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12 May, 2014

Kyrgyzstan looks to tourist season with optimism

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 12 May 2014 (13 Rajab 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



The tragedy of MH370 has led to a decline in visitors from China to Malaysia. The Islamic world can help make up for the shortfall. Supporting Malaysia in these difficult days must be an Islamic imperative. Take your next holiday or organise your next business event in Malaysia and make a small contribution towards helping the country mitigate the potentially wider economic impact of the tragedy.


The Islamic Tourism Centre in Malaysia has launched a vibrant new website presenting Malaysia as a prime destination for Islamic tourism and a global halal hub. The website offers a wealth of information on Mosque trails, Islamic Museums, Ramadan & Eid-ul Fitr, Muslim-Friendly Tour Highlights, as well as a Muslim Visitor’s Guide, Halal Directory and Souvenirs Directory. Located strategically at the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is well-known for its natural beauty and diverse cultural landscape. At its social core are three of Asia’s oldest civilisations – Malay, Chinese and Indian – as well as the ethnic communities of Sabah and Sarawak, resulting in a unique and inspiring blend of cultures. With an abundance of halal food, prayer facilities and Islamic attractions, Malaysia perfectly caters to the needs of Muslim travellers. The ITC plays a pivotal role in bringing Malaysia to the forefront of Islamic tourism. It works with industry players to build their capacity in Islamic tourism, thus ensuring that the needs of Muslim visitors are better served. ITC has also taken several initiatives in standardising industry’s best practices through research, seminars, workshops and industry outreach programmes. Now is the perfect time to experience the country’s multitude of Muslim-friendly tourism products – Islamic architectural heritage, halal gastronomic delights, vibrant Islamic festivals and world-class Islamic events – all guaranteed to give visitors an incredible time.

Click here to see the fabulous new website

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

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.



Malaysia To Host Asia Media Summit In 2015

JEDDAH (Saudi Arabia), May 8 (Bernama) — Malaysia will host the Asia Media Summit (AMS) in 2015, after the last time it hosted the summit in 2008. Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek said Malaysia was the original host of the prestigious event in 2004.

After the summit was held in Malaysia for five consecutive years, it was taken to other countries and will return to Malaysia after six years.

“On behalf of the Malaysian government, I invite all those involved to come for the AMS2015 in Kuala Lumpur, the place of its birth,” said Ahmad Shabery in his speech at the closing of AMS2014, here.

The AMS2014, organised by the Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) and the Culture and Information Ministry of Saudi Arabia was held for three days from May 6. It was attended by more than 500 media experts from the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the Middle East.

Ahmad Shabery said besides discussing and debating on important issues related to broadcasting at AMS2015, the participants would also be able to experience “Malaysia Truly Asia” where Malaysia wished to share its diversity of culture and food, as well as its natural beauty and top shopping centres.

“We invite all of you to the Asia Media Summit 2015 and we say ‘Selamat Datang’ (welcome),” he said to the audience at AMS2014. Ahmad Shabery also thanked and congratulated Saudi Arabia’s Culture and Information Ministry as well as AIBD for a well-organised summit this year.

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Malaysia Keen to set up Malaysia-Uzbekistan Trade Council

TASHKENT, May 8 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is receptive to the proposed creation of a Malaysia-Uzbekistan trade and investment council. The matter was raised during Wednesday’s roundtable business meeting with captains of industry of Uzbekistan and Malaysia that was chaired by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

“I think that it’s a move in the right direction. I support it,” he told Malaysian journalists after the roundtable session, shortly before leaving Tashkent at the conclusion of his four-day official visit to Uzbekistan.

He said the proposed body would allow Malaysia and Uzbekistan businessmen to discuss matters and bring them up to the governments and relevant agencies for further action.

“This will facilitate matters that needs to be implemented as both parties (businessmen and investors) will sit together in this council,” he told the final press conference on Wednesday to wrap up his visit here.

Muhyiddin said it was normal for many countries to form such a council to facilitate business and take advantage of opportunities.

Describing the trip as a succces, he said: “We had the oppportunity to forge warm official and personal ties with the Uzbekistani leadership, and a lot of progress and agreement was achieved in our discussions.”

The deputy prime minister said Uzbekistan’s seriousness in enhancing cooperation with Malaysia was obvious. Malaysia, he said, sees Uzbekistan as a base from which to enhance its involvement and explore the regional market.

He said the roundtable, in which Uzbekistan’s Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Investment and Trade Elyor Ganiev participated, agreed that joint committees on trade and education meet as often as possible so that proposals could be concretely implemented.

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Ismail Suleman Khatri, India’s Mastercraftsperson of Bagh Hand Block Print, Passes Away

Ministry of Textiles, 08-May-2014 – The Ministry of Textiles and Office of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) condoles the sad demise of Shri Ismail Suleman Ji Khatri, Shilp Guru and the Mastercraftsperson of Bagh Hand Block Print Craft on 28.4.2014.

Ismail Suleman Ji Khatri was born in 1937 in Dhar at Madhya Pradesh in a traditional Bagh Printer’s family. Both his father Shri Suleman Ji and mother trained him when he attained the age of twelve. He learnt this craft from his father and grandfather as a devoted craftsman. In spite of many difficulties, he continued this ancestral craft with great ability and devotion.

He received State Award in 1976 and 1977 and National Award in 1984. He took part in exhibitions all over the country as well as in foreign countries bringing acclaim to Indian craftsmanship. He has trained more than 2500 artisans in Guru Shishya Parampara.

Ismail Suleman Ji Khatri received the Shilp Guru Award for his valuable contribution to Bagh Hand Block Printing craft His death is a loss to the world of Handicrafts.

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Palestinian Gaza Students Win Peace Poetry Contest

09 May 2014, Gaza Strip (UNWRA media release) – Ruba Rafat Al-Qedra and Nour Al Hoda Rafat Mohamed El Shear, two ninth-grade UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) students from the Gaza Strip, have been named winners of the 2014 Inspirational Messages of Peace Contest by the US National Park Service and International World Peace Rose Gardens. This competition celebrates messages of peace written by youth throughout the world. More than 1,900 students participated in the competition this year.

The awards ceremony, held on 8 May 2014 at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, is unfortunately out of reach for these two young Palestine refugees. Due to the movement restrictions placed on the Gaza Strip, travel outside of the enclave is severely restricted. Engraved plaques with the students’ messages will be displayed in the rose gardens for one year. With over 700,000 visitors every year, it is quite an honour for these two ninth graders, and their messages of peace to be recognized in such a way.

UNRWA has a long-standing commitment, as a UN agency, to teach students about the foundations of human rights. With the support of the United States Department of State, UNRWA integrates human rights concepts throughout its more than 700 schools. In Gaza, UNRWA, supported by the Government of Norway, has implemented a strong human rights curriculum in its 245 schools. Every week, all 225,098 students in grades one through nine take a stand-alone human rights class teaching tolerance and respect for human rights.

In coordination with the US Department of State, in 2013, two delegations of UNRWA students aged 11-13 traveled to the United States to learn more about human rights and the history of the civil rights movement in America. All of these students were the presidents of their school student parliaments and the top scholars from their human rights courses. They were selected for the prestigious honour after competing through essays and interviews, demonstrating their knowledge of the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In fact, one of the winners of the 2014 poetry contest, Ruba, was a participant in last year’s trip. As part of the trip, Ruba visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, where the plaque celebrating her message of peace will be displayed. During the visit, the youth discussed past winners of the poetry contest, noting how previous students from UNRWA schools in Gaza have won the prestigious competition. “Having had the opportunity to visit the peace garden only last year, I am happy that my message of peace from Gaza will be shared with future visitors,” said Ruba.

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Palestinian Students Sweep Robotics Competition

07 May 2014, West Bank, (UNWRA media release) – In the first Lego robotics competition held at Birzeit University’s Najad Za’ni Center for Excellence in Information Technology, on 15 April, the top three prizeswent to students of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Competing against 23 other schools from all over the West Bank on designing a robot able to react to natural disasters, the UNRWA Askar Girls’ School took home the first prize, with their fellow-students from the UNRWA Qataneh School and the Nur Shams Boys’ School taking second and third place.

The winning design from the Askar girls was a computerized robot able to perform 18 tasks in less than two and a half minutes. Raja’ Sa’ed and Ghadeer Sawalha, IT and mathematics teachers and supervisors of the project, said: “Nablus is situated in an active seismic area, therefore preventive measures should be taken to enable us to cope with these possible disasters.”

School principal Sireen Dweikat stressed the importance of the competition process itself, saying it “provided students with the opportunity to innovate, invent and think of solutions to possible problems.”

The judging focused on students’ technique in four areas: the robot project and scientific research, task performance, teamwork and design and programming. The Askar girls focused their research on chemical infiltration from industrialfactories, an important concern given their school’s close proximity to a factory.

School staff and students were overjoyed by the news of victory. Sixth-grade student Farah said, “I was so happy to be part of this competition because it gave me a chance to think and innovate in a positive way.”

This is the fourth time that the UNRWA Askar Girls’ School has participated in scientific competitions, winning advanced positions each time. UNRWA provides its schools with scientific and computer labs that give them the opportunity to carry out experiments in different domains and under the supervision of qualified teachers, encouraging children to think of changes for a better world.

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3rd Annual Gaza 5K run in Washington on 17 May

05 May 2014, (UNWRA media release) – American Friends of UNRWA (UNRWA USA) invites its donors and supporters to participate in its third annual Gaza Solidarity 5K Walk/Run on 17 May 2014 at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC. The Gaza 5K is a fun, family-friendly event that brings members of the American community together to show solidarity with the children of Gaza. The event attracts people of all ages, runners, walkers and those passionate about Gaza.

Proceeds from the Gaza 5K Walk/Run benefit the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) community mental health programme (CMHP). CMHP is designed to empower vulnerable refugees in Gaza, particularly children suffering from PTSD and other psychological trauma, to better cope with the extreme challenges they face on a daily basis. Through the programme, UNRWA provides school, group and even at-home counseling.

UNRWA USA Executive Director Abby Smardon remarked: “The stress of the ongoing blockade, recurring violence, and extreme poverty is causing great suffering for the people of Gaza, especially the children. But while in Gaza last month, I was amazed to see the fantastic work that UNRWA counselors are carrying out each day to ensure that all children in Gaza have a chance at a brighter future. By participating in the Gaza 5K, individuals in the US have a chance to be a part of that important work too.”

The fundraising goal for this year’s DC race is US$ 100,000 or more to support the children of Gaza.

Individuals can register or donate online via: http://unrwausa.org/gaza5k.

Those unable to attend the race in person can still show support by creating a fundraising page, donating to a runner or by spreading the word. Non-attendees are encouraged to create a free FirstGiving fundraising page in order to help UNRWA USA raise money from anywhere in the world!

For those located on the West Coast, UNRWA USA is hosting a Gaza 5K in San Francisco on 18 October and in Los Angeles/Orange County on 25 October.

Join the movement to be a champion to the children of Gaza today!

UNRWA USA thanks these major sponsors: The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, The Embassy of the State of Qatar, Qatar Foundation International, The Bank of Palestine, and Consolidated Contractors Company. Click here (link is external) for a full list.

To learn more about the work of UNRWA USA, visit www.unrwausa.org (link is external)

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency’s General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68 million.

