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27 Jul, 2015

Special Report: Iran Beckons The World

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 27 July 2015 (10 Shawwal 1436). This week’s edition includes a special compilation of reports on the business, cultural and artistic awakening set to emerge in Iran following the conclusion of the nuclear pact with the 5P+1. Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




malaysia logo

Click on the image to get a full list of all the great festivals and events right across Malaysia this year.

The fabulous Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015, or MyFEST 2015, is witnessing an endless celebration of festivals, events and happenings. MyFEST 2015 is set to make Malaysia the top-of-the-mind tourist destination, encouraging tourists to stay longer in order to enjoy the festival offerings nationwide. Themed “Endless Celebrations”, the year-long calender is packed with festivities of every genre; for instance cultural festivals, shopping extravanganzas, international acclaimed events, eco-tourism events, arts, music showcases, food promotion and other themed events. The Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 campaign leverages on smart partnerships in line with the National Blue Ocean Strategy that nurtures stakeholders engagement, support and participation. The symbiosis enables Malaysia’s tourism efforts to be competitive and to remain one of the prime contributors to the socio-economic development of the nation. As Malaysia is blessed with various cultures, the new campaign seeks to showcase and celebrate Malaysia’s bountiful, diverse cultures and various festivities. The design for Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 logo depicts a traditional musical instrument known as the Rebana Ubi. The drum is a musical instrument which can be associated with Malaysia’s multicultural society, in line with the spirit of 1Malaysia. Therefore, the logo design reflects an important part of the country’s heritage, traditions and culture.

For a full listing of all the great festivals, activities and events this year, pls click on this link


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.



Iran declared safe for holidays as UK changes travel advisory

London, 25 July 2015, The Independent – The British Government has declared almost all of Iran safe for travel as international relations thaw following the landmark nuclear deal.

Until today, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against “all but essential travel” to most parts of the country of 77.5 million people and designated other areas dangerous in any circumstances.

Although parts of the border with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan remain off-limits because of bandits, drug trafficking and separatist militants, the rest of the country has been declared safe for travel.

Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, did not give a specific reason for the change but said advice for every country was reviewed regularly and “informed by the latest information”.

“Our policy is to recommend against travel to an area when we judge that the risk is unacceptably high,” he added.

“We consider that continues to be the case for specific areas of Iran, notably along Iran’s borders with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

malaysia logo

Click on the image to get a full list of all the great festivals and events right across Malaysia this year.

“But we believe that in other areas of Iran the risk to British nationals has changed, in part due to decreasing hostility under President Rouhani’s Government.” The FCO’s new travel advice for Iran

The Iranian President presided over the landmark deal on 14 July that saw his country commit to limits on its nuclear programme to calm fears of weapons development, in exchange for the lifting of sanctions worth billions of dollars.

Anti-American and Israeli sentiment has continued at protests in the country but the agreement with six members of the UN Security Council, including the UK, was hailed as a “new chapter” in international relations.

The changing travel advice appears to show it is paying off, although the FCO stressed that risks remain in the country.

Consular assistance for British nationals has been limited since the closure of the British Embassy in Tehran following an attack in 2011.

A crowd of protesters stormed the building and another British diplomatic compound, ransacking offices and stealing or destroying documents, computers, paintings and furniture in a rampage David Cameron called “outrageous and indefensible”.

State media claimed the assault was the spontaneous reaction of students opposing the UK’s “anti-Iran policies”, while opposition politicians and some analysts claimed authorities allowed or even directly backed the incursion.

The FCO’s travel advice warns that British nationals still “face greater risk” than citizens of other countries and cautions against being near protests, photographing official or military buildings and journeying “off the beaten track”.

Visitors are warned to respect Iran’s strict interpretation of Islamic law and all local traditions, including not drinking alcohol, dressing modestly and refraining from showing physical affection to unmarried partners or friends of the opposite sex.

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Nahavandian: Iran ready for economic transactions with world

Tehran, July 23, IRNA – President Rouhani’s Chief of Staff Mohammad Nahavandian voiced Iran’s readiness to establish win-win economic relations with world countries.

‘Now many countries have come to the conclusion that the unnecessary and fabricated crisis in Iran’s nuclear program was a big hurdle in the way of their benefiting from Iran’s high economic and trade capacities,’ Nahavandian said in a meeting with State Secretary at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) Yves Rossier in Tehran on Wednesday.

‘Imposing oppressive sanctions against Iran resulted in removal of economic transparency at the level of trade transactions with Iran and even other countries because when a economic activist cannot use a transparent economic window between Iran and the world, surely some people will make use of the same window for continuation of their economic and financial activities in a non-transparent manner,’ he added.

Nahavandian said that removal of all financial and economic sanctions imposed against Iran shows Iran’s positive economic role in the world, adding, ‘All international powers have realized Iran’s role in nuclear talks quite well.

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Foreign investors to tap into Iran

Tehran, July 22, IRNA – A few investors are racing to establish funds for Iran following last week’s nuclear deal with world powers, and many others are tapping into multinationals already present in the $400 billion economy.

“Karin Strohecker, Daniel Bases and David Randall” wrote in Iran Daily on Wednesday that “The agreement has made some seek a foothold in Tehran’s $100 billion stock market even before sanctions are lifted while others are taking a more cautious approach, Reuters wrote.

Classified as an upper-middle income country, with a population of 78 million and annual output higher than that of Thailand or the United Arab Emirates, Iran is set to be the biggest economy to rejoin the global trading and financial system since the break-up of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago.

Brokerage Renaissance Capital predicts $1 billion will flow into Iran in the first year after sanctions end, although that is not likely to happen for months and may not occur in one go.

London-based boutique First Frontier Capital Ltd hopes to allow investors to take a position in Tehran’s bourse before sanctions are lifted.

“This is a market where everyone is totally underweight and there will obviously be a lot of money going in, hot money at first but then also others,” said First Frontier’s co-CEO, Richard Adley, who plans to launch the fund in the next couple of months and aims to have €100 million invested by year-end.

“And then there is a big valuation gap there, Iran has a lot of catching up to do when you look at other frontier or emerging markets,” said Adley, who estimates valuations at a very cheap five to six times earnings.

First Capital is not alone. In April, British-based Charlemagne announced it had teamed up with a Tehran-based firm, Turquoise Partners, to establish funds that will invest in Iranian securities.

Others, like MENA Capital CEO Khaled Abdel Majeed, are also getting ready to invest, but worry that a dedicated country fund carries too many risks at this point. Instead, Majeed is aiming to invest part of his firm’s funds under management in Iranian shares – once the sanctions are lifted.

“At the moment it may be very marketable, but at some point it will become too expensive,” he said, adding that the firm was starting its search for suitable local partners in Tehran.

Both Renaissance Capital and the investment consultancy Ecstrat have reported a sharp pick-up in demand for Iran-related research from asset managers preparing to make the leap.

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Iran Deputy FM: Dialogue, only way for resolving major regional crises

Tehran, July 22, IRNA – Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Wednesday that resolving the major and sensitive regional crises is possible only through serious and frank dialogue among regional governments.

Amir-Abdollahian made the remarks in a meeting with China’s special envoy on Yemen Tian Tshi and his accompanying delegation.

The deputy foreign minister expressed outrage at continued Saudi air raids on Yemen, especially women and children.

‘Despite the passage of 110 days from the beginning of the Saudi-led military attack, the only outcome of those blind attacks has been further growth of extremism and intensification of such terrorist activities of al-Qaeda and Daesh in Yemen,’ Amir Abdollahian said.

He expressed regret that some governments with their political and financial support for terrorism during the course of the past few years further aggravated the already volatile situation of the Middle East region towards total chaos and instability.

‘This has necessitated the collective international act against that sick trend,’ stressed the Iranian deputy foreign minister.

China’s special envoy on Yemen affairs welcomed continuation of regional consultations with Tehran, arguing that Iran and China have many shared stands on major Middle East developments.

‘On Yemen, for instance, Beijing is quite agreed with Tehran on urgent need for an unconditional ceasefire and initiating political dialogue among Yemeni groups,’ added Tian Tshi.

He referred to Iran’s outstanding role in promoting peace and stability in the region, calling for broader multilateral and international consultation to preserve the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Yemen and condemned all types of foreign interference, especially of the Saudi military intervention.

He expressed hope that all Yemeni sides will yield to dialogue seeking a rational way out of the prevailing crisis.

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India Executives In Iran For Energy Ventures

TEHRAN, July 23, (NNN-IRNA) – Executives of India’s biggest energy, power and petrochemical companies have arrived in Tehran to explore investment opportunities in the wake of the recent opening in Iran’s trade environment.

They are visiting with the aim of prospecting in Iran’s oil, petrochemical and power industries, the Mehr news agency on Wednesday cited head of the delegation Majid Javdani as saying.

“The delegation intends to use the remaining time for the complete removal of the sanctions to study investment opportunities in Iran’s power, energy and petrochemical industries,” he said.

An executive of Suzlon Energy, one of the world’s major wind turbine suppliers, is traveling with the delegation which plans to meet with representatives of Iranian state and private sectors.

“Iran has significant capacities and potentials for generation of electricity from wind and solar energies and this Indian company has announced readiness to participate and construct wind power plants in Iran,” Javdani said.

“Definitely, Iran is regarded as a big energy market for Indian investors after the abolition of the sanctions.”

The Renewable Energy Organization of Iran (SUNA) has said it will buy 80 wind turbines this year for power generation. Iran is the biggest generator of electricity in the Middle East, producing 277 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of power last year.

Iran has offered India $8 billion worth of infrastructure projects, including a stake in developing the strategic port of Chabahar, the country’s ambassador to New Delhi has said.

According to Press TV, Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari has said there was a “golden time” for India to seize on investment opportunities in Iran after the conclusion of nuclear negotiations between the Islamic Republic and the P5 1 group of countries.

India’s ONGC Videsh (OVL), the offshore arm of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, has indicated willingness to make a new bid for Iran’s Farzad-B gas field in the Persian Gulf.

Indian media have also said the country planned a $3 billion aluminum smelter complex in Iran mooted in 2014.

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German vice-chancellor visits Isfahan’s historical monuments

Isfahan, July 21, IRNA – Visiting German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and his accompanying delegation on Tuesday visited monuments of the historic city of Isfahan in central Iran.

Gabriel, who is on a visit to Iran at the head of a 60-member delegation of German experts, specialists, managers, industry-owners and businesspersons, arrived in Isfahan early on Tuesday.

Speaking to IRNA correspondent, Isfahan governor-general said the aim of the one-day visit of the German delegation to the province is getting familiar with the capacities of Isfahan and exploring ways for mutual cooperation and investment.

The German delegation is scheduled to hold a meeting with Isfahan governor general to explore grounds for cooperation.

The German vice-chancellor and his accompanying delegation arrived in the Iranian capital on Sunday upon an invitation by Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh.

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OIC upbeat over Iran nuclear deal, urges Israel to join NPT

Tehran, July 15, IRNA – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has expressed the hope that signing of the agreement on Iran’s peaceful nuclear program would lead the Middle East region to peace and stability.

The OIC General Secretariat expressed its hope that in the agreement that has been reached between the six major powers (5 +1) and the Islamic Republic of Iran on the Iranian nuclear file, and in adhering to its provisions, there would be a pathway to the security and stability of the region, OIC website reported on Wednesday.

‘The Secretary General of the OIC, Iyad Ameen Madani, conveyed his hopes that the momentum of the Agreement would move forward a new political paradigm in the region in place of strife and unrest that has become a major threat to the peace and security of the region and the world. He underlined OIC’s continued efforts to be a platform for such a paradigm.’

Madani also stressed the priority of addressing economic integration and fostering the necessary environment for sustainable development in the region, releasing the energies of its people towards construction and creation, away from sectarianism and division; emphasizing the keenness of the OIC to strengthen economic and trade activity between the Member States in accordance with the agreements, economic programs and instruments adopted by the organization, an OIC press release said.

‘The Secretary General also reiterated the OIC’s stand on the need to respect the inalienable right of developing countries for conducting research on nuclear energy, its production and use for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in accordance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).’

