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19 Apr, 2016

Dubai aims to be world’s most disabled-friendly city

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 18 April 2016 (11 Rajab 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.

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A WORD FROM MY SPONSORS: TOURISM MALAYSIA

FIRST WTM CONNECT ASIA TO BE HELD IN PENANG

WTM Connect Asia is an exciting new event bringing together suppliers of South East Asia and international travel product to meet with outbound Chinese, South East Asian and international Hosted Buyers. Taking place 18-20 May 2016 in the beautiful island of Penang in Malaysia, exhibitors and buyers will meet in a private setting for pre-scheduled business meetings, education sessions, networking events and interactive evening functions. By the end of WTM Connect Asia everyone will walk away feeling satisfied after two and a half days of experiencing the beauty of Penang’s culture, and most importantly making new business connections. Brought to you by the organisers of World Travel Market. For more info, please visit http://www.wtmconnectasia.com/

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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

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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.

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STORIES IN THIS DISPATCH. PLS CLICK ON ANY OF THE HEADLINES BELOW TO GO DIRECTLY TO THE STORY

 

Tan Sri Azman Hashim Receives Islamic Finance Pioneering Award

KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 (Bernama) — Tan Sri Azman Hashim, Chairman, AmBank Group, received the Islamic Finance Pioneering Initiative Award at the Islamic Banking and Finance (“IBFIM”) Third Certification Awards Ceremony on 9 April 2016. The award was conferred in recognition of his contribution in the establishment of the first Islamic bank in Malaysia, which has served as the benchmark for other regional Islamic financial institutions.

The awards ceremony, which was held in Kuala Lumpur, was themed “Honouring Pioneers, Recognising Talents” with a special tribute to visionary pioneers who were involved in shaping the Islamic finance industry to where it is now.

“It is a privilege to receive this award, and I am happy that Islamic banking has come a long way since its inception in Malaysia. This award encourages me to continue efforts in contributing to the further development of the Islamic Finance industry. I am also honoured to be awarded alongside other pioneers in this field and would like to congratulate my fellow recipients for their contributions towards the industry”, said Tan Sri Azman.

Tan Sri Azman was among six well-known and successful leaders in the Islamic Finance field to receive awards at the ceremony.

IBFIM commenced operations in 2001 as an industry-owned institute dedicated to producing well-trained, highly competent personnel and executives with the required talent in the Islamic finance industry.

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RM100 Million Shariah-Compliant Bumiputera Technology Fund launched

KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 (Bernama) — Malaysia Debt Ventures Berhad (MDV), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Minister of Finance Inc., in collaboration with Unit Peneraju Agenda Bumiputera (TERAJU), launched the Bumiputera Technology Fund (BTF) for technology-based companies in an effort to facilitate their business expansion through shariah-compliant working capital and asset financing facilities 2 days ago.

The development of the new BTF programme is a step forward in the collaboration between MDV and TERAJU, which began with MDV’s participation in TERAJU’s Skim Permulaan Usahawan Bumiputera (SUPERB) initiative in 2014, which has helped to create a pipeline of quality and sustainable Bumiputera entrepreneurs.

To continue the momentum, MDV and TERAJU are now offering a new shariah-compliant fund totalling RM100 million via the BTF. This fund will be accessible to Bumiputera technology based companies that are listed under TERAJU’s SUPERB and Syarikat Bumiputera Berprestasi Tinggi (TERAS) programmes.

Speaking at the launching of the BTF programme today, which was attended by more than 80 entrepreneurs, Nizam Mohamed Nadzri, MDV’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Services said, “The BTF is envisaged to ensure a more comprehensive financing ecosystem for Bumiputera companies, in particular, technology-based companies.”

“The fund also targets to fill in the funding gap that exists for startups under SUPERB, as a follow-on funding programme to the grants received from TERAJU.”