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Upcoming Trade shows in the OIC

2nd OIC HEALTH EXPO, Dakar, International Centre for Foreign Trade of Senegal, (CICES), 26-29 June 2014

1st OIC Hajj and OMRA Expo, Al Madina Al Munawwara, Al Medina International Company for Exhibitions (MICE), 16-20 November 2014

3rd OIC Halal Expo, Sharjah, Expo Centre of Sharjah, 8-10 December 2014

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VISA Affluent Study results unveiled at ATM 2014

06 May 2014 – The global payments technology company, Visa Inc., has unveiled the results of its latest Affluent Study report on the first day of ATM 2014, with a growth in spend by both inbound and outbound cardholders contributing to the global tourism economy.

Over 300 credit card holders in the UAE took part in the study, with over 130 respondents managing household incomes between AED 200,000 and AED 300,000 per annum, and more than 170 of those surveyed respondents responsible for incomes in excess of AED 300,000 per annum.

“UAE Visa cardholders spent US$2.8 billion overseas in 2013, almost 20% rise on 2012 figures, with Italy proving to be a popular destination and accounting for 36% increase in spend, followed by France, the UK and US at 24%, 23% and 22% respectively,” said Marcello Baricordi, General Manager UAE and Global Accounts Lead at Visa MENA.

The UAE’s Affluent Index for 2014 has also increased to 130 from 125 in 2013, surpassing Hong Kong at 122 and Singapore at 118, reflecting a generally positive outlook for the affluent in the region.

“This travel savvy, high-spending segment of the Visa market are tourism trendsetters and their behaviour is a barometer for market performance in general” added Marcello. “Three out of four of the UAE’s Affluent customers are regularly setting aside more than 60% of their monthly household income specifically for family travel, and 50% of our survey respondents expect this to rise further in the next 12 months,” he added.

Destinations proving particularly popular with UAE Affluent travellers include India, the US, Turkey, the Maldives and France. According to extensive market research conducted by the company prior to the 2013 launch of its travel-focused Visa Signature card, 62% of upper affluent customers travel within the region, with 50% choosing to stay at five-star hotels, while 95% travel internationally for both business and pleasure.

“Looking at the inbound market, international Visa cardholders spent US$5.5 billion in the UAE in 2013, which represents 18% year-on-year growth, with Saudis contributing 40% to inbound spend followed by Qataris with 20%. We are also seeing continued demand and resulting spend from Russia and China, with Russians spending the most per transaction at US$337,” remarked Baricordi.

The UK continues to be the largest corridor for inbound tourism spend, but Saudi Arabia is showing the fastest growth, up by 33% on 2013 figures, while Angola is leading Africa market interest, up by 14% year-on-year.

In response to the affluent category, Visa launched in February 2013 its exclusive carefully designed Visa Signature premium card which comes packed with unique travel related benefits, which are not just commensurate with the segment, but also meet the customer’s needs during the various phases of travel i.e. planning, booking, travel and at destination.

“The VISA Affluent Study was highly topical and complemented our ‘spotlight on luxury’ theme as well as its relevance to the Middle East hospitality sector,” said Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions the organiser of ATM.

The study revealed that accommodation accounts for 24% of total inbound spend while fashion retail scoops 14% and luxury retail 11%. The UAE’s duty free outlets also benefit with 7% of inbound spend and restaurant dining netting just 3%.

“The booming retail landscape in the UAE is a major tourism driver and with mall floor space set to grow even further, and high-end brands targeting prime locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for regional expansion, this will only continue to add value to the tourism offering,” said Baricordi.

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WEFA: Your attendance, blow to terrorism – Nigerian leader tells participants

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has described as a blow to terrorism the attendance of African leaders and others at the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) holding in the nation’s capital, Abuja, despite threats posed by the terror group Boko Haram.

“Nigeria is proud to host this event, the first time the Forum is coming to West Africa. We wish you a fruitful conference and a productive stay in our beautiful capital, Abuja,” PANA quoted President Jonathan as saying in his speech at the first plenary of the WEF Thursday.

“Let me thank all of you for coming to Nigeria at this trying time when we are facing terrorist attacks. Your coming here to support us is a blow on the terrorists,” he said.

In the run-up to the forum, Boko Haram carried out two bomb attacks on a bus station on the outskirts of Abuja, killing a total of 95 people and injuring hundreds more, in an apparent attempt to portray the inland capital city as unsafe to host such a high profile event.

The sect also abducted over 200 girls in the northern state of Borno and threatened to sell them, a development that has overshadowed the forum and pushed Britain, China, France and US, among others, to offer assistance to Nigeria to rescue the girls.

In his speech, President Jonathan thanked the countries that have “expressed commitment to help us rescue the abducted girls”, specifically mentioning British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. “We appreciate their commitment to help us put an end to the crisis,” he said.

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Togo: WADB releases 6 billion CFAF to finance four-star hotel in Abidjan

Saturday, 10 May 2014, AfricaManager – The West African Development Bank (WADB) has loaned 6 billion CFAF to Chain Hotel Abidjan plc, a subsidiary of Teyliom International, to partially finance the building of a four star hotel in Abidjan, called “Noom Abidjan”, sources from the banking institution told PANA on Wednesday in Lomé.

The financing agreement was signed on Wednesday at the headquarters of WADB in the Togolese capital, Lomé, by Christian Adovelande, governor of WADB and Yigo Thiam, Managing director of Teyliom International.

The hotel will have 179 rooms and is due to be opened in 2016.

WADB is also helping Teyliom International to finance its hotel network in 12 West, Central and Eastern African countries. In January 2014, WADB gave the company a loan of 3.5 billion CFAF towards the construction of Hotel “Noom Cotonou” in Benin.

The overall volume of financing from the bank to Ivory Coast is estimated at 557 billion CFAF, including 257 billion to the private sector, said WADB.

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Tunisia: Number of tourists who visited Tozeur up 18.9%

Saturday, 10 May 2014, AfricaManager – According to data provided by the Regional Tourism Commission in the governorate of Tozeur, the number of tourists increased by 18.9% during the first four months of 2014 compared to 2013.

52,517 visitors from different nationalities visited Tozeur in 2014, against 44,169 visitors in 2013. The number of overnight stays went up 14.86% during the same period with 88,500 nights against 77,045 in 2013, reports the source.

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Afghanistan Girls’ School Construction Work Begins

Mazar-e-Sharif (BNA) Wednesday, May 07, 2014 Construction work of new building for girls’ school started in Mazar-e-Sharif city yesterday. Qais Meher Ayeen education head of Balkh province said BNA; the school will be constructed in one story with the assistance of residents of Balkh at the cost of 10,000 dollars.

According to the source, the school will have 16 classrooms. With completion work of the school, the education problem of students will be solved from shortage of classrooms.

Meher Ayeen expressed thanks from residents of Balkh, called construction of the school useful in improvement of education.

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Foundation Stones of Three Greenhouses Laid In Kabul

Wednesday May 7, 2014, Kabul (BNA) The foundation stone of three larger and modern spring houses was laid down in Shakar Dara of Kabul province recently.

During the ceremony, Minister of Agricultural, Mohammad Asif Rahimi and Kabul governor, Abdul Jabar Taqwa, some members of parliament and Head of Chambers of Commerce and Industries were also present. At this ceremony, Mohammad Asif Rahimi told newsmen that this spring houses would be built with the capacity of 15000 tons and the investment of $ 11 million and would be completed within two years and be laid to utility in the third year. The evaluations conducted in Afghanistan show that for the growth and expansion of agriculture sector the farmer of our country are in serious need of water reservoir, Agricultural Development Bank and spring houses for storage of agricultural products. We did some works considering those three principles.

With construction of this spring houses, our farmers and horticulturist are not compelled to sell their seasonal products immediately. On the other, those national traders who export the agricultural products of Afghanistan abroad would not be compelled any more to sell the products of farmers with acceptance of loss hurriedly or export these materials to abroad and keep in spring housed of those countries.

After this, we would have our own equipped spring housed inside of our country. Now, we build eight spring houses with the capacity of 5000 tons in Balkh, Kunduz, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Herat and three other in Kabul province. The total capacity of these spring houses reach to 40000 tons. The fruits and vegetables are stored in these spring housed. Despite storage of aforementioned items, the dried fruits are packaged in them. Likewise, the farmers can keep and reserve their products till finding of market.

Other small and medium spring house are also built country-wide, this would impact more in the growth of agricultural economy. The spring house is built in Kabul has the capacity of 15000 tons that covers the provinces of Dykundi, Samangan, Baghlan, Parwan and Kabul.

Likewise, the provinces of Wardak and Logar can to store their products in this spring house. If these products be substituted within three months, it is possible that the capacity of this spring house to be reached into 60000 tons per year. This spring house would be managed by the Ministry of Agriculture.

According to a constant procedure of cooperative, individual farmers, agricultural companies and national traders who work in agricultural products can benefit from these spring houses. We hope with construction of such spring houses, we help further more the growth of agriculture in Afghanistan.

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İzmir’s National Library pushes its limits

Hurriyet Daily News – The İzmir National Library, which is home to more than 1 million books in its archives, has a problem of space. The library management, which has produced practical solutions to protect its historical building from this excessive load, now asks to move to a modern building with thousands of precious works in its archives. It is said that the current building could serve as a “book museum.”

The İzmir National Library Foundation Chairman Ulvi Puğ said the library was founded by İzmir’s locals in 1912 as a nongovernmental organization and it is one of the six libraries that benefits from the Legal Deposit Law No. 6279 law.

“Within the frame of this law, our library has a collection of nearly 1 million books and some 5,000 of these books are manuscripts and lithography. It also has every newspaper collection since the foundation of the Republic, as well as a very rich archive of the original first printing editions of the works of the all of the world’s famous writers,” said Puğ.

He said that some part of a building, which is used by the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality as the City Archive and Museum, was also owned by the museum. “We have some 1 million books there and 60,000 new books are brought to the library within the scope of the Legal Deposit Law every year. This is why we have a serious problem of space,” said Puğ, adding they had short- and long-term solutions to the problem.

“A short-time solution may be the distribution of buildings, owned by private administrations, to the institutions that need them. Since we are a public institution, we had talks with the governor of İzmir.

There is an office building; 65 percent of this building is owned by the İzmir National Library. For example, if some part of this building is allocated to the library, our problem of space can be solved for the next 10-15 years. Otherwise, we have to establish a contemporary library in İzmir. We are not saying this building should be possessed by the library. But we can share this building with the Culture and Tourism Ministry or the metropolitan municipality. Then more people can take advantage of these books, Puğ said.

The library’s reading room’s capacity is for 50 people and İzmir’s population is 4 million, according to Puğ. “If each local of İzmir wants to benefit from the library for one day, s/he needs to wait for 220 years,” he said, adding that a new contemporary library should have playing areas for children to love books and social life areas to draw young people.

He also noted the new building should also be supported with a boutique hotel with a reasonable price for researchers to stay, and offered that the current library building might become a book museum to display valuable works.

As for the Social Security Institution (SGK) building complex in front of the historic library building, Puğ said if those buildings removed by the government, the library would be more visible. “An opera, symphony orchestra or theater room or a library building can be established there. Behind this area, an artists park can be organized. The statues of important artists such as Victor Hugo and Homeros, who were born and lived in İzmir, can be displayed there. In this way, the office buildings in Kemeraltı may become restaurants open for 24 hours,” Puğ said.