Madani called on the international community to pursue with the same diligence and zest, that resulted in the Agreement, to obliging Israeli regime to join the NPT and put its nuclear arsenal under the full and comprehensive supervision of the United Nations; and towards the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East for the sake of peace, security and stability in the region and the world.

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Iran to become forerunner in Middle East health services

Tehran, July 26, IRNA – In recent decades, Iran has achieved remarkable progress in controlling communicable diseases, reducing maternal and child mortality rates, as well as increasing life expectancy.

Iraj Harirchi, a deputy health minister, said Iran is also determined to outpace other regional nations in this respect, Tehran-based English newspaper, Iran Daily, reported.

He associated the improvement in healthcare sector to the rise in the literacy rate, economic growth and greater access to healthcare facilities in remote villages.

He made the remarks in a meeting attended by the deans of medical universities, the head of the World Health Organization and Iran’s Health Minister Seyyed Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi in Tehran.

‘Residents of less developed villages and tribesmen now have access to health services due to the expansion of health network and training courses for local people,’ the deputy minister said.

Harirchi also pointed to the Health Overhaul Plan as a successful project launched by the government to cut healthcare costs. ‘The project was in response to costly healthcare services that had driven people from low social classes into poverty.’

‘People had to pay more for healthcare before the Health Overhaul Plan was introduced. However, they pay less than 10 percent of the total costs these days,’ he said.

The official warned that more Iranians face risk of non-communicable diseases and accidents because of urbanization.

‘About 70 percent of the country’s population who live in urban areas develop a sedentary lifestyle. Injuries and deaths resulting from accidents are greater among urban dwellers compared to those living in rural areas,’ Harirchi said.

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The spectacular beauty of Isfahan Jame’ Mosque

Tehran, July 26, IRNA – Located in the historic center of Isfahan, Isfahan Jame’ Mosque is a stunning illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over 12 centuries, starting in 841 CE. It is the oldest edifice of its type in Iran and a prototype for later mosque designs throughout Central Asia.

The complex, extending over 20,000 square meters, is the first Islamic building that adapted the four-iwan structure of Sassanid palaces to Islamic religious architecture. Its double-shelled ribbed domes represent an architectural innovation that inspired architects throughout the region. The site also features remarkable decorative details of Islamic art, Tehran-based English newspaper, Iran Daily, reported.

The monument exemplifies a sequence of architectural construction and decorative styles of different periods in Iranian-Islamic architecture, most predominantly the Abbasid, Al-e Bouyeh, Seljuk, Ilkhanid, Mozaffarid, Teymurid and Safavid eras. Following its expansion during the Seljuk era and the introduction of the four-iwan arrangement around the courtyard as well as two extraordinary domes, the mosque became the prototype of a distinctive Islamic architectural style.

An iwan is a vaulted open room. The iwan on the southern side of the mosque, facing the Grand Mosque of Makkah, was vaulted with muqarnas. Muqarnas are niche-like cells.

The prototype character is well illustrated in the earliest double-shell ribbed Nezam-ol-Molk Dome – the first instance of the four-iwan structure in Islamic architecture.

Isfahan Jame’ Mosque is an outstanding example of innovation in architectural adaptation and technology applied during the restoration and expansion of the former building during the Seljuk era, which has been further enlarged during Islamic periods with the addition of high-quality extensions and decorations.

The Nezam-ol-Molk Dome is the first double-shell ribbed dome structure in the Islamic world, which introduced new architectural skills, allowing for more elaborate dome constructions in later mosque and burial complexes. On the basis of these two elements, Isfahan Jame’ Mosque is a recognized as a prototype for mosque design, layout and dome construction, which was referenced in several later eras of the Islamic world.

Isfahan Jame’ Mosque follows a continuous sequence of Islamic architectural styles, the most prominent of which date back to the Seljuk period. The remains from the Seljuk era, especially the key elements of the ground plan, the four iwans, and the two domes are sufficient to illustrate the advances made in mosque and dome architecture of that time. The boundaries of the estate are enough to take in the entire mosque complex with all its extensions and significant functions over the time. However, the environs of the estate is highly vulnerable to development projects.

Most elements of the mosque, particularly the four iwans and the Malek-ol-Molk and Taj-ol-Molk domes, are authentic in material, design and location.

Isfahan’s historical center was under heavy aerial attack during 1980-88 Iraqi-imposed war. According to a report drawn up by Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), Isfahan’s Jame’ Mosque suffered serious damages during Iraqi air raids.

One rocket fell near the southern dome while another struck close to the northern dome destroying areas as wide as 2,000 meters. As a result, parts of Arab Bazaar, Shabestan (covered part of the mosque) and sections of Majlesi Bazaar and a caravanserai were destroyed.

Isfahan’s Jame’ Mosque is of high importance in terms of Iran’s architectural history.

Also, other mosques, monuments and historical houses were destroyed in Isfahan such as Dardasht marketplace, Aqa Noor Mosque (pertaining to Safavid era), Haj Mohammad Ja’far Abadehi Mosque, Sheikholeslam House (belonging to Qajar era), as well as Semsar and Ranaie historical houses. In addition, Ali-Qapu Palace and Imam Mosque faced waves of bombardments and shelling.

Restoration and a reconstruction, which became necessary following Iraq’s air raid in 1984, were conducted according to adequate standards using traditional craftsmanship and materials. One of the most important aspects of authenticity is the function of Isfahan Jame’ Mosque, both as a mosque – which if still used for prayers – and as a component of the Isfahan historic bazaar.

Attached to and accessed from the network of streets in the bazaar area, the mosque has a significant setting, the authenticity of which is highly vulnerable to changes in urban characteristics.

To respect the authenticity of the building, the museum function of mosque should remain responsive to its religious use, both in terms of information panel design and number of visitors.

Isfahan Jame’ Mosque was registered as No. 95 on National Heritage List in 1932. Also, its buffer zone is protected by regulations enforced by ICHHTO, following a cabinet decision in 2001, which stipulates that buffer zones fall under national law. Yet, it is essential that the designated property and buffer zone be integrated in the zoning bylaws.

Isfahan province, which stretches over 107,000 square kilometers, boasts a four-season climate, and thousands of historical and cultural monuments. The city of Isfahan is among the top 10 sightseeing cities. There are over 20,000 identified monuments across the province, of which 1,800 have been registered on the National Heritage List and four on World Heritage List.

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Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam welcome nuclear pact with Iran

Kuala Lumpur, July 16, IRNA – Malaysia on Thursday welcomed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and said the agreement is a positive step in line with international efforts to increase nuclear security.

Malaysian Foreign Minister in a statement said the historical nuclear agreement is the result of lengthy talks, started since June 27.

Indonesia was the first the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) state to welcome the deal in a statement and Singapore issued a statement in that connection on Wednesday.

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Vietnam welcomes deal on Iranian nuclear issue

Hanoi, July 16, IRNA — Vietnam welcomes efforts by relevant parties to reach a deal on the Iranian nuclear issue on July 14, said Le Hai Binh, spokesperson of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.

Binh made the remark while addressing reporters’ inquiry on Vietnam’s reaction to the fact that Iran and six countries have reached a historic deal on nuclear issue after several years of negotiations.

‘We consider it an important and positive contribution to the stability and security in the world,’ said Binh.

A historical nuclear deal was reached Tuesday between Iran and the six countries — China, Britain, France, Russia, the United States and Germany, after marathon tough negotiations. Under the deal, sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations will be lifted.

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Philippine delegation to visit Iran to explore trade opportunities after sanctions

Kuala Lumpur, July 16, IRNA – Gregory L. Domingo, the current Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry, said on Thursday that Philippine is going to send an economic delegation to Iran soon to receive first hand account of trade opportunities in Iran in the post-sanction era.

While congratulating Iranian Ambassador to Manila, Ali-Asghar Mohammadi, on Joint Comprehensie Plan of Action (JCPOA), that was reached with the world major powers, Domingo hoped that lifting of international sactions will prepare suitable conditions for expansion of relations between Iran and Philippine.

He said the Philippine delegation will during its Iran visit survey areas of mutual cooperation in the post-sanction era.

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Over 400 Iranian elites, university professors support N. agreement

Tehran, July 16, IRNA – A large group of elites, university professors, researchers and journalists as well as political and civil activists of Western parts of Iran in a statement declared their resolute support for the government of wisdom and hope and the nuclear team.

University professors, researchers and journalists as well as political and civil activists of Western parts of Iran in a statement declared their resolute support for the government of wisdom and hope, the nuclear team and the sum-up agreement between Iran and the Group 5+1.

‘After lapse of 23 months of painstaking and relentless efforts of the negotiating team these efforts borne results and a final agreement was reached with the six world powers,’ the statement by 400 Iranian elites said.

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EU Foreign Policy chief to visit Iran

TEHRAN, Jul. 23 (MNA) – EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini will travel to Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran on 27 July and 28 July.

In a statement released today, the European External Action Service announced that the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini will travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on an official visit on Monday 27 July. She will meet with the Saudi authorities including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir.

Topics on the agenda will include bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia, regional issues, in the aftermath of the agreement reached on 14 July on the Iranian nuclear issue, as well as international issues of common interest.

On Tuesday 28 July, Mogherini will visit the Islamic Republic of Iran. This visit comes following the agreement on Iran nuclear program.

It will provide an opportunity for exchanges on the implementation of the agreement, on which the EU official will continue to play a coordinating role, and on regional and bilateral issues.

During her visit, Federica Mogherini will meet her counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister, and representatives of Iranian authorities.

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Folklore dolls of Iran

TEHRAN, Jul. 25 (MNA) – The exhibition of Iran’s folklore dolls was held in Tehran. The dolls were all made by indigenous women of different villages and regions from across the country.

See pictures: http://en.mehrnews.com/photo/108751/Folklore-dolls-of-Iran

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Bandar Torkaman horse racing

BANDAR TORKAMAN, Jul. 25 (MNA) – The summer horse riding competitions of Bandar Torkaman was launched on Friday. Held annually, the summer course takes about two months to come to an end.

(See pictures: http://en.mehrnews.com/photo/108753/Bandar-Torkaman-horse-racing)

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Iran puts on remarkable show at RoboCup 2015

HEFEI, Jul. 21 (MNA) – Iran’s Humanoid Teen-size Robot team clinched the second place in the RoboCup 2015 technical competitions currently underway in Hefei City, East China.

The Iranian Humanoid Teen-size Robot team from Amirkabir University of Technology (AUT) claimed the second place in the technical competitions of the RoboCup 2015 against other teams from US, German, India and Taiwan.

A worldwide competition for the making and operation of robots, RoboCup 2015 opened on 19 July in Hefei City, East China with the participation of more than 300 teams from 47 countries to showcase the latest robot technologies.

Iran participated at the international event with three teams in Humanoid Teen-size Robot League, Rescue Simulation League and Small-Size Robot Soccer.

During the first two days of the competitions, the AUT’s Humanoid Teen-size Robot team defeated India and tied three games against German teams to claim the second place and win the vice-championship title.

In the Rescue Simulation League, Iran competed against Egypt, Turkey, China and Japan and managed to qualify for the last round of the competitions.

RoboCup 2015, which focuses on three aspects of robot football, service robots and rescue robots, ends on 22 July in Hefei City, East China.

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Iran after Mount Damavand UNESCO inscription

SARI, Jul. 25 (MNA) – Head of Iran’s Department of Environment Masoumeh Ebtekar said on Friday that the organization is actively seeking to submit a document to register Mount Damavand on UNESCO World Heritage List.

Iranian Vice-President and Head of Department of Environment Masoumeh Ebtekar said on Friday that relevant officials were following up on the case of Mount Damavand, the second highest volcano in Asia and the highest summit in the Middle East, and its preliminary steps for the visit of UNESCO experts and representative.

“Our first measure (for preparing Mount Damavand for inscription) dates back to 2004-05 when it was introduced as Iran’s first national and natural site,” said Ebtekar, stressing that more measures must be taken in improving the level of protection of this valuable site.

She further stated that permanent cessation of mining activities at the height of this peak as well as protecting the surrounding areas from getting littered are among the most important factors in preparing Mount Damavand for UNESCO World Heritage List inscription.

Mount Damavand, a potentially active volcano, is the highest peak in Iran and the Middle East, and the second highest volcano in Asia. It also has a special place in Persian mythology and folklore. This peak is located in the middle of the Alborz range, near the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, in Damavand County, 66 kilometers (41 miles) northeast of the capital city of Tehran.

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Intl. Rojane photography festival closes

TEHRAN, Jul. 25 (MNA) – The fourth edition of International Rojane Photography Festival (RPHF) introduced its winners on Friday in a ceremony held at Niavaran Cultural Complex.

see pictures: http://en.mehrnews.com/photo/108763/Intl-Rojane-photography-festival-closes

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Iranian film well received in Italy

TEHRAN, Jul. 25 (MNA) – Iranian movie My Mother’s Blue Sky was well received at the 45th edition of Giffoni International Film Festival in Italy.

Directed by Ali Ghavitan, the flick went on screen in Italy concurrent with its screening in Iran.

Radio and TV programs held interviews with the film’s director following the screening of the film in the festival which received great welcome from the audiences present at the festival.

The movie narrates the story of a mother and his son who are living in the dry and rough mountains and face obstacles and difficulties while protecting their coal mine.

The Giffoni International Film Festival is the largest children’s film festival in Europe. It takes place in the little Italian town of Giffoni Valle Piana in Campania, Southern Italy. The festival kicked off on July 16 and will run until July 27.

During the festival, the children and teenagers watch the films, learn about the filmmaking process, and are called to judge them and award the best ones with prizes.

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Zarif to visit three Gulf states

TEHRAN, Jul. 25 (MNA) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is to launch his regional tour to Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq on Sunday.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister, will depart for Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq on Sunday. He is scheduled to hold meetings with the senior officials of the three regional countries and discuss various points of mutual interest involving the expansion of bilateral ties as well as the latest developments in the region.

The Iranian diplomat will also discuss the latest results of negotiations between Iran and 5+1 group of countries over Tehran’s nuclear program.

The two sides reached a conclusion on Iran’s nuclear program on July 14 in the Austrian capital city of Vienna.

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Poland Iran’s likely major economic partner

TEHRAN, Jul. 25 (MNA) – Iran’s ambassador to Poland announced on Friday the launch of Iran-Poland joint chamber of commerce in near future.

Mehmanparast underlined that Poland could be a major economic partner for Iran which is the first step to boost bilateral trade between the two countries.

Speaking in a joint press conference with the Polish deputy prime minister and economy minister in Poland’s Ministry of Economy, Ramin Mehmanparast said that the nuclear deal which leads to lifting unjustly imposed sanctions, provides an appropriate opportunity for Polish firms to boost economic ties with Iran.

Janusz Piechocinski, the Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industries, Mines, Trade, Power Plants and Energy, for his part, said that the Iran-5+1 nuclear deal is good for the world and the entire region, considering it a positive step towards expansion of economic, cultural and political relations between the two countries.

He announced his country’s willingness to dispatch a major economic delegation inclusive of merchants and major Polish industrialists to Iran in early fall season of 2015, as well as a large group of Polish reporters to personally visit the natural and tourism attractions of Iran.

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Iranian cartoonist becomes Instagram phenomenon

TEHRAN, Jul. 22 (MNA) – Majid Khosroanjom is a caricaturist whose personal page on Instagram is very popular these days. His onteresting and unique cartoons made us go to him and explore his world.

A thin, bearded man who always carries a marker in his pocket in order to start drawing when having something stuck in his head and finding a blank wall or a piece of paper. Sometimes he is forced to leave immediately after drawing on the wall so as to escape punishment. Because once he was drawing a cartoon on an ATM machine, when the security guard catches him red-handed. In the interview, he talks so fast that you must prick up your ear to grasp his words otherwise he is not so uneasy to dodge answering questions. So bombarding him with questions, we receive one sentence: “Ok! Next!”

Majid Khosro Anjom comes from Navab Street in downtown Tehran. He was born on 10 November 1978 and has an MA in Industrial Design from Tehran University of Art. When he was 15, one interesting event involved him in the world of caricatures and he has been stuck there since then: “Perhaps you would never understand this issue at all, however when I was a child, there was no A4 paper. We used to draw on low-quality notepads of thin papers. During those days the situation of paper industry was so bad that top students were being awarded good quality notepads and notebooks. One day, my father brought five A4 papers home. I mean five white blank objects with no pins attached to them. Maybe you wouldn’t believe it. I was so excited that I didn’t sleep whole night. I remember putting them beside each other and staring at them.”

“I drew my first caricature on one of them. A man who had participated in Athletics competition, and reaching the finish line, had won by extending his tongue.” Keyhan Caricature, Gol Aqa, and Soroush Nojavan were magazines that Khosro Anjom used to follow them in his teens, but when not having enough money, he was forced to skip buying them. “Gol Aqa was a more general magazine, and more popular among the public. Keyhan was so expensive. In those days, Soroush Nojavan which cost 7 Tomans increased to 10 tomans and I couldn’t buy it. Then Keyhan Caricature was 15 tomans.”

Cartoon is an inevitable part of Khosro Anjom’s personality so as to consider the margins of his books as a notepad while studying. Besides, whenever he gets bored in the class, this personality propels him to draw the specific gestures of his teachers. “Once I drew the caricature of my Arabic teacher. He had said that if I drew his caricature, he would add 2 points to the grades of all my classmates. I drew his caricature and submitted to him. At last, he kept his promise, however, decreased my grade by 10 points.”

Mr. cartoonist published his first work in “Comic and Caricature” magazine when he was a pre-university student and was preparing himself for the 1995 university entrance exam; hence he took the first step toward professionalism in his seventeenth. But he remained silent and didn’t show it to anyone. However, his sister bought all the magazines of their neighborhood newsstands and publicized his brother by distributing them among relatives and friends. As a university student, he participated for many times in international caricature competitions and tried his luck. “On those days, Internet was different. We used to search those competitions for fun and then participate in them. Many of Iranian artists were acting the same way. For example, Olense Kartoenale Cartoon Contest in Belgium which was attended by 300 Belgians, 200 Dutch, 20 British, and 1 African, had 780 Iranian participants.”

Khosro Anjom is not interested in drawing the caricature of political figures. However, sometimes starts drawing social and semi-political caricatures in his own style. Majid Khosro Anjom gained his reputation for 2 caricatures. The first one was “Father’s Day” and the second was “Dust in Khuzestan” both of which went viral in social networks and media so as to one official called and thanked him for “Dust in Khuzestan”.

The “Father’s Day” is the most favorite caricature of Mr. cartoonist. “Before this, I couldn’t select one among my works, but after this I can.” This caricature which was published without signature faced some problems. The problems that made him to publish his works with signature afterwards. However, caricature is not the only filed of Khosro Anjom’s activities. Several years ago, he began radio broadcasting through a one-minute item. Then he became the writer and chief editor of a very popular radio program called “Max 95”. Through this program, many of radio listeners heard, for the first time, the name of Majid Khosro Anjom.

It’s interesting to know that following the filtering of a social network, Khosro Anjom stops his activities on it and moves to Instagram which actually is the most favorite social network of Mr. cartoonist and has contributed to his reputation. Now his page has more than 34,000 followers who expect new works and he reads carefully all their comments. “At first I was sharing all kinds of photos. But my audiences were not accepting and were requesting new works. I did so.”

Khosro Anjom’s designs are unique and this special style makes you remember him even if you see his works without signature. “At the beginning, I used to take photograph of my finger and palette. One friend niggled me by asking why my finger could be seen in all the photos. After hearing the comment, I became interested in using my fingers and an external object in my works. Then I continued my style of using real objects that was appreciated. Other artists usually use real objects out of their real identity and reality; for example they use a real orange and draw some lines around it as sun. But I use the objects in their own reality.”

Caricature is such an important part of the artist’s life that once travelling to a friend’s house, he was forced to cut the blank pages of the books there in order to draw a caricature in his mind and take its photograph. The walls of his house were full of his artworks; however after painting the house, his wife took him this permission!

See the caricatures: http://en.mehrnews.com/news/108669/Iranian-cartoonist-becomes-Instagram-phenomenon

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Iran-Zimbabwe economic commission to hold in Harare

Tehran, July 25, IRNA – Deputy Minister of Co-operative, Labor and Social Welfare for International Affairs said joint economic commission of Iran and Zimbabwe will be held in Harare.

Mohammad Taqi Hosseini said the commission’s 7th biennial session was held in Tehran and the 8th session is to be held in Harare next week.

Iranian Minister of Co-operative, Labor and Social Welfare Ali Rabiei and Zimbabwean foreign minister head delegations of their respective countries.

Referring to expanding cooperation between Tehran and Harare, Hosseini said Iran attaches importance to expansion of cooperation with developing countries.

He added Iran has active participation in different economic sectors of Zimbabwe, such as textile industries, tractor manufacturing, mining, renovation and repair of aviation transportation installations.

The deputy minister also said that representatives of public and private sectors will attend the joint economic commission.

Simultaneously with the commission, an exhibition to show capabilities of Iranian companies in the co-operative sector will be held in Harare.

In the exhibition, co-operative activists in the fields of construction materials, handicrafts, medicine, wood industry and melamine will participate.

The exhibition will be inaugurated in presence of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Ali Rabiei, he added.

The minister of co-operative, labor and social welfare is also to deliver a speech in a conference dubbed ‘Co-operative and small, medium size enterprises’.

Ministers from a number of developing countries such as Indonesia and South Africa, and Seychelles and Zimbabwean small enterprise ministers as well as minister of economic planning of Zimbabwe are attending, Hosseini added.

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Int’l Imam Reza (AS) Festival to be held in 75 countries

Shiraz, July 25, IRNA – International Imam Reza (AS) Festival will open in 75 countries including Iran on August 16, said managing director of Imam Reza (AS) International Foundation.

Seyyed Javad Jafari said that the event will be held in 31 provinces of Iran during Ten Days of Karamat beginning with birth anniversary of Imam’s sister Hazrat Masoumeh (AS) on August 16 and ending with birth anniversary of Imam Reza (August 25).

Holding International Congress of Women and Razavi Culture in Qom, Fars and Mashhad provinces are among other programs of International Imam Reza (AS) Festival which is to end on August 25, he said.

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Berlin, Tehran trade to increase to 10 billion euros

Tehran, July 25, IRNA – President of German Chambers of Commerce Eric Schweitzer said that his country intends to increase trade with Iran in short-term period to 5 billion euros and in mid-term to 10 billion euros.

Schweitzer, who was accompanying German Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel in his visit to Iran last week, told German Daily Ostoringer Zeitung that visit of German vice-chancellor to Iran was just six days after nuclear deal and this was a promising sign for German economy.

He reminded that trade balance between Tehran and Berlin in 2005 was 5 billion euros, which decreased in 2014 to only 2.7 billion.

Gabriel earlier told reporters in Iran that German companies want to have a sustainable and permanent cooperation with Iran.

Germany in Iranian year of 1393 was the 14th importer of Iran’s non-oil goods.

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Iran seals over $2b in trade deals with European companies: official

Tehran, July 25, IRNA – Head of Iran’s Organization for Investment, Economic and Technical Assistance (OIETAI), Mohammad Khazaei, says more than $2 billion of projects have been secured in the past couple of weeks in Iran by European companies.

Iran has already completed negotiations with some European companies wanting to invest in the country, he added.

“We are recently witnessing the return of European investors to the country. Some of these negotiations have concluded, and we have approved and granted them the foreign investment licenses and guarantees,” Khazaei told the Iran-EU conference on trade and investment, which was held in the Austrian capital Vienna from July 23 to 24.

According to Tehran Times, Iran’s total FDI stood at $2.105 billion in 2014, according to a recent report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Abolfazl Koudeie, the director general for foreign investment at OIETAI, said the presence of foreign investors in Iran is growing.

Western companies are one after the other engaged in talks with Iran to resume their delayed activities or make new investments in the Islamic Republic.

The recent developments came as world powers and Iran reached a framework agreement in the Swiss city of Lausanne in early April. Iran and the P5+1 group of countries have reached a mutual understanding on ironing out their differences over Tehran’s nuclear program and reaching a final deal by the end of June.

On May 9, Iran’s Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri pointed to the growing number of Western companies attempting to return to Iran following the possible removal of sanctions against the country and said Tehran would rather support foreign investment.

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Europeans will benefit from joint ventures: minister

Tehran, July 25, IRNA – Iran’s market is not the one-way street for import of goods and machinery from Europe it used to be a decade ago and Iranians are interested in bilateral trade, said Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mohammadreza Nematzadeh in an address to Vienna’s two-day Iran-EU Economic Conference on Thursday. Joint investment in Iran would not only have the benefit of access to the 80-million-strong Iranian market but also the 300-million market of Iran’s neighboring countries, IRNA quoted him as saying.

‘Iranian companies are capable of expanding activities in many countries. Iran would also serve as a regional platform for joint production and technical cooperation of its neighbors as well as Commonwealth of Independent States,’ the minister noted.

Addressing top officials and traders from Austria, France, the UK, Germany and other European countries, Nematzadeh said: “We believe that once the political turmoil of the region is resolved, it would need mega economic projects, so we invite you to tap the investment opportunities in the region.”

He went on to say that the campaign for privatization in Iran was slowed by the sanctions (imposed against Iran over its nuclear energy program) but it is the country’s aim to advance in many fields by steering clear of governmental ownership and control. Privatization would provide opportunities for foreign and native investors in different sectors of automobile, steel, electricity and many more, Nematzadeh added.

‘The rules and regulations associated with foreign investment and ownership in Iran have been reformed,’ he noted.

The economy had a 6.7% growth in the industry sector and 9.8% in the mining sector in the last Iranian year (ended March 20), according to Nematzadeh.

A 10-year strategy for industries, mining and trade has been drafted in recent months, which includes goals, policies and the priorities. It is mostly focused on oil, gas, machinery manufacturing and designing industries as well as mining particularly steel, copper, chromium, gold and silver.

“One of our main goals is to design and manufacture both passenger cars and commercial vehicles which comply with international standards. We seek joint ventures for auto parts manufacturers with the aim of producing 3 million vehicles by 2025, of which a third will be exported,” he added.

Iran’s industry has made great strides in research and development of various technology sectors and welcomes investment in nanotechnology, medical equipment and telecommunications, the minister noted.

“By and large, our industrial strategic planning intends to put Iran among the emerging economies based on our natural resources, an educated young workforce, universities, research centers, domestic and regional markets. I recommend European companies to view this as a golden opportunity and initiate cooperation with Iran with a strategic, long-term perspective,” Nematzadeh said.

Iran is readying itself to join the World Trade Organization once political obstacles are removed and is keen on trade deals with the EU and other countries, he added.

Deputy economy minister Mohammad Khazaei, another keynote speaker at the conference, said Iran has already completed negotiations with some European companies wanting to invest in the country.

‘We are recently witnessing the return of European investors to the country. Some of these negotiations have concluded, and we have granted them the foreign investment licenses and protection,’ Khazaei said.

‘In the past couple of weeks we have approved more than $2 billion projects in Iran by European companies,’ he told the conference without naming the firms or providing further details.

Deputy oil minister for commerce and international affairs, Hossein Zamaninia said Tehran has identified nearly 50 oil and gas projects worth $185 billion that it hoped to sign by 2020. OPEC-member Iran has the world’s largest gas reserves and is fourth on the global list of top oil reserves holders, Reuters reported.

In preparation for negotiations with possible foreign partners, Zamaninia said Iran had defined a new model contract which it calls ‘Integrated Petroleum Contract’.

‘This model contract addresses some of the deficiencies of the old buyback contract and it further aligns the short- and long-term interests of parties involved,’ he said.

He said the deals would last 20-25 years – much longer than the previously less popular buybacks, which effectively were fee paying deals with global oil majors such as France’s Total for services they performed on Iranian oil fields.

He said Iran would introduce the projects it has identified and the new contract model within 2-3 months.

The conference was sponsored by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization and joint chambers of commerce of Iran, France, Germany and Britain and held on July 23,24. (FT Daily)

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Ambassador says Iran-Russia trade can rise to $10bn

Moscow, July 26, IRNA – Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei on Sunday expressed optimism about the increasing level of trade between Tehran and Moscow, saying Iran-Russia annual trade can reach $10 billion in near future.

Sanaei said that during the first three months of 2015, trade between Iran and Russia has grown 10 percent compared to the same period last year.

With five percent growth from 2013, Iran-Russia trade in 2014 neared $1.7 billion, Sanaei said.

The Iranian ambassador noted that based on Russian customs’ statistics, the decline in bilateral trade between the two countries in 2012 and 2013 has stopped and their trade has begun growing.

Iran-Russia trade used to stand at nearly $4 billion, but after the imposition of arbitrary sanctions on Iran trade between the two countries reduced to around $1 billion.

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Majority of Iranians abroad can visit home: Official

Sanandaj, Kordestan Prov, July 26, IRNA – There is no ban on the travel of majority of Iranian expatriates, including Iranian Kurds, to their motherland and they can also contribute to national unity and solidarity, an official said on Saturday.

Secretary of High Council of Iranians Abroad Javad Qavam Shahidi told a local meeting that the government of President Hassan Rouhani supports facilitating the visit of Iranian expatriates so that they can play a part in the country’s development.

Criticizing Iranphobia policies, he said less than one percent of Iranians abroad are regarded a national security threat.

‘Any Iranian who is not involved in a criminal crime is naturally expected to be able to visit the country,’ he added.

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Iran Announces $29 Billion Mining Projects

TEHRAN (Press TV) — Iran has introduced $29 billion worth of mining projects to a trade and investment conference held with the EU in Vienna to discuss post-sanction opportunities for cooperation.

The projects include production of aluminum, steel, rare earth elements, copper, gold and coal by tapping Iran’s mineral reserves, Deputy Industry Minister Mehdi Karbasian said.

“Current projects have a value of $9 billion and future schemes are worth $20 billion,” said the official, projecting they would create about 70,000 jobs when they get underway.

Karbasian said under the new mining development plan, prospective investors will be provided with accurate figures about the reserves of any given mine in order to raise confidence about the viability of development projects.

Some of the major mining projects involve production of steel which the country plans to quadruple to 55 million tons a year by 2025 to in order keep pace with demand in its industry and an economy being billed as one of the emerging Next Eleven.

Steel is a strategic commodity for the country of about 80 million. It is crucial to Iran’s massive oil and gas industry and its automotive sector which is the Middle East’s largest.

Iran has also a massive transportation and water supply network and a mammoth construction sector as well as sprawling urban centers which devour steel in stupendous quantities.

The Iran-EU trade and investment conference in Vienna brought together officials and traders from the resource-rich country as well as Austria, France, Germany, the UK and other countries to discuss opportunities for trade.

At the opening of the two-day forum, Iranian officials pledged to splash out more than $180 billion on oil and gas projects.

Trade, however, is expected to take off at a slow pace as Iran’s return to the international financial fold is bound to take time.

Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Minister Muhammad Reza Nematzadeh told the conference that Iran expected to rejoin the international electronic payment system or SWIFT three month after the sanctions are lifted.

Iran’s reintegration into SWIFT is crucial for trade, without which Tehran faced enormous challenges for banking transfers for years.

Nematzadeh said he expected international banks to re-establish links with Iran as the sanctions relief comes to effect.

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Iranian Picked Asian Chess Girl Player of the Year

ABU DHABI (IRNA) – Iranian Sara-Sadat Khademolsharieh, 18, was selected Girl Player of the Year by the Asian Chess Federation at Hilton Hotel in Al-Ain, the United Arab Emirates.

The federation announced awardees of the 2nd Annual Asian Chess Excellence Awards, Tehran-based English newspaper, Iran Daily, reported.

The prestigious Man of the Year Award goes to President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan in recognition of his inspiration to build the “National Specialized Youth Chess School of Olympic Reserve”, a massive $35 million complex for chess education in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

“As the supervising body for Asian chess, we give well deserved recognition to the achievements of Asians in world championships of the previous year and to the unsung chess organizers of national chess federations. The Chess Excellence Award honors Asian players who have earned medals as the best among Asian representatives in their events,” Sheikh Sultan said as he named the 23 awardees.

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Iran, EU Hold Trade Conference in Vienna

TEHRAN (Dispatches) — Iran on Thursday outlined plans to rebuild its main industries and trade relationships following a nuclear agreement with world powers, saying it was targeting oil and gas projects worth $185 billion by 2020.

Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Muhammad Reza Nematzadeh said the Islamic Republic would focus on its oil and gas, metals and car industries with an eye to exporting to Europe after sanctions have been lifted, rather than simply importing Western technology.

“We are looking for a two-way trade as well as cooperation in development, design and engineering,” Nematzadeh told a conference in Vienna.

“We are no longer interested in a unidirectional importation of goods and machinery from Europe,” he said.

The United Nations Security Council on Monday endorsed a deal to end years of economic sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Sanctions are unlikely to be removed until next year, as the deal requires approval by the U.S. Congress. Nuclear inspectors must also confirm that Iran is complying with the deal.

While the Iranian and U.S. presidents have been promoting the accord, critics in Tehran and Washington have spoken out strongly against it.

Many European companies have already shown interest in reestablishing business in Iran, with Germany sending its economy minister Sigmar Gabriel on the first top level government visit to Tehran in 13 years together with a delegation of leading business figures.

Iran’s deputy oil minister for commerce and international affairs, Hussein Zamaninia, said Tehran had identified nearly 50 oil and gas projects worth $185 billion that it hoped to sign by 2020. OPEC-member Iran has the world’s largest gas reserves and is fourth on the global list of top oil reserves holders.

In preparation for negotiations with possible foreign partners, Zamaninia said Iran had defined a new model contract which it calls its integrated petroleum contract (IPC).

“This model contract addresses some of the deficiencies of the old buyback contract and it further aligns the short- and long-term interests of parties involved,” he said.

He said the deals would last 20-25 years – much longer than the previously less popular buybacks, which effectively were fee paying deals with global oil majors such as France’s Total for services they performed on Iranian oil fields.

He said Iran would introduce the projects it has identified and the new contract model within 2-3 months.

Deputy Economy Minister Muhammad Khazaei said Iran had already completed negotiations with some European companies wanting to invest in the country.

“We are recently witnessing the return of European investors to the country. Some of these negotiations have concluded, and we have approved and granted them the foreign investment licenses and protections,” Khazaei told the conference.

“Even in the past couple of weeks we have approved more than $2 billion of projects in Iran by European companies,” he said, without naming the firms or providing further details.

Beyond oil, Nematzadeh said Iran was looking to move away from state ownership in many sectors, creating joint ventures for auto parts manufacturers with the aim to produce 3 million vehicles by 2025, of which a third would be exported.

Central bank deputy governor Akbar Komijani said Iran’s financial sector was offering opportunities for cooperation between domestic banks and foreign investors.

Nematzadeh said Iran aimed to join the World Trade Organization once political obstacles were removed and would be interested in trade deals with Europe and central Asian countries.

Iran expects to rejoin the international electronic payment system SWIFT three months after sanctions imposed on it are lifted and it will also become easier for foreign firms to take part in privatizations in Iran, Nematzadeh said.

He also said Iran’s foreign reserves total between $115 billion and $125 billion, including assets in its sovereign wealth fund.

It was one of the most detailed public descriptions of the reserves by an Iranian official. The size of the foreign reserves and the way Iran uses them will be crucial in its bid to rebuild its economy after years of international sanctions.

Iran was barred from SWIFT, crippling its ability to make international bank transfers crucial to foreign trade, due to Western sanctions.

Speaking on the sidelines of a business conference in Vienna on Friday, Nematzadeh said foreign banks would gradually be able to re-establish links with Iranian banks as sanctions relief kicks in, which he expected to happen in less than three months.

When asked to clarify the timing, he said he meant three months “from the sanctions (being removed)”.

Nematzadeh also said sanctions relief would smooth the way for foreign companies to take part in planned privatizations of state-owned Iranian companies.

“Some downstream (companies) like petrochemical industries or refining industries, they are all either privatized or the ones left are going to be privatized,” he said.

He stressed that Iran’s national oil company NIOC would not be sold and that the government would retain up to 20% in companies in “important industries”.

Iranian officials also used the business conference to offer tax breaks and other benefits to foreign technology firms to persuade them to set up research and development (R&D) centers in the Islamic Republic.

“The government would offer support for R&D investment by foreign firms, and they would be treated just as domestic firms, especially if they were exporters,” Sorena Sattari, Iran’s vice president for science and technology, said.

Nematzadeh said the Iranian government had set up a $1 billion fund for such R&D support for private companies and this was already included in the national budget.

Further, the government will cover up to half of private companies’ research costs out of the running budget, he said.

The Iranian central bank’s foreign reserves, obtained from the country’s oil and gas exports, are around $90 billion to $100 billion, Nematzadeh told the Vienna conference.

The National Development Fund of Iran, which was founded in 2011 and receives a portion of oil and gas export proceeds, has around $20 billion to $25 billion.

In addition, some Iranian government companies and organizations have foreign holdings of about $5 billion to $10 billion, Nematzadeh said.

Iran can already access most of the reserves and is using that money to develop its oil, petrochemical and gas industries as well as to finance nearly 60 investment projects through the Chinese government, Komijani said without elaborating.

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Syria, Iran discuss cooperation in tourism, art, theatre, and movie production

24 July، 2015, Damascus, SANA – Tourism Minister Bishr Yazigi and Iranian Culture Minister Ali Ahmad Jannati discussed on Friday prospects for developing tourism between the two countries and means to overcome the obstacles affecting the Syrian tourism sector due to the crisis.

The meeting was held on the sideline of the International Media Conference Against Terrorism currently being held at the Opera House in Damascus.

In a statement to SANA after the meeting, Minister Jannati said that the meeting discussed the religious and tourist visits from Iran to Syria which have witnessed a decrease due to the current events, but now there is no reason not to resume these visits since Damascus city is safe.

For his part, Yazigi said that there are elements that make partnership and integration between Syria and Iran in the field of tourism a very promising prospect, and that the meeting touched on ways to expand cooperation in this field via a number of memos that will be signed in the future.

He also underlined the vital connection between tourism and mass media, and that Syria managed to retain much of its luster despite all attempts by Takfiris to undermine its tourist, historical, and civilized components.

In the same context, Jannati met Culture Minister Issam Khalil, and the two agreed to cooperate in the fields of art, theatre, movie production, and boo translation, with Jannati saying that there are large avenues for cooperation between the two countries in all fields, and they must be utilized to the fullest.

In turn, Khalil said that the meeting will serve to strengthen bilateral relations in the field of art and culture, stressing that the mutual threat to Syria and Iran posed by terrorism and Takfiri mentality make it essential for the two countries to cooperate to ward it off.

He also said that Minister Jannati voiced readiness to provide technical assistance for moviemaking in Syria and all that is needed to overcome obstacles caused by the war.

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Pakistan expects massive trade with Iran following nuclear accord: Fatemi

WASHINGTON: The nuclear deal between Iran and the Unites States will open up doors of massive trade for Pakistan with Tehran, Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, was quoted as saying by US media.

Talking to a group of reporters in Washington, Fatemi praised the deal and said it would advance the cause of both peace and economic growth in the region, online news magazine Foreign Policy reported on Saturday.

“We are convinced that it is the right thing,” Fatemi was quoted as saying by the magazine. “We are also convinced that an end to sanctions will open up new opportunities for Pakistan to enhance its commercial and economic ties to Iran.”

The PM’s envoy said that while much have been made of spike of European business interest in Iran following the July 14 accord that will ease economic sanctions on Tehran, Pakistan was also keen to open up trade with the neighboring country.

“We have a long border, and we could have massive trade with that country, should this issue of sanctions no longer be hovering over us,” said Fatemi.

According to the magazine, Pakistan’s interest in the lifting of United Nations sanctions on Tehran most immediately pertains to long-stalled efforts to operate a $7.5 billion Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, progress on which was stalled after international sanctions.

“This pipeline would not only benefit Pakistan in terms of providing us a valuable source of energy, we also believe that such a pipeline could also encourage cooperation among the countries of the region that would really strengthen peace and stability,” Fatemi was quoted by the report.

“As soon as the sanctions are lifted, we will explore avenues and opportunities of strengthening our economic (and) commercial ties with Iran.”

The Washington Times quoted Fatemi as saying that Pakistan was being ‘mindful’ not to take action until UN sanctions were officially lifted though Islamabad, he added, was already in constant communication with Iranian authorities regarding the pipeline.

In his wide-ranging talks with reporters, Fatemi said that Pakistan was on a path toward stability and democratic transition. On an official visit here, Fatemi has met with senior Obama administration officials, State Department diplomats and several high-level members of Congress from both sides of the aisle.

He said that American officials gave him confidence that US-Pakistan relations were growing strong. The US officials expressed support for the Pakistani government’s 13-month-old military campaign against Taliban and so-called Haqqani Network militants along the Afghan-Pakistan border, the paper reported.

A central focus, he said, has been boosting peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. “It is only through promoting reconciliation talks that peace can be assured in Afghanistan,” said Fatemi, highlighting the importance of a July 7 meeting in Pakistan between prominent Taliban leaders along with prominent representatives of President Ashraf Ghani’s cabinet.

“More importantly, senior representatives of Pakistan, the United States and China were present in those talks as well,” he said, adding that “we wish to make this a process rather than to keep it as an event.”

On relations with India, Fatemi also expressed confidence that long-standing friction between Pakistan and India was beginning to ease, the paper quoted him as saying. Pakistan was “ready to enter into a meaningful, comprehensive, sustained dialogue process” with India. “We have made this offer on so many occasions,” he said. “It is now for India to respond.”

Meanwhile, Fatemi called on US Deputy Defence Secretary Robert Work at Pentagon and exchanged views on wide ranging issues of common strategic interest, a press statement said.

The two officials expressed satisfaction that Pakistan-US bilateral relationship was on an upward trajectory. Fatemi appreciated US support to Pakistan in dealing with security challenges and reiterated Pakistan’s determination to resolutely fight the menace of terrorism.

Both sides expressed satisfaction that the Defence Consultative Group, a working group under the bilateral strategic dialogue, had been a productive mechanism in stimulating close and successful partnership in a number of key areas.

Tariq Fatemi also briefed the Deputy Secretary on Pakistan’s desire to establish friendly relations with all its neighbors in the interest of building a peaceful, secure and prosperous neighborhood. He outlined specific steps that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had undertaken in that direction, including extending Pakistan’s support to peace and stability in Afghanistan.

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Malaysia’s Chinese Chamber of Commerce Urged To Tap ASEAN’s Growing Wealth

MELAKA, Malaysia July 26 (NNN-Bernama) — The Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) has been urged to tap ASEAN’s growing wealth and opportunities and make the country the regional gateway.

Minister of International Trade and Industry (Miti) Mustapa Mohamed said the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is now seeking to create a single market and production base in the region.

“As a single entity, ASEAN currently is the 7th largest economy in the world and home to a consumer market of more than 600 million people, with a combined gross domestic product estimated at US$2.5 trillion.

“By 2020, ASEAN aims to become the 5th largest economy in the world.As such, Malaysian businesses should be proactive and explore collaborations with foreign companies with high value added technology to establish operations in Malaysia,” he said in his speech at the ACCCIM’s 69th Annual General Meeting here yesterday.

The text of his speech was read by his Deputy, Lee Chee Leong.

Mustapa said the government would continue to provide a conducive business ecosystem for Malaysia’s economic growth and development.

“Our pragmatic policies and talented work force provide an unparalleled advantage that few, if any, in the region can match. Indeed, our business friendly policies are recognised by many independent international organisations.

“The World Bank, in its Doing Business 2015 Report ranked Malaysia as the 18th easiest place to do business from 20th last year.

“The World Economic Forum ranked Malaysia as the 20th most competitive out of 144 economies in its recently-released ‘Global Competitiveness Index 2014-2015 Rankings’ from 24th previously,” he added.

Mustapa said Miti through the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority will continue to support and encourage the participation in international expos.

Among them, he added, was the 19th China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) and the 118th China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair) this September and October respectively.

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Mamish: New Suez Canal will offer service for all world countries

Cairo, Monday, 20 July 2015 – Head of Suez Canal Authority Mohab Mamish asserted on Sunday 19/7/2015 that nearly 97 per cent of dredging works have been finalized in the New Suez Canal project.

In an interview with Nile News Channel, Mamish said that the new project is a fully integrated one fitted with navigational signs, maps, electronic navigation devices and highly-trained guides to secure ships crossing the waterway.

The New Suez Canal will offer its service for all world countries, he added.

Logistical and security preparations were made for the inauguration of the New Suez Canal project, according to Mamish.

Mamish also hailed the Armed Forces Engineering Authority for wrapping up the dry digging operations in the New Suez Canal project.

Dredging works in the canal project was the largest in history, he added.

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Almaty 2022 Accommodation Plan A Key Asset

Almaty, July 22, 2015 – After a nearly two year bidding race, Almaty 2022 is ready and excited to welcome the international community to its beautiful city. Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city has seen a rapid rise in its tourism sector. With annual growth rates of almost 11% in hotel rooms, Almaty is one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in all of Central Asia.

The city attracts visitors from all around the world due to its close proximity to world-class ski resorts, picturesque mountains, newly developed casino and entertainment resorts and vibrant Kazakh culture. In addition, the city continues to benefit from increased tourism through the hosting of major international winter sports events, such as the 2011 Winter Asian Games, as well as many FIS and ISU World Championships.

Consistent with the growth in its tourism sector, Almaty has developed a robust accommodation plan to meet the needs of its many visitors and quickly growing domestic population. Almaty 2022 has worked closely with the city to ensure that Almaty’s bid to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games fits perfectly with the city’s long-term objectives.

President of Kazakhstan Tourism Association, Ms Rosa Assanbayeva said: “Tourist arrivals to Almaty have been steadily growing over the past years. Besides housing for the city’s growing population, the demand for hotels across all categories is rising. The Almaty 2022 Games Accommodation plan is in line with our long term city development plan.”

Importantly, Almaty has secured legally binding guarantees from hotel owners, real estate developers and city authorities for over 31,000 rooms.

Almaty’s real accommodation plan includes:

(+) 10,580 rooms in dedicated Villages for the Olympic Family,

(+) 15,475 rooms in newly built serviced apartments, including IF and NOC serviced apartments,

(+) 5,175 rooms in existing hotels and wellness resorts in all categories, including the 1,000 rooms in the IOC hotels in the Olympic City.

Mayor of Almaty city, Mr Akhmetzhan Yessimov: “Almaty’s guarantees exceed all IOC requirements. All client groups will find comfortable accommodation in our city across all categories – from 5-star hotels to university residences for low-budget visitors. All rooms are either already built, under construction, planned or guaranteed by individual contracts”.

“However, there is much more to our beautiful city then first-class accommodations. Almaty will also offer all visitors a unique Winter Games experience with its stunning nature, perfect winter conditions, hospitable people and a multi-cultural lifestyle. All guests will rest easy knowing that our compact Games Plan allows for quick and easy travel to all sporting events, and will awaken to invigorating views of Almaty’s stunning backdrops and snow-capped mountains right from their rooms».

With regards to spectators, Almaty offers a diverse array of choices from twenty-five thousand options that are either existing, or guaranteed by individual contracts. These include rooms in existing and planned hotels and resorts, nearly 7,500 guaranteed university residencies for low budget visitors and guaranteed apartment hotels that will be used for residential housing after the Games.

Finally, Almaty will draw on Kazakhstan’s experience of hosting major events to ensure the successful delivery of its accommodation plan. In 2017 Kazakhstan will host the EXPO 2017 in Astana and the 28th Winter Universiade in Almaty. Beyond attracting visitors from around the world, these events will also ensure the adoption of the latest building techniques in Kazakhstan’s construction industry.

Vice-Chairman of Almaty 2022 Bid Committee, Mr Andrey Kryukov concluded: “Our guarantees and strong track record of delivering major events is further proof that Almaty is ready to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. It also proves that our vision for a sensible, affordable and sustainable Winter Games is real. This is just another example of what we mean by Keeping It Real, and we are excited to share this vision with the Olympic Movement and the world”.

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Oman Summer Of Sports Programme 2015

MUSCAT, Oman, July 21 (NNN-ONA) – Oman “Summer of Sports” programme of 2015, a purposeful annual sports programme, implemented by the Ministry of Sports Affairs, for the tenth year in a row, is very much welcomed by the participants from different governorates of the Sultanate, at the level of sport and entertaining Ramadan nights.

The programme provides Ramadan sport activities and services to suit the desire of the participants, in spending their nights in harmony amid Ramadan sport atmosphere. The activities of “Summer of Sports” contribute to the achievement of social goals and make use of leisure time in developing the sport skills and expertise, which is reflected on the individual’s health and interest, in an attempt to make sport as a daily way of life.

The working teams of “Summer of Sports” in the governorates are exerting great efforts to achieve the objectives of the programme, through the activities of each governorate and targeting aged above-five years of the society, males and females, open the way for everyone to participate in various sports and competitions, that achieve the desired programme goals.

Each governorate prepared its own programmes for “Summer of Sports” of tournaments, competitions and open days, in addition to sports caravans that reach remote villages from sports facilities in various parts of the Sultanate.

The Sports Affairs Department in Musandam Governorate continues the events and activities of “Summer of Sports” programme for 2015 and the sports’ open days.

The Department organised during the month of Ramadan an open day at the sports complex in Khasab that included (football, volleyball, table tennis, badminton and fitness).

More than 60 people participated in the open day.

The Sports Affairs Department in Al Wusta Governorate got early preparation for the start of the programme. The working team visited all the wilayats of the governorate (Haima- Mahout, Duqm and Al Jazir). All plans of the wilayats were discussed with the walis, who oversaw the distribution of work, the representatives of the local teams and the administrators and coaches of the programme in every wilayat and their proposals and recommendations were taken into consideration.

The Sports Affairs Department in A’Dakhliyah Governorate, in cooperation with Oman Athletics Federation, conducted a marathon race with the participation of 211 athletes from various governorates of the Sultanate, whose final ceremony was presided over by the Wali of Nizwa.

The activities of the second stage of the programme will kick off on July 26 and will continue until Aug 27, 2015. It is expected that the programme will witness more participants, followers and beneficiaries of sports services for the programme.

The programme annually seeks to add the desired activities in the governorates to expand the beneficiaries towards making sports a daily way of life.– NNN-ONA

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Malaysian journalists to get acquainted with tourism potential of Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek, July 25 /Kabar/. The delegation of media representatives of Malaysia arrived in Bishkek at the invitation of the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic in this country.

According to the Kyrgyz Embassy in Malaysia, the purpose of the invitation of Malaysian journalists is the promotion of Kyrgyzstan in the international arena. The visit is aimed at introducing foreign visitors to the tourist potential of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The program of the delegation includes of visits to cultural and historical sights of Kyrgyzstan.

Note, the delegation consists of journalists from major media holdings of Malaysia: “The Star”, “Media Prima” and Bernama News Agency.

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Eid Ul Fitr Holiday Helps Revive Egyptian Tourism

Cairo, AlAhram Online – Despite security concerns as a result of the terrorist attacks that have taken place over recent weeks, Egyptians and non-Egyptians have been packing their bags and seeking Egypt’s resorts to escape the summer heat, giving a much-needed boost to the country’s tourism industry.

The Eid Al-Fitr holiday, a three-day celebration that follows the holy month of Ramadan, started last Friday this year and saw booming domestic travel to Egypt’s coastal cities, with hotel occupancy rates reaching 93 per cent in Sharm El-Sheikh, 90 per cent in Hurghada, 95 per cent in Ain Al-Sokhna and Ras Sedr, and 91 per cent in Alexandria, the North Coast and Marsa Matrouh, according to statistics published by the ministry of tourism.

Since hotels were posting less than 50 per cent occupancy rates before the holiday, the surge in tourist numbers has been attributed mainly to domestic tourists, as the number of Egyptians who travel to internal attractions increases exponentially during the holidays.

Khaled Rami, the minister of tourism, said in a press release last week that domestic tourism was like a “safety valve” for many tourist destinations in Egypt, especially during times of crisis. The minister was referring to the modest foreign tourist inflows since the 25 January Revolution in 2011, which has caused suffering to many Egyptian tourism facilities.

According to Sami Mahmoud, head of the Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA), more than 60 per cent of hotel guests during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday were Egyptians. Most of them were visiting beach resorts as part of trips organised by government and public-sector institutions, in addition to normal reservations via tourism companies, he said.

“Domestic tourism during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday compensated to a certain extent for the decline in foreign bookings,” Mahmoud stated.

Cultural tourism also attracted more visitors during the holiday. More than 40,000 Egyptian and foreign tourists visited the Giza Pyramids throughout the three-day holiday, according to the Middle East News Agency (MENA). Approximately 37,000 Egyptians and over 3,000 foreigners visited the ancient site.

Despite cheap prices and promotions, hotels in Luxor and Aswan remained nearly empty, however, with occupancy rates of just 10 per cent and mainly due to the extremely hot weather in the two destinations during the summer.

However, the Ministry of Tourism has launched the third phase of its “Egypt in our Hearts” initiative which provides discounted prices on flights within Egypt, as well as tour packages and Nile cruises, under the title “Luxor and Aswan in our Hearts” in order to encourage domestic travel. The first two phases of the initiative started in late 2014 and were extended until the end of last month. The current phase is expected to end on 30 September.

But domestic tourism cannot compensate for the lack of foreign tourists, according to experts. “Domestic tourism accounts for nearly $2 billion in revenues on a yearly basis, while revenues from foreign tourism exceed $10 billion,” said Elhami Al-Zayat, head of the Egyptian Travel Agents Association. While domestic tourism helps give the sector a boost during seasons like Eid Al-Fitr, he added, the industry needs more Arab and foreign tourists.

Mahmoud pointed to successful efforts in attracting more Arab tourists this year, these “demonstrating their belief in Egypt’s ability to secure its tourist destinations.” He said there had been a 23 per cent increase in the number of Arab visitors to Egypt in May, compared to the same month last year.

The overall number of visitors to Egypt increased in May by 16.5 per cent, and the number from January to May jumped by 16.5 per cent, compared to the same period in 2014.

A campaign was launched in May by ETA under the title “Egypt is Close” designed to target Arab tourists expected to come to Egypt throughout the second half of 2015. “We are in the middle of the summer season, the favourite time of year for Arabs enjoying their vacations in Egypt,” Mahmoud said.

Terrorism continues to challenge the tourism sector in Egypt. The assassination of Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, last month, as well as other terrorist attacks has led to a number of governments issuing travel warnings against Egypt. However, Mahmoud said the overall number of tourists was on the rise because of awareness of the safety of tourist sites.

Media outlets should be clear about differentiating between North and South Sinai when they cover events like terrorist attacks in the peninsula, Mahmoud stressed, adding that tourist destinations, especially the Red Sea resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada in South Sinai, were very safe and far from areas that have seen clashes between Egypt’s military and terrorists in the North.

Egypt’s efforts to revive its tourism industry have continued with a global promotional campaign valued at $136 million to be spent over three years. Seven companies have bid to take charge of the campaign, and the winner will be named next month.

Egypt’s Minister of Tourism was quoted by media outlets in May as saying that the country was expecting 11.5 to 12 million tourists during 2015, with expected total revenues of $9 to $9.5 billion. In 2014, 9.9 million tourists visited Egypt, bringing about $7.5 billion with them.

These numbers are getting closer to the figures for 2010, the best year for the industry with a registered 14.7 million tourists and $12.5 billion in revenues.

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Islamophobia Observatory: 274 assaults on French Muslims in 6 months

19 Jul 2015 Paris (IINA) – The Islamophobia Observatory of the French Council of the Muslim Faith warned of an increase in Islamophobic attacks and threats in France during the first six months of the year, rising by four-folds than in 2014.

Head of the Observatory Abdallah Zekri said in a statement published by Al Jazeera.net website on Friday that the number of anti-Muslim acts and threats amounted to 274 cases during the first half of 2015, while the figure did not exceed 72 cases for the same period of 2014, according to the data of the French Ministry of Interior.

He said that those figures do not reflect the actual number of the assaults and threats against Muslims in France, noting that many Muslims do not report the attacks committed against them to the police.

Zekri added that the pace of Islamophobic acts in France has increased dramatically, especially in the aftermath of last January’s terrorist attacks in Paris. He strongly criticized blaming Muslims for those attacks.

The head of the Observatory accused the French politicians of being “indifferent” towards the assaults on Muslims and showing an appropriate reaction against them. He also criticized some politicians for involvement in what he called persistent “provocative speeches”.

There are an estimated five million Muslims, mostly from North Africa, living in France, which ranks first for the number of Muslims in the European countries.

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Maldives to allow foreigners to own land for the first time

24 Jul 2015 Malé, Maldives (IINA) – Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen approved on Thursday a law allowing foreign ownership of land for the first time, triggering concern over a possible landgrab by China in the strategic Indian Ocean region, Astro Awan news agency reported.

Dozens of foreign companies already run luxury resorts on islands that they lease from the government of the honeymoon islands for a maximum of 99 years.

The new law would allow foreigners who invest more than US$1 billion (RM$3.78 billion) to own land in perpetuity, provided 70 percent of it is reclaimed from the Indian Ocean.

“President Yameen on Thursday ratified the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives,” his office said in a brief statement referring to the law.

Lawmakers voted on Wednesday for the bill, which easily passed after a brief debate, with 70 members in favour and 14 against, the assembly said in a statement.

But opposition MPs expressed fears that the move could clear the way for the Chinese to set up bases in the Maldives, which straddle vital international east-west shipping routes.

Vice-president Ahmed Adeeb rejected the concerns, saying the move was aimed at attracting foreign investment.

The Maldives is seeking aid and investment from Beijing to build a 1.4 kilometre (0.87 mile) bridge linking Male with the nearby airport island.

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US state offering financing mortgage compliant with Islamic law

Seattle, Washington, (IINA) 24 Jul 2015 – In an effort to increase home ownership among US Muslims, a proposal in Seattle meant to offering financing compliant with Islamic law is gaining ground according to media reports.

“We will work to develop new tools for Muslims who are prevented from using conventional mortgage products due to their religious beliefs,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray addressed a press conference.

“The City will convene lenders, housing nonprofits and community leaders to explore the best options for increasing access to Sharia-compliant loan products to help these residents become homeowners in Seattle,” according to his proposal released last week.

Amid increasing Muslim population in the city, estimated at 30,000 practicing Muslims, a Seattle housing committee suggested community and business leaders find a way to help them.

Exploring financing options for devout Muslims, a Shari`ah-compliant financial products has drawn fire, with critics warning that it opens the nation’s financial system to extremists.

However, the mayor’s support for the new plan is expected to give it a strong push forward.

Opposition to the plan started in 2008 when some lawmakers opposed American International Group for offering Shari`ah-compliant insurance programs.

While Seattle leaders want more lenders taking part in the Shari`ah program, there are some already offering such unconventional financing.

Seattle-based Halal Inc. advertises on its website that “instead of starting with a flawed system and trying to ‘make a fit,’ we took the perfect system ordained by Allah and created a legal framework for it.”

Shari`ah-compliant financing deals resemble lease-to-own arrangements, layaway plans, joint purchase and sale agreements, or partnerships.

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Over 600 converted to Islam in Qatar during Ramadan

26 Jul 2015 Doha (IINA) – Some 615 expatriates in Qatar have converted to Islam during the holy month of Ramadan, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported on Friday.

According to figures released by the Qatar Guest Center and Sheikh Eid Charity Association, the state-run agency said that the new converts comprised 144 women, and the vast majority hails from the Philippines, estimated 517 men and women, followed by 32 Sri Lankans, 26 Indians, 25 from the UK, and 15 Nepalese.

According to the Center, the numerous reversions are related to the easy access to information about the state religion.

Since its inception in 1998, the Qatar Guest Center has become a pioneer in the field of Dawa to Islam with wisdom and good advice, as well as by explaining the definition of Islamic religion for all people and expatriates in the Gulf state, in particular.

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Kuwait Red Crescent opens crafts school in Indonesia

Jakarta (IINA) 26 Jul 2015 – Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) on Sunday opened Al-Mubarakiya Crafts’ School and a hall in Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia’s province of Aceh, as part of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Village.

The project was named after the late Emir of Kuwait in appreciation for his humanitarian efforts all over the world, KRCS chairman Dr Hela Al-Sayer told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

The village project was first initiated by the Society’s late chairman Barjas Al-Barjas, who exerted great efforts to aid people in Indonesia on all levels, said Al-Sayer.

The village, located in the area previously struck by tsunami in 2004, contains 150 houses, a mosque, a medical center, in addition to Al-Mubarakiya School, he added.

Meanwhile, the chairman said that KRCS contributed to rebuilding Banda Aceh after the deadly tsunami disaster, pointing out that the Society had carried several projects in the area, which was also struck by multiple earthquakes, including water purification stations, infrastructure, and orphanage, as well as providing fishing boats, road construction equipment, and relief supplies.

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Cricket enthusiasts happy over Oman’s entry into World Twenty20

Muscat, (MENAFN – Muscat Daily) Citizens and expatriates are thrilled after Oman’s cricket team on Thursday qualified for the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 for the first time.

Oman’s five-wicket win over Namibia in the crucial T20 World qualifying match played in Dublin Ireland and team’s entry into the biennial tournament in India next year added to the Renaissance Day celebrations.

Speaking about the team’s achievement Dad Mohammed al Balushi a board member of Oman Cricket said ‘We are extremely happy with the team’s performances. This is a matter of immense pride as we have worked hard to develop the game in the country for over three decades.’

Balushi said that the tourney in India will be a tough one as ‘we will have to play against Test playing nations like India Pakistan and Australia’.

Lubna al Kindi a businesswoman and a cricket enthusiast said ‘Though cricket is not as popular as football in Oman this is a big achievement for the country.’

Akash Kumar a private sector employee said ‘I’ve been in Oman for the past ten years and have seen the hard work put in by cricketers and concerned officials to take the sport forward. The hard work has started to yield results.’

Before the Namibia clash the national team had already made its mark in the qualifiers with some shock victories against fancied teams the Netherlands and Afghanistan.

However the match against Namibia was the key one as the winner would have sealed the sixth and final qualifying berth.

Shoaib Ahmed a businessman in Ruwi said ‘Oman did well by restricting Namibia to 148. Then the team survived some tense moments before man of the match Zeeshan Siddiqui (51 not out) sealed an important win for the country with an over to spare.’

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Cargo ships cross New Suez Canal in first test-run

Cairo, 26/07/2015 (MENAFN – The Peninsula) The first cargo ships passed through Egypt’s New Suez Canal yesterday in a test-run before it opens next month, state media reported, 11 months after the army began constructing the 8bn canal alongside the existing 145-year-old Suez Canal.

The new waterway, which President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi hopes will help expand trade along the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia, will be formally inaugurated on August 6.

Dubbed the Suez Canal Axis, the new 72km project is aimed at speeding up traffic along the existing waterway by reducing the waiting period for vessels, as well as boosting revenues. It will run part of the way along the existing canal that connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

“Today, we made sure that vessels with a draught of 66 feet” are able to use the new waterway, said Captain Mohamed Fawzi of the Suez Canal Authority, dubbing the first trial run a “success”. Officials said six vessels in two fleets of three each crossed through the expanded canal as part of the trial run.

One fleet sailing from south to north had vessels flying the flags of Singapore, Luxembourg and Bahrain. The second, sailing from north to south, had flags from Liberia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Fawzi said that the expansion means the waiting period for ships will be reduced from 18 hours to 11. The new waterway involves 37km of dry digging and 35km of expansion and deepening of the Canal, in a bid to help speed up the movement of vessels.

Sisi wants the canal to become a symbol of national pride and to help combat Egypt’s double-digit unemployment. The old Suez Canal is already a vital source of hard currency for Egypt, which has seen tourism and foreign investment drain away in the years of turmoil since a 2011 uprising.

The exercise took place amid tight security. State television said there were helicopters circling above and showed naval vessels escorting the ships.

The canal is part of an ambitious plan to develop the surrounding area into an industrial and commercial hub that would include the construction of ports and provide shipping services.

Authorities raised 9bn to build the new canal by selling shares in the project to domestic investors, with private Egyptian companies tasked with its construction. It is expected to more than double Suez revenues from 5.3bn expected at the end of 2015 to 13.2bn in 2023, according to official estimates.

Mohab Mameesh, Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, told state television more test runs would follow. At a later news conference, Mameesh said construction of another canal near the East Port Said port on the Mediterranean Sea would begin as soon as the New Suez Canal had been inaugurated.

A senior Suez Canal Authority source said that the canal is expected to cost around 60m and will be 9.5km long, 18.5 metres deep, and 250 metres wide. It will take around seven months to build, the source said.

Built 146 years ago, the Suez Canal is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes and a key source of international trade.

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Australian Sports Delegation visits Syria

23 July، 2015, Damascus, SANA – The message of the Australian sport delegation’s visit will be clear to the Australian people that what the mass media have reported about what is going on in Syria is lies and fabrication, Chairman of the General Sports Federation Maj. Gen. Muaffaq Juma’a said.

Gen. Juma’a added, during a dinner held on Wednesday at al-Jalaa Sport City in Damascus, that the meetings which the delegation has held with official and religious figures and its visit to several areas in Damascus and Lattakia have contributed to uncover the truth of what is going on in the country on the ground.

He asserted that the delegation got acquainted with volume of the conspiracy hatched against Syria and the resilience of the Syrian people and their rallying around their leadership in confronting the terrorist attacks which aim at undermining the Syrian state.

Juma’a stressed the importance of Australian delegation’s, which encompasses athletes; clergymen and academies, is to enhance communication among the peoples and the role of religious men and athletes in stretching bridges of communications whatever languages are.

The visit of the Australian delegation aims at building bridges between the two peoples of Syria and Australia and conveying the reality of what is going on in Syria, Maher Dabagh, the Honorary Consul of Syria to Australia said.

Father David Smith, an Australian clergyman, champion boxer and head of the delegation expressed hope to convey the reality of what is going on in Syria to the Australian community to push those who were misled by the falsification of some mass media to change their stances.

Stressing intention to organize a second visit to Syria in the near future of a larger boxer and media team, Father Smith elaborated that the visit aims at documenting what is going on in Syria and conveying the true image of the events in it.

The Australian sports delegation participated in a number of sports events and visited Damascus and Lattakia during their visit to Syrian whuch started 15 July.

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Bangladesh reaches stage of becoming middle-income country: Joy

DHAKA, July 26, 2015 (BSS) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy today said Bangladesh has come to a stage of becoming a middle-income country.

“By the hard labour of the present Awami League government, Bangladesh has reached to a stage of becoming a middle-income country. We are taking up projects with whatever limited funding we have in our hands. Keeping pace with the government, the country is also moving forward and it is the youths, who will do the job,” Joy said.

He came up with the observations while addressing a function organized by the ICT Division on the occasion of inaugurating 500 mobile apps at Bangladesh Computer Council auditorium at city’s Agargaon.

Presided over by ICT secretary Shyam Sunder Sikder, the function was also addressed by State Minister for Post, Telecommunications & Information Technology Ministry, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) chairman Sunil Kanti Bose, and managing director of Ethics Advance Technology Limited (EATL) MA Mubin Khan.

Joy further said to pave the way for high-speed internet connectivity, fiber optic cable network will reach all the 4,500 odd unions by the end of this tenure of the present government.

“We have many plans to take the country forward. Working is in progress. We have many dreams. We will establish IT Vocational Training Institute in each of the seven divisions in the country. Now we have six submarine cables as backup and that is why the internet users do not even realize when the network is getting cut off,” he added.

Palak in his speech said it is because of Joy, that the present government is being able to take time befitting decisions in the ICT sector.

“We achieved an independent and sovereign Bangladesh in 1971 under the leadership of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. We got democracy under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and became enlisted as lower middle-income country. God willing, under the leadership of Sajeeb Wazed Joy, we will become deserving claimants for developed Bangladesh,” he said.

Of the apps, 300 are service-oriented apps, which will provide information and knowledge about services of different ministries and departments of the government. The rest have been built on the fresh ideas gathered from the competitive programmes.

ICT Division developed these apps under the project titled “Mobil Apps Traner in National Level and Development of Creative APPS”. EATL has provided assistance as partner organization in implementing the project.

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Work on Bangladesh elevated expressway to begin August 16

DHAKA, July 26, 2015 (BSS) – The physical work on the country’s first elevated expressway from Hazrat Shahajalal International Airport to Kutubkhali of Dhaka-Chittagong highway will begin on August 16, said road transport and bridge minister Obaidul Quader here today.

He said the land for the project will be handed over to the construction firm on that day.

This decision was taken during a meeting with chairman of the construction firm Ital-Thai Company Premchai Karnasuta. Bangladesh Ambassador Saida Muna Tasneem was present at the meeting held at a hotel in Bangkok, said a press release of the road transport and bridge ministry.

The Dhaka Elevated Expressway will be constructed under public-private-partnership initiative.

A 4-member delegation led by road transport and bridge minister left Dhaka Saturday night for Japan. During the Japan tour, Obaidul Quader will hold meetings with Japanese transport minister, JICA and business people, the press release added.

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Bangladesh sets export target at $33.5b for FY16

DHAKA, July 26, 2015 (BSS)-The Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) has set the export target at US$ 33.5 billion for fiscal year 2015-16.

Announcing the export target after a meeting here today, commerce minister Tofail Ahmed said the export target has been set with a growth of 7.38 percent.

“The export target is realistic and achievable,” said the minister.

He said the export target for the fiscal year 2014-15 was not achieved despite a rise in the volume of export because prices of goods came down in the international market. Besides, BNP-led alliance’s 92-day hartal-blockade severely affected export activities, he added.

Tofail Ahmed chaired the meeting while commerce secretary Hedayetullah Al Mamun, EPB Vice-Chairman Shubhashis Bose, FBCCI Vice-President Mahbubul Alam, Frozen Food Manufacturers and Exporters Association President SM Amzad Hossain, among others, attended it.

The commerce minister said Bangladesh earned US$31.20 billion in the FY15 against the target of US$33.2 billion.

He said the government has taken steps to expand export market side by side with increasing the number of export products under the 6th Five Year Plan. The government has planned to give cash incentive to the shipbuilding, leather and leather goods, jute and jute products and medicine exports.

With the assistance of China the government has been constructing a garment industrial park on a 492-acre of land at Baushia in Munshiganj, he said and assured that the government would ensure gas and electricity for the businesspeople.

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CPEC, Gwadar Port to be built at all costs: Pakistan

July 26, 2015 RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif on Saturday said the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Gwadar Port would be built and developed as one of the most strategic deep sea ports in the region at all costs.

During his visit to Panjgur and Turbat in Balochistan, the army chief inspected a part of the under construction road network, part of the CPEC, made by the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), according to ISPR.

General Raheel appreciated the FWO for its untiring efforts in the construction of such a vast road network across the length and breadth of Balochistan against all odds at such an amazing pace and paid rich tributes to the FWO soldiers for sacrificing their lives and limbs for this national project.

Emphasising the importance of the CPEC, he said that the construction of these roads would link Gwadar Port to the rest of the country at Chaman and the Indus Highway to yield the envisioned dividends of the port and Corridor project to transform the lives of the people and bring prosperity to the region.

During the briefing, the COAS was apprised that as many as 11 units of the FWO have been employed in Balochistan for the construction of an 870-kilometre long stretch of roads at five different locations simultaneously, out of which 502 kilometres of roads have already been completed in less than one and half year on the special directives of the COAS.

While talking to notables of the area, he paid rich tributes to the proud and valiant people of Balochistan and thanked them for their unconditional cooperation and support for these projects, assuring them that they would be best served by these projects.

The COAS said that the potential of Balochistan as a regional hub for trade in goods and energy would only be realised with the whole nation’s approach for its security and development.

General Raheel emphasised that a secure and peaceful environment was a must to push all the planned development work. He lauded the law enforcement agencies for bringing a noticeable change in the overall security situation of the province.

He specially commended the FC and police for the recently conducted successful operations against some foreign funded terrorists who were involved in the disruption of law and order in the province. General Raheel said the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb was not only an operation but a concept for a terror-free Pakistan.