He further explained that the BTF is also a progressive proposition for MDV from the perspective of MDV’s dual mandate to provide development financing and nurturing to technology SMEs in a sustainable manner, particularly as the fund will fund graduates of the SUPERB programme who may require nurturing to achieve their goals.

All applications made for financing under the fund will be subject to assessment based on MDV’s credit risk criteria as well as risk assessment processes, which are geared towards financing technology companies and projects.

To be eligible for financing under the BTF programme, TERAS and SUPERB companies must be incorporated in Malaysia with a minimum paid-up capital of RM100,000 and possess good and viable projects that are within the technology space. Financing facilities offered will be from a minimum of RM500,000 to a maximum of RM5 million.

Apart from improving access to finance, particularly for startups companies in the technology sector, the shariah-compliant fund also serves to fulfill customer’s demand for more diverse Islamic facilities.

“The BTF will intensify MDV’s contribution in further strengthening the Malaysian Government’s commitment to develop the Bumiputera Economic Community as well as to establish the country as an Islamic Financing hub in the region,” remarked Nizam in closing.

Malaysia Debt Ventures Berhad (MDV) is a Premier Innovative Financier and Development Facilitator for the Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Biotechnology, Green Technology and emerging technology sectors in Malaysia. MDV was established by the Government of Malaysia in 2002 with the objective of providing flexible and innovative credit financing to developing high-impact and technology-driven sectors of the economy, identified and prioritised by the Government as future engines of growth.

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“Egypt 2030″ strategy to drive economy: Minister

Friday, 15 April 2016 — The government’s program was drawn up according to the objectives of “Egypt 2030″ strategy, Planning Minister Ashraf el Araby said on Thursday.

The 2016/2017 budget is also based on the strategy, the minister added in an economic forum. The strategy aims to place Egypt among the world’s top 30 economies, el Araby said. The strategy, launched in March 2016, targets three main goals: economic development, competitiveness of markets and human capital.

Under the Strategy, the government will be committed to achieving a growth rate of seven percent, increasing investment rates to 30 percent, raising the contribution of services to GDP to about seven percent, increasing exports to 25 percent, and reducing unemployment rates to about 5 percent.

Through the 2030 strategy, the Egyptian government seeks to maximize the use of local energy sources – traditional or renewable – and develop the production capacity of the energy sector to be more effective in boosting the economy and adapt to the ever growing changes in the field of energy.

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1st Iranian specialized exhibition to be held in Rome

Tehran, 16 April 2016, IRNA – Director of Milan International Exhibitions (Fiera Milano International) announced that the first Iranian specialized exhibition is to be held in October, 2016 in Rome, Italy.

Speaking on the sidelines of Iran-Italy meeting, Pietro Piccinetti told IRNA that a cooperation agreement was inked between Fiera Milano International and Iran’s International Exhibitions Company.

Piccinetti added that this cooperation aims at reinforcing trade and economic information, organizing conferences and seminars in both countries to inform entrepreneurs in order to create joint investment opportunities.

Fiera Milano International was established in 1920 and is active in 52 countries. The trade meeting between Iran and Italy attended by visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Iranian Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh was held on April 13 in Iran Chamber of Commerce.

Renzi, heading a 250-member political and economic delegation, arrived in Tehran early on April 12. Iranian and Italian officials inked seven memoranda of understanding on the issues of oil, railroad, industry, tourism, gas and culture in the first day. Iran and Italy also signed 12 contracts between private and state sectors in Iran’s Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking in the Iran-Italy trade meeting, member of Confindustria Technical Committee for Internationalization and Foreign Investors Licia Mattioli said that Italy and Iran were enjoying 7.2 billion euros’ worth of trade exchange before sanctions imposed on Iran adding the figure dropped and reached 1.7 billion euros in sanctions era.

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LEAD STORY: Dubai aims to be world’s most disabled-friendly city

MENAFN, 14 April 2016, Khaleej Times – For Iraqi Dubai resident Zainab Al Eqabi – who lost her left leg in a bomb explosion in her native Baghdad – the city can often be a difficult place to manage.

