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29 Feb, 2016

Egypt hosts conference on historic importance of Suez Canal

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 29 February 2016 (20 Jumaada al-Awwal 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




THE Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC), an agency under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Malaysia, in collaboration with the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) hosted the inaugural National Imam Roundtable 2016 – Mosque Tourism Edition from 22 to 24 February 2016. Imams and committee members of mosques around Malaysia met to discuss ways to create understanding, awareness and acceptance for mosque tourism and stress the importance and benefits of mosques as a tourism product. Mosques are not only visited as a place of worship, but can be further developed as tourists’ attraction site. Each mosque possesses its own historical, cultural and aesthetical values perfected with unique architecture. Visitors can also witness the lifestyle of local Muslim community. At least thirty tourism-potential mosques across Malaysia are recognised by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia. The arrival of visitors from various backgrounds and religions to mosques in Malaysia has inspired some mosque management committees and non-governmental organisation such as ABIM Islamic Outreach Centre to provide voluntary basis mosque tour guide services. Participants also visited the Federal Territory Mosque and the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, along with other attractions such as the Restu Foundation and the Islamic Arts Garden Complex in Shah Alam, as well as around Putrajaya.

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.



7th World Muslim World Biz 2016 To Generate Rm900 Bln

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 (NNN-Bernama) — The seventh Muslim World BIZ 2016, to be held here this October, is expected to generate between RM800 and RM900 million (US1 = RM 4.26) worth of business transactions, said Chairman of Muslim World Biz and Chief Executive Officer of OIC International Business Centre, Muhammad Raja Talib Raja Mohamad.

He said the transactions to increase 50 per cent from RM600 million last year driven by more confident participants received this year.

“Many countries have asked about the event and since its still early, so far we managed to get 12 per cent from the targeted 40 country to participate this year,” he told reporters after the soft launch of the event here.

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Malaysia’s Ambank Group Hosts Chinese New Year 2016 Open House

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 (Bernama) — AmBank Group today hosted its Chinese New Year 2016 open house attended by approximately 1200 people comprising clients, guests and members of the media on Friday, 19 February 2016.

The AmBank Group Chinese New Year Open House held at a leading local hotel in Kuala Lumpur was hosted by Tan Sri Azman Hashim, Chairman, AmBank Group. Among the senior management in attendance were Dato’ Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, Group Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Mohamed Azmi Mahmood, Deputy Group Chief Executive Officer, Board Members and Senior Management from the Group’s subsidiaries such as Retail Banking, Investment Banking, Wholesale Banking and Insurance.

“We organised this year’s Chinese New Year dinner gathering especially for our valued clients as our way of showing appreciation for their support and also for giving us the opportunity to work together as a team. It is certainly an occasion to be connected with all our clients and at the same time to usher in the Year of The Fire Monkey.

“As you know, festive occasions bring out the best in Malaysians and this is when we, as Malaysians of all races, meet and celebrate as one. Monkey is pronounced as “ho” in Mandarin which shares a similar pronunciation with the word Good in Cantonese. Therefore, I hope we all will be having a “ho” fire monkey year this year,” said Tan Sri Azman.

Other than enjoying the usual Chinese New Year delicacies, there was also Yee Sang which symbolises abundance, prosperity and vigor. The guests were also entertained by Lion Dance Performance by the Hong Yi Dragon & Lion Dance Association, Kuala Lumpur together with hit songs performed by The Singing Shop and Tan Sri Azman himself.

AmBank Group is one of Malaysia’s premier financial solutions groups with nearly 40 years of legacy in understanding Malaysian customers and provides a wide range of both conventional and Islamic financial solutions and services, including retail banking, wholesale banking, as well as the underwriting of general insurance, life assurance and family takaful.

The Group’s mission of “Connecting, Growing and Outperforming” accentuates our commitment in connecting with customers, people as well as stakeholders and the Group’s continuous initiatives in growing to further cement our position in the industry as we aspire to exceed expectations by consistently outperforming. This mission underpins the Group’s vision as Malaysia’s preferred diversified, internationally connected financial solutions group. Our brand – “Your Bank. Malaysia’s Bank. AmBank.” portrays us as a modern Malaysian diversified financial solutions partner that understands and meets the diverse needs of modern Malaysians.

The Group receives strong support from the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (“ANZ”) (one of Australia’s leading banks) particularly in Board and senior management representations, risk and financial governance, products offering and new business development. In the general insurance business, the Group has partnered with Insurance Australia Group Ltd (“IAG”). In the life assurance and family takaful businesses, the Group has a partnership with MetLife International Holdings Inc. (“MetLife”). The Group continues to benefit in terms of expertise transfer from IAG and MetLife.

AMMB Holdings Berhad is the holding company of AmBank Group and is a public listed company on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia.

For more information, please visit www.ambankgroup.com

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Malaysia Projects Boom in International Conventions

PETALING JAYA, Feb 24 (Bernama) — The Kesatria 1Malaysia Programme under the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) has generated 85 international convention leads, which is set to deliver an estimated economic impact of RM1.6 billion and attract more than 150,000 delegates to Malaysia, said the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Tan Sri Dr. Ong Hong Peng.

“The Kesatria contribution is much appreciated and looked forward to by the nation. It is envisaged that conventions will help raise Malaysia’s standing on a global scale and contribute to our business tourism target of RM3.9 billion in Gross National Income by 2020,” said Tan Sri Dr. Ong Hong Peng, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors for MyCEB.

He was speaking at the ‘Kesatria Assembly 005’ Gala Evening to celebrate the contribution of Malaysia’s Conference Ambassadors known as Kesatria and to welcome five newly-appointed Kesatria here recently.

The Kesatria 1Malaysia Programme is designed to recognise the efforts and contributions of industry leaders and their respective institutions that choose to bid for and host major international conventions and business events.

Launched in 2012, the Kesatria Malaysia-Industry Champions are most often the president or past president of national associations or industry leaders that have chaired or will be hosting a major international business event in Malaysia. They are thought leaders in their field of expertise and recognised for their professional achievements in bidding for and hosting major international conventions.

“These conventions will also complement the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in achieving our target of 30.5 million in tourist arrivals and RM103 billion in tourist receipts for 2016,” said Tan Sri Dr. Ong.

Datuk Zulkefli Haji Sharif, the Chief Executive Officer of MyCEB expressed confidence that Malaysia will continue to witness the hosting of more international conferences in 2016 and the years to come.

“This is a testament to Malaysia’s unique and abundant potential as a preferred business events destination. However, we cannot be complacent and rest on our laurels but must continue to engage more pro-actively in a highly competitive environment,” he reiterated.

“Our appointed Kesatria hail from various key economic sectors identified under the National Key Economic Area (NKEA) projects such as science and medicine, research and innovation, education and law. Business events are a catalyst for socio-economic growth and the impact from hosting international business events stretches beyond direct spend and jobs, amplifying the benefits beyond tourism,” he continued.

Datuk Zulkefli said that business events bring additional benefits in trade and investment which also aid Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and help hasten the creation of new business networks, knowledge transfer, dignity and social development, as well as the elevation of Malaysia’s international profile and reputation.

“The collective strength, talent and resources of MyCEB and the Kesatria are one of the best strategic moves to expand the business events industry, and create a lasting legacy for both current and future industry and thought leaders in Malaysia,” he added.

Malaysia aims to be among the top five in the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) country rankings in the Asia Pacific by 2020. Since 2003, international business tourism growth rates have exponentially increased by an estimated 149 percent.

Five Newly Appointed Kesatria

Among the highlights of the gala evening was the introduction of five newly appointed Kesatria for 2016. They include:

  1. Prof. Dr. Azirah Hashim, President of the Malaysia Association of Applied Linguistics (MAAL);
  2. Prof. Dato’ Dr. Mafauzy Mohamed, Vice President of the Malaysian Endocrine and Metabolic Society;
  3. Dato’ Dr. Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan, Chairman of Digestive Health Malaysia Society;
  4. Dr. Saunthari Somasundaram, President of the National Cancer Society of Malaysia; and
  5. Associate Prof. Dr. Zuhaina Zakaria, Chair of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Malaysia Section.

Other Upcoming World Conferences

Among the upcoming international association conferences and events secured with Kesatria involvement for 2016 and right up to 2020 include:

  1. The Pan Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning 2016;
  2. Asia Pacific Conference on Engineering and Technology Education 2016;
  3. 24th International Conference on Chemistry Education 2016;
  4. American Overseas Dietetic Association Conference 2016;
  5. UN-GGIM-AP Plenary Meeting cum UN-GGIM International Forum 2016;
  6. IEEE Conference on Communications 2016;
  7. ASEAN Federation of Surgery Meeting 2016;
  8. International Conference of the Pan Pacific and South-East Asia Women’s Association 2016;
  9. International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations World Congress 2017;
  10. International Congress of the Asian Society for Vascular Surgery 2017;
  11. World Federation of Hemophilia World Congress 2020; and

12.The Biennial Scientific Meeting of the Asia Pacific Paediatric Endocrine Society 2020.

MyCEB was established in 2009 by the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Malaysia to further strengthen Malaysia’s business tourism brand and position for the international business events market. A non-profit organisation, MyCEB serves as a central hub to assist meeting and event planners to bid for and stage international business events in Malaysia and act as a conduit for national product development. MyCEB’s goal is to improve its rankings as an international meetings destination within International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and to grow business tourism arrivals to Malaysia.

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Bangladesh: Promotion of conservation agriculture technology stressed

RAJSHAHI, Feb 27, 2016 (BSS) – Time has come to wide-ranging and sustainable expansion and adoption of conservation agriculture (CA) system to protect the soil health from further degradation, experts said.

Principles of conservation agriculture are use of reduced tillage, retention of some amounts of residues in the field, sustainable and profitable crop diversification and its rotation and judicious use of natural resources, they said.

In present context of climate change especially unpredictable rainfall, unusual drought and other natural calamities, this technology can help the farmers utilizing the minimum amount of water for crop establishment like avoiding paddling operation.

Agricultural extension officials, scientists and researchers made these observations while visiting some CA-based demonstration plots of wheat, lentil and maize in different areas in Durgapur Upazila of the district yesterday.

Conservation Agriculture Project, Bangladesh organized the daylong event styled “Sustainable Resilient Farming System Initiative” in association with Murdock University in Australia.

Chairman of Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) Dr Akram Hossain Chowdhury, Project Leader Prof Dr Richard Dobleu Bell, Additional Directors of Department of Agriculture Extension Fazlur Rahman and Hazrat Ali, BMDA Project Director ATM Rafiqul Islam, Professor Dr Zahir Uddin and Prof Dr Mosharraf Hossain from Bangladesh Agricultural University, Project Coordinator Dr Enamul Haque and Field Manager Nurunnabi Mean were the team members.

Raised beds facilitate sowing without waste of time allowing crop growth to better match water availability, said Project Coordinator Dr Enamul Haque.

Under the conventional system, the single largest constraint requires planting of wheat in the country late in winter, leading to a poor yield. Bed planting improves water distribution and irrigation efficiency, gives better results in using fertilisers and pesticides and reduces weed infestation and crop lodging. It saves crops from disturbance from rats, Dr Haque added.

The pattern helps farmers save 30 percent irrigation water and 30 to 40 percent of seeds and fertilisers.

Prof Dr Mosharraf Hossain told the visiting team members that some proven benefits of the conservation agriculture-based machinery such as power tiller operated seeder (PTOS) and bed former or planters are included early planting, increased yields, reduce production costs and water requirement and help improve the environment by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions.

International donor organizations, he said, should support such kind of need-oriented agricultural activity for its large-scale promotion which needs supply of need-based adequate machineries.

Demand of food production is gradually increasing to feed the huge number population and more pressures are coming on per-unit cultivable land. To this end, the new and updated technology is capable to enhance production and productivity in a cost-effective way, he added.

By using the new pattern of crop rotation, the huge tracts of land that remain fallow in the Barind after the harvest of transplanted Aman each year, could be used to grow wheat or lentil, followed by moog daal, by providing small irrigation facilities, said Dr Mosharraf Hossain.

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Encouraging efforts result in $4.1 bln remittances from UAE in 2014-15

ISLAMABAD, Feb 22 (APP): The efforts made to encourage expatriate Pakistanis to adopt banking channels for remittances has increased amount volume to US$4.1 billion from United Arab Emirates (UAE) during 2014-15. “There has been an increase of 11 per cent remittances to and overall remittances to the country from UAE which touched US$4.1 billion mark,” official data revealed.

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Dubai airport opens new extension

Dubai – MENAFN – Gulf Times – 25/02/2016 – Dubai International, already the world’s busiest airport by international passenger traffic, opened a new extension yesterday that will raise its annual capacity to 90mn passengers.

The opening of Concourse D is the “result of a 1.2bn investment to enhance service and boost capacity for the more than 70 international airlines,” Dubai Airports said in a statement.

British Airways was the first airline to use the new concourse, connected by train to Terminal 1.

“Today we also announce our 2016 forecast which projects 85mn passengers will visit Dubai International this year,” said Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths.

Dubai International said it remained the world’sbusiest airport for international travel in 2015 with more than 78mn passengers passing through.

Dubai first announced it had overtaken Britain’s Heathrow as the world’s busiest airport for international passengers last year, after 70.4mn international travellers passed through in 2014.

Situated on transcontinental air routes, Dubai is one of several Gulf-based airports to experience prodigious growth in recent years.

Around 100 airlines fly to more than 240 destinations from the international hub, which is also home to carrier Emirates.

Dubai’s second airport, Al-Maktoum International, opened in 2013 and will be capable of receiving 120mn passengers a year once fully operational.

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Kazakhstan keen to strengthen bilateral trade with Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, 24 Feb 2016 (IINA) – Kazakhstan is determined to continue and strengthen its bilateral trade with Malaysia despite global economic challenges, The Malaysian Insider (MI) reported.

According to a spokesperson for Kazakh embassy in Malaysia, several areas of cooperation in both the diplomatic and economic fields have been explored between Kazakhstan and Malaysia since the start of their official relationship in 1992.

These include the agreements signed during the visit by Prime Minister Najib Razak to Kazakhstan in May 2014 for the construction of a methanol plant and a liquefied natural gas plant as well as farm development involving cattle breeding in the country.

“From January until October 2015, mutual trade between Kazakhstan and Malaysia stood at $76.6 million (RM320 million) with total exports to Kazakhstan worth $76.2 million and imports valued at $396,300”, the spokesperson said. She noted that the bilateral trade was largely in Malaysia’s favor, having registered exports of $122.7 million to Kazakhstan in 2013 and $105.2 million in 2014.

She stated that the main items imported by her country from Malaysia included electrical and electronic products, appliances and parts, palm oil, lubricants, rubber products, clothing and furniture. In turn, Kazakhstan exported ferrous metals, surveying and measuring equipment, tools and pipe-fittings to Malaysia.

With the similarity of having a majority of Muslims, Kazakhstan, which is the ninth largest country in the world, has conveyed its interest to emulate Malaysia’s socio-economic development.

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Arabic language newly introduced in Mexican university curriculum

Kuwait (IINA) 22 Feb 2016 – Kuwaiti Ambassador to Mexico Sameeh Johar Hayat announced Monday the success of the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Mexico in introducing of the Arabic language studies to the curriculum at San Luis Potosi University, KUNA reported.

This came during talks held by the Council’s delegation in Mexico with governor of San Luis Potosi Juan Manuel Lopez Carreras, in which they discussed ways to strengthen Arab-Mexican relations in various fields, especially economic and educational ones.

The talks came against the backdrop of the historic visit by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar last month, during which he signed more than 50 agreements including 12 with the State of Kuwait, Hayat said.

The Kuwaiti diplomat lauded the level of development in the Arab-Mexican relations, stressing that the mutual visits would open broader prospects for continued cooperation and coordination in all areas.

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China among 10 major importers of Persian carpets

Tehran, Feb 26, IRNA – China, which was once Iran’s rival in global carpet trade, has now become one of the ten major importers of hand-woven Iranian carpet, said head of Iran National Carpet Center (INCC) on Thursday.

Hamid Kargar added that the export of hand-woven Iranian carpet to China has increased from $8,000 to $8 million in the past five years.

‘During the sanctions, our presence in some traditional markets such as those in Europe weakened due to economic recession. Therefore we had to pinpoint new markets including those in Brazil, South Africa, Russia and at the top of them China,’ he elaborated in a report carried by MNA.

Citing the reasons for the shift in China’s standing from an exporter of carpets to importer, he said, ‘China’s economic reform, withdrawing from certain industries such as carpet and the newly-emerging upper-class looking for luxurious products, have created a potential market for Persian carpet in this country.’

According to Kargar, Iran’s carpet exports in the last decade averaged $500 million per year, and this figure declined to about $300m due to domestic and international issues.

Earlier this month, Kargar announced that the first shipment of Iranian hand-woven carpets has been exported to the US. He referred to the licensing of Iranian carpet exports to America as a result of JCPOA coming into force, adding, ‘Iranian hand-woven carpets have regained old and traditional markets and the first shipment of the product was dispatched to Los Angeles via the port of Hamburg.

‘We received positive exposure in the recent DOMOTEX exhibition in Germany’s Hannover, where American traders discussed, ordered and bought Iranian hand-woven products.’

The removal of sanctions would bring new hope for Iranian carpet traders to regain lost markets, he added.

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China, Iran coproduce ‘Way of Shaolin’ to meet demand for kung fu movies

Tehran, Feb 26, IRNA – When a Chinese movie producer visited Iran in 2015, he discovered that Iranians love movies with martial arts. The local particularly pinpointed Jet Li, star of the 1982 blockbuster movie ‘The Shaolin Temple’ as their favorite kung fu actor.

The realization that Iran is a potential market for Chinese martial arts films led to coproduction of ‘Way to Shaolin’, between Shen Jian, the Chinese producer, and Iranian partners. What pushed Shen to go ahead with the project are reports that thousands of young Iranians now are into Chinese martial arts, reported China Daily.

Shen thought, ‘A movie about the subject is quite likely to win the hearts.’

At the 2015 Fajr International Film Festival, work on the joint project started by tapping finance for the movie from ShineWork Media, a Chinese studio, and Farabi Cinema Foundation, an Iranian firm. Shen trusted the filmmaking capabilities of Iranians whose works earned best foreign language movie in the Oscars. These are ‘A Separation’ in 2012 and ‘Children of Heaven’ in 1998.

To mix the two cultures, the story of the film revolved around a young Iranian who went to China to study Shaolin kung fu — one of the oldest martial arts in China. Shen is now casting the actors for the movie, while location hunting would take place in later 2016. The production of the drama-comedy ‘Way of Shaolin’ has a budget of $10 million.

To ensure the moves are really authentic Shaolin, the production tapped the services of the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province to guide the production staff in action choreography. Some of the locations would be in Henan, found in central China.

Shen said the best way for foreigner to learn Chinese wushu, or kung fu, is go to the temple where visitors would see people from different nationalities practicing the Chinese martial art.

While the movie is on preproduction stages, 19 real Shaolin kung fu masters from Henan Province staged a show in Palestine in February. The live show featured weapons, hard and soft Qigong, collective boxing and Shaolin unique skills.

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Tehran to host 5th Int’l Neurosurgery Symposium mid April

Tehran, Feb 22, IRNA – The 5th International Neurosurgery Symposium of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS) and the 7th International Congress of Neurosurgery will be held in Tehran on April 17-22 under leadership of Professor Majid Samii.

Vice-President for Science and Technology Affairs Sorena Sattari said that latest in the neurosurgery will be presented to the meeting.

Sattari said participants will share information and experience.

He said more than 1,000 best neurosurgeons of the world will take part in the meeting.

The main topic of the congress will be traumatic head injuries.

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Iran’s top six trade partners

Tehran, Feb 26, IRNA – China, Iraq, the UAE, India, Afghanistan and Turkey imported more than $20 billion of commodities from Iran over the ten months of the current Iranian calendar year (started on March 21, 2015) to become Iran’s top six trade partners.

According to Tehran Chamber of Commerce, China imported over $5.678 billions of Iranian exports during the period to become Iran’s main trade partner.

Iraq, the UAE, India and Afghanistan imported 24.7, 20.5, 10.69 and 10.62 percent of Iranian exports respectively to rank second to fifth among Iran’s main trade partners after China.

Turkey also imported more than five percent of Iran’s exports during the mentioned time to become Iran’s sixth trade partner.

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Palestinians mark Hebron mosque massacre anniversary

NNA, 26 Feb 2016 – Palestinians marched through Hebron in the occupied West Bank Friday to mark the anniversary of the 1994 massacre of 29 Muslim worshipers by a Jewish settler, before being dispersed by Israeli soldiers.

Dozens gathered peacefully, demanding the reopening of a key thoroughfare — named “Marytrs’ Street” in Arabic — which has been closed to Palestinians since the attack, an AFP reporter said.

They were dispersed by stun grenades fired by soldiers close to the settlement of Kyriat Arba, home to Baruch Goldstein, the perpetrator of the massacre at a disputed place of worship known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque.

A demonstrator and a Palestinian journalist were detained by the army, according to reporters on the scene.–AFP

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Kyrgyzstan citizens have visa-free or visa on arrival access to 58 countries

Bishkek, February 24 / Kabar /. In 2015, Kyrgyzstani citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 58 countries and territories out of 219 countries, ranking the Kyrgyzstani passport 79th in the world according to the Visa Restrictions Index.

Indonesia is also in this position, by giving the chance to its citizens to visit 58 countries without a visa.

Among the Central Asian countries a large number of visa-free entry is offered by Kazakhstan (67 countries). Tajikistan and Uzbekistan ranked 84th with 53 countries and 85th with 52 countries, respectively.

Germany and the UK, who have the joint highest score with visa-free access to 173 countries, rank in first place.

The Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index is a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy. For more than 10 years, Henley & Partners has analysed the visa regulations of all countries and territories in the world and present an index which ranks each by the number of other countries that their citizens can travel to without having to obtain a visa. The index is produced in cooperation with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest database of travel information, and is published annually.

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EBRD loan in local currency to First MicroCredit in the Kyrgyz Republic

Bishkek, February 26 / Kabar /. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is stepping up its support for small businesses in the Kyrgyz Republic with a new loan in the local currency som to First MicroCredit Company (FMCC).

The loan, equivalent to US$ 1 million, will allow FMCC to expand its local currency lending, especially in rural areas where access to finance remains limited and local currency funding is constrained. Borrowing in local currency, rather than in dollars, will help small businesses and farmers who do not have income in hard currency avoid foreign exchange risk.

The EBRD three-year loan also comes at a time when medium-term local currency financing is very limited on the market.

FMCC is a well-established micro-finance institution with a strong presence in the Southern Osh and Naryn regions where a third of the total population of the country lives. The company is majority-owned by the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance, an entity supporting projects on microfinance in more than 15 developing countries worldwide

Stefan Martiniak, CEO of FMCC, said: “We appreciate a long-standing partnership with the EBRD and its continuous support in providing us local currency funding, which is strongly needed in the current economic environment. We will be using the loan to fund our MSME clients, including those in primary agriculture, with the wider aim of supporting economic growth and poverty alleviation.”

To date, the EBRD has invested over €560 million in over 135 projects in the Kyrgyz Republic. Small business support is one of the Bank’s strategic priorities in the country.

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Winter sports developing in Issyk-Kul

Bishkek, February 26 / Kabar /. Last week the hockey tournament among the two female and four junior teams of Kyzyl-Suu and Svetlaya Polyana took place at the ice rink in Svetlaya Polyana village of Jeti-Oguz region, Issyk-Kul oblast.

The tournament was held with the support of Kumtor Gold Company, which had previously purchased sports uniform and outfit for teams from both villages. Each set of outfit included skates, pucks, hockey sticks, helmets and uniforms. The total cost of the outfit was about KGS 400,000.

The ice rink in Svetlaya Polyana village was set up by the family of Kudaibergen Sakenov, employee of Kumtor Gold Company. The Sakenovs poured water into the rink, erected the fence and bought skates at their own expense. Members of the Sakenov family also trained the local sports fans to ice skate. Since this year, the ice rink has become a symbol of the village, and the signboard advertising the rink is even hanging on the turn to the main road.

“We appreciate that the company supports the development of sports in our region, it is pleasant that the company’s employees even invest their own money in it. Construction of the ice rink has been lasting for many years, and Kumtor took an active part in the process. Previously, there was an open pit here, we filled it in with a soil in 2014, when Kumtor cleaned up the daily run-off pond in our village, and the area for the ice rink was leveled out by aiyl okmotu,” head of the rural council Jylkychy Mamytkanov said.

It was decided that the Challenge Cup handed over by Kumtor would be a transferable prize. The friendly match between the teams ended in a draw, and the Cup is still kept by the host party, i.e. the players of Svetlaya Polyana, so the rivals still have a chance to contend for it.

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LEAD STORY: Egypt hosts conference on historic importance of Suez Canal

Cairo, AlAhram Online – 25 February, 2016 – An international meeting in Cairo this week highlighted the opportunities and challenges facing the Suez Canal, reports Nesma Nowar

The first Suez Canal Global Conference kicked off this week in Cairo in the presence of ministers, diplomats and executives from the world’s leading shipping companies. The conference, entitled the “Suez Canal Global Conference: Opportunities and Challenges,” was organised by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) in cooperation with the ministries of transport and international cooperation.

The Suez Canal is one of the most important waterways in the world, and it is important not only on the economic, but also on the geopolitical front, Sherine Hassan, a maritime expert and former head of Port Said’s port, told conference participants.

Many changes had taken place recently, he said, especially in countries that use the canal. Hassan said that EU countries had resorted to Qatari liquefied natural gas (LNG), for example, breaking their dependence on Russian gas in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis.

Qatar is now exporting more than 45 per cent of its LNG to the European Union, and it has been asked to increase that amount.

This naturally affects the Suez Canal and the volume of trade going through it, Hassan said, adding that 87 per cent of the LNG going to Europe is shipped through the canal, making it vital for EU energy security and trade.

According to Hassan, some of the present geopolitical changes constitute opportunities for the canal, including a giant shipping development programme currently being carried out by China.

However, there are also challenges, he said. Despite the fact that many praised the inauguration of the New Suez Canal in August last year, there have been concerns about the effect on it of changes in the world economy.

Tim Power, a head advisor at Drewry, a UK-based advisory organisation for the maritime sector, said that the new canal holds out opportunities for Egypt. He added, however, “We’re living in uncertain economic times. Many shipping sectors are in deep distress, stock markets are crashing down, and China’s growth is slowing.”

The ongoing slowdown in the global economy caused the canal’s revenues to plummet, even after the inauguration of the new canal. Egypt’s monthly receipts from the Suez Canal fell by close to seven per cent year on year in October 2015.

Revenues for the month dropped to $449.2 million, compared to $482.3 million in October 2014. The drop was ascribed to a slowdown in global economic activity.

In August 2015, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi inaugurated an expansion of the canal that the government claimed would bolster revenues from the waterway from $5.3 billion in 2014 to $13.2 billion in 2023.

Besides slowing global trade, the vital waterway could also be challenged by new maritime routes that Hassan described as “competitors” to the canal, including the Panama Canal, the overland Silk Roads extending across Asia, and the Bering Straits connecting the Pacific and Arctic Oceans in a route going close to the North Pole.

However, Hassan said the Suez Canal has advantages over all these other routes and is optimistic about prospects for the world economy, saying that the current low prices of oil and the Chinese economic slowdown will likely not continue and that global trade will pick up soon.

The conference also saw the inauguration of the new East Port Said Canal, with Mohab Memish, head of the Suez Canal Authority, saying that the new channel will speed up shipping and allow ships direct entry into Port Said without the need to pass through the Suez Canal.

He said that the new channel will help reduce waiting times for ships in the port, which currently stand at between eight and ten hours, and thus increase the competiveness of East Port Said.

The new canal is 9.5 km long, 17 metres deep, and 250 metres wide, according to the Suez Canal Container Terminal. The inauguration of the new channel comes as part of the continuing development of the Suez Canal Zone, a focal point of Egypt’s economic development strategy.

The first Suez Canal Global Conference comes in the light of the SCA’s desire to be in direct and more effective contact with its main customers and the main players in the international shipping market.

Besides the conference sessions, the meeting also saw workshops attended by specialists discussing the most important issues related to the Suez Canal.

The Suez Canal is one of the most important global waterways. A tenth of the world’s trade passes through it, and it is the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia. Together with tourism and foreign direct investment, the Suez Canal is one of Egypt’s largest foreign currency sources, with revenues coming in at $5 billion a year on average.

The canal saw a drop in revenues in 2015, registering $5.17 billion compared to $5.46 billion the previous year.

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Jordanian King stresses US Jewish organizations’ role in peace talks efforts

Washington, Feb.25 (Petra) — King Abdullah II, late Wednesday met with leaders of the American Jewish organizations in Washington and discussed means to break the deadlock and resume the Israeli- Palestinian talks based on the two-state solution.

During the meeting, the King stressed the important role of the Jewish organizations in supporting efforts to revive peace talks, hoping that 2016 will witness a real progress in this path.

The King stressed the need to reach a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause, which is the core conflict in the region, warning at the same time that leaving this issue unresolved will fuel violence and extremism in the region and negatively affect global security and stability.

The King reiterated the need to stop all recurrent Israeli violations against the Al-Aqsa mosque /Haram Al-Sharif, which escalate the conflict in the region. King Abdullah affirmed that protecting and preserving the Al-Aqsa Mosque /Haram Al-Sharif is a core responsibility under the Hashemite custodianship of Jerusalem’s holy shrines.

The King said that regional and global efforts to fight terrorism and extremism are the biggest challenges to the international community, adding that confronting terror groups is a top priority that requires boosting efforts and coordination between various parties that should be addressed within a holistic approach.

The meeting also touched upon the latest developments in Syria and international efforts to reach a comprehensive political solution that puts a stop to the cycle of death and violence and ends the suffering of the Syrian people.

He underlined burdens borne by the Kingdom as a result of hosting nearly 1.3 million Syrian refugees on its territory, highlighting challenges pertaining to providing the Syrian refugees with health, educational and infrastructure services.

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Contemporary dance competition kicks off

Astana, 26.02.2016 (kazakh-tv.kz)- The best dancers from 10 cities of Kazakhstan will compete in the art of modern dance. The Contemporary Choreography Competition ‘Choreo’ starts in Astana. According to the organizers, the prize fund will be half a million tenge. It will be shared by the winners in two categories – dance group and solo performer. Famous Russian dancers Vitaly Klimenko and Dasha Rolik will assess the skills of participants. They will also hold master classes for the contestants. Final competition will take place already this Sunday. The participants will present a spectacular dance show. Dina LEE, CONTEST ORGANIZER: This year we will have 7 teams and 20 solo dancers in total. Each year the number of participants has varied. The first year we had 40 solo performers. It is necessary to have choreographic skills to stage a spectacular show. Then one needs to submit music and composition of the team. There are also fees for participants; however, they are not so expensive. Photo: www.kazpravda.kz

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Kazakhstan, Egypt to expand cooperation

Astana, 26.02.2016 (kazakh-tv.kz) The Egyptian president pays official visit to Kazakhstan. The country has become the first in the list of the Central Asian states that Abdel Fattah El-Sisi plans to visit.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, President Of Kazakhstan, said: We are very glad that, in spite of the internal conflicts, bloodshed and revolution that took place in recent years, the Egyptian people united and expressed confidence in the new President. In a recent speech in the parliament, you set new goals and objectives that we are clear and close for us. Egypt is one of the largest states in the Middle East, and we want to continue our trustful dialogue on economic cooperation under the current conditions on the world market.

Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President Of Egypt, said: We appreciate the support provided by Kazakhstan in a difficult period for our country. And the purpose of my visit is to further strengthen the close ties between the two countries in all areas. There are perspectives for cooperation in the pharmaceutical, textile and agro-industry, tourism and space sector. Egyptian companies are already present on the Kazakh market. One of the financial groups owns a chain of fast food restaurants and coffee shops.”

Nursultan NAZARBAYEV, PRESIDENT OF KAZAKHSTAN: Many Kazakh professionals have worked in Egypt in the Soviet Union time and Egyptian students have always studied in our country. We need to revive this tradition. We are ready for mutually beneficial action in all areas of international cooperation. The most important thing is that Kazakhstan considers Egypt and its people close and fraternal. Kazakhstan is focusing on the grain market. Egypt is the world’s largest grain importer. The country is buying up to 8 million tons of grain per year, while Kazakhstan is in the top of the leading exporters. The Egyptian side offers to buy out or to build its grain terminal in the ports of Damietta and Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast, which would open opportunities for grain deliveries not only in Egypt but also in other African states. Egypt is seeking to expand ties further. Cairo is making efforts to join a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union. The launch of direct regular flights between the two countries by airline FlyEgypt is supposed to increase business and tourist contacts.

The representatives of Kazakhstan and the Arab Republic signed two important documents. They are agreement on the participation of Egypt in the International Exhibition EXPO-2017 and the charter of the Islamic Organization for Food Security. After this, the heads of both countries made a joint statement. Egypt is planning to cooperate with Kazakhstan in the agricultural sector. Arab Republic has also offered to supply pharmaceuticals in Kazakhstan. In turn, Nursultan Nazarbayev offered not to dwell only on the drugs trade, and build a joint pharmaceutical factory. The sides will jointly develop a large-scale investment projects and explore the space. Presidents of the two countries also discussed the development of nuclear energy. In addition, it was decided to actively develop the cultural relations between Kazakhstan and Egypt.

Nursultan NAZARBAYEV, PRESIDENT OF KAZAKHSTAN: Previously, Egyptian youth was studying in Kazakh universities. And our young people choose Al-Azhar University to get Islamic education. We are also interested in joining forces on the question of non-proliferation of Islamophobia, as well as terrorism and jihad. We will take joint measures to make this all happen.

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World’s first Cadet College for orphans being set up in Karachi

ISLAMABAD, Feb 26 (APP): World’s first Cadet College for orphan children would soon be established in Karachi, said Patron in Chief Pakistan Sweet Homes (PSH) Zamurrad Khan said Friday. Addressing a Book launching ceremony of Pakistan Sweet Homes ‘The Rising Pakistan Magazine’, he said the children of PSH will also be able to join Pakistan Army.

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Colorful Basant festival on Feb 26

ISLAMABAD, Feb 22 (APP): A colorful Basant Festival featuring various other entertaining activities will be organized here on February 26, at f-9 Park federal city. The Basant or `Kite festival’ is indeed a festival replete with hues and colors, in which people also choose to wear bright yellow and vibrant green colors to be a part of the colors of spring. Despite the fact that over a dozen people get injure while flying the kites but still hundreds of citizens enjoy the festival with all zest and energy.

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Alliance Francaise pays tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

ISLAMABAD Feb 21 (APP) The Alliance of Francaise d’Islamabad in collaboration with the Alliance Francaise d’Lahore Sunday arranged an evening to pay tribute to the legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan here on Sunday. The event was organised with the support of Embassy of France which started with the presentation of biography “The voice of Faith” by its author, the French musicologist Pierre Alain Daud, followed by a short documentary; short film and a Qawali performance.

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Govt determined to restore Karachi’s peace: PM

KARACHI, Feb 26 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Friday vowed to restore peace in Karachi and said the operation against miscreants would continue till its logical conclusion. He was addressing a gathering here after the groundbreaking ceremony of Rs 16 billion Green Line bus service. Prime Minister Sharif said the situation in Karachi had improved significantly and the days of kidnapping for ransom, target killing, acts of terrorism and street crimes were almost over.

He said that Karachi was the commercial and financial hub of the country and that its status as the ‘city of lights’ was being restored.

The bus project that cater to 300,000 passengers a day. Governor Sindh Dr. Ishratul Ibad, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Federal Information Minister Senator Pervez Rashid, provincial ministers and diplomats attended the event. The prime minister unveiled a plaque to launch the Green Line project that was approved by the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) at a rationalized cost of Rs.16,085 mln.

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Thousands change fortune thru cultivation of fruits

RANGPUR, Feb 26, 2016 (BSS) – Thousands of farmers and common people have changed fortune through commercial cultivation of high-priced and quick growing as well as local variety fruits in the northern region in recent years.

According to the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) and NGO sources, farming of fruits has been expanding fast mostly through private initiatives, integrated approaches and government assistance bringing a silent revolution in the rural economy.

More than 32,000 families including small and marginal farmers, poor and distressed people have achieved self-reliance so far by cultivating different high-priced and quick growing fruits in their cultivable lands, homesteads, fallow lands and other places.

The motivational activities, supports and latest technologies being provided by the DAE, other agri-departments and NGOs proved to be effective in achieving the success through expanded cultivation of fruits during the past seven years.

Horticulture Specialist of the DAE Khandker Md Mesbahul Islam said many families have achieved self-reliance through farming quick growing and cross-variety fruits like orange, grape, banana, ‘bau kul’, ‘apple kul’, ‘coconut kul’, papaya, lemon, strawberry, water melon, wax apple, ‘panifal’, ‘amloki’, guava and many other variety fruits.

According to the markets sources, the newly harvested ‘bau kul’, ‘apple kul’, ‘coconut kul’ and other varieties of the high-valued and quick growing fruits have appeared in the local markets with excellent price and the other varieties will appear soon.

Fruit growers Sattar Ali, Abdus Sabur, Kamrun Nahar, Kalipado Roy and Rezaul Karim said the common people are meeting nutritional demands through producing fruits around their homesteads as market price of fruits are going beyond their reach.

Talking to BSS, the fruits traders said the rich can buy fruits to meet demand of vitamins, minerals and nutrition while the poor have been producing those for the same purpose as well as earning excellent profit to change their fortune and lead better life.

Nursery owners Abdur Rahim, Kajol Hossain, Shafiqul Islam and Shachindra Nath said they are earning good profits by selling saplings of high- valued and quick growing fruits along with wood, medicinal and other tree saplings from their nurseries.

Agriculture and Environment Coordinator of RDRS Bangladesh Mamunur Rashid said the government continues providing assistance for expanding fruit farming that has already become a profitable venture changing lots of many people everywhere.

Regional Acting Additional Director of DAE SM Ashraf Ali also predicted brighter prospect for expanded cultivation of high-valued, quick-growing and traditional fruits in the homesteads in boosting rural economy under the ‘One House, One Farm’ programme.

He called upon the small, marginal farmers and common people for enhancing cultivation of the high- priced and quick-growing fruits in their orchards as well as homesteads to meet nutritional demand and earn extra money to change fortune.

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Birzeit University Students Win International Ripples of Happiness Contest

RAMALLAH, February 25, 2016 (WAFA) – A students team from Birzeit University was awarded first place in Ripples of Happiness Program, announced Thursday the University’s Public Relations Department.

The team was awarded the first place in Melody of Happiness, a university outreach program in its eighth edition that encourages community involvement. It is organized by National Beverage Company (Coca Cola\ Cappy) and Injaz Palestine and funded by the Coca Cola Foundation.

Melody of Happiness, the winning project, was rated first among those submitted by 22 universities in six different Arab countries. The project establishes a center for teaching music to children in Saffa village and surrounding villages. The winning team was awarded $10,000 to fund and scale up their project.

Palestine’s Polytechnic University team came in third place for its project, Autism Silent Energy, which raises the Palestinian community’s awareness about autism.

“Such initiatives encourage youth to engage socially and take the lead in social change in their communities through innovation,” Dean of Students Affairs Mohammad Al-Ahmad said.

“Today our students have shown success in responding to the local community’s needs and soon they will be able to play an active role and have a positive impact on the lives of those around them,” he added.

Birzeit University strongly believes in the importance of developing the culture of voluntarism among youth, Al-Ahmad said. “We see it as part of our mission to stimulate and develop this social awareness among students and push them to present and share their ideas with the community.”

Describing the project, One of the winning students, Afaf Shakarneh said: “We believe that there is no culture without music. That is why we chose the idea of building a music center in a remote area like Saffa. Music acts as a means of giving voice to people whoever and wherever they are, and we want to be those who give that tool to those who don’t have it.”

The Ripples of Happiness program is geared toward empowering youth and equipping them to become socially responsible members of their respective societies. The program instills a strong sense of entrepreneurship in the participants, and plants seeds of workplace readiness that continue to blossom even after the program has come to an end.

The Coca-Cola Foundation joins forces with INJAZ-Al-Arab to train university students in the art of identifying opportunities in their local communities and how to implement projects that will leave a positive impact as a strategy to encourage other members of society to follow their lead, thus creating a ‘ripple effect’ that will continue to spread from one generation to another.

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Azerbaijan opens tourism office in Moscow

Baku, February 25, AZERTAC – An official opening of Azerbaijan`s tourism office has been held in Moscow. The event was organized by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Ambassador Polad Bulbuloglu opened the ceremony. He invited Russian tourism operators to establish close ties with Azerbaijani colleagues. He said President Ilham Aliyev attaches great importance to the development of non-oil sector, adding that tourism industry is considered to be one of the priorities in this respect.