“It would continue to target all militants without any discrimination and hunt down terrorists anywhere across the country to achieve the end objectives,” he added.

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Liwa Dates Festival farmers compete with their best ratab

ABU DHABI, 26th July, 2015 (WAM)– Hundreds of date palm farmers from Al Gharbia, Al Ain, Swaihan, Abu Dhabi and further across the UAE arrive everyday at the Liwa Dates Festival, bringing freshly picked ratab (half ripe dates) from their orchards, hoping to convince the industry’s experts that theirs are the tastiest, healthiest, best looking and best produced dates.

For the 11th consecutive year, the annual festival that celebrates the ratab harvest, organised every July by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi is conducting daily, throughout its week long programme, dates and locally grown fruit competitions, the expert judges looking not just for best in taste product, but also for the best grown fruit.

UAE May have hundreds of date varieties, and in the Liwa Dates a Festival, taking place this 22nd to 30th July in Liwa, in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi Emirate, five of the most popular varieties are competing in the ratab beauty contest. These include kunaizi, khallas, dabbas, boumaan, farth, along with nukhba, which is a competition for best mixed varieties of dates.

“During daytime, we receive the dates directly from farmers. By evening time we make a preselection, then, early next morning we go to insect the farms of the finalists and in the evening we announce and award the winners,” said Dr Samir al Shakir, international consultant of palm dates technology, member of the judging committee at Liwa Dates Festival.

Each date variety makes for a different competition category and the top 15 places in every category are awarded cash prizes from AED 125,000 to AED 5,000, except for nukhba competition, which receive from AED 200,000 for the first place to AED 6,000 for the 15th position.

To qualify for any of the ratab competitions, farmers must submit dates from their own UAE based farm, harvested this summer. Each participant is allowed to enter maximum two ratab varieties competitions.

“Each participant must enter between 10 and 15 kilograms of dates into the competition,” pointed out Dr. Shakir.

These are usually presented into two traditional Emirati hand made baskets. All entries are lined up on long tables in a private room, where they are closely inspected by the judges. The short listed finalists’ baskets are then moved onto a public display area, where all visitors may marvel at them and sometimes even taste them.

For the nukhba competition, participants must bring at least 15 varieties of dates, but no more then 20. Each variety must contain at least three kilograms of dates. For all ratab contests, the dates must be neither fully ripe, nor unripe, just half ripe.

“For every competition we receive dates from around 300 farmers and we select only around 20 finalists. Just by looking at them, we can pick up the best baskets. It is the size and the general condition of the dates that make them stand out to begin with,” said Dr. Shakir.

“We then start a thorough investigation, looking at the dates’ weight, doing size measurements and checking its health. Based on all of this, we give a grade for each entry,” he added.

The grade represents only 50% of the final score, though, the other 50% coming from the farm’ s condition.

“The next morning we go to inspect the farm, making sure, first of all, that the dates we receive actually come from the farm owner. Just by looking at the palm tree, we know if they were cut from there or not. We also take into consideration the general keep of the farm, if materials are recycled, if the palm trees are pruned, if the irrigation is eco-friendly and the use of fertilisers – we prefer and encourage farmers to use bio-organic ones,” explained Dr. Shakir.

For fair judging, the inspectors do not know which dates belong to which farm, and it is not uncommon that the best looking ratab from the finalists drop to bottom positions because the farm was found in a poor state.

Apart from ratab, Liwa Dates Festival also has competitions for locally produced mangoes, lemons and mix fruit baskets.

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Etihad Airways experiences record guest numbers during Eid-al-fitr

ABU DHABI, 26th July, 2015 (WAM) — Etihad Airways announced today that it has experienced one of the busiest travel periods in the history of the airline with 291,518 guests flying across its global network during Eid-al-fitr, an increase of 12 percent on the 260,641 guests flown in the same five day period in 2014.

The load factor out of Abu Dhabi during this period rose from 82.1 percent in 2014 to 82.3 percent in 2015, with a network-wide seat factor of 78.3 percent. The airline operated 83 more flights out of the hub than during Eid-al-Fitr in 2014.

In anticipation of the demands that the peak summer period brings, Etihad Airways and its Abu Dhabi airport partners prepared and implemented a number of key initiatives at the hub to manage the busy flight schedule.

These initiatives included amending the flight schedule to improve connectivity, the provision of complimentary coach and bus services, additional baggage allowances and Etihad Guest miles for early and off-peak check-in, as well as the deployment of 100 extra ground staff.

Capt. Richard Hill, Etihad Airways’ Chief Operations Officer, said, “We’re pleased to have once again carried record numbers of guests and baggage across the Etihad Airways network during Eid-al-Fitr, one of the busiest and most challenging periods in the year.

“Managing such significant traffic volumes in such a short period was the result of major advance planning and involved hundreds of Etihad Airways’ staff working around the clock to support the operation in Abu Dhabi and around the world.”

More than 100 additional Etihad Airways staff members were temporarily recruited from across the organisation to assist guests at check-in and at boarding gates, and cabin crew offered Iftar and Eid-al-Fitr refreshments to those at check-in, security, and immigration.

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Updated version of “Explore Abu Dhabi through Statistics, 2015″ released

ABU DHABI, 26th July 2015 (WAM) — Statistics Centre-Abu Dhabi (SCAD) has recently released a revised and updated version of its publication “Explore Abu Dhabi through Statistics, 2015″, a quick reference presenting economic, social, demographic, cultural and environmental information about the emirate from a statistical perspective in a simple, reader-friendly style and layout.

SCAD’s DG praised the book, saying it highlights the comprehensive development the emirate is experiencing in various aspects of socioeconomic life, adding that the book consists of eight chapters beginning with General Information, followed by Population and Demography, the Labour Force, Social Statistics, the Economy, Industry and Business, Agriculture and the Environment, and finally, Energy and Water.

According to preliminary estimates, the population Abu Dhabi Emirate reached 2,657,026 people in mid-2014, of whom 1,750,855 were males and 906,171 were females and 506,411 (19.1 percent) were citizens. Around 261,720 citizens (51.7 percent) live in Abu Dhabi region, 215,170 citizens (42.5 percent) in Al Ain region.

The non-citizen population was 2,150,615 people, representing 80.9 percent of the total population of the Emirate in mid-2014. Around 1,365,013 (63.5 percent) of the non-citizens lived in Abu Dhabi region. Over the period 1960-2014, the population of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi grew at an average rate of 9.5 percent (one of the world’s highest rates). The total population multiplied 133 times, with the number of citizens doubling 46 times due to increased fertility and naturalisation. The non-citizen population increased 243-fold, driven mainly by the influx of foreign workers.

In 2014, citizens made up 8.2 percent of the labour force, with females constituting 18.2 percent of the economically active citizens, up from 14.7 percent in 2005. In addition, the refined activity rate of female citizens to 29.9 percent in 2014, up from only 16.3 percent in 2005. The overall refined activity rate for the total population of working age (15 years and above) in 2014 was 79.9 percent.

Defined as the number of people not in the labour force to the people in the labour force, the economic dependency ratio has shown a mixed trend over the past few years, reaching 245.8 for citizens and 33.2 for non-citizens. As the figures show, the ratio is normally much higher for citizens compared with non-citizens.

Illiteracy rate among citizens (10 years and above) dropped from 80.12 percent in 1970 to 5.3 percent in 2013, and from 89.85 percent among female citizens (10 years and above) in 1970 to 7.4 percent in 2013. Total enrolment increased almost 50-fold, from 6972 in 1969-70 to 340,803 in 2013-14, while the number of schools multiplied 20 times, from 25 in 1969-70 to 438 in 2013-14.

In a brief review of the developments in the health sector over the course of the past four decades, the book shows that the emirate had only 600 beds and only two hospitals in 1975. By 2013, there were 12 government hospitals, with 2503 beds, in addition to two military hospitals, and 587 public and private clinics. The number of doctors in government hospitals increased to 2402 in 2013.

The chapter on social welfare policies reviews the remarkable developments in this area, showing a 40.4 percent rise in the number of welfare beneficiaries from 9,105 in 2002 to 12,787 in 2013.

The number of kindergartens under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Affairs increased from 31 in 2005 to 83 in 2011, with a ratio of 85.0 children per kindergarten. A total of 7,058 children attended kindergartens in 2011, up from 2,275 in 2005.

According to the economic section of the new book, Abu Dhabi’s economy grew at an estimated 2.2 per cent last year despite the collapse in oil prices as its diversification efforts paid off, according to a report from Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi.

The emirate, the world’s eighth-biggest producer of oil, said its GDP rose to Dh952.6 billion in 2014 from Dh931.7bn in 2013, when GDP rose 2.4 per cent.

The share of non-oil activities in GDP at constant prices increased to 49.5 per cent in 2014 from 38.7 per cent in 2004.

Away from oil, construction was the biggest contributor to growth. Construction had a 9.6 per cent share of non-oil GDP, while finance and insurance accounted for 7.2 per cent of the non-oil economy.

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Three vital federal road projects approved to connect UAE regions

ABU DHABI, 25th July, 2015 (WAM)–Dr. Eng. Abdullah Belhaif Al-Nuaimi, Minister of Public Works, has confirmed the Ministry of Public Works approved three federal road projects to connect a number of UAE regions and promote the infrastructure system, meet UAE 2021 Vision and the National Agenda.

He added that the move comes is in line with the vision of the UAE and the Ministry’s strategy to build and develop a high quality federal road network to support economic growth and contribute to promoting social welfare, and community satisfaction.

The minister stressed the UAE’s keenness on the development of integrated infrastructure with high quality standard and efficiency, allowing the county to occupy a leading position in the Global Competitiveness index in the field of infrastructure, especially with regard to the road quality. “The UAE ranks first in the world in terms of quality of roads, and excels many of the developed countries, thanks to the wise policy pursued by the Government of the UAE towards a balanced and sustainable development to secure high quality of life to all its citizens.”

He added that “The ministry’s policy in the field of roads is to upgrade the efficiency of the current network, especially with regard to security and safety requirements. To this end, the Ministry of Works has adopted three projects for the construction of vital federal roads that connect different parts of the country, in order to support the State’s infrastructure system, and reflect the role of the Ministry of Public Works in realising the UAE 2021 and the National Agenda, which envisage the United Arab Emirates to be among the best countries in the world by 2021 in infrastructure and road network”.

Projects adopted by the Ministry of Public Works, in order to develop the infrastructure include the development of Sharjah – Dhaid Road, stretching over 35 kilometers. The project is divided into three phases, and a consultant specialized in road projects has been contracted to complete the design of the first phase of the project from the fifth interchange to eighth in both directions. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

The ministry has also completed the final designs of the UAE / Oman border towns Shaam – Al Dara Road, deemed one of the vital projects that would contribute to improving the flow of traffic, and has a significant role in facilitating commercial traffic in the northern region, as well as trade, tourism and social networking in the country in general.

The project, which is expected to be completed during the second quarter 2016, supports the plan to strengthen the federal road network and to link the northern and southern regions to eastern and western regions, thus creating a highly efficient transport system, and ultimately increasing the efficiency of the federal road network.

The third project adopted by the Ministry of Public Works involves the completion of the Western Khor Fakkan Road, which has been assigned to a consultant as per an award notification memo.

The proposed project is a complementary route to the existing Khor Fakkan, E99, and the Western Khor Fakkan Ring Road, and will greatly support the federal road network in general and help smooth flow of traffic in Khor Fakkan, as well as road safety and security.

According to the Minister of Public Works, such projects are fundamental to sustainable development in the UAE, due to their prominent role in driving economic growth and social welfare, by facilitating internal mobility between the emirates and vital cities, linking them to various outlets in the country, using global standards, which enabled the country to rank first in the world in terms of quality of roads on the Global Competitiveness Index.

“The Ministry of Public Works is striving to keep up with the global best practices in implementation of road projects, in order to bring about a real shift in the development system related to the ministry’s functions”, he said, adding that the ministry is committed to facilitate the mobility of citizens and residents in the UAE.

The minister concluded by reiterating the ministry’s keenness to build strategic partnerships with all stakeholders including local governments, contractors, consultants and others, recognising their role in supporting the ministry continued efforts, improving its services, to meet the Government’s aspirations.

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