“In buildings especially it’s hard to climb the stairs and also on roads high curbs can become an issue” she said.

But by the end of 2016 Dubai will launch four pilot projects that will help the emirate achieve its goals of being the most disability-friendly destination by 2020.

The pilot projects – which are part of the ‘My Community… A City for Everyone’ initiative launched by Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Crown Price of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council in 2013 – will span three major sectors in Dubai: transport buildings and communications.

Dh10 million has been set aside for the design of the pilot projects with the aim of establishing a ‘Dubai standard for universal design’.

Once the standard is established by the end of 2016 work will begin on retrofitting the city according to Dr Salem Ali Alshafei Director of Polices and Programmes (Rights of People with Disabilities Strategy Management and Governance Sector) of the Executive Council.

Dr Alshafei said they are currently in the process of “identifying the pilot sites”.

“This new initiative is great news as it makes me feel optimistic because the new standards will allow me to go anywhere and everywhere without worrying” Al Eqabi said of plans.

Dr Alshafei said they are currently in the process of “identifying the pilot sites” but revealed two sites will be piloted from the transport sector one or two sites from the buildings sector and oe site from the communication sector.

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Tabriz to host 7th World Crafts Council-Asia Pacific Region

Tabriz, 14 April 2016, IRNA – Tabriz is to host the 7th World Crafts Council-Asia Pacific Region (WCC-APR) on April 27, it was announced on Thursday.

Vice-President and Head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (CHHTO), Masoud Sultanifar, head of World Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization along with members of the World Crafts Council are to attend the meeting.

According to the Public Relations Department of East Azarbaijan CHHTO, participants in the council will attend two specialized workshops and will also tour Mozafariyeh carpet market in the city of Tabriz.

During the five-day event, the masterpieces of the Iranian craftsmen in East Azarbaijan will be displayed.

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Rouhani confers with Brunei leader

Istanbul, 15 April 2016, IRNA – President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday that Iran is willing to develop ties and cooperation with Brunei and hold regular consultations about bilateral and regional issues.

He made the remarks in a meeting with Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah on the sidelines of the 13th Summit of Leaders of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul.

President Rouhani said that good and friendly relations between the two countries make up for a base for development of all-out ties.

The 2-day summit meeting of OIC kicked off on Thursday with slogan of ‘Unity and solidarity for justice and peace’.

President Rouhani said that Tehran, Bandar Seri-Begawan may have good cooperation in the field of engineering and technical services, energy and petrochemical industry, settlement of regional and international issues, including campaign against extremism.

He said that expansion of ties between Iran and Brunei can play an effective role to facilitate cooperation between Iran and Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah said that Iran’s civilization, culture, historical and natural attractions were always attractive for the Brunei people.

‘Today, extremism and terrorism are common challenge for all Islamic states,’ Bolkiah said that, adding that in the international campaign against the two ominous phenomenons, all Islamic countries should exercise cooperation and present the real face of Islam to the world.

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Kazakhstan, Iran join forces to establish shipping line

MENAFN, 13 April 2016,(MENAFN)- The Islamic Republic of Iran and Kazakhstan have reached an agreement to set up a joint shipping company, according to the latest reports.

The planned freight shipping line would improve mutual trade through the Iranian port of Bandar Anzali and Kazakh port of Aktau, both on the Caspian Sea.

Mreover, the Islamic Republic and Kazakhstan also decided to increase rail transportation through a railroad joining Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Iranian and Kazakh officials signed 66 documents on cooperation, worth USD2bn, in the public and private sectors, marking a turning point in mutual relations.

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Airbus to deliver first aircraft to Iran soon

Berlin, April 13, IRNA – Airbus is to deliver its first batch of planes to Iran over the next months, Airbus Chief Executive Officer Fabrice Bregier said in Berlin on Wednesday after his meeting with Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi.

“We hope to see soon the Iran Air logo on the new Airbus planes,” Bregier told Iranian media representatives at the Iranian embassy in Berