both countries for enhancing economic cooperation seeing the existing potential possibilities.

Belhassen said Indonesian Agriculture Minister Suswono had recently visited Tunisia and discussed a number of potential cooperation possibilities in the chemical, fertilizers as well as agricultural sectors.

“We are importing palm oil from Indonesia and there are more sectors of cooperation to be developed with Tunisia,” Ambassador Belhassen said. Tunisia has 165,000 square kilometers of area and is located in the northeast of Africa which is flanked by Morocco and Libya with a total 11 million population.

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Japan’s market demand for rattan furniture increases

May 22 2013, Cirebon, West Java (ANTARA News) – Rattan furniture with natural color from Cirebon, West Java, continues to attract Japan` market demand, according to rattan craftsmen here. Indonesian Wood and Rattan Furniture Association (WRFA) Chairman Sunoto said here on Wednesday that every country wanted different design and color, but for the purpose of exports to Japan, the demand for rattan furniture with natural color was very high.

Sunoto explained that the demand for rattan furniture with natural color from Japan`s market was very encouraging, and therefore he asked the rattan craftsmen here to continue to maintain the design and motive.

He said the demand for rattan furniture for export market was high enough, thus its intensive exhibition overseas was expected to increase its export by 3,000 containers to in various European and American countries until Africa in 2014. Meanwhile, a local rattan craftsman Aris Fadila also said the demand for rattan furniture with natural color in Japan`s market was encouraging.

“The orders of rattan furniture to be exported to Japan and Italy are increasing after the government issued a ban on exports of rattan furniture raw materials,” Fadila said. Besides, WRFA secretary g general Abdul Sobur said the demands for rattan furniture exports to the countries in Europe and Asia continued to increase.

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Halal food production on rise in the Balkans

Sarajevo, 12 Rajab 1434/22 May 2013 (IINA) – Trying to fight back against the persistent economic crisis in the Balkans, food producers here have turned towards halal food, targeting rising demand from markets in Western and Muslim countries.

At a recent three-day halal food fair in the Bosnian capital, the first of its kind in the Balkans, some 30 producers from the region gathered to present their goods – meat products, cheese, sweets, pastry, oils and even halal cosmetics. “The halal market represents more than one billion people across the globe. It is a young market with an important purchasing power,” said Amel Kovacevic, one of the organizers of a halal food fair in Sarajevo. The demand for halal products is “growing between 10 and 20 percent per year” globally, he estimated.

In addition to low labor costs, he said Balkans-based companies can try to take advantage of their geographical advantage; located in the Mediterranean basin, they are near both European and Middle Eastern markets. The Brajlovic factory, near Sarajevo, is among some 150 food producers in the Balkans which have obtained halal certificates for a total of 2,000 food products.

“Halal should not been seen as something that will immediately accelerate production and make profit grow in a day,” Asim Bajraktarevic, in charge of production in the processed meat factory, told AFP. With its capacity to offer some 15 tons of products daily, the factory, which obtained a halal certificate three months ago, now aims to “improve product quality and create the conditions for growth once we enter foreign markets,” he said.

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Saudi Haj Ministry completes e-government system

Jeddah, Thursday, 13 Rajab 1434/23 May 2013 (IINA) – The Ministry of Haj has completed its e-government system, called Yusr, allowing visitors to complete certain transactions online. Yusr will restructure all of the ministry’s work and link it electronically with the other ministries, government sectors, companies and establishments working in Haj and Umrah affairs.

The ministry has also trained staff to facilitate the new system. Minister of Haj Bandar Hajjar said the standard of services being provided to Haj and Umrah pilgrims and visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque will be constantly upgraded. He said the ministry held continuous meetings with officials of Yusr, as well as representatives of the ministries of finance and communications and information technology and the Commission for Information Technology and Communications (CITC).

The objective was to ensure that all the work, programs and services of the Ministry of Haj is facilitated by e-government. The Ministry of Haj is at the forefront of the e-government initiative being adopted by the Kingdom’s government to achieve sustainable development in Saudi Arabia, said Hajjar. This is due to the ministry’s belief that Yusr is a program allowing anyone to obtain Haj Ministry services from anywhere at any time in a secure fashion.

Hajjar said the ministry is working in reducing centralization in implementing e-government transactions as much as possible. He said the ministry has taken time to implement Yusr on a phased basis. He said the ministry has been able to use technology in all kinds of services provided to authorities and individuals.

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First-ever circular train DEMU starts journey in Chittagong

CHITTAGONG, May 22, 2013 (BSS) – The country’s first-ever commuter train will be pressed into service on Chittagong University route from Saturday. Railway sources said all preparations including route plan, rent structure, manpower setting have been completed for beginning the service. Railway Minister Mujibul Hoq, MP, will inaugurate the Diesel Electric Multiple Units (DEMU) service on Chittagong – Laksam and on Chittagong city – CU routes at Chittagong railway Station at around 11 am on May 25.

Forest and Environment Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud, MP, Primary and Mass Education Minister Dr. Mohammad Afsarul Amin, MP will attend the function as special guests. Railway acting secretary, Mohammad Abul Kalam Azad will preside over the inaugural function. On the first day the train will start its journey to CU from Chittagong railway station at 10.40 pm. “It will return at the same station at 1.50 pm that day after completing the trip,” sources said.

Commuter train services will gradually be introduced on Chittagong-Feni, Chittagong-Nazirhat and Chittagong-Dohazari routes, Dinajpur-Parbatipur- Rangpur and Lalmonirhat-Parbatipur-Saidpur routes, sources added. Similar trains will be pressed on service in other parts of the country, if it comes out successful. Each DEMU can carry 300 passengers at a time which can run at a speed of 60 kilometers per hour.

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3-day Poetry Festival held in Bangladesh

DHAKA, May 23, 2013 (BSS) – A three-day “Poetry Festival- 2013” began today at the Public Library auditorium in city’s Shahbagh. Poet Belal Chowdhury inaugurated the festival while Textiles and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddique addressed the function as the chief guest.

Awami League Presidium Member Nuh-ul-Alam Lenin, Dr Mostafa Jalal Mohiuddin, MP, and poet Sheikh Hafizur Rahman addressed the programme as the special guests, among others. The speakers urged the poets to speared speech of humanity across the world through poems. Poets from the country and West Bengal of India will take part at the three-day festival.

The next two days programme will be held at Moulvibazar Public Library auditorium and Pourashava Board auditorium.

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Kyrgyzstan to develop halal standards

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-05-16 BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan is becoming the second Central Asian country to introduce its own broader halal standards. Until recently, the Islamic Centre’s Certification Committee had the sole authority to issue halal certificates in Kyrgyzstan. It issued the certification based on Malaysian standards. Conflicts arose when the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan (DUMK) started to issue its own certificates.

To resolve the conflict, Kyrgyzstan plans to issue uniform standards and to form a National Halal Association. “We sense the full support and understanding of the state,” said Myktybek haji Arstanbek, spokesman for the Eurasian Union for Halal Standardisation.

The products now will be tested for halal inside the country because it has obtained the specific equipment. For example, a test will be performed on meat to detect the presence of pork. It is important for Kyrgyzstan to have its own standardisation system rather than just follow the Malaysian one, because Kyrgyzstan uses some products (horse milk, for example) that Malaysia has no standards for.

The move will also help the country expand its halal certification system. Until recently, halal certificates in Kyrgyzstan pertained only to meat products, Arstanbek said. Soon, halal standards will reach across more branches of the economy, particularly pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

For example, insulin for diabetics is one of more than 500 products sold in Kyrgyzstan that contain pork, he said, adding that the possible presence of banned ingredients in medicines puts many believers in a dilemma.

“Almost all of them have various additives that include components of pork and alcohol. … In these circumstances, how can a vendor, even if he is Muslim, guarantee the candy he’s selling?” Arstanbek asked.

Halal certification is becoming important in Kyrgyzstan not only because more residents are turning to Islam and want to make sure they are consuming halal products but also because they in general think that halal products are being more carefully checked and are healthier. The halal mark is gradually becoming a trademark going beyond strictly religious requirements, Kyrgyz Grand Mufti Rakhmatullah haji Egemberdiyev said.

“Unfortunately, many of our people naïvely believe that, if they buy some product with Arabic writing on it, it must mean it is halal,” he said. “But this is not the case.”

Kyrgyzstan has no modern laboratory that could quickly ascertain whether a product is halal. Many producers are now going to Almaty for analyses. To protect consumers’ halal rights, the local branch of the Eurasian Union for Halal Standardisation has acquired special testing equipment to determine the extent of a given product’s halal standards.

Furthermore, it is going to request certificates from foreign producers of food products and necessities.

Although halal standards are of a religious nature, the authorities are aware that their development can also help the economy.

“We will help the development of this standard in every way, because the halal industry today is one of the most promising industries … of many countries,” Berdimamat Adanbayev, chief of the Technical Regulations Department within the Economy and Anti-Monopoly Ministry, said.

In the long term, Kyrgyzstan could become an exporter of halal products, observers say. “We could offer high-quality products for the meat and food-processing industries,” Deputy Foreign Minister Askar Beshimov said. “Arab businessmen take halal certification very seriously, and they quite often back out … when they learn that most of our goods lack halal certificates.”

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Uzbek theatre group teaches contemporary drama

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-05-17 TASHKENT – The Ilkhom Theatre’s 8th annual Young Directors’ Laboratory brought together 10 young directors from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for inspiration and learning under Russian director Vladimir Pankov. The workshop began April 12 and ran through May 23 in Tashkent.

“Many of them already have experience in putting on a show. Others are only beginning to find their way in the profession,” Ilkhom Theatre spokeswoman Irina Bkharat told Central Asia Online. “Our laboratory is unique – those present here participate in creating a show from beginning to end, becoming fully immersed in it.”

The workshop includes an introductory course by Ilkhom’s Vasily Yuryev on working with a set designer, another by director Ovlyakuli Khojakuli titled “A Practical Course on the Survival of Theatre in the Provinces,” film screenings and discussions conducted by art scholar Kamaritdin Artykov, photo and art exhibitions and even a chess competition, she said. Each director also will stage a brief play including Ilkhom Theatre actors; all of those plays premièred May 12.