Among the significant works in the neo-classical library building, built by the architect Tahsin Sermet, is Envari’s work “Düsturname-i Enveri,” which is composed of 3,730 verses. The work, which tells the Ottoman history until Fatih Sultan Mehmet, provides more information especially about the beylik of Aydınoğulları than other books.

“Ziya-üt Dehr Cila-ül Asr,” dedicated by Hasan Edip Efendi to Mahmud II, tells the Ottoman history from the Osman Gazi period to the era of Abdülhamid I, and it is one of the important works in the library.

A Greek work featuring the life of Aristotle, printed in 1531 in the Gutenberg Printing House, and Katip Çelebi’s “Cihannüma,” which was written between 1650 and 1655, are also among the valuable works kept in the İzmir National Library.

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India hosts ‘Pakistan Show-2014’ in Amritsar

New Delhi, May 10, IRNA — In an effort to improve bilateral trade opportunities and people-to-people contact, Indian hosted the first ever ˈPakistan Showˈ in Amritsar city of Punjab state. The five day (May 8-12) mega show kicked off by Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi, Abdul Basit Khan.

‘Pakistan Show 2014, which is expected to increase business opportunities between the two countries, jointly jointly organised by Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Over 75 exhibitors showcasing the best of Pakistan including the popular Pakistani onyx marble, textiles, dry fruits, carpets, jewellery, home appliances, crockery, quilts, wrought iron furniture, besides a special food court being put up by them.

ˈThe governments on both sides are committed to boost bilateral trade so that peaceful development can be realized on both sides of the border sooner than later,ˈ Basit told reporters after inaugurating the event.

He lauded the traders and businessmen of both nations of having strong potential. ˈThese shows happening over a number of years are testimony to the fact that the business communities on both sides of the border are keen and eager to see peace ushering on both the countries,ˈ Basit said.

Earlier, President Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Sohail Lashari said, ˈpeople to people contact was must to bring peace and harmony in Indo-Pak relations and trade can play an important role in this direction.ˈ

ˈMore and more avenues and events need to be created which give the people of both the countries opportunities to come together, participate and take back the fresh and first hand impressions of the peopleˈs perceptions on either side,ˈ Lashari told reporters.

He said there has been a significant increase in cross border travel from India to Pakistan and vice versa in the recent past. ˈThis is likely to increase manifold,ˈ he added.

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Seminar on Iran-Turkey cultural, historical ties held in Bursa

Ankara, May 8, IRNA – Eighth Seminar on Iran-Turkey Cultural and Historical Ties opened in the Turkish city of Bursa Thursday. The event aimed at consolidating bilateral ties is held by Iranˈs Cultural Office and Turkeyˈs High Foundation of History.

Addressing the opening ceremony, head of the foundation, Matin Holagu said that despite ups and downs in cultural relations, currently, the two countries have excellent diplomatic ties.

Referring to cultural and historical common grounds between Iran and Turkey, he said that they boast of numerous commonalities and thatˈs why they are inseparable.

Iranˈs cultural attaché, Abolhasan Khalaj-Monfared told the seminar that Iran and Turkey as the two great countries in the region playing constructive role for peace and security.

The two nations are living alongside each other with interaction, he said.

Topics for discussion in the seminar include role of Islam in modernizing Iranian and Turkish societies, political situation of Iran and Turkey in Islamic civilization, The Iranian and Turkish role to counter colonialism and imperialism, and that of Iran and Turkeyˈs non-governmental institutions in Islamic culture and civilization, obstacles in the way of cultural convergence between Iran and Turkey.

Bursa is a city in Turkey to where Imam Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Revolution 1979, was exiled in pre-revolution era.

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World Bank to lend Kazakhstan US$2.5 billion

ASTANA, 2014-05-02 – The World Bank (WB) plans to lend Kazakhstan US $2.5 billion (455.2 billion KZT) to help it diversify its economy and raise its overall competitiveness, UN Radio’s Russian news service reported May 1, citing the WB after its officials conferred with Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The WB intends to support projects aimed at attracting foreign investment, developing small and medium-sized enterprises and technical innovation, raising the quality and accessibility of government services and creating the foundation for sustainable regional development. The WB has provided US $6.8 billion (1.2 billion KZT) in aid to Kazakhstan since 1992.

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Kyrgyzstan looks to tourist season with optimism

2014-05-05, BISHKEK, CentralAsiaOnline – Travel agencies and the government’s Tourism Department are predicting a solid summer tourism season, citing a stable political situation that should encourage visitors.

“Everybody is preparing for (tourist) season,” government tourism specialist Mikhail Khalitov said. “Some performance indicators may improve over last year’s figures. For example, already today we are seeing an upsurge in the rate of construction of new boarding hotels resort hotels and guest houses.”

That is a welcome development, as the 2008 global financial crisis and the political turmoil of 2010 led to two consecutive lean years, 2009 and 2010.

In recent years, tourism has contributed about 4% of Kyrgyz GDP. More than half of tourists visiting Kyrgyzstan go to Lake Issyk-Kul, the world’s 10th largest by volume.

As tourists become more discerning, resorts are taking steps to provide better service, Meder Tilekmatov, general manager of Issyk-Kul Aurora, one of the largest sanatoria on the Issyk-Kul shore, told Central Asia Online.

Tatyana Sotnikova, owner of the Tatyana guest house on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, is expanding her business to better accommodate visitors.

“We’ve decided to build an additional room for three guests,” she said. “You can wait a long time for improvement – but it’s smarter to hope for the best and to stay ahead of competitors.”

Service providers are also training workers, Tilekmatov noted, as they’re aiming to bring the level of services more in line with international standards.

Indeed, about 1,160 workers, including waiters, cooks and guides, will undergo training at the Training Hotel, the country’s only hospitality school, this year, the school said.

“Although more and more foreign tourists have been visiting Lake Issyk-Kul every year, services have largely remained mediocre,” Chubak Omorov, a Tourism Department specialist, said. “On average, tourists spend €120 (9,048 KGS or US $166) a day here – less than they would if the level of service were higher.”

Ambitions for growth

Several changes have contributed to this year’s expectations for the tourism industry.

“It’s already clear that last year’s (introduction of) a visa-free regime for citizens from 44-odd countries was a clever move, since the number of tourists from (non-Soviet) countries has grown,” Khalitov said.

Last year, Kyrgyzstan attracted 65,000 tourists from outside the former Soviet Union, Yelena Kalashnikova, president of the Kyrgyz Tour Operators’ Association, said, and she expects more this year. The figure was 26,000 in 2012.

“The visa-free regime wasn’t the only reason for more tourists last year,” Khalitov said. “We scrapped the environmental check-point … on the Lake Issyk-Kul shore, eliminating traffic jams and speeding the way for motorists.”

The state, meanwhile, is looking to build on that success, Khalitov said.

Under orders from the prime minister, the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism has announced a strategy for 2014-2015 that calls for “providing access to reliable, appealing and high-quality information about Kyrgyzstan’s tourist resources.”

The ministry plans to hold a trade fair at Lake Issyk-Kul, and tourism industry leaders plan to attend trade conferences abroad to advertise their country’s attractions.

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1st Uzbek-made tablet computer exhibited

2014-05-07, TASHKENT, CentralAsiaOnline – Uzbekistan’s first domestically manufactured tablet computer recently went on display at a Tashkent industrial exposition, the Uzbekistan National News Agency reported May 6.

Several expositions opened at the Uzekspotsentr in accordance with a 2007 presidential decree. They covered agriculture, food processing, and IT and telecom.

At the IT and telecom exhibition, the Olive Telecom joint venture is displaying the first Uzbek-made tablet computer as well as experimental models of mobile phones and smart phones.

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Jordanian PM opens conference on Investing in the Levant

Amman, May 8 (Petra) – Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour opened on Thursday the Financial Times conference on Investing in the Levant.

Ensour said in his opening remarks that the Levant region is an increasingly appealing destination for foreign investment.

“The wave of change taking place across this region has produced an abundance of investment opportunities in many sectors,” he said, adding that the momentous political changes have now put the region firmly back on the radar of foreign investors keen to make returns.

Ensour explained that in recent years, Jordan has had to cope with strong headwinds, including the Syrian crisis that had major macroeconomic implications for the Kingdom.

“The impact of the Syrian crisis, which brought more than a million and a quarter of Syrian refugees into the Kingdom, has put enormous pressure on the infrastructure, energy, health, education, waste management, water resources and labour market,” Ensour said. The prime minister pointed out that in order to cope with and mitigate the impact of the Syrian crisis, the government of Jordan has been coordinating with partners on how to overcome these emerging challenges and to maintain the same level of services delivered.

He noted that despite all these challenges, the government is determined to maintain macro-economic stability that would ensure sustainable growth.

“Jordan is adopting a standby agreement with the IMF, which aims at introducing gradually some reform measures that would contribute towards ensuring long term stability for the economy,” the premier added.

Ensour added that the Kingdom’s economy has shown its resilience vis-à-vis regional developments, stressing that Jordan has earned for itself a reputation for stability, especially during these turbulent times, and instils confidence in investors who continue to look towards the country as a destination for their business.

The prime minister added that the government is continuing its efforts to adopt a series of administrative and legislative measures in order to simplify the governmental procedures to make the business environment more attractive for further investments.

“This is being achieved by introducing new modern laws and regulations such as the Income Tax Law, the new Investment Law and the Public Private Partnership Law.”

Financial Times Live, the global conferences and events arm of the Financial Times newspaper, gathers pre-eminent public and private sector decision-makers, visionaries and strategists from the world’s most important economies and industries for a wide range of interactive, agenda-setting programs that combine the power of on-site discussion and networking with the flexibility of live-streamed broadcasting.

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30 illustrations to be displayed in Mazandaran

SARI, May 7 (MNA) – An artist from Mazandaran will showcase his illustrations in an exhibition.

Director of Mazandaran Visual Art Center Alireza Pakbin said on Wednesday that the exhibition would display Ali Mohammad Janpour’s illustrations to the public, and would be showcased from Thursday.

He added that the exhibition would be open week days other than holidays May 8-14, 9AM to 17 PM

Maliheh Maqsudi, the head of Mazandaran’s provincial Hozeh Honari’s public relations office said that on a painting contest in three subject matters, would be held just ahead of National Fathers’ Day in close collaboration with Sari’s Mahdiyeh.

She also added that 12 girls and 12 boys would be awarded as best painters in ‘Ali (As), The Best Father of the World,’ ‘If Father Is Not Around,’ and ‘A Gift for Father.’

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Malaysia-Myanmar Bilateral Trade & Investment on the rise

NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar, May 9 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia-Myanmar bilateral trade and investment are consistently increasing, with growing interest from the Malaysian private sector keen to come in to explore opportunities in this country. Malaysian Ambassador to Myanmar Dr Ahmad Faisal Muhamad said currently Malaysia was the seventh largest investor in Myanmar.

“We are working to further strengthen our economic relations with the opening up of the Myanmar economy. We hope in the near future our trade and investment levels would increase,” he told Bernama.

Ahmad Faisal said most of the Malaysian companies in Myanmar have invested in the oil and gas sector. Other important sectors are trading, tourism and plantations.

“We are also seeing more companies from Malaysia looking at Myanmar to set up production plants,” he said.

Myanmar also offers huge business potentials and opportunities, especially in the infrastructure and property development sectors.

According to the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Myanmar-Malaysia two-way total trade touched US$455.448 billion in 2011-2012.

Total Myanmar exports to Malaysia amounted to US$152.038 billion in 2011-2012 while imports from Malaysia during the same period totalled US$303.410 billion.

Myanmar’s 10 main export items to Malaysia are rubber, fish, prawns, sesame, clothes, timber, tamarind, green gram, pigeon peas and corn.

Its main imports from Malaysia are oil, raw plastics ware, petroleum products, chemical products, metal construction appliances, wires, medical products, electrical and electronic machineries, mechanical appliances and crops oil.

Myanmar is also paying special attention to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) inside the country. A new SME legislation is pending in the National Assembly and the Ministry of Industry recently established a SME Development Centre.

SMEs registered in the country represented 92 per cent of enterprises, contributing 80 per cent to its gross domestic product.

Ahmad Faisal said Myanmar and Malaysia are also engaged in technical cooperation.

Under the Malaysia Technical Cooperation Programme (MTCP), Myanmar is receiving technical assistance from Malaysia in many fields.

On the 24th Asean Summit that will be held here over the weekend, Ahmad Faisal said Myanmar was doing very well in preparing for the two-day summit.

To assist Myanmar, Malaysia has trained 150 Myanmar government officials with the knowledge and skills to prepare them for the Asean Chairmanship under the MTCP.

He said Asean member states have conveyed their strong support and cooperation to Myanmar, which is assuming the Asean chairmanship for the first time this year since joining the regional grouping in 1997.

Malaysia and Myanmar established diplomatic relations in 1957 and have a close and friendly relationship characterised by an excellent network of cooperation in various fields including trade and investment, technical cooperation, human capital development, banking and finance, defence, tourism, plantation, sports and hydrocarbon exploration.

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Second Forum on “Istanbul: Regional Hub, Global Actor” held in New York

May 5 (Bernama-GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Borsa İstanbul’s “İstanbul: Regional Hub, Global Actor Forum,” the first of which was held in Washington D.C. last year as part of İstanbul International Financial Center project, took place in New York City on April 22, 2014.

Turkey’s opportunities and competitive advantages were shared with high profile participants at the Forum, at which Borsa İstanbul Chairman and CEO İbrahim M. Turhan, NASDAQ OMX Group Vice Chairman Meyer ‘Sandy’ Frucher, Citi Global Government Affairs Managing Director Charles R. Johnston and BC Partners Managing Director Nikos Stathopoulos delivered speeches. The Forum moderator was İstanbul Financial Center Initiative Chairman Dr. Artunç Kocabalkan.

Borsa İstanbul Chairman and CEO İbrahim M. Turhan: “According to the global financial centers index, İstanbul ranks 47th, and in terms of annual traded value, it ranks 8th among emerging markets.”

In his speech, Borsa İstanbul Chairman and CEO İbrahim M. Turhan talked about the current status of the Turkish economy, and the steps that Borsa İstanbul took in the last couple of years and its targets, saying “A public company only a couple of years ago, we are now a globally attractive trademark. As a former academician, I can say that in the last decade, Turkey improved her income distribution in a period of fast growth thanks to the social policies implemented by the government. During 2002-2011, GDP grew significantly.

“We are now predominantly an export country; today Turkey’s export volume is in excess of US$ 150 billion. Today, İstanbul ranks 47th in the global financial centers index, versus its 74th rank in 2011. Among emerging markets, Borsa İstanbul ranks 8th in terms of traded value. Unlike its competitors, Turkish economy is not dependent on commodities, or one or a few industries; it is a very well diversified economy”.

Dr. Turhan also touched upon Borsa İstanbul’s collaboration efforts, saying, “We all know about marketing formula. For Borsa İstanbul, our formula is 4C-1S. The four C’s stand for Capacity, Connectivity, Competition, Capital, and S stands for Specialty. As part of this whole process, we attach great importance to collaborations on the way to making İstanbul an international financial center. One of these collaborations is the initiative that we took with NASDAQ OMX in early 2014. As a result of the formula and strategic partnerships that I’ve mentioned, we would like to convert the company, once a public company that had no profitability issues on its agenda, into a 100% profitable company”.

NASDAQ OMX Vice Chairman Meyer ‘Sandy’ Frucher stated that Turkey is one of the big and growing capital markets in Europe and it has huge potential, adding that there have been big changes in the background with the new capital markets law and the formation of Borsa İstanbul, convening all markets under a single roof. Frucher went on to say, “Turkey is quite well positioned to become a regional hub for trading. There is no other exchange that has realized its vertical and horizontal integration within a period of 1.5 years only. I mean not only among emerging markets, but among developed markets as well. I can confidently say that Borsa İstanbul has done a great job. In line with these developments, İstanbul is making sound steps towards becoming an international financial center. We want to increase the overall presence of the Turkish capital markets and products internationally. We’ll work with them and see how we can collaborate and attract additional flow as well as expand with some of our other big partners around the world”.

Charles R. Johnston: “Turkey’s aspiration and dedication to join the European Union has been an engine for commercial and legislative reforms.”

In his speech at the Forum, Citi Global Government Affairs Managing Director Charles R. Johnston said: “Turkey’s aspiration and dedication to join the European Union has been an engine for commercial and legislative reforms that have taken the country down a path of transition and modernization. Today, İstanbul is poised to become a financial center that can help not only serve the capital needs of Turkey, but also those of other countries in the region where demographic and competitive conditions are demanding more investment, higher trade volumes and infrastructure development that will lead to job growth and wealth creation.”

Nikos Stathopoulos: “Stability in Turkey will increase the attractiveness of the country.”

BC Partners Managing Director Nikos Stathopoulos stated in his speech that Turkey has significant potential to attract foreign investment as it is a large, growing and healthy economy, has attractive demographics, a stable tax and regulatory regime, well capitalized and properly regulated banking system and a liquid and well developed stock market. Stathopoulos went on to say, “Stability in its currency and the political and geopolitical situation will increase the attractiveness of the country to long term patient capital which can further support its growth”.

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Malaysia’s Businesses Enjoy Some Of The World’s Lowest Fuel Costs

KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 (Bernama) — Malaysia enjoys some of the lowest petrol pump prices among the major world economies, according to a new study by UHY, the international accountancy network.

UHY explains that Malaysia offers subsidies of 30% for petrol and 40% for diesel, reducing fuel costs to a considerably lower price than many major developed economies, in particular European countries.

This means that the cost of filling the tank** of a Ford Transit van with diesel in Malaysia amounts to $48.85 – just a third of the cost of filling up in the UK where diesel prices are highest.

UHY says that as diesel is used in the majority of commercial vehicles, this subsidy is great news for businesses.**

In comparison, the UK, France and Germany all levy taxes of at least 60%* on petrol, and between 40% and 60% for diesel.

UHY says that while environmentalists argue that petrol taxes are important in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the transport lobby and SMEs say that keeping the costs down is vital for all businesses.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas, a more environmentally-friendly alternative to petrol or diesel, is taxed at 0%, but does not attract a subsidy.

UHY adds that this study is a reminder of the importance of maintaining tight control on the levels of business taxation, especially as the recovery from recession starts to gather pace.

Alvin Tee, Senior Partner of UHY in Malaysia, comments: “Emerging market economies are much more focused on growth, and providing assistance to businesses through lower taxation and subsidies where necessary.”

“The Malaysian economy is one that levies low taxes on consumption in general, and focuses on direct taxation of businesses, such as through corporation tax, as the key generator of revenue.”

“Subsidising diesel prices is particularly beneficial for fast-growing small and medium businesses that run fleets of commercial vehicles, especially in sectors like distribution and retail. These businesses can be key drivers of economic recovery.”

UHY adds that most emerging economies have considerably lower levels of taxation on fuel than developed economies.

The fuel subsidies in Malaysia are reported to cost the government an estimated $14 billion per year. The subsidies have also led to issues with the smuggling of fuel into neighbouring China and Indonesia, which have a much higher cost of fuel.

Alvin Tee says: “While the Malaysian government does lose a lot of money by having a fuel subsidy, it has determined that it makes such a contribution to the country’s strong GDP growth that it is willing to accept the loss.”

Filling the tank of a Ford Transit with diesel – proportion of cost made up of fuel cost and tax Click here

*Tax rates include VAT, some or all of which may be reclaimed by businesses in some countries, including EU member states.

** Tank size: 80 litres for petrol and diesel, 72 litres for LPG.

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Malaysian corporation UMW Sponsors 6 Giraffes At Zoo Negara

KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 (Bernama) — As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility programme, UMW Corporation Sdn. Bhd. is sponsoring the conservation of six giraffes at Zoo Negara Malaysia. The sponsorship of RM 60,000 is for a period of one year.

The sponsorship of giraffes, the tallest living terrestrial animals, is also a visual alignment to UMW’s brand tagline, “Beyond Boundaries”. This initiative is part of their strategy to further strengthen and publicize UMW as a brand to the public and foreign visitors at Zoo Negara since it receives more than one million visitors yearly.

Dr. Wafi Nazrin Abdul Hamid, Executive Director, UMW Corporation Sdn. Bhd. presented a mock cheque for the sponsorship to Sr. Dato’ Zaharin Md. Arif, President, Malaysian Zoological Society during a presentation ceremony at Zoo Negara Malaysia on 28 April 2014.

Zoo Negara Malaysia is wholly-owned and managed by the Malaysian Zoological Society (MZS), which is a non-governmental organisation. MZS is dedicated to promote the conservation, public appreciation and scientific of wild animal species through operating Zoo Negara Malaysia to the highest possible standards for a zoological park.

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Oman Air Wins Double At World Travel Awards

MUSCAT, Oman, May 8 (NNN-ONA) – Oman Air has won two categories of the World Travel Awards, picking up ‘Middle East’s Leading Airline – Business Class’ and ‘Middle East’s Leading Airline – Economy Class’, beating some of the region’s largest and best-known carriers in each category.

Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Sultanate’s Flag Carrier, Salim Al Kindy, said, “Winning two categories of the prestigious World Travel Awards is a remarkable achievement for Oman Air, especially when we were pitted against some of the world’s largest airlines.

“Our Business Class and Economy Class services were both recognised and the awards are testament, not only to the outstanding quality of our onboard products, but also to the extremely high standard of hospitality offered by our highly trained flight attendants.”

The World Travel Awards were established in 1993, to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the tourism industry. Now in their 21st year, the awards are hailed as ‘the Oscars of the travel industry,’.

This is the second year running that Oman Air has been named as the ‘Middle East’s Leading Airline – Economy Class’ at the World Travel Awards, and the Business Class accolade follows Oman Air being named at the World Airline Awards in 2011 and 2012, as the airline offering the ‘World’s Best Business Class Airline Seat.’

Furthermore, Oman Air has just received a Gold Award, for the fourth year in a row, at the TravelPlus Airline Amenity Bag Awards.

And Oman Air’s passenger experience will shortly receive a further boost, when the first few of the 20 aircraft it currently has on order – three Airbus A330s, six Boeing B787 Dreamliners and 11 Boeing B737s – enter service later this year.

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PM Calls For Making Bangladesh A Tourist Hub Between East And West

DHAKA, Bangladesh May 8 (NNN-BSS) — Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today asked the officials of the civil aviation and tourism ministry to make their concerted efforts for development of the tourism and civil aviation sectors to make Bangladesh as a tourism hub between west and east.

Due to its geographical location and god-blessed scenic beauty, Bangladesh has immense potentiality of being a tourist centre between east and west, she said laying importance on taking a joint initiative with Nepal and Bhutan to flourish the country’s tourism sector.

The Prime Minister was addressing the officials of civil aviation and tourism ministry at Bangladesh Secretariat here during her visit to the ministry today.

Sheikh Hasina said, Bangladesh is the country of longest sandy beach in the world apart from a unique combination of trace of hill, sea, deep forest areas and sacred religious elements.

In this regard, the Prime Minister laid importance of development of exclusive tourism zone for western tourist saying the government has taken initiative to turn the Cox’s Bazar airport into an international one to facilitate operating international flights from the tourist town.

She also underlined importance on improving the services of the national flag carrier Bangladesh Biman saying, the service of the national airline should get better considering it as a symbol of country abroad.

Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Rashed Khan Menon also spoke on the occasion. PM’s Principal Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder, PMO secretary Abul Kalam Azad, civil aviation and tourism secretary Khorshed Alam Chowdhury were present. Chairman of Bangladesh Biman Air Vice Marshal (retd) Jamal Uddin, heads of various offices and senior officials of the ministry were also present.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, Bangladesh should stand on its own strength. Everybody must work keeping this in mind, she said, adding, “a nation, like a beggar depending on others, have no dignity.”

The Prime Minister said, study is going on to construct a tunnel from airport railway station to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport terminal to facilitate the passengers to come to the airport without any hassle.

Pointing out the steps taken by her government for development of civil aviation sector, she said, Awami League government has constructed the Chittagong and Sylhet international airports. Passenger facilities in the airports were improved along with strengthening the security. Due to strong security measures,she said, the rackets of gold smugglers are now unable to escape.

The Prime Minister said, her government’s steps rescued Bangladesh from image crisis in the international arena, introducing it as a role model of development, wining over man- made and natural disasters and achieving the millennium development goals (MDGs) faster than any other countries.

“We are taking the country toward peace, prosperity and development. Many countries now want to know about our success in the health, primary education and other socio-economic sector,” she said.

Mentioning the measures taken by her government for development of tourist city Cox’s Bazar, the Prime Minister said, her government in 1996 had taken initiative to construct the marine driveway across the bank of the Bay of Bengal.

But, next BNP government not only put the project on hold, but also leased out the lands to individuals destroying the whole spirit of the project, she said. Now, the government has taken decision to build a LNG terminal and coal-based power station in Moheshkhali, she added.

Laying importance on protection of country’s lone coral island Saint Martin, Sheikh Hasina said, all tourists should follow a guideline while visiting the island to check any damage to the island and ensure security of the visitors as well.

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Muslims to Receive 155 Tonnes of Dates from Sultan of Brunei

Bandar Seri Begawan, 09 May 2014, Brudirect.com: The upcoming fasting month of Ramadhan will begin in less than two months time. Once again, Muslims in the Sultanate will receive dates that are personal gifts from the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and the Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for breaking their fast. Hence, a meeting for the Coordination and Distribution of the His Majesty’s Personal Gifts of Dates to the Public was held yesterday by Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB).

This year, a total of one hundred and fifty five tonnes of ‘Safawi’ dates, a 3.5-tonne increase compared to previous year, will be distributed to Muslims across the nation.

The meeting was chaired by the Managing Director of the YSHHB, Awg Hj Brahim Hj Ismail. Among the agenda discussed were the coordination and distribution system and at the same time appointment for members of His Majesty’s Coordination and Distribution of Dates committee.

The distribution system for the public this year will maintain the same format. The dates that were specially ordered from Al-Madinah Dates Company, Saudi Arabia are expected to arrive at Muara Port early June.

The dates will be distributed to all Muslims regardless of age including Muslims from neighbouring countries who are residing in this country.

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Amman Jazz Fest pays special homage to Syria

AMMAN, May 9 (KUNA) — If reconciliation starts anywhere, let it be music. The art of music is the art of connection, collaboration and harmony. These are the words found on the website of the Amman Jazz Festival which is paying particular homage to Syrian musicians, while hosting alongside them several international acts.

Already in its third year running, the event is attracting 16 jazz acts from as far Germany and Japan to Palestine and Syria, with a particular focus on the latter.

The theme “Jazz for Syria” has been chosen by the organisers this year, in collaboration with the music scene there which has been on a three-year pause, says the event’s director Lama Hazboun.

The annual event held at the Jordanian capital prides itself on its cultural diversity among nations of the world, she said.

Dutch-based group Syrious Mission brought on stage the voices of a group of Syrian children in their performance.

The five-man band form an initiative, developed by the Dutch composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven, to raise awareness, money and commitment in their country for a sustainable program of music workshops with Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan.

Syrian group, Fattet Le3bet, describes itself as a band that fuses jazz with different sounds of Oriental music, from classical to popular Arabic, from Assyrian to Kurdish, from Eastern European to Indian through to Turkish and Iranian.

Soriana, which translates into ‘Our Syria’, is an adventurous program that brings together eminent performers, composers and improvisers from Syria and the West who create contemporary music, inspired by the rich cultural heritage of the Orient.

The performers, who operate harmoniously on both Middle Eastern and Western instruments, include Syrians Basel Rajoub on the saxophone and Kenan Adnawi on the oud, alongside Italian percussionist Andrea Piccioni.

The festival, which aims to become a major jazz destination in the Middle East and to promote cross-cultural cooperation and diversity, is holding shows on a virtually daily basis until the last day of May.

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Global sukuk issuance hit USD 13.4bln in April

KUWAIT, May 9 (KUNA) — Kuwait Finance House (KFH) announced Friday the global primary sukuk market has begun 2Q 2014 on a solid footing as the month of April has produced a new issuances volume of more than USD 13.4 billion, making it the best performing month in 2014 year-to-date (YTD).

The bank said in a statement that the new sukuk issuances volume in April 2014 exceeds the previous YTD high of USD 11.2 bln in March by almost 20 percent.

The month saw a welcoming return of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) sukuk issuers who expanded their volume with issuances totalling more than USD four bln after remaining largely absent in March when total GCC issuances amounted to less than USD 185 mln (excluding the Islamic Development Bank’s USD 1.5 bln issuance), KFH added.

Issuances by GCC based obligors helped shore up the share of corporate sukuks which accounted for USD 2.4 bln of the total issuance volume in April, registering a 65 percent increase compared to the USD 1.45 bln volume in March.

However proportionately, the market continued to be heavily driven by the sovereign and quasi-sovereign issuers who collectively accounted for approximately 82 percent of the issuance volume in April (Mar14: 87 percent). Overall, April 2014’s volume was the third most performing on a monthly basis over the last 12 months, it noted.

Analysing YTD, 4M14’s volume now amounts to USD 44.5 bln which is in fact 1.6 percent higher than the USD 43.8 bln volume in 4M13. At such a rate, the prospects are immensely bright and the global primary sukuk market is highly expected to once again surpass the USD 100 bln mark in new sukuk issuances volume this year. (end) fnk.tg

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Bosnia-Herzegovina welcomes Kuwaiti tourists this summer

SARAJEVO, May 9 (KUNA) — Bosnian security officials are keen on providing maximum security for Kuwaiti tourists visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina, affirmed chief of the security coordination department here Mirsad Filic in a meeting he had on Friday with Kuwait’s ambassador Nasser Al-Mutairi.

The Bosnian official assured the ambassador that his department would do its utmost to make Kuwaiti citizens feel at home and in complete safety, noting that in recent years the number of Kuwaiti tourists to his country has been on the rise.

The ambassador expressed satisfaction at the level of security in Bosnia-Herzegovina and invited Kuwaitis to visit this country without any qualms about their safety. (end) aa.ajs

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Kuwaiti wins Tunisian Quran recitation, memorization contest

TUNIS, May 9 (KUNA) — Kuwaiti Omar Yousef Al-Shaalan has come first in the fourth International Tunisia’s Quran Recitation and Memorization Contest whose results were announced Friday.

The honoring of Al-Shaaln took place in a ceremony that was attended the interim Tunisian President, Moncef Marzouki, Minister of Religious Affairs Muneer Al-Talili, Kuwait’s Ambassador Fahad Al-Awadhi and other state officials.

For his part, member of the competition’s jury, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Enezi, said in a similar statement to KUNA that the contest was “fierce.” He added that Al-Shaalan’s win was well-deserved, noting that this win came as a result of hard work and preparation.

He extolled the good organization of the contest by Tunisian officials.

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Dh6 billion to turn Dubai into ‘green paradise’ by 2025

DUBAI, 7 May, 2014 (WAM) — As part of Dubai Municipality’s efforts to make the emirate a “green paradise” by 2025, AED 6 billion has been earmarked for soft landscaping and the irrigation network in Dubai, according to officials at the Municipality.

“We have plans for giant projects by 2025, which include the expansion of sewer lines and the irrigation network,” said Salah Abdul Rahman Amiri, assistant Director-General of the Municipality.

“These are mainly concentrated on preparations for Expo 2020 as we want to make Dubai a green paradise,” Amiri told Khaleej Times daily, adding, that new legislation is also being planned to ensure the private sector, mainly the big developers and private property owners, shares the onus of expanding the green belt in the city.

Amiri, in charge of the Environment and Public Heath Services sectors, said over AED 3 billion would be spent on improving and expanding the irrigation network by 2025, which would bolster the landscaping projects.

A stronger irrigation network is key to maintaining sustainable landscape projects, he said. “We are having problems with sustainable landscaping. The challenge is mainly with water.” Hessa Ismail Al Attar, Principal Landscape Designer with the Public Parks and Horticulture Department, said the low force of the water used for irrigation, which is treated waste water, posed challenges to landscape projects in some areas in Dubai.

Taleb AbdulKarim Julfar, Director of the Department, said that along with improving the irrigation network, the civic body is also trying to reduce the demand on water for landscaping.

“Since we are expanding (landscaped areas), we need to control water consumption as well. Otherwise, we will run short of water in the next two to three years. So we are redesigning and using a lot of materials like special sand and stones to reduce water consumption and prevent the ground water from coming up and spoiling the plants,” he said.

With the municipality spending about AED 300 million yearly for soft landscaping, which includes maintaining small parks and roadside landscapes, an investment of AED 3 billion is expected to see the desert city bloom in the next 10 years.

“Around 45 million flower (plants) were planted in 2013 and we are expecting a five to 10 percent increase, depending on upcoming projects,” said Al Attar.

According to Julfar, 20 to 30 small park projects are in the pipeline to add to the green lungs of the desert city which currently boasts about 7,000 hectares of green space developed by the municipality and the private sector together.

However, the municipality is still contemplating legislation that will make the role of the private sector even bigger since the government alone cannot meet its target of keeping at least eight percent of the urban land green, said Amiri.

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UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed launches Arabic Language Award

UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has launched today the “Mohammed bin Rashid Arabic Language Award.

The Award aims to encourage exceptional contributions in serving Arabic language and to honor its patrons, highlighting successful and distinguished attempts to propagating and teaching of Arabic language.

On this occasion, Sheikh Mohammed said, “The language of the Qur’an is protected by Allah, and by launching the Arabic language award we aim to facilitate its diffusion and contribute in preserving it through encouraging its distinguished pioneers by honoring them, affirming that doing so will preserve our heritage, ideologies and culture and will guarantee the preservation of Arabic for our new generation.

Sheikh Mohammed added that those concerned with the Award were directed to focus on innovative and successful attempts in teaching Arabic Language and distinctive and useful scientific research and programs in this regards so as to create a comprehensive database to be made available for those wishing to partake in serving this field whether inside or outside the country; consequently, broaden the circle of benefit, encouraging the exchange of expertise in this regard.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Arabic Language Award consists of five branches where whereby outstanding initiatives to be honoured along with the exceptional contributions to support Arabic language in the areas of education, media, Arabisation, technology, preservation and dissemination of the Arab linguistic heritage.

The prize includes 10 categories in the field of Arabisation, translation, traditional media, journalism, social media and the application of smart technology in teaching Arabic, etc. Winners will be honoured on an annual basis and The Arabic Language Award also aim at boosting the status of the UAE and its leading position as a centre of excellence for the Arabic language, promote its usage in public life and facilitate its learning and teaching. The award also reflects His Highness Sheikh Mohammed keenness to empower those working in teaching Arabic Language and provide them with the best tools available in this field so as to utilize the initiatives and projects presented to develop and enrich the Arabic Language.

Winning institutions and individuals will be selected by a panel of judges comprised of prominent figures in the Arab world. The committee is chaired by Secretary-General of Mohammed bin Rashid Arabic Language Award and Secretary-General of the Arabic Language Academy in Cairo Farouk Shousha in addition to other members..

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Al Ain Zoo forges new partnerships with conservation groups

AL AIN, 7th May, 2014 (WAM)–In line with its ongoing commitment to the conservation of arid land biodiversity and species, Al Ain Zoo has established new partnerships with the Sahara Conservation Fund and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, two leading non-profit conservation organisations in Africa to support conservation and research projects for endangered species.

Commenting on the new partnerships, Muna al Dhaheri, Chief of Conservation and Education at Al Ain Zoo said, “Al Ain Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of arid land wildlife. Partnerships with leading organisations such as the Sahara Conservation Fund and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy are valuable for us with the high number of endangered African species found in the zoo. Working together will allow us to further support our successful breeding programmes, a key objective for all modern zoos.” The Sahara Conservation Fund focuses on the conservation of the biodiversity of the Sahara Desert and neighbouring grasslands, a vast area spanning many countries across North Africa. The area contains many unique endangered species due to over-hunting, habitat loss and competition with livestock. Several species have either become extinct in the wild or are on the brink of extinction, including the Scimitar-horned Oryx, Addax and Dama gazelle. Al Ain Zoo has bred these species and others successfully for many years.

Al Ain Zoo, in cooperation with the Sahara Conservation Fund, is supporting the monitoring of lappet-faced vultures and research into the ecology of the Barbary sheep and the Dama gazelle, all species which can be seen in the zoo. This collaborative work will help identify and prioritise conservation needs in the attempt to prevent them from becoming extinct.

John Newby, the Director of the Sahara Conservation Fund said, “The world zoo community forms the backbone of Sahara Conservation Fund’s efforts to prevent Saharan species becoming extinct in the wild. Our work with Al Ain Zoo is particularly valuable to us as the zoo brings with it its unique experience of arid land species and public outreach to some really pressing issues, such as the conservation of the critically endangered Dama gazelle. This collaboration is a tangible demonstration of cooperation in the region for issues that are of common concern.”

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a 61,000 acre protected area in Kenya with a rich diversity of species and habitats. Al Ain Zoo is supporting a number of Lewa’s important projects including the monitoring of Rhinos, predators and the endangered Grevy’s zebra as well as the annual count of game species. With the zoo’s support Lewa has been able to expand and improve its critical species projects by employing and equipping dedicated project officers.

Geoffrey Chege, Chief Conservation Officer of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy said, “The partnership between Lewa and Al Ain Zoo presents both organisations with an excellent opportunity to further our understanding of key endangered species including the black rhino, Grevy’s zebra, lions and elephants. The knowledge gained will be extremely crucial in informing management decisions in a timely manner.”

Al Ain Zoo has become part of an international movement within the global zoo community to combine in situ (wild) and ex situ (captive) conservation efforts. The zoo also works with its regional and international partners to sustain the genetic diversity of captive endangered species.

Al Ain Zoo is a member of the World Association for Zoo and Aquaria (WAZA) and is actively involved in several internationally coordinated conservation projects, working with other like-minded organisations such as Durrell Wildlife Park, Jersey, Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi, the Species Survival Commission, San Diego Zoo, the Northern Rangelands Trust of Kenya and the Sahara Conservation Fund.

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Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority to promote Local Arts Education

ABU DHABI, 7th May, 2014 (WAM) — New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) has in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), hosted a presentation this week on finding ways to inspire young people to become more active in the arts.

The discussion, held at Manarat al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi centered around NYUAD senior Bouthayna Baltaji’s final year capstone project, entitled “Bina’a Al Bee’ah Al Mahalee’yah Al Fen’nee’yah” (The Building / Creation of the Local Art Community).

Baltaji’s senior year capstone project examined the importance of placing artists in schools in order to engage and impact young audiences. By holding workshops with students in two Abu Dhabi schools, Al Raha International School and Al Yasat Private School, Baltaji hoped to inspire children and encourage a life-long interest in the arts.

The education team from TCA Abu Dhabi provided mentorship and support to Baltaji as part of their initiative to reach out to young students through artist collaborations.

Through this experience, Baltaji, who will graduate from NYUAD on May 25th as a member of the inaugural class, hopes that both the children and their parents will begin to gain an interest in the arts and understand the importance of placing arts at the heart of student learning. The student works created in the workshops are on display in Fanr cafe and in Studio 2.

Baltaji explained, “This project is my endeavor in assisting and contributing to Abu Dhabi in its initiative to educate people on the aesthetic value, cultural significance, and global perspective explored in the creative process of art. Recognising the need for children to feel that galleries and museums are engaging and welcoming environments, I decided to direct my capstone project towards improving arts education and building an established audience by merging art and culture.” Committed to directly impacting young people, teachers, students, artists, and adult audiences, TCA Abu Dhabi actively supports engaging young people in the practice of making art and provides unique opportunities for children to work directly with artists both in schools and throughout the Emirate’s community art centers in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

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Sharjah Unveils First Quarter Tourism Statistics

SHARJAH, 7th May, 2014 (WAM) – On the third day of the Arabian Travel Market Dubai, the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) released the first quarter statistics for Year 2014 showing remarkable growth in the tourism sector during the first quarter of this year compared to the sector’s performance during the same period last year.

The first three month statistics have shown a noticable increase in the hotel occupancy with the total number of hotel guests just touching 600,000 against 515,947 guests last year. With hotel apartments recording similar increased, Sharjah has registered healthy 15 per cent increase in visitors over the same period last year.

According to the statistics released by the Authority on Wednesday, tourists from Europe are the top tourism generating destination bringing in over 251,000 visitors. As always Sharjah welcomed large numbers from visitors the neighbouring Gulf states. The new focus in Asia is also starting to pay dividends this quarter with over 71,000 visitors arriving from Asia in the first three months of this year.

Sharjah currently has nearly 10,000 rooms. With a number of new hotels opening and investments pouring into new projects, the Authority confidently expects the number of hotel rooms to rise to 12,000 in the next two of years.

Commenting on the first quarter statistics, Mohamed Ali Al Noman, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority , said that these positive results reflect the impressive growth witnessed by the tourism sector in the Emirate. It reflects the success of the approach adopted in harmony with its vision for the future to upgrade and bolster the tourism sector in order to attract more tourists and investors to the Emirate.

The SCTDA Chairman said that the Authority is keen to showcase Sharjah in major specialized exhibitions and forums around the world to fully benefit from the latest developments and advancements in the industry. These events are always a good platform to connect with leaders of the travel and tourism industry in order to exchange expertise and collaborate in the development of the tourism sector in the Emirate as well as promoting it at various levels, he added.

Al Noman emphasized the importance of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, which has emerged as the region’s most prominent tourism event, and is taking place at a time when travel and tourism and hospitality sectors at regional and international levels are showing tremendous growth. The ATM always enables us to present Sharjah’s tourism product authentic cultural heritage experience with global markets.

The Sharjah pavilion at the ATM Dubai this year celebrates the authentic Arab and Islamic heritage of the Emirate. With a distinct, contemporary look, the 558-square metre Sharjah stand represents and reflects the various facets of Sharjah’s tourism industry, its tourist attractions, projects and renowned international festivals and events hosted by the Emirate throughout the year. Visitors to the stand are treated to traditional Emirati hospitality. They can collect brochures and promotional literature about Sharjah in Arabic and English.

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Emirates Group announces 26th consecutive year of profit

DUBAI, 8th May, 2014 (WAM) — The Emirates Group today announced its 26th consecutive year of profit and company-wide growth, ending the year in a strong position despite competitive pressure and a global economic environment that is only slowly recovering.

The financial year ending 31st March 2014 also marked an unprecedented level of investment across the Group, continued expansion of its global footprint, and the achievement of new capacity milestones.

Released today in its 2013-14 Annual Report, the Emirates Group posted an AED 4.1 billion (US$ 1.1 billion) profit, up 32% from last year. The Group’s revenue reached AED 87.8 billion (US$ 23.9 billion), an increase of 13% over last year’s results, and the Group’s cash balance remained strong at AED 19.0 billion (US$ 5.2 billion).

“Achieving our 26th consecutive year of profit in a financial year marked by record increases in capacity and significant business investments across the Group, is testimony to the strength of our brands and our business fundamentals,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group.

“Throughout 2013-14 the Group has collectively invested over AED 22.0 billion (US$ 6.0 billion), the highest amount ever in one financial year. We know that to be a sustainable and profitable business we have to keep adding value to our stakeholders, our customers, partners and employees. To do this, we need efficient new aircraft, quality products and services, and cutting-edge facilities. Every dirham invested has been carefully considered against short and long-term goals – be it enhancing our capabilities, improving our product, or expanding our business footprint.”

The Group also continued to invest in and expand on its employee base, increasing its overall staff count by 11% to over 75,000-strong representing over 160 different nationalities, across its more than 80 subsidiaries and companies. Revenue per airline employee increased by 4% to AED 1.9 million (US$ 0.5 million).

“We are moving into the new financial year with confidence, and a strong foundation for continued profitability with our strong balance sheet, solid track record, diverse global portfolio and international talent pool,” said Sheikh Ahmed. “Operating in a dynamic and highly-competitive environment means we have to stay agile, and work even harder to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations. With the help of our 75,000 strong multicultural workforce, we have no doubt that we will be able to capitalise on the opportunities in the year ahead.” Similar to the last financial year, the Group declared a dividend of AED1 billion (US$ 280 million) to the Investment Corporation of Dubai.

On the Cargo side, the Emirates SkyCargo’s tonnage strongly increased by 8% to reach a remarkable 2.3 million tonnes in a flat and challenging airfreight market, highlighting its ability to grow revenues against the industry norm. This year, freight yield per Freight Tonne Kilometre (FTKM) decreased by 1%.

At the end of the financial year, the Emirates SkyCargo freighter fleet had grown to 12 aircraft – ten on operating lease and two on wet lease.

Emirates’ Destination and Leisure Management including hotels recorded revenue of AED 623 million (US$ 170 million), an impressive increase of 35% over last year. This positive development was supported by the first full year of operation of the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Dubai, the world’s tallest hotel. The second tower of the hotel will be fully operational later this year.

In its 55 years of operation, 2013-14 has been dnata’s most successful yet, building on its very strong results in the previous year. dnata grew its revenue to AED 7.6 billion (US$ 2.1 billion), an increase of 14%, through organic growth and as well as strategic international acquisitions. For the first time in the company’s history, dnata’s international business accounted for 50% of its revenue.

dnata also outperformed last year’s record profit to reach AED 829 million (US$ 226 million).

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ISESCO experts meeting to train cultural tourism staff in Tunis

Rabat 08/05/2014 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), in collaboration with the Tunisian National Commission for Education, Science and Culture will hold a regional experts’ meeting to train Arab States’ cultural tourism staff, in Tunis, Tunisian Republic, on 13-15 May 2014.

Participants in the meeting will include specialists in tourism, the environment and culture from Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Sudan and Oman.

The meeting is aimed at shedding light on the cultural tourism industry and raising awareness of the actors in this sector about cultural tourism’s important role in the Arab States’ economic, social and cultural development.

ISESCO will be represented in this meeting by Mr Mustapha Eid, Programmes’ Specialist at the Culture and Communication Directorate, who will read out the Organization’s address.

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Juicy litchi starts appearing in Rajshahi markets

RAJSHAHI, May 10, 2014 (BSS)- Four more days are left to appear the Bangla month of Joistha, commonly known as ‘Modhumash'(honey month), the juicy fruit litchi has started appearing in the local markets of the region including Rajshahi city in limited scale like the previous years. But due to its less quantity, the present price is beyond purchasing capacity of the commoners.

Side by side with the scorching heat and sultry weather the summer season brings many juicy fruits like litchi, mango, watermelon and jackfruit naturally in the region.

Many seasonal traders set up makeshift shops at different points in the city especially Shaheb Bazar, Bindurmore, Luxmipur Bazar, Sheroil Bus Terminal, Railway station and Court bazaar displaying the eye- catching fruit.

In advent of the season, the every 100-litchi fruits are being sold at Taka 300 to 350 based on quality and size. But its trading isn’t remained off despite of the high price as the upper class and riches are purchasing the high cost fruit whatever the price is.

Looking the new fruit of the year, many people are coming to purchase it but return back failing to synchronize between their taste and capacity.

“Now, I have no capacity to purchase litchi in accordance to my wish in the high price. I think, I have to wait for some days until its price is reduced,” said Nazmul Islam, a resident of Upashahar area, who came to Shaheb Bazar for purchasing litch, while expressing his reaction to BSS.

The sellers said the price is high as the supply is scanty but commented that the price will be reduced to some extent when the supply will be enhanced within the next couple of days.

While talking to BSS trader Shafiqul Islam at Shaheb Bazar said on Sunday that many of the farmers are seen harvesting unripe litchi in bid to get more money.

He also said the farmers are harvesting the cash crop before full- length ripe with hope of more profit and in apprehension of natural calamity.

Dr Abdul Alim, Senior Scientific Officer of Rajshahi Fruit Research Station, told BSS that litchi is grown well in Rajshahi and Dinajpur districts in the northwest region but the litchi of Ishwardi is very delicious and famous across the country.

He said commercial farming of some of the fruits especially mango and litchi are gradually being enhanced in the region.

Dr Abdul Alim also said yield of litchi has been affected to some extent due to the scorching heat and rainless condition of the season, there will be an expected yield.

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5th International Art Festival “Maiden Tower” wraps up in Baku

Baku, May 9 (AzerTAc). A closing ceremony of the 5th International Art Festival “Maiden Tower” has today been held in Icherisheher, Baku. Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, founder and head of the International Dialogue for Environmental Action (IDEA) Leyla Aliyeva and Arzu Aliyeva attended the event.

Initiated and supported by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the festival was co-organized by IDEA, the Museum of Modern Art and Maiden Tower Art Gallery, and the State Department of the Historical and Architectural Reserve of Icherisheher under the Cabinet of Ministers.

The festival aims to popularize on a global scale the most ancient, mysterious and universally valued monument of Azerbaijan – the Maiden Tower.

Launched in 2010, the International Art Festival “Maiden Tower” has been successfully held in the capital of Azerbaijan for three consecutive years and once in Cannes, France.

Over 70 renowned artists from various countries have already participated in the previous four festivals. By decorating models of the Maiden Tower in their own national styles, artists created works reflecting the synthesis and mutual exchange of different cultures and traditions. In 2012, along with main objective – promotion of the Maiden Tower – the organizers decided to draw public attention to the issue of environmental protection.

They launched a parallel event that involves painting sculptures of the gazelle – one of the Caucasian endangered species. The action aims to raise awareness of the endangered existence of the “Caucasian Big Five” – five animals that are under the threat of extinction – brown bear, imperial eagle, grey wolf, gazelle and Caucasian leopard. Among these animals, the gazelle was chosen as the main symbol of the festival.

This year as parallel action within the festival it is planned to hold 3D street art painting in the center of the Maiden Tower square. Within 3-dimencial optical illusion from certain perspective it would be possible to find oneself on the top of the Maiden Tower and have a breathtaking, realistic and beautiful view of the Old City.

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Bill drafted to establish Pakistan Halal Authority

ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Science and Technology has drafted a Bill to establish Pakistan Halal Authority at Federal level to promote trade and commerce in Halal articles and processes.

The Bill prepared in consultation with stakeholders would ensure implementation of uniform Halal standards and soon be submitted to Cabinet for approval.

Official sources yesterday said a state-of-the-art Halal Authentication Laboratory has been inaugurated at Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR), Lahore while the Ministry is also planning to organize Halal Sector Development Expert Group meeting in the context of D-8 (Developing-8 countries) organizations soon.

The sources said currently the recognized forum for Halal accreditation and development of harmonized Halal standards is Organization of Islamic Countries-Standards Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (OIC-SMIIC).

The concerned organizations under the administrative control of Ministry of Science & Technology (MoST) namely Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC) and Pakistan Standards & Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) are members of the relevant Technical Committees of SMIIC.

Highlighting the steps taken to promote the Halal sector, the sources said PNAC has launched Halal Accreditation Scheme in line with OIC Halal Guidelines developed by SMIIC for recognition of Halal products in the global market to help local industry to boost exports.

Similarly, PSQCA has formulated standards on Halal which are: General Requirements for the Accreditation Body Accrediting Halal Certification Bodies, Halal Food Management System requirements for any organization in the food chain and general criteria for operation of Halal certification bodies.

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PIA reduces Umra, domestic fares on PM’s directive

By Agencies, May 9th, 2014, ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), on the directive of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has reduced its fares on Umra and some domestic sectors.

The Prime Minister had ordered the PIA to pass on the benefit to its passengers following the reduction in petroleum prices during last three months.

For Umra, the passengers from the North (Punjab, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa) will get a reduction of Rs 6,000 in airfare, i.e. from Rs.72,000 to Rs. 66,000.

The airfare for South (Sindh, Balochistan) have also been slashed from Rs.60,000 to Rs.54,000, with a reduction of Rs 6,000.

The fares of domestic sectors including Multan, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Quetta and Dera Ghazi Khan have been reduced by Rs 2,000 each.

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Syrian film “Mariam” honored

May 08, 2014, Damascus, SANA, Ministry of Culture honored Thursday actors and director of Syrian film “Mariam” which screens a historic era of the Syrians since the end of the Ottoman occupation at the beginning of 20th century till today through 3 stories of three women named Mariam.

The film was directed by Basel al-Khateeb with the participation of actors Sabah al-Jazaeri, Sulaf Fawakherji, Maison Abu Saad, Bassam Lutfi, Lama al-Hakim and many others. It took part in three international cinema festivals and gained five awards in Morocco, Algeria and Oman.

“The film is a remarkable work with all standards as it occupied the first place in many festivals although it was produced during a stage when the Syrian cinema suffers boycott,” Minister of Culture Lubana Mshaweh said during the honoring ceremony.

She added the film embodies motherhood, Syria history, Homeland love and the Syrian citizen who has suffered a lot, but who has got up of his dilemma.

Mohammad al-Ahmad, Director of General establishment of Cinema, for his part, said the Establishment will produce other films that imitate social and human problems to which the Syrian citizen has been subjected because of the crisis.

Director of the film Basel al-Khateeb added “Mariam” work has an important value that will last through history because it will be a historic and artistic document. The film actors thanked Ministry of Culture for this honor.

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Syrian Tourism Ministry: 24 tourist projects ready for investment

May 08, 2014, Damascus, (SANA) Ministry of Tourism is going to launch the Tourist Investment Forum for small and medium projects on May 11th. The forum will last for two days and will be held at Dama Rose Hotel in Damascus. The Tourist Investment Forum is set to present 24 projects ready for investment in several provinces.

In a statement to SANA, Director of Projects Department at the Tourism Ministry, Ghiath al-Farah, pointed out that the investment cost of small projects ranges between SYP 10 and 50 million, and the cost of medium projects ranges between SYP 75 and 300 million.

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Syrian bicycles tour organized in Damascus

May 09, 2014, Damascus, (SANA) Syrian Gliding Club in cooperation with the General Sport Union held Syrian bicycles tour entitled “Syria pulses with life”. The 12 Km tour started from the Communication Institution on al-Mazzeh highway to the Mariamite Church in Bab Sharqi in Damascus.

Minister of Tourism, Bihsir Yazigi, said these activities are normal in the Syrians life, considering them as a challenge to the terrorism to which the country is exposed.

For his part, Chairman of the General Sports Union, General Mowaffaq Jumaa, pointed out that the sportsmen in Syria, alongside the various spectrums of the Syrian society, are participating in different activities, affirming that Syrian people will not be defeated what ever terrorists do.

It is the first time that Syrian Tour was organized in Damascus on the occasion of the global day of touring. More than 160 different ages competitors from various Syrian provinces and Arab and foreign countries participated in the event.

See pix: http://sana.sy/eng/386/2014/05/09/543474.htm

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Kazakh airlines launch charter flights to European tourist cities

BAKU. KAZINFORM, 07 May 2014 – Kazakh nation carrier Air Astana launches charter flights to several European tourist cities, the company wrote on its official Facebook account on May 6. Charter flights will be launched from Astana to Greek Rhodes from Almaty to Greek Heraklion and Spanish Barcelona.

An Airbus 320 will fly to Rhodes, and Boeing 757-200 (or Boeing 767-300ER in the high season) will fly to Heraklion and Barcelona. The first flights are scheduled for June 14, 20 and 21 and will take place every 10 days.

The agreement on the sale of seats to these destinations will be reached with tour operators, so tickets can be purchased through travel agencies, Kazinform refers to trend.az.

Air Astana is the flag carrier and the national airline of Kazakhstan. It is a joint venture owned by the Government of Kazakhstan (51 percent) and British BAE Systems (49 percent). Its passenger traffic hit 3.7 million people in 2013. Air Astana’s fleet consisted of 30 aircrafts as of the end of 2013.

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S Kazakhstan to build complex for Khoja Akhmet Yassawi Mausoleum pilgrims

SHYMKENT. KAZINFORM, 10 May 2014 – A modern complex for pilgrims visiting one of the key shrines and landmarks of Kazakhstan, the Mausoleum of Khoja Akhmet Yassawi, will be built in the South Kazakhstan region.

At the recent business forum held in Malaysia entrepreneurs of South Kazakhstan and Malaysia agreed on realization of large joint projects in the food industry, animal breeding and machine engineering, pharmaceuticals and tourism. This partnership also stipulates construction of a modern complex for ablutionary rites for pilgrims traveling to the Mausoleum of Khoja Akhmet Yassawi.

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Kazakhstan launches islam.kz web portal

ASTANA. KAZINFORM, 25 April 2014 – Kazakhstan launched spiritual and educational portal islam.kz. All the information on the website is published in the Kazakh language. Presentation of the informational resource was held in Astana. The event was attended by the Chairman of the Agency for Religious Affairs Marat Azilhanov, the Supreme mufti Erjan Mayamerov, representatives of creative and scientific intelligentsia, professionals in the field of Islamic studies and interfaith relations, as well as teachers and students of major universities.

It was noted that the informative and educational web portal has been dedicated to the teaching and explaining of the traditional Islam principles and warning people against radical trends. The project manager was a former imam of Hazrat Sultan mosque of the capital Kairat Zholdybayuly. The web portal has the following categories: “Islam and Society”, “Islam and Family”, “Islam and identity”, “Islam and science”.

As noted by many experts in the field of religious studies who attended the presentation of the portal islam.kz, the new informational resource claimed to be one of the most popular in the segment.

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Western countries ‘look down’ on Muslim women

May 08, 2014, ISTANBUL (Anadolu Agency) – “Being from the East is a problem for the West; being a Muslim from the East is a big problem, but the greatest is being a Muslim woman from the East,” said Merve Kavakci, a Turkish politician who is currently a Lecturer of International Relations at George Washington University.

Speaking at an international congress in Istanbul on Thursday on “Perceptions and the Image of Muslim Women in Europe,” Kavakci said Western countries look down on Muslims, patronizing them and thinking they need to be trained in humanist values.

She said this prejudice was not just in Western countries, but some Turkish circles share this attitude towards believers in Islam. “It is significant for the image of Muslim world that the ban on women wearing headscarves in the public sector has been lifted by the ruling (Justice and Development – AK Party) government,” Kavakci said.

Kavakci is recognized as one the world’s 500 most influential Muslims, and has travelled the globe in support of Muslim women’s rights since May 2, 1999, when she was precluded from taking her oath in Turkish Parliament by members of the Democratic Left Party, due to her headscarf.

She failed to disclose her American citizenship, which was revealed after elections, which led to her losing her seat in parliament in March 2001. Kavakci won her legal case in 2007, when the European Court of Human Rights found that Kavakci’s expulsion from parliament was a violation of her human rights.

The congress, organized by the International Women and Family Association, was held at Marmara University on May 8, hosting a number of women from the academic, media, and business worlds.

Turkey’s Undersecretary of Ministry of Family and Social Policies Nesrin Celik said many people today still do not understand that headscarved Muslim women can be part of the modern world, without making any concessions in religious duties.

“The image of Muslim women as weak, illiterate, and poor is a planned image; and it is partly because of this image that Islamophobia reaches so many,” Celik said.

Pointing out that women were not treated as human in Western countries until the 17th century, Celik said it was only after the 17th century that Western women began asking for equality in their economic, politic, and social lives.

“In the 20th century, Europe went through a radical cultural change when modernism and secularism developed in a parallel way,” she said, “However modernism has developed in the Muslim world without harming religious beliefs.”

Aslihan Eker, a producer for Al Jazeera, has been producing a documentary on ‘Women in Muslim countries’ for 10 years, and said there has been the image of non-active Muslim women for many years.

“When people watched our documentary in the countries we visited, people were surprised when they saw how actively Muslim women from different countries were involved in social life. Even this surprise makes us understand that most people do not have a good image of Muslim women.”

She said the reality was quite different from the ‘created images’ of Muslim women, who have to assert their responsibility to clearly present their true nature.

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Egypt plans to revive flagging tourism sector

Cairo, Monday, 06 Rajab 1434/ 05 May 2014 (IINA) – Egypt’s tourism minister on Sunday announced ambitious plans to try to revive the country’s tourism sector, in distress after years of political turbulence.

Government data showed last month that tourism revenue dropped 43 percent to $1.3 billion in the first quarter of this year. Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said in an interview in Dubai: “The world will see tourism returning to Egypt. We have an ambitious global plan to show the world that it is safe and fun to visit Egypt anytime.” Egypt’s insurgency has largely spared tourist sites, but on Friday suicide bombers hit near the tourist resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, killing a soldier and wounding at least eight other people. Three South Koreans were killed in February when a bomb hit a tourist bus in South Sinai near a border crossing with Israel.

Zaazou said: “Our plan is to attract more than 25 million tourists by 2020. Revenues generated will double from the 2010 peak of $12.5 billion to $25 billion within the coming 6 years.” He added that India, China and Latin America would be major target regions in a marketing campaign. The tourist sector hopes that Egypt’s political climate will become more stable. Speaking in Dubai less than four weeks before the country’s planned presidential election, Zaazou said Egypt is gearing up for a fresh new start with a new president and a parliament.

“Tourism in Egypt has its captive audience and the major flow of tourists will happen once the political scene is settled,” he said. Egyptians will vote on May 26-27 in a presidential election that Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to win easily, meaning the former army chief who deposed Islamist President Mohammad Mursi could be sworn in as head of state by early June. Latest government figures show that tourism currently contributes 11.3 percent of Egypt’s GDP and brings in 14.4 percent of foreign currency revenues.

More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, dropping to 9.8 million after the revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak. The sector picked up in 2012, attracting 11.5 million but shrank again to 9.5 million last year after various attacks on tourist destinations. But the tourism ministry is launching this week a three-year marketing campaign in the hope of attracting tourists and investors to the country, probably the country’s last hope in fixing its own internal finances without relying on aid from neighboring Gulf states. “We are currently negotiating agreements to prevent double taxation on airlines and tourist agencies. We want to partner with companies like Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways to bring in tourists to the country. There’s a well-prepared plan in place,” Zaazou said.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates pledged more than $12 billion in aid to Egypt after the army toppled Mursi on July 3 following mass protests against his rule. Zaazou called on companies in the United Arab Emirates like property developer Emaar Properties and hotel management firm Jumeirah to invest in the Egyptian market. The government earlier this year sold five plots of land on the Red Sea coast and plans to initiate new investment opportunities for local and international investors. “We had valued the square metre in this area at $38 but it was sold at more than $150 per metre at the auction. Investors buying the land must know the value of what they’re getting.”

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Indonesia preparing coral reef management regulation

Jakarta (ANTARA News), May 5 2014 – Indonesia is preparing a regulation in an effort to improve sustainable coral reef management given the upcoming World Coral Reef Conference (WCRC) in Manado, North Sulawesi, between May 14-17, 2014, a minister said.

“For the substance of the conference, Indonesia as the host country is preparing a regulation for sustainable global coral reef management,” Marine and Fisheries Minister Sharif Cicip Sutardjo said here on Saturday.

The minister noted that the regulation is being prepared because of concern about the condition of the increasingly degraded world coral reefs.

According to him, coral reefs in Indonesia are the best in the world and, therefore, they should be protected with a regulation.

“The sustainability of coral reefs in Indonesia should be protected with an unequivocal regulation,” the marine and fisheries minister said.

Meanwhile, the WCRC national committee chairman, Sudirman Saad, said the conference is expected to produce a sustainable coral reefs management communiqu, an action plan from coastal countries to save the coral reefs ecosystem and steps toward a sustainable coral reefs management convention.

Further, he pointed out that as part of the WCRC, there will be the International Blue Carbon Symposium (IBCS), the World Ocean Business Forum (WOBF), the Extra Ordinary Senior Official Meeting (SOM) and the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) Ministerial Meeting.

The IBCS aims to bridge the meeting of researchers and stakeholders regarding blue carbon in the scope of coral triangle regions, while the WOBF will promote business and investment opportunities in Indonesias marine and fisheries sector at an international forum and help in the exchange of information on environmental-friendly business management.

“The Extraordinary Senior Official Meeting and the CTI-CFF Ministerial Meeting are part of the Coral Triangle Initiative agenda,” he noted.

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100 Countries Convene for World Coral Reef Conference in Indonesia

Jakarta, May 6, 2014 (ANTARA) — The first World Coral Reef Conference (WCRC) 2014, which will be attended by at least 200 participants from 100 countries representating the governments and regional and international organisations, NGOs, as well as scientists and academics, will be held on May 16, 2014 in Grand Kawanua International City (GKIC) Manado. WCRC is a conference dedicated to respond the coral reef damage on the global basis. The Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Sharif C. Sutardjo, will serve as The Coordinator for the National Organizer of the WCRC 2014.

Sharif said that by organizing the WCRC, it’s expected to be able to yield the Manado Communique, an agreement aiming the realization of the sustainable coral reef management. Furthermore, the event can drive the coastal countries to initiate their own coral reef saving and protection programs. “The Conference will be jointly coordinated by the central and regional government urged by the concerns on the increasingly degradated world coral reef,” explained the Minister.

The Director General of Marine, Coastal and Small Islands, Sudirman Saad which act as the Chief Coordinator for the National Organizer of WCRC 2014, explained that the event aims a few things; to formulate the government’s efforts in managing the sustainable global coral reef; to be a insight and experience sharing platform in the local coral reef management; to assess the global coral reef condition and its connection with the sea’s role regarding to the global climate change; to compile the togetherness values, equate the interpretation, and the purpose of the coral reef ecosystem management.

Sudirman added that as the series of event of WCRC, there will be other events held, such as International Blue Carbon Symposium (IBCS), World Ocean Business Forum (WOBF), Extra Ordinary Senior Official Meeting (SOM) CTI-CFF and CTI – CFF Ministerial Meeting (MM). IBCS is designed to bridge the reseachers and the stakeholders of the blue carbon within the scope of the coral triangle region. WOBF aims to promote the Indonesian marine and fishery business potency and investment opportunities in the international forums. While the SOM and MM CTI-CFF is an agenda of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI).

On 2007, the countries located throughout the coral reef triangle region initiated the Coral Triangle Iniative on Coral Reef, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) to promote the global collaboration on the sustainable coral reef ecosystem. All of the scientists convened in the Coral Reef Symposium 2012 stated that the coral reef suffered the degradated condition, quantitavely and qualitatively. “The coral reef condition has increasingly threatened particularly by various human activities causing the sedimentation and the pollution, habitat damage, and overfishing. Therefore, WCRC is held, one of which, to urge the countries’ governements to act,” Sudirman concluded.

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