Senior official at Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism Vugar Shikhammadov pointed out that Russian tourists account for 30 percent of a total number of visitors coming to Azerbaijan.

Other speakers highlighted tourism opportunities of Azerbaijan, its lovely nature, comfortable hotels and beautiful cuisine.

The audience also received information about the forthcoming events, such as the Formula One 2016 Baku European Grand Prix and the 7th Baku Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

Azerbaijan’s Tourism Association, Azerbaijan Airlines and Russia’s Tourism Agencies Alliance, Association of Russian Tourism Operators and Ulyanovsk Tourism Industry Association signed memorandums on cooperation.

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Yeni Gallery Art Center to host “Art across the border” exhibition

Baku, February 25, AZERTAC – Yeni Gallery Art Center will host a solo exhibition named “Art across the border” by Sanaz Panahpour Darehshouri on March 3.

Sanaz Panahpour Darehshouri (SPD) is a second generation artist from a Turkish family, inheriting her artistic qualities from her Mother, she has an immense sense and feel for art in different formats. Under her mother’s guidance, SPD started working as an artist from the young age of 14 years and has developed her skills based on that tutelage and her experiences.

With a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic designing and a Master’s Degree in Theater Art, SPD has a broad working area that includes several styles of painting including the now rare art of Pointillism. SPD’s interest in painting and sincerity towards her artistic side can be seen easily in her work; often working with bold strokes of colors makes her paintings more expressive and appealing.

Sanaz Panahpour Darehshouri has participated in several International art exhibitions, including Iran, India and Dubai and has grown and earned her artistic reputation through dedication and hard work.

Her interest in expanding the art on a global level leads her to participate and organize art exhibition in different countries. This time she comes to the art rich Azerbaijan to display her master pieces in front of the art lovers in the city of Baku.

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Vatican Radio: Heydar Aliyev Foundation funds restoration of catacombs

Moscow, February 25, AZERTAC – Vatican Radio website has published an article headlined “Heydar Aliyev Foundation funds restoration of catacombs”.

The article reads: “On Tuesday morning, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, along with Mehriban Aliyeva, president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation (HAF), Azerbaijan, presented the results of the restoration of the Roman catacombs of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter “ad duas lauros”, entirely funded by the HAF.

On the basis of an agreement signed in 2012, the Foundation has funded the restoration of the paintings of the cubicle of Susanna and the fossor, the niche of Daniel, the arcosolium of Orpheus, the cubicle of Our Lady with two Magi, and the cubicle of the praying matron. The most advanced conservation techniques, especially laser-based cleaning, have enabled the removal of a tenacious black patina that had provided resistant to all traditional cleaning methods. The last procedure, recently completed, involved the cubicle of the “praying matron”, in an advanced state of deterioration.

The newly-revealed frescoes consist of a central medallion with the Good Shepherd surrounded by the Biblical episodes of Jonah, Daniel among the lions and Noah in the Ark. In the corners there are praying male figures and birds. On the walls there is a rich decorative pattern with floral, plant-based and fantasy elements. On the wall of the entrance there is the notable figure of a praying woman, which although only just recognisable before restoration, now makes a strong visual impact. The figure, framed by two slender trees, may represent the deceased entombed in the cubicle.

During the presentation, which took place at the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Ravasi and the president of the HAF announced that their collaboration will continue and its next objective will be the restoration of the monumental complex of St. Sebastian Outside-the-Walls on the Via Appia Antica, currently only partially open to the public. The agreement relates to an extraordinary collection of sarcophagi, some situation in the perimeter of the Basilica of St. Sebastian (Museum of Sculptures and Epigraphic Museum), others “in situ” in their mausoleums. The Pontifical Commission for Religious Art has proposed to the HAF a conservation programme for the restoration of around fifteen sarcophagi. Aliyeva expressed her appreciation of the proposal on behalf of the Foundation, and a new agreement will be signed for the financing of the restoration works to render the complex accessible to the public.”

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Algerian Archaeological sites to be classified before rehabilitation

EL-BAYADH (Algeria), 26 February 2016 – The archaeological sites in the province of El-Bayadh (532km southwest of Algiers) will be classified in the coming days, before their rehabilitation, said the local directorate of Culture.

In a first stage, the operation will concern the old ksour (castles) of the communes of Boussemghoune and Chellala, Ksar Bent El-Khess in the town of Brezina and the mausoleum of Sidi Abdelkader Ben M’hamed known as Labiodh Sidi Cheikh Mausoleum.

The land on which was built a former Catholic Church in the commune of Labiodh Sidi Cheikh will also be recovered, said culture director at the prefecture, Abdelmajid Allouchi.

The classification process is due to start in March for sites dating back to the 17th century.

Culture sector counts only two sites classified in the Tangible Heritage List, namely the rock carvings of Kebch Boualem in the commune of Bouâlem, and the rock drawings of “Hadjeret El-Merdoufa”, in the commune of El-Ghassoul, added Allouchi.

The ritual of Rakb (celebration) of Labiodh Sidi Cheikh was inscribed on UNESCO intangible heritage list in 2013.

The archaeological heritage of El Bayadh contains some 24 important rock drawings, in addition to several sites containing dinosaur footprints, reported the director of Culture, stressing the expected role of local authorities in the preservation of these sites.

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Over 4 billion m3 of water stored in dams countrywide

ALGIERS, 26 February 2016, – 4.62 billion cubic meters of water are stored in the 65 exploited dams of the country, representing an overall filling rate of 67.56%, Water Resource and Environment Ministry told APS.

The latest rainfalls in several provinces added nearly 8 billion cubic meters of water, including 60% in the eastern regions.

Concerning the water situation per region, the same source said that the central region which includes 12 dams receives 1.4 million m3, rising the volume to over 1.04 billion m3, i.e. a filling rate of 64.42%.

In the western region of Cheliff (west) which received 760,000 m3, the volume in its 17 dams is of 898.42 m3, a filling rate of 52.56%.

With 13 dams, the country’s western region recorded inflows of around 569,000 m3, bringing the volume mobilized to 667.23 million m3 and the filling rate to 65.92%.

The eastern region, as for it, had an inflow of over 5.2 million m3, rising the storage volume in the 23 dams to over 2 billion m3 and subsequently the filling rate to 80.10%.

The filling rate of the operational dams is expected to rise due to the melting snow which will further strengthen these volumes in the coming days, the same source added.

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First International Dental Show Opens In Algiers

ALGIERS, 26 February 2016 – Minister of Health, Population and Hospital Reform Abdelmalek Boudiaf inaugurated Thursday in Algiers the 1st international dental show to be held in Algeria, with the participation of about thirty national exhibitors, out of a total of 41.

The three-day event, held at the Hilton Hotel in Algiers, is an opportunity for the exhibitors to shed light on their services and equipment meant to those working in the field, like dentists, prosthodontist and laboratory technicians.

The minister told reporters he wishes that young Algerians invest in production, deploring that those working in the dental field are only interested in assembly.

The show, the first of its kind in Algeria, is organized by Easyfairs Northeral Company, whose manager, Oivier-Hicham Allard, said his ambition is to make of the event a platform for exchanges and meeting place for dental professionals.

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Emirates Group hosts conference on best recruitment practices through technology

DUBAI, 25th February, 2016 (WAM) — Emirates Group recruitment today hosted its first conference dealing with best recruitment practices through technology and social sourcing.

The conference, driven by Emirates Group and supported by LinkedIn, focused on the use of social media for sourcing and recruiting, and aimed to address the challenges posed in identifying the right talent that meets the changing needs of today’s business environment, as well as the technology required to support this. The role of integrated social sourcing strategies to drive talent acquisition going forward was also discussed.

Amira Al Awadhi, Vice President of National Recruitment and Development for Emirates Group, said: “With the tremendous growth of a number of industries in the MENA region, utilising socially and technologically led recruitment strategies are essential to attracting both active and passive talent. Today’s conference was a great platform to come together and discuss our experiences as a group and to learn from other companies. Our aim is to continue to move forward and innovate in the business of talent acquisition, because our people are what give us an added edge in today’s competitive business environment.”

Talent acquisition professionals from over 40 companies based in the region, hailing from industries like automotive, hospitality, banking, FMCG and technology, attended the one-day event.

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Emirates extends network to Yangon and Hanoi

DUBAI, 25th February, 2016 (WAM)–Emirates will launch a daily service from Dubai to Yangon (RGN) in Myanmar and Hanoi (HAN) in Vietnam, starting August 3, 2016.

Utilising a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in a three-class configuration, this new route will strengthen Emirates’ network of destinations in Southeast Asia, offer a new flight option to passengers travelling between Hanoi and Yangon, and open up new connections for Myanmar and Vietnamese travellers to access Emirates’ global network.

This new service will expand the airline’s network in Southeast Asia to 12 cities (including Cebu and Clark in the Philippines which start on March 30, 2016) in seven countries when it comes online in August.

Yangon is Myanmar’s commercial capital and largest city with a population of 7.2 million. Since the opening up of tourism in the country, Myanmar has continued to witness an increase in foreign tourist arrivals, in particular attracting those interested in eco-tourism or the country’s many historical temples. With its religious and ancient sites, natural trails and picturesque beaches, Yangon welcomed 1.1 million tourists in 2014, an increase of 25 percent compared to the previous year. As the country’s main hub for trade, industry, real estate and entertainment, Yangon contributes approximately one fifth to the country’s GDP.

Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, is located in the Northern region of Vietnam, and as second largest city in the country, has a population of 7 million. Hanoi’s economy has grown from strength to strength since the 1990’s, and this is evident by the number of industrial parks and clusters across the city. Renowned for being a cultural hub, the city has a number of historic attractions, as well as UNESCO world heritage sites like Ha Long Bay.

Hanoi will be Emirates’ second passenger destination within Vietnam, complementing Emirates’ existing service to Ho Chi Minh City which was launched in 2012 and a cargo-only service to Hanoi in 2013.

With the daily service to Yangon and Hanoi, Emirates, in cooperation with its regional codeshare partners such as Bangkok Airways and Jetstar – now serves the major capitals and tourist attractions in Southeast Asia, providing the opportunity for tourists in these markets to build travel itineraries covering multiple cities in these destinations.

“With the opening of this service, Emirates will enhance its Southeast Asia offering and offer more choices for travellers in Myanmar and Vietnam to conveniently connect to 39 cities in Europe, 16 in the Middle East as well as a number of destinations across our extensive network in Africa and the Americas,” said Adnan Kazim, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning, Revenue Optimisation & Aeropolitical Affairs.

“Emirates’ first air service to Myanmar supports the country’s Tourism Master Plan to target 7.5 million tourist arrivals by 2020 and for Hanoi, the service will provide additional options for Vietnamese to travel to Dubai and Emirates’ global network of destinations, while also making it easier for overseas Vietnamese and the growing number of tourists to travel to Vietnam,” he added.

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Sultan bin Zayed attends Arab Breeders Cup finals

AL KHATAM, 26th February 2016 (WAM) – Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President’s Representative attended today the final race meeting of the Arab Breeders Cup Championship, which was organised by the Emirates Heritage Club at the Grand Equestrian Hall in Al Khatam.

The championship was held as part of the 10th Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan International Equsetrian Festival.

The final meeting saw different races contested by Arabian horses. It was followed by a dressage contest for Arabian colts, fillies, mares and stallions.

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1,300 Palestinian students benefit from Education For All campaign

RAMALLAH, 20th February, 2016 (WAM) — Human Appeal International, HAI, has completed the implementation of the second phase of ‘Education for All’ campaign in the Governorates of West Bank and East Jerusalem, as part of its efforts to support Palestinian schools.

Ibrahim Rashid, Commissioner of HAI in the West Bank said HAI begun implementation of the second phase last Ramadan and until now 1300 students have benefited from the campaign.

He also confirmed the UAE leadership’s support to the Palestinian people in various fields, adding that second phase of the campaign was carried out in cooperation with associations and societal committees in the West Bank, and the distribution included school bags and other basic life necessities for the orphans and needy students whose families are witnessing dire economic conditions.

He reiterated that HAI is implementing ‘Education for All’ campaign as part of series of its programmes and initiatives aimed at supporting education sector in Palestine.

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Lecture sheds light on Brunei’s history and blessings

Brunei, Borneo Bulletin, February 26, 2016 – ALL generations of Bruneians must be thankful to Allah the Almighty and must not forget that the Sultanate has survived many challenges in its history towards achieving independence in 1984, said the Minister of Religious Affairs Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Othman, in his premier lecture titled ‘Allah Selamatkan Brunei Darussalam’.

Also present at the lecture, held at the 32nd National Day gathering of the Ministry of Religious Affairs at the International Convention Centre in Berakas yesterday, was the Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, Dato Paduka Awang Haji Abdul Mokti bin Haji Mohd Daud.

According to the minister, our beloved nation overcame at least three important challenges in its history such as surviving the Spanish conquest in 1578; surviving British colonisation in 1946 and remaining as a country with sovereignty and democracy based on the teachings of Islam according to Ahli Sunnah Wal-Jama’ah, fairness, trust and freedom.

The minister also explained the significance of the formal prayer ‘Doa Peliharakan Sultan dan Brunei Darussalam’ and the lyrics of the national anthem ‘Allah Peliharakan Sultan’ in the hopes that the official prayers have the effect of creating and maintaining the Sultanate’s prosperity with fair governance and loyalty, where the ruler and the people are united in solidarity.

The minister added that the formal prayer plays the same role to impress the robustness of Brunei as a monarchy and is appropriate for such to be recited in mosques, suraus and in any events either formal or non-formal. Similarly, the national anthem also needs to be sung properly, especially in schools, saying that with this we can remember Allah the Almighty, the government and the people.

This is a nation that does not forget Allah the Almighty and is timely that the Sultanate is aiming to be a Zikir Nation.

Earlier, the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Haji Harun bin Haji Junid, as the Deputy Joint Chairman of the gathering in his welcoming remarks said that the aim of the event was to stimulate the spirit of improving the quality of services in the field of religion to strengthen unity among the people in upholding the leadership of the king, the monarchy and his wish to create a Zikir Nation which supports Islamic teachings.

The event was also held to foster closer ties amongst the workforce of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and in glorifying the National Day celebration.

About 2,000 personnel of the Ministry of Religious Affairs participated in the gathering and heard the premier talk with high hopes that it can boost the morale of all staff of the ministry and to instil patriotism in our beloved country to achieve the goals as a Zikir Nation and ‘Baldatun Thoyyibatun wa rabbun ghafur’ (a state of prosperity, safe, tranquil and full of Allah the Almighty’s forgiveness).

The gathering was also highlighted with the singing of the national anthem of Brunei Darussalam, recitation of Ratib Al-Attas, followed by the Doa Peliharakan Sultan dan Brunei Darussalam.

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Simultaneous Khatam Al-Quran ceremonies held in all four districts

Brunei, Borneo Bulletin, February 26, 2016 – The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) organised simultaneous Khatam Al-Quran ceremonies across the country yesterday, as part of Brunei’s 32nd National Day celebrations.

In Brunei-Muara District, the Khatam Al-Quran ceremony was conducted at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Mosque, in Kampong Rimba.

The guest of honour at the event was Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports.

Among the 1,196 participants were youths from the Institute of Higher Education, Institute of Brunei Technical Education, Brunei National Service Programme, the Youth Development Centre, the Mosque Youth Committee and the National Youth Musabaqah Tilawah Al-Quran.

The ceremony began with a mass recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah led by the guest of honour, which was followed with Al-Quran readings by students from the Institut Tahfiz Al-Quran Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (ITQSHHB).

It then continued with a reading of the Takhtim Al-Quran, by the students of Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA).

The Doa Khatam was recited by Muhd Assraffi bin Haji Ibrahim, a student from ITQSHHB, while PKBN trainees led recitations of the Dikir Marhaban.

The ceremony concluded with the recitation of ‘Doa Allah Peliharakan Sultan’, by Mohammad bin Bagol, the Mosque Affairs Officer.

The event hoped to encourage the participation of youths in religious activities and to enliven the spirit of the National Day celebration by holding beneficial activities especially the recitation of the Al-Quran in line with the aspiration of Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in creating a ‘Zikir Nation’.

The event was one of the projects organised by the members of the National Day Celebration Supreme Committee and was coordinated by the Department of Youth and Sports under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. This year is the third consecutive year the event was held.

Also in attendance during yesterday’s ceremony were Dato Paduka Dr Haji Affendy bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin, the Permanent Secretary at the MCYS; and Haji Mohd Noor Jusmin bin Haji Abdul Samad, the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the MCYS.

In the Belait District, the event was held at the Muhammad Jamalul Alam Mosque, involving 120 participants. Present as the guest of honour was Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Bahrom bin Pengiran Haji Bahar, Deputy Minister of Education. Also present were Dr Haji Junaidi bin Haji Abdul Rahman, Permanent Secretary (Higher Education) at the Ministry of Education and Dr Haji Azman bin Ahmad, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Higher Education) at the Ministry of Education.

In the Temburong District, 130 participants took part and held at RPN Kampong Rataie Mosque.

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Malaysian PM launches Sabah, Sarawak biomass plan

PUTRAJAYA (Bernama), February 26, 2016 – Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday launched the Sabah and Sarawak Biomass Industry Development Plan, which he described as a major milestone in Malaysia’s bid to become South East Asia’s premier biomass processing hub.

“In order to be a contender as the premier biomass processing hub in South East Asia, Sabah and Sarawak would have to play an instrumental role,” he said, pointing out that combined, the two states account for more than 50 per cent of biomass resources in Malaysia.

“If we could convert these biomass resources to higher value products such as biofuels and biochemicals, it can create a pathway for further downstream processing into products such as bioplastics,” he said at the launch of the plan here.

Also present were International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mah Siew Keong, Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah representing Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, and Assistant Minister in the Sarawak Chief Minister’s Office Datuk Len Talif Salleh representing Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said the state-level biomass development plans are the fruits of close collaboration between the federal and state governments in formulating specific biomass opportunities that are unique to individual states.

“Both state governments are adopting a progressive vision and taking concrete measures to maximise their biomass potential, so that industry can co-develop a competitive regional biomass value chain and eco-system,” he said.

Najib said the Sabah and Sarawak state governments and Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) would establish a local task force to implement their respective biomass action plan.

Under the plan, he said, Sabah could create RM3.2 billion in additional Gross National Income (GNI), RM13.5 billion in new investment opportunities and 25,000 new jobs leveraging on the 4.8 million dry tonnes of its biomass feedstock from the oil palm sector.

Biomass development in Sabah would focus on three main clusters namely Lahad Datu, Sandakan and Tawau, he said.

For Sarawak, he said, the biomass industry development could generate an additional RM4.8 billion in GNI, create 30,000 new jobs and RM18 billion in investment opportunities for the state throughout the value chain, utilising around six million dry tonnes of its biomass resources.

The key biomass clusters in Sarawak would be Bintulu, Miri, Tanjung Manis and Kuching, he said.

Najib said the development of the biomass industry could help the country reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and increase its ability to weather global economic uncertainties while contributing positively towards Malaysia’s march to become a high-income nation by 2020.

He said Malaysia’s biomass sector had added nearly 7,000 jobs through new ventures since 2010.

“The sector can add a significant number of new high value jobs when some of the biofuel and biochemical projects start commercial-scale production in the next three years,” he said.

Since 2011, Najib said, Malaysia has made notable leaps in attractiveness as one of the region’s preferred biomass investment locations.

He cited a recent independent benchmarking study conducted on global biomass economies, which ranked Malaysia number one in the South East Asia region due to vast improvements in infrastructure and strong holistic government support for the biomass industry from 2010 to 2015.

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Jakarta to host 5th Extraordinary OIC Summit on Palestine

The Government of the Republic of Indonesia will be hosting the 5th Extraordinary Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit on Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif in Jakarta on 7 March 2016, in response to the request of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine.

The Summit will be preceded by Senior Officials’ and Ministerial Preparatory Meetings on 6 March 2016.

Convened under the theme “United for a Just Solution”, the Summit is a response to the urgent and persistent worrying situation in Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif, which affects not only the Palestinian people, but also the world’s Islamic Ummah.

The Summit will explore breakthrough approaches and strategy to counter the continuous illegal occupation and apartheid policies by the Israeli government, as well as to advance the peace process and to resolve the situation in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

The Summit is expected to come forward with a Resolution, which will reaffirm the principled positions of the OIC Member States on the issues of Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif, and a Jakarta Declaration, which will present commitments of the Leaders of the OIC Member States to pursue concrete steps in support of Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

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Turkish Jewish Museum reopens after upgrade

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency, February/27/2016 – The Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews has opened at Istanbul’s Neve Şalom Synagogue with updated content that makes the most of state-of-the-art technology.

“You will see in the museum our cultural features from Spain or northern Europe. We tried to show in our museum that we were useful citizens,” Moris Levi, the museum’s president, said at a press conference at the museum on Feb. 25.

“We, the Sephardic Jews, do not need lavish structures in which to pray. A small, modest venue for 10 Jews is enough for us. However, Turkish Jews did their best to build the two biggest synagogues in this region, in Edirne and Neve Şalom, in 30-40 years. Why did they do it? Because they continued seeing their future on this land despite everything. Like our fathers and grandfathers told us for generations, they believed this land was the country of miracles. They thought they would be unhappy in another place,” said Levi.

As the grandchildren of the Prophet Abraham, Jews have lived on this land for 2,300 years, Levi said.

“The Quincentennial Foundation accepts 1492, as its beginning. It is the date when the Sephardic Jews were dismissed from Spain. Sultan Beyazıd II, who sent their vessels and brought our ancestors to this land, showed a human duty ahead of his time. On the other hand, he thought that Jews would be very useful here,” he said.

Levi said a big state could be formed with armies, but working and producing people such as artists, artisans, intellectuals, teachers and doctors were needed for the continuation of the state.

“It is rumored that Sultan Bayezid II, referring to the Spanish king, said: ‘How can you define this emperor as smart and wise? He makes his country poor while making mine rich.’ Our ancestors worked hard to become useful for the country they lived,” he said, adding that the museum was first open in 2001 at the Zifaris Synagogue in the Karaköy neighborhood.

Neve Şalom itself was completed in 1951.

Museum director and coordinator Nisya İşman Allovi said the museum had three sections, with the first providing history.

“You can see that the first Jewish settlement started in the fourth century B.C. on this Anatolian land. Then you can see the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews moved here,” Allovi said.

Stating that the collection included very interesting pieces, she said: “We have a work called Midraş Teilim from 1512. It is one of the most important works for us.”

Allovi said various events would be held in the near future and that prominent Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı would be in the museum on March 9 for the promotion of his new book.

The museum, which displays the history and culture of Turkish Jews and their contributions to social and state life, makes use of the latest technology.

Various objects used in religious rituals can be seen in the museum, while visitors can listen to Jewish music in the museum on Thursdays.

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Turkish Tourism industry calls for campaign to find new markets

ISTANBUL, February/26/2016 – Leading tourism players have called for the launch of a widespread promotional campaign to find new markets in a bid to overcome the recent losses at a meeting that was held by daily Hürriyet.

Senior representatives from the Turkish Hoteliers’ Federation (TÜROFED) and the Association of Mediterranean Tourism and Hoteliers of Turkey (AKTOB) discussed what to do to recover from the losses in the sector with veteran journalists and senior advertising executives from Hürriyet, including Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin, Hürriyet Daily News Editor-in-Chief Murat Yetkin and Hürriyet ‎Advertising Director and executive board member Zeynep Tandoğan.

“We need to be present anywhere which has the potential to be a source of tourists for Turkey to overcome the existing losses,” said TÜROFED President Osman Ayık.

“We need to tell what our country is like and why tourists will not face any security threats in Turkey,” he said.

Noting that 80 percent of foreigners visit Turkey for travel reasons, Ayık added: “They visit Turkey to have fun. Turkey has something very valuable and we need to promote this in a clear way. We need to underline that there is no problem through active promotional campaigns.”

According to Ayık, Turkey needs to seek and find new markets.

“There are various places that have great potential to send many more tourists to Turkey, such as China, India and Africa. We need to reflect on and plan how we can attract more tourists from where. We can do this only through launching more promotional activities. Here, we need to benefit from the worldwide good reputation of the daily Hürriyet. We can only be successful if we can cooperate with a strong brand like Hürriyet,” he said.

Ayık said Germany was the largest source of foreign tourists for Turkey last year, sending more than 6 million tourists.

“Even this is not enough as we know there is higher potential there. We can lure 12 million tourists from Germany and we can do this by reaching more young people there,” he said.

AKTOB President Yusuf Hacısüleyman said the tourism sector was one of the industries that have the highest added value with around $35 billion in annual revenue.

“We need to start promotional campaigns not only abroad, but also within Turkey so as to emphasize our values … We must change our perception especially among European tourists,” he said.

The sector has recently been battered amid a sharp decrease in the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey and escalating security concerns.

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Afghan Poet’s English Translation Unveiled

Kabul (BNA), February 23, 2016 – In a ceremony held yesterday at Ministry of Information and Culture press hall for reviewing English translation of Ghani Khan’s poems, participants discussed Ghani Khan’s poems, personality and translated collection. Ghani Khan’s 141 poems translated to English by Imtiaz Ahmad Sahibzada and was published in 450-page-book by Agha Khan Foundation.

In the ceremony, Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Bari Jahani called Ghani Khan as an extraordinary poet of Pashto language and literature, regarding translation of his poems to English as significant for both languages and art of Ghani Khan. In the ceremony, poet and writer academician Sulaiman Layeq, advisor to President on cultural affairs Asadullah Ghazanfar, minister of borders and tribal affairs Mohammad Gulab Mangal and the ministry’s deputy Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, Ustad Najib Manali and Ustad Habibullah Rafi spoke related to Ghani Khan’s poems, personality and published collection.

Speakers in the ceremony focused on poetry of Ghani Khan through various dimensions, stressing that such effort should be made in regarded with Ghani Khan’s remained poems and other poems of Pashto language. Ghani Khan’s grandson attending the ceremony praised MoIC and considered the ceremony as an honor for his grandfather and Imtiaz Ahmad Sahibzada.

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Minister Jahani Praises Samar International Institute

Kabul (BNA), February 24, 2016 – Minister of Information and Culture, Abdul Bari Jahani praised Samar International Institute for its efforts in redevelopment of the Afghan languages here yesterday, BNA reported.

The leading body of the Samar International Institute briefed the minister about its activities in Afghanistan and provides details about the Pashto and Dari languages’ translation into English, according to the agency. Director of the agency, David Shivor, also apprised the minister about the institute’s research on Pashtu and Dari languages and translated books from the said languages into English. As example, the official said that a folklore book of “Millie Handara” written by Mohammad Gul Noori had been translated by American linguist David Path to English. The official also presented the outcome of Samar institute’s six years research to the minister and vowed to translate it into Dari and Pashtu in its earliest.

Minister Jahani, however, thanked the agency for its research on languages in Afghanistan and also assured his ministry’s support to the agency.

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Afghanistan Muaythai Team Get Second Positions

February 25, 2016, Kabul (BNA) Afghanistan National Muaythai team with achieving 11 gold medals, 6 silver medals and 6 bronze medals won the second positions of 2016 Open Asian Pahuyuth championships.

2016 Open Asian Pahuyuth championships with participation of Afghanistan, Iran, Australia, Iraq, Greece, Tajikistan, Russia, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Germany, Taiwan, Lebanon, Jordon, and Thailand had been held in Kish Island-Iran from February 19-23.

According to publication directorate of physical education and sport department to BNA, Afghan National Muaythai team with 27 athletes including six girls, two trainers, three panels and two coaches participated in the competitions.

Sardar Hussain Afzali, Ali Sena Razwani, Saleem Mobarez, Mohammad Yusuf Jahanger, Aziz Qurishi, Jawad Ghuljayee, Zenab Tajik, and Sajad Mohammadi could won gold medals and Malek Stankezai, Farhad Karimi, Masoma Mohammadi, Gohar Mohammadi, Fatema Nawrozay, Zahra Khashee and Razya Sadat Hashimi could gained bronze medals from the championships

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Afghanistan Need To Change Sport Into National Culture, Massoud

Kabul (BNA), February 24, 2016 – President’s Special Envoy on Reforms and Good Governance, Ahmad Zia Massoud in a ceremony yesterday encouraged and praised the medal winners of the country, adding that the Afghan athletes have raised the name of Afghanistan in the region and the world, BNA reported.

During the ceremony, Massoud asserted that sport can introduce new values to the people and can play a significant role as a factor of harmony among the Afghan tribal groups, the reported further said. Expressing gratitude on the Afghan athletes indefatigable efforts, Massoud further said, ‘Sport is an essential need of youth, particularly, to students and university students as well as the Afghan security forces and to further grow it up, the National Olympic Committee and sport department should comprehensively step up in this regard to change the sport into a public and national culture in the country.’

Massoud promised to spare no efforts in further helping the athletes and medal winners of the country; he added that necessary programs were made to encourage them.

Head of National Olympic Committee, Mohammad Zahir Aghbar and a number of trainers and athletes of the country were attended the ceremony.

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Tunisia: Club Med back to Djerba

AfricanManager – Feb 26, 2016 – French resort group Club Med announced Wednesday, February 24, 2016, it will return to Tunisia in the next tourist season.

The chains will be again ready to welcome tourists from the month of June, the group said.

For Egypt, the group does not plan to return because of invisibility.

It should be recalled in this connection that Club Med Djerba, which put the key under the door last November, has already declared its official reopening in June 2016.

Consequence of this decision explained by “conditions prevailing,” was that Club Med Djerba had not hosted clients for the year-end holiday season, for the first time.

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Tunisia: European Parliament backs more duty-free olive oil imports

AfricanManager – Feb 26, 2016 – To help strengthen Tunisia’s economy, hit not least by 2015 terrorist attacks, MEPs backed emergency plans to allow an additional 70,000 tons of its virgin olive oil to be imported duty free in the EU, in 2016/17.

However, MEPs also inserted requirements for the EU Commission to do a mid-term assessment of the effects of the measures, update them if it turns out that they harm EU olive oil producers, and ensure that the imports are tracked from start to finish.

The emergency quota was approved by 475 votes to 126, with 35 abstentions.

MEPs backed the proposed two-year temporary zero-duty tariff quota of 35,000 tons per year (70,000 tons in total) for EU olive oil imports from Tunisia, available for 2016 and 2017.

This will not increase the overall volume of imports from Tunisia (the EU will discount duties on the olive oil that Tunisia is already exporting to the EU).

To address the concerns of EU olive oil producers, MEPs inserted additional safeguards, such as a mid-term assessment and updating the measures if it turns out that they harm EU olive oil producers, a “tracking clause” obligation to ensure that all olive oil under the quota is obtained entirely in, and transported directly from, Tunisia.

They also rejected the possibility of “contemplating” the extension of the emergency measure beyond the initial two years.

In a separate resolution, approved by 479 votes to 123, with 31 abstentions, MEPs welcome the free trade talks with Tunisia launched in October last year, and draw attention to economic difficulties faced by Tunisia, after terrorist attacks which led to the collapse of tourism in 2015. They advocate a “progressive and asymmetrical” agreement to “contribute to the stability of Tunisia, to the consolidation of its democracy and to the reinvigoration of its economy”.

Regarding the emergency quotas, the text was sent back to the EP Trade committee to start trilogue negotiations with the Council on the final text.

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Tunisia hosts 2nd National Innovation Competition

AfricanManager – Feb 25, 2016 – The Agency for the Promotion of Industry and Innovation (APII) is organizing under the aegis of the Ministry of Industry, in partnership with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and in collaboration with Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), the second edition of the National Innovation Competition (2016), said a statement.

The innovation competition concerns the industrial and industry-related service providers, academic institutions, research centers, laboratories and units (public or private), startup, young entrepreneurs and independent innovators.

Promoting the competition will be primarily through innovation caravan in the form of a bus that will tour 24 governorates.

The tour will start on February 24, 2016, with the organization of a day to promote the competition, sensitize businesses, developers and young people in the innovation concept and encourage them to mainstream the innovation approach to increase their competitiveness.

Applications for participation in the National Innovation Competition are available online on the site www.concoursinnovation.tn until April 8, 2016.

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Tunisians press for lifting FCO’s travel ban

AfricanManager – Feb 19, 2016 For having lasted more than necessary, the Foreign Office’s travel alert advising Britons not to go to Tunisia only adds to the bitterness of the Tunisian authorities, which having long watched with frustration, seem determined to take action and even go on the offensive, diplomatically and on the ground.

Minister of Tourism Salma Elloumi Rekik, flanked by her colleagues in Foreign Affairs and the Interior, met on Thursday, February 18, 2016, the European ambassadors, to expose to them all the efforts exerted by Tunisia in terms of hotel security and services, as well as preparations to ensure the success of the next tourist season. The Tourism Minister appealed for the sense of European solidarity with the democratic experience in Tunisia.

On site in the United Kingdom, where the ban on British tourists is still maintained in the state, officials of the Tunisia’s National Tourist Office (TNTO) struggle to obtain the lifting of the warning, while two giants of the travel industry, Thomas Cook and TUI, have canceled all their summer programs in Tunisia.

“It’s a pity.” It is in these terms that Tarek Aouadi, Director of TNTO Office in Britain labelled the UK government’s decision. This description that can only be an understatement said, for its part, “Tavel Trade Gazette” (TTG), UK’s leading publication for the travel and tourism industry in an interview granted to it by the Tunisian official.

Prior to June’s attack, he revealed that the UK was on course to become Tunisia’s largest market, looking set to surpass both Germany and its number one market, France.

He recalled that 2010 had marked a “boom year” for tourism, but since the revolution in 2011, German and French tourist numbers had dropped. Brits however, had been undeterred. 425,000 UK  holidaymakers visited the country in 2014, turning it into a record year for that corner of the market. “The UK market was getting closer and closer to the French and German markets,” he told TTG.

“It was on its way to overtaking the German market. It would have reached the same figures as the French market in about two or three years.” Predictably though, that growth took a dive following the incident in Sousse.

Although the terrorist attack occurred in June – halfway through the year – it affected the industry to such an extent that only 207,000 Brits travelled to the country in 2015, a fall of 51%.

The decline is set to be further reinforced by the latest decisions of Tui and Thomas Cook, with 90% of all British visits to Tunisia booked with the big two.

“Obviously we understand the reason, but it’s like our hands are tied. We are powerless in front of the authorities,” Aouadi said. “It’s really a pity, although we don’t underestimate the (reasons for it). The whole industry has been put on hold.” The news is even more of a blow, because figures show that despite the terrorism concerns, Brits still were still keen to travel to the North African country this year.

He said until the big two cancelled their programs, some 17,750 Brits had booked to visit the country for summer 2016. He speculates that this number would have jumped to 40,000 by April 2016 if bookings were still available, and believes the record numbers of 2014 could have been reached within four to five years.

“(UK) people are telling me ‘we will go back as soon as the issues are over’,” he added. The problem of course lies in the UK government’s decision not to amend its advice – without this, it is almost impossible for British holidaymakers to secure travel insurance, meaning no UK travel firm can feasibly offer a programme to the country. In contrast, France, Germany and Italy are all still continuing to travel to Tunisia.

The country is working hard to boost its security and convince the UK to lift its ban. Special emphasis has been placed on beefing up security in hotels, but restaurants have also been a focus. Added precautions include extra training for staff, more CCTV cameras and metal detectors.

Tunisia has also completed the first stage of a 125-mile barrier – comprising water-filled trenches and sand banks – along its border with Libya, to prevent the movement of militants. Last week Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, inspected hotels in Sousse.

He insisted Tunisia had taken “all necessary preventative security measures to ensure holidays could be taken safely”. He also called on international authorities to visit the country “as soon as possible and inspect the security situation”. Deputy Director of the TNTO, Mounira Derbel, said she had expected the FCO’s recommendation to be lifted late last year.

Now, the office predicts March or April – “the Tunisian government is working in close collaboration with the UK agency for setting up a security plan,” she said. Sadly, this will be too late for the big two. Understandably Tunisia’s 2016 UK advertising campaign has also been placed on hold.

“Since we have this ban we can’t advertise the destination (to consumers) but we are redefining our market strategy approach,” Derbel insisted. “We have to keep optimistic,” she added. “We can’t give up because if we do, we let the terrorists win and we are not ready to give them that opportunity.

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Knowledge and Innovation Fair and Forum 2016 launched at IDB

Jeddah, 16 February 2016 – The President of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group, Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, inaugurated the Knowledge and Innovation Fair and Forum (KIFF) 2016 at the Bank’s headquarters in Jeddah on 15 February.

Heads of diplomatic missions in Jeddah, representatives of international organizations, members of the IDB Board of Executive Directors, academics and scholars, and journalists and media representatives are attending the two-day event.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr. Ali said that the event is in line with IDB Group’s emphasis on innovation and creativity as a way to support development. “In KIFF 2016, 14 different forums will be discussing development issues to which the IDB Group attaches high significance,” he said. “This event covers various aspects of creativity as well as regional and global knowledge sharing.”

The 32 booths in KIFF 2016 showcase a number of innovative IDB Group-financed projects underway in the Bank’s member countries, as well as a number of scientific activities in which IDB Group staff are involved.

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Islamic Development Bank approves more than US $734 million for new projects

Jeddah, 17 February 2016 – The Board of Executive Directors of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has approved US $734.7 million in financing for development projects in member countries and Muslim communities in non-member countries.

The projects were approved during IDB’s 310th Board meeting which wrapped up work on Tuesday 16 February, 2016, chaired by IDB President Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali.

The approvals include:

  • US $319.7 million for contribution to upgrading a national slum in Indonesia
  • US $220 million for contribution to the 400 megawatt Ashuganj (East) power plant efficiency improvement project in Bangladesh
  • US $103 million for contribution to the Sarney Dam and Water Supply project in Iran
  • US $45 million for contribution to the Kabala water supply project Phase II in Mali
  • US $44.7 million for contribution to the grass field participatory integrated rural development project in Cameroon

The Board Members reviewed the technical assistance grants approved by IDB Group President Dr. Ali in exercise of the powers conferred upon him by the Board. Dr. Ali also approved two technical assistance grants for development projects in Pakistan and Sierra Leon, and a third that will build capacity for Tunisia’s Ministry of Development, Investment and International Cooperation.

The Board also approved four grants totaling US $760,000 under the IDB Waqf fund. The grants will contribute to education and health projects for Muslim communities in “non-member countries” in New Zealand, Burundi, Denmark and Ethiopia.

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ITFC supports the groundnut sector of Senegal with US$75 million funding

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, February 24, 2016 – The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group, signed a US$75 million Syndicated Murabaha Financing agreement on Sunday, Feb 21st 2016 with the Government of Senegal, with Suneor (the major player in the Senegalese groundnut sector) as Executing Agency. . The signing ceremony took place at the headquarters of the ITFC in Jeddah. The agreement was signed by Mr. Amadou Ba, Minister of Economy, Finance and Planning and the IDB Governor for Senegal, and Mr. Mahanna Sobieh, GM Treasury and Officer-in-Charge, ITFC.

This agreement aims at financing a significant part of the 2015-2016 groundnut campaign. ITFC previously provided US$ 30 million facility to the Government of Senegal and Suneor for financing the 2013/2014 groundnut season. The new US$75 million financing will allow Suneor to purchase and process more than 150,000 tons of groundnuts into groundnut oil and cake (animal feed) to be exported to international markets. Following a good rainy season, the total output for the country for the 2015-2016 season is expected to be exceptional and reach 1,000,000 tons.

From his end, Mr. Amadou Ba thanked ITFC for its cooperation highlighting the importance of ITFC’s financing operations for the Government of Senegal, especially for the key agriculture and energy sectors. He said, “The Groundnut sector in Senegal is currently under restructuring and we are expecting a high yield for Groundnut this year, and this financing will play an important role to support this year’s groundnut season. Under the “Senegal Emerging Plan”, the country is positioning itself as a trade hub in West Africa and ITFC’s support is important to help realize this plan.”

From his side, Mr. Mahanna Sobieh stressed on ITFC’s continuous dedication for the socio-economic development of Senegal. He also added “ITFC is striving to align its support with other economic promotion programs, designed by ITFC Member Countries to guarantee reaching the highest developmental impact. This is clearly shown in ITFC’s huge contribution in financing this deal, given the critical importance of groundnut to the socio-economic situation of the country, the Government of Senegal requested ITFC to cover part of the required funding for this groundnut season.”

The Groundnut sector employs, directly and indirectly, a significant percentage (around 40%) of the population, which depends on this sector for a source of living. The social impact for the financing will consequently be significant. It will indeed boost farmers’ income and improve their living conditions. Growth in export will improve the country’s overall export revenues and employment level, thus contributing to overall economic development and poverty alleviation.

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