“Pankov was invited as (this year’s) ‘Master,'” she said, adding that the Master “stresses the important aspects of directing and explains the reasons behind his work.”

The main creative process of the laboratory is the staging of the modern drama Rain behind the Wall, which will première May 21-22, Bkharat said. The attendees will participate directly in the creative process, observing Pankov’s work and assimilating the main points of the production process.

Though the young directors come from different countries, they share common goals and challenges facing theatrical arts in Central Asia.

“There are no opportunities in Kyrgyzstan to grow as a theatrical director,” Olga Shchetinina, an independent Kyrgyz director, told Central Asia Online, explaining that for this reason young Kyrgyz directors often study abroad if given the chance.

“At the same time, we have a tremendous number of areas where young directors can express themselves,” she said. “Our viewers love innovation. Kyrgyzstan contains interesting small theatres that convey their own themes and culture. But the traditional academic theatres are finding it more difficult. They are far from contemporary art, and spectators have stopped attending them.”

“In our country (Uzbekistan), the theatrical vacuum prevents the development of young directors,” Vyacheslav Tzyu, an aspiring Ilkhom Theatre actor and director, said. “It is very hard for a young director to find himself.”

The laboratory is unique because it teaches true contemporary drama, Bkharat said. The laboratory gives them the opportunity not only to learn but also to exchange experience and network with each other, she said.

“We want this form of theatre to develop,” she added. “If we don’t move in this direction, theatre in Central Asia will stagnate.”

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Kyrgyzstan plans trans-continental aviation hub

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-05-20 BISHKEK – In an effort to enhance its economic development, Kyrgyzstan is preparing to open new international routes and create a trans-continental aviation hub.

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev in January signed a decree on sustainable development that envisioned the development of the country’s transport infrastructure with particular emphasis on aviation.

“Under this decree, a multi-modal transport and logistics centre is planned for 2017… in Bishkek and Osh,” Civil Aviation Agency Deputy Director Murataly Toktobekov said. “(They) will allow us to expand into global markets and thereby rapidly develop our civil aviation amid globalisation.”

Kyrgyzstan occupies a unique location at the heart of the trans-Eurasian corridor, he said, adding that the Bishkek and Osh international airports already are becoming a link in global transport.

“Kyrgyzstan has two other international airports – Issyk-Kul and Karakol – which are situated by a lake,” he said. “These gateways are mainly open during the summer and winter tourist season.” The country has seven other airports that offer only domestic flights, he added.

Foreign investors are eyeing Kyrgyzstan’s transport potential, economist Marat Osmonaliyev said. “You can understand why foreign companies are interested,” he said. “They know that new international routes would cut … the distance between Europe and South-East Asia and simultaneously increase air traffic over our country.” Flights from Europe to Asia via Kyrgyzstan save 1,200-1,600km on average, a 10-15% reduction in distance and in fuel costs, he said.

Bishkek and Osh travellers are seeing more options. In April, the Bishkek airport began offering flights to Astana and Kaliningrad, while Osh International Airport began offering service to Chelyabinsk and Dubai, according to the Bishkek airport press office. Recently, the frequency of flights from Kyrgyzstan to Almaty and to Moscow has increased.

Polish traveller Mark Wrzesiński described taking the new nonstop flight from Istanbul to Osh, which began operating last year.

“I didn’t know there were nonstop flights from Turkey to Osh, which are cheap and convenient for us and for Fergana Valley residents,” he said. “This brings people together and helps us integrate into the global community.”

“We now have more flights … to non-CIS countries,” Osh International Airport director of flights Batyrbek Kozhomkulov said. “Flights to Istanbul are very popular … from there, you can fly almost anywhere.”

Kyrgyzstan has 19 airlines of its own, he said, adding that many have replaced their aging Soviet planes in the past two years.

“Of particular note is the increase in flights from Osh,” Toktobekov said, adding that Kyrgyz airlines offered 13.73% more flights in 2012 than in 2011. In 2012, more than 1m passengers used Bishkek International Airport, compared to slightly more than 600,000 in 2009, according to information he provided. Osh’s passenger load in 2012 was almost 836,000, up from about 308,000 in 2009.

The government recognises the potential for new prosperity and is working to take advantage of it. It plans to renovate some of the older airports by 2020. It also has a far-reaching plan to lengthen runways, renovate passenger lounges and improve airport services.

“We could be a hub for all types of aircraft,” Bishkek International Airport spokeswoman Nazgul Dyushenbiyeva said. Passenger traffic is set to triple in the next 2-4 years, meaning potential annual income of 3.5 billion KGS (US $72.3m), she predicted. She also predicted tripling of annual air freight to 60,000 tonnes within five years.

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Turkey terminates decades of IMF debt, officials say

AFP, 14 May 2013 – Turkey has paid off all debt owed to the IMF which extended its first loans more than 50 years ago, and is now set to contribute to the Fund’s operations, owing to economic growth that gave a priority to the private sector, Turkish officials said on Tuesday.

“After a long period, Turkey has paid off, cut to zero its debt with the IMF. I hope this development will be positive for our country,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told deputies from his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The last instalment of $412 million was paid Tuesday to the International Monetary Fund by the Turkish central bank, bringing to an end a series of loans extended by the IMF since 1958.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan was quoted by the Anatolia news agency as saying that Turkey had also committed to contributing a sum “on the order of five billion dollars” to IMF operations.

Babacan told Turkish television on Monday that the country’s economic turnaround was the result of making private sector growth a priority.

The country’s public debt has been cut from 46 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 36 percent in four years, he added.

By way of comparison, European Union members are bound to maintain public debt below 60 percent of GDP, but very few have done so. Turkey is now in a position to invest fiscal revenue in infrastructure, Erdogan said, including the construction of a third airport for Istanbul, a city of 15 million inhabitants.

The government would like the airport to become the largest in the world in terms of passenger numbers, as the national flag carrier Turkish Airlines ramps up operations with huge orders from both Airbus and Boeing.

The airline plans to double its current fleet of 215 Airbus and Boeing aircraft and expand the destinations it serves by 50 percent.

Although its economic expansion eased markedly last year, Turkey still posted growth of 2.2 percent, down from 8.8 percent in 2011.

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Health Ministry Launches First Job Fair In Afghanistan

May 12, 2013 – Kabul (BNA) Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on Saturday launched “Job Fair” for the first time in the country to provide information regarding the vacant posts of health facilities for the educated youth and newly graduates in all provinces of Afghanistan.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Suraya Dalil, the Minister of Public health said, the shortage of health workers in many health facilities is one of the major challenges for the MoPH in providing health services.

She said the MoPH to address this problem, launched the first Job fair for two days to recruit health workers for health facilities of all provinces of Afghanistan.

“The purpose of this exhibition is to recruit those compatriots who have capacity and skills in providing of health services, and seeking jobs in health sector of Afghanistan” Dr. Dalil added.

The minister further said, by inauguration of this job fair, we will be able to solve the problem of shortage of health workers in health sector of Afghanistan and also provide sufficient information for jobs seekers who are willing to work in health facilities of the MoPH.

“In the job fair more than 1176 vacant posts were announced in which 703 for female and 473 for male.

Of course the female health workers can apply for all the announced vacant posts” she continued.

MoPH the in coordination with the implementing agencies of basic health services is striving to find suitable candidates for above vacant posts via various ways, including Job fair to address shortage problem of health workers, particularly in the remote areas of Afghanistan.

It is word to mention more than 36000 health workers are currently working in health sector of Afghanistan, including 12800 female health workers.

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Afghanistan Displace Its Artistic Works In Turkey

Sunday May 26, 2013 – Kabul (BNA) Afghanistan’s cultural and artistic opuses have been displaying at a three-day cultural festival in Turkey.

The organizers of the festival said that over 140 countries are participating in the festival and display their cultural and artistic works.

“We have participated in the festival and displayed our artistic works. It was a great experience,” an Afghan participant said.

The festival was inaugurated on May 24, 2013 and will continue for three days.

“Afghanistan has been participating in this festival for 11 years and its cultural and artistic opuses are praised by the visitors,” Afghan-Turk School’s Advisor in Afghanistan, Emaduddin Saraji said.

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Biggest Mosque To Be Constructed in Afghanistan

May 26, 2013 – Jalalabad (BNA) The construction work of the biggest mosque will be started in Jalalabad city soon.

It is due to, the mosque be constructed in the area where was Mosjid Safeed (White mosque) which was partially recently damaged by a flood.

The design and map of the mosque will be prepared by the assistance of Afghan engineers according to the most famous Islamic architecture methods.

Gul Aqa Shirzai governor of Nangarhar said BNA; he would donate one million dollars from his own for the construction of the mosque. Presently the engineers of city construction office of Nangarhar province are working on designing and map of the mosque.

Qari Mohammad Mirza Trabi Mullah Imam of Mosjid Safid said that, the mosque would be constructed in the area of 10 jirib of land close to Qaser Shahi (Royal palace) of Jalalabad.

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SMEs activity grows in Almaty

24.05.2013 – Kabar – Referring to the data of Ranking.kz, kapital.kz has announced that during one year the number of legal entities working in Almaty has increased by 21.6% or 3.9 thousand. One fifth or 21% of the active small business of Kazakhstan operate in Almaty. This city consolidates 28% of the national business registered on legal entities with the number of staff reaching 50 people. Astana is the leader regarding the generation of new legal entities. During one year, the city list of small businesses has increased by 12% or by 4 thousand entries. Besides, the enthusiasm of Astana entrepreneurs was not very high, since only 8 thousand or 21% of registered entrepreneurs out of 37 thousands are currently operating in the city. The West Kazakhstan region has the most effective business register of small businesses, since every second company registered here is active.

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Abu Dhabi Investment Authority Publishes 2012 ADIA Review

ABU DHABI, 27 May 2013 (WAM) – The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) today published its 2012 ADIA Review, providing a thorough overview of its activities over the past year while further enhancing understanding of its approach to investing.

Established in 1976, ADIA is a globally-diversified investment institution that prudently invests funds on behalf of the Government of Abu Dhabi through a strategy focused on long-term value creation.

The 2012 ADIA Review includes a detailed analysis of market conditions across the many asset classes in which we invest and significant developments within each of our investing departments. In addition, it offers insights into ADIA’s culture and explains our approach to key areas such as investment strategy, governance and risk management.

The 2012 Review also highlights some of the key developments at ADIA during the past year, including: The decision to formally recognise the important role played by certain functions within ADIA – Human Resources, Central Dealing and General Services – by upgrading them to departments in their own right; The appointment of key senior managers in a number of departments, including Private Equities, Alternative Investments , Real Estate ‘&’ Infrastructure, Internal Equities and Information Technology; A series of high-level, fact-finding and relationship building missions conducted by ADIA in key markets around the world, including Europe, India and South-East Asia; The launch of the Year-One Academy, which aims to provide UAE National recruits with key workplace skills, hands-on training and experience across all asset classes.

The full 2012 ADIA Review is available on our website, www.adia.ae.

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Sharjah eyes more Korean, Asian tourists and investments

SHARJAH, May 25, 2013 (WAM)–The Third UAE-Korea Economic Partnership Forum that opens tomorrow will help provide a direct impetus to the travel and tourism industry in Sharjah and the UAE by way of more Korean and Asian tourists and investments in the promising tourism and hospitality sector, said Mohamed Ali Al Noman, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.

This came in the SCTDA Chairman’s statement on the eve of the Third UAE-Korea Economic Partnership Forum, being held in the South Korean capital Seoul on May 27 and 28.

The Sharjah delegation to the third partnership summit is organised by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority and headed by Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Corporation and Sharjah Media Centre. The delegation includes besides SCTDA, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Sharjah Media Centre, Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Sharjah Healthcare City.

Al Noman said that while the number of Asian and Korean tourists to Sharjah has grown in recent years, there is immense potential to attract more visitors and investors from across Asia, especially Far East region which is home to some of the fastest growing economies and expanding tourism markets such as South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia besides the big players like China and Japan.

Last year, Sharjah received more than 227,554 tourists from Asia, which is 13 per cent of the total number of its international guests.

“We have to build on these encouraging trends and initiatives like the UAE-Korea Economic Partnership Forum offer a great opportunity to do so,” said Al Noman. Pointing out to the healthy economic and trade relations between South Korea and the UAE and Sharjah, Al Noman said this has to be expanded to the tourism sector which is the fastest growing in the Middle East.

In this respect he emphasised that the SCTDA has already been targeting the Asian tourism market for years by showcasing Sharjah in international trade exhibitions such as ITB Singapore and the Beijing International Tourism Expo.

Al Noman called upon all stake holders in the public and private sectors of the emirate to work together to exploit the excellent opportunity presented by the Seoul summit.

“South Korea is our important economic and trading partner. And Sharjah, as the region’s leading economic and trade and tourism hub will play an important part in the UAE-Korea Economic Partnership Forum,” asserted Al Noman.

The third UAE-Korea Economic Partnership Forum seeks to foster and fortify special economic partnerships with South Korea in different sectors to generate more economic and investment opportunities and cooperation between the two countries.

South Korea is one of the most important trade and investment partners of the UAE with a number of South Korean companies operating out of the UAE.

South Korea ranks tenth in the total non-oil foreign trade of the UAE. Foreign trade between South Korea and the UAE stood at Dh23.7 billion in 2011, and South Korean firms and investors have played a crucial role in leveraging the UAE’s advantages as a regional economic and trade hub.

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Ministers of Culture of SCO member states ended in Bishkek

Bishkek, May 24 / Kabar /. The 10th meeting of Ministers of Culture of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has completed in Bishkek, the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic reports.

The meeting was attended by Minister of Culture, Information and Tourism of Kyrgyzstan Sultan Rayev, Deputy Minister of Culture and Information of Kazakhstan Askar Buribaev, China’s Minister of Culture Cai Wu, Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Grigory Ivliev, First Deputy Minister of Culture of Tajikistan Mirali Dostiev and Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports of Uzbekistan Fatih Jalalov.

During the meeting, heads of Ministries of Culture of the six countries discussed the state and prospects of cultural exchanges and other issues of mutual interest. The participants of the meeting stressed that the cultural interaction of the organization’s member states took on a new level after signing of the Agreement between the Governments of the SCO member states on cooperation in the field of culture in August 16, 2007 in Bishkek.

In his welcoming speech the National Coordinator of SCO from Kyrgyzstan Asanbek Osmonoliyev called the sides to work together on mutually beneficial cooperation in the framework of available formats, aimed at enhancing the credibility at the international level.

The sides stressed further development of multilateral and bilateral cultural relations within the framework of promoting mutual understanding between the people, the preservation of cultural diversity, the dissemination of knowledge about the traditions and customs of peoples living in the SCO.

The next meeting of Culture Ministers of SCO member states will be held in 2014 in Tajikistan.

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Transit of goods via Iran increases 10.8%

TEHRAN, May 27 (MNA) – Over one million tons of goods were transited via Iran during the first two months of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21-May 21), showing 10.8 percent rise compared with the same period in the previous year, the Iranian deputy roads and urban development minister said.

Shahriyar Afandizadeh told the Fars News Agency on Sunday that some 94 percent of the goods were transited by roads.

The official said that 93 countries transited goods via Iran during the mentioned period of time.

The transited consignments mostly consisted of fuel, construction materials, cotton, home appliances, vehicles, foodstuff and fertilizers, he noted.

In April, Afandizadeh said that over 11.6 million tons of goods were transited through Iran last year.

Afandizadeh added that 106 countries transited their goods via Iran. Iraq, China, the UAE, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan transited the highest amounts of goods, he noted.

Meanwhile, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization Ataollah Sadr has said that Iran earns some 14 trillion rials (about $1.15 billion) annually through transiting goods via ports.

Around $140 billion worth of goods are annually transited via Iranian ports, he added.

In February, IRNA quoted Iranian Roads and Urban Development Minister Ali Nikzad as saying that the total capacity of Iranian ports has increased by 80 million tons during the past eight years, reaching 184 million tons.

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Istanbul gets its own “Disneyland”

Turkishpress.com – The biggest entertainment park in Istanbul, Vialand, has opened its doors with a ceremony attended by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Vialand Istanbul close to the city’s Golden Horn region, claims to be the biggest shopping center with its park, aquapark, theme park and shopping center lying on a million-square meter area in Eyüp district.

The project was launched in September 2011 and has employed nearly 1,000 people in the construction stage and 4,000 people upon completion.

The 600,000-square meters project area, located within the Eyüp and Gaziosmanpasa Municipality borders, has the Transit European Motorway (TEM) to the North and the E5 Highway to the South.

Prime Minister Erdoğan said at the ceremony that the area used to be a stone pit when he was the Mayor of Istanbul between 1994 and 1998. Haliç, known as the Golden Horn, which connects to Istanbul’s Boshporus, had lost its habitat feature for sea animals but efforts were being made for it to re-gain its natural existence, Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan said it was a “love business” for him. “My people know that the AK Party (the ruling Justice and Development Party) holds its promises. We never cheated and we did not let anyone cheat us. Who would believe there was going to be a fun center in this area 10 years ago? Look now we have it. … These are all about love. This is a business of love,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan also said his party could not stand idle by poverty and asked Vialand managers to set some free entrance days as well.

Vialand features main attractions such as the Rapid Ride, offering a fast-water rafting experience; Splash Coaster, combining natural waterfalls with the fun of a rollercoaster; and Family Coaster, an attraction for anyone who enjoys or might enjoy a rollercoaster.

The guests of the Park will find themselves swept away to a world inhabited by the legendary creature King Kong, and where they can wander the lively streets and squares where the old, mystical way of living in Istanbul is revived, its different cuisine and culture is presented with staff happy to be meeting guests’ needs, and full of many other surprises, wonders and smiles.

The Fatih Dark Ride entertainment unit will allow guests to take an exciting and educational trip through the Ottoman Empire period and witness Fatih the Conqueror take over Istanbul.

Including educational and informative activities particularly for kids of elementary or secondary school age along with all the fun, Vialand will also be undertaking many social responsibility projects.

Vialand also has shops in the old Istanbul style and Ottoman-style houses and buildings, a waterpark and kids fun center.

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Kerry unveils $4 billion Palestinian investment plan

AL SHUNAH, Jordan – Agence France-Presse – US Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled Sunday a plan to boost the Palestinian economy by attracting $4 billion in private investment, saying it could transform the lives of the people.

As he seeks to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the table to negotiate a peace deal, Kerry said it was also imperative to create jobs and meet the hopes of young people for a better economic future.

He has tasked Tony Blair, the Quartet’s special envoy to the Middle East, with drawing up a plan to revitalise the West Bank through boosting industries such as tourism, construction, information technology and agriculture.

Blair’s plan, being aided by some global business leaders who are giving their time free, could be “ground-shaking,” Kerry said.

The group was putting together recommendations for the Palestinian leadership to decide on, aiming to “mobilise some $4 billion of investment”.

“These experts believe we will increase the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50 percent over three years,” Kerry told the closing session of the World Economic Forum meeting on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan.

“The most optimistic estimates foresee enough new jobs to cut unemployment by two-thirds to eight percent down from 21 percent and to increase the median wage by 40 percent,” said the top US diplomat.

Some 100,000 jobs in home construction alone could be created in the next three years, while tourism could triple.

While details of the plan remained sketchy, Blair’s office said in statement they were “analyzing the potential of various sectors of the Palestinian economy and identifying measures that could be taken to spur transformative growth.” They were “consulting with a number of key international and local experts and stakeholders from the different economic sectors” and would provide details “in due course,” it added.

Kerry warned the forum however it stood before a historic moment, amid the yearnings for greater economic and social freedoms unleashed by the Arab Spring.

“We ignore the lessons of the Arab awakening at our own peril… it is imperative that all of us channel our creativity and energy into making sure that people do actually have better choices,” he said.

He urged public and private sectors to work together saying they each “have a responsibility to meet the demands of this moment and one can’t do it without the other. We need you at the table”.

“If we don’t eagerly grab this moment we will condemn ourselves to a future conflict. We are staring down a dangerous path filled with potential violence, with the capacity to harden divisions, increase instability. And this will be a path filled by violent extremists who rush to fill the vacuum.” In a separate initiative unveiled at the forum in the Jordanian town of Al Shunah, some 300 Israeli and Palestinian business executives also urged their governments to move towards a two-state solution.

The Breaking the Impasse Initiative vowed to use their influence to convince leaders on both sides to resume serious talks, stalled since late 2010.

“The current situation endangers the economy and the social fabric of both nations, and may render the two-state solution unattainable,” it said in a statement.

Israeli President Shimon Peres urged Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, who was sitting in the same front row of chairs, to “return to negotiations as soon as possible and bring peace”.

“President Abbas, you are our partner and we are yours,” the Nobel Peace laureate said, adding that he was the gaps between the two sides could be bridged.

Abbas also called for young Palestinians to be given hope of a better future, and said his people “want to live with neighbours who we respect and they respect us also”.

But in a sign of the wide divisions, Abbas stressed he would not take the issue of the return of Palestinian refugees off the negotiating table, and called again for Israel to free prisoners held since before 1993.

Late Sunday, Kerry had a private dinner with the United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasse Judeh, Blair and American businessman Tim Collins.

He was also expected to meet again with Abbas following his trip to Israel and the West Bank last week.

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Morocco holds investment Roadshow in Shanghai, Mumbai

Rabat, May 23, 2013 (MAP) – More than 40 major companies interested in investing in Morocco’s are expected to visit the Moroccan investment roadshown co-organized by the Moroccan Investment Development Agency and the Financial Times paper this May 28 and 30, respectively in Shanghai and Mumbai.

The initiative seeks to enhance the status of Morocco as a destination for international investments, and strengthen the confidence of economic and financial decision-makers around the world in the country’s potentials, a statement of the Moroccan agency says.

Panels organized on this occasion will be moderated by the Financial Times correspondents in the visited countries in the presence of industry, trade and new technologies minister, Abdelkader Amara.

The program features a discussion on the potential of Morocco as a competitive platform to access European markets, Africa and the United States, thanks to the free trade agreements signed by the Kingdom.

The statement said that participating companies represent car, chemical, food and textiles and clothing industries, in addition to enterprises operating in energy, mining, telecoms, information technology, retail and banking.

According to the same source, the co-sponsorship of a reference business media is likely to attract major decision-makers to this tour that will also include later this year six other major cities: Milan, Sao Paulo, New York, Frankfurt, Seoul and Tokyo.

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Nigerian airline, Aero, begins flights to Cameroon 27 May

Monday, 27 May 2013, Africa Manager – Nigeria’s second largest airline, Aero Contractors, is due to begin flights to Douala, Cameroon’s largest city, from Nigeria’s economic capital city of Lagos on 27 May, the airline announced.

”The launch of the route is part of our strategy of focusing on operations in Africa, which is a key growth area for the airline and also in line with the airline’s regional expansion programme,” said the airline’s Accounting Officer, Capt. Russell Lee Foon.

Capt. Foon told journalists in Lagos Thursday that the flight would be operated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

He disclosed plans by the airline to also launch flights to Libreville (Gabon), Monrovia (Liberia), Freetown (Sierra Leone) and Brazzaville (Congo) before the end of the year.

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Morocco’s investment Roadshow in Shanghai and Mumbai

NETRAKONA, May 27, 2013 (BSS)- The farmers of the district are expecting bumper production of boro paddy in the current season as harvesting of the paddy is nearing to completion with excellent yield rates. District Agriculture Extension Department (DAED) office sources said a total of 1,74,420 hectors of land were brought under the cultivation in ten upazilas of the district with the production target of 6.5 lakh tonnes of boro rice.

But, now the crop specialists of DAED said over seven lakh tonnes of boro rice would be produced in the district if the harvesting of the paddy are completed properly.

Meanwhile, 90 per cent harvesting work has been completed and the rest harvesting of paddy would be completed within a week or two weeks, the deputy director of the DAED Kazi Nurul Islam said.

The deputy director said the production of high yielding variety from per hectare of land stands at 3.6 to 3.9 tonnes, local variety at 2 tonnes and hybrid at 5 tonnes of rice in most of the area of the district. The Boro cultivators could achieve the excellent yield rates due to favorable climate condition, adequate supply of necessary agricultural equipments including improved quality seeds, mixed fertilizers and ensuring proper electricity supply in the rural areas.

Besides, Bangladesh Krishi Bank is disbursing special agri-loans to the farmers to make the programme success.

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Abbas: Palestinians Will Reject Interim Deals, Temporary Borders

DEAD SEA, May 26, 2013 (WAFA) – President Mahmoud Abbas Sunday said, during the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa 2013 (WEF), the Palestinian people will not agree to interim agreements or a state with temporary borders.

Abbas expressed his contentment with the peace initiative entitled, ‘Breaking the Impasse’, organized by Palestinian and Israeli businessmen to support re-launching of the peace process.

He said that if Israel agrees to withdraw from the land occupied in 1967, all Arab countries will normalize relations with it based on the Arab Peace Initiative.

Meanwhile, he warned of the enduring settlement activity, land confiscation, arrests and changes in Jerusalem, because it will eliminate the chances of the two-state solution.

He reiterated the Palestinian people’s commitment to peace and refusal of any form of incitement.

Palestinian Businessman Munib Masri, one of the organizers of Breaking the Impasse initiative, called on all Arab leaders to increase efforts to break the stalemate in the peace process in order to establish an independent Palestinian state.

Al-Masri said that they decided to take a position and encourage the political leaders to make critical decisions to break the deadlock in the peace process and put an end to the obstacles endangering the two-state solution.

He also reiterated Palestinians’ adherence to freezing Israeli settlement activity and bringing down the apartheid wall.

Al-Masri called to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, reach a fair solution to the refugees’ issue and release all political prisoners.

Breaking the Impasse was launched during WEF in the presence of four key leaders Abbas, Israeli President Shimon Peres, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

On his part, Peres said that despite of the deep differences between Palestinians and Israeli, both must discuss their differences on the negotiations’ table in order to achieve peace.

Kerry, who is currently working on reviving direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, started his speech with stressing Abbas’ significance as a peace partner.

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Turkish premier defends measure on alcohol consumption

ANKARA, Friday, May 24, 2013 – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said the aim of a new measure on alcohol consumption was to protect people, especially the young from “adopting bad habits.”

The new bill passed Friday by the Turkish parliament restricts the consumption and advertising of alcohol. It bans companies producing alcoholic beverages from sponsoring events and sale of alcoholic drinks in shops between 10pm and 6:00am. It also introduces stricter penalties on drunk driving.

Turkeys main opposition Republican Peoples Party voted against the new measure while the Nationalist Movement Party supported it.

Speaking at his party`s headquarters, Erdogan replied to criticism directed about alcohol and said it was quite normal that the state took steps to keep its people away from bad habits.

“We are not forbidding alcohol, we are forbidding the promotion and advertisement of it in every form, written or visual, including in the social media,” Erdogan said, adding that Turkeys constitution also obliged the state to protect the countrys young people.

Erdogan underlined in his speech that the new regulation was not the first example of its kind in the world, saying there were many Western countries practicing similar restrictions.

“We have been trying to create a generation that is sharp, fresh and well-equipped with knowledge. We do not want to see them drinking alcohol all day and walking around drunk day and night,” Erdogan said.

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Abbas Welcomes FC Barcelona in Palestine in August

RAMALLAH, May 23, 2013 (WAFA) – President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday welcomed the expected visit of the Spanish football Club FC Barcelona to Palestine in early August

He said that the visit of this outstanding team, which is widely popular in Palestine, is an occasion that reinforces the high sense of sports.

Abbas instructed the Palestinian Football Association to complete all necessary preparations to receive FC Barcelona, team and administration.

According to a press release published on FC Barcelona official website, the team will host two football clinics in the Middle East, the first will be in Palestine on August 3 and the other in Israel on August 4.

It said that “all proceeds from the FC Barcelona Peace Tour will be donated to the promotion of peace between Palestinians and Israelis through the values of sport.”

“Only first team players will be present at both football clinics,” the press release stated.

FC Barcelona Club also thanked Abbas for his vision and leadership.

In 2011 Abbas visited FC Barcelona football Club along with his two grandsons and were honored by the Club’s administration.

He also visited Real Madrid C.F, the other renowned and professional football club based in Madrid, Spain.

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Indonesia increases sports cooperation with Cuba

Jakarta (ANTARA News) May 24 2013 – Indonesia and Cuba signed a memorandum of understand here on Friday to increase cooperation in the field of sports to improve the two countries` sports performance.

“For Cuba the cooperation would be a challenge. We have had a lot of public diplomacy in the medical field and now we will embark on a sports diplomacy,” Cuba`s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said after signing the MOU at the foreign affairs ministry.

He said Cuba would send coaches and athletes to various countries to share their expertise in a diplomatic mission through sports.

“So, there will be a lot of Cuban coaches in the world. Later the coaches and athletes would become public diplomatic ambassadors,” he said.

Cuba has already sent professional boxing coaches to Indonesia to help the country`s boxers in their preparations for the next Southeast Asian Games in December.

Indonesian junior teams meanwhile have been undergoing training in gymnastic, volley-ball and baseball in Cuba since six months ago.

“We are grateful the training camp is good for grooming junior athletes especially in gymnastic because we have so far not yet had such a program. Cuba meanwhile has given us a priority. Gymnastic has developed well there,” secretary of the minister of sports and youth affairs, Yuli Mumpuni Widarso, said.

She said Indonesia has also sent badminton coaches to Cuba in 2008 and 2011 because the sport branch has not developed in that country.

Indonesia, she said, is also interested in cooperating with Cuba to improve the performance of the country`s softball, wrestling and volley ball athletes.

“Indonesia has not yet given Cuba much. We plan to jointly develop sports science which Cuba is now also developing. That is what we also offered just now,” she said.

Yuli said Indonesia also offered sports industry development cooperation which has been started in Indonesia but which is still new in Cuba such as in ball manufacturing.

“This may help trade cooperation between Indonesia and Cuba which is now still being embargoed and so far done through a third party,” she said.

Among the cooperation programs that have been agreed upon are exchange of coaches and experts in sports medicine, sports law and sports organization cooperation through seminars, researches, technology and publication as well as anti-doping control cooperation.

The signing of the MOU was also witnessed by Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa.

On the occasion the two countries also signed cooperation agreements in the field of trade, health, education, culture and regional and multilateral forums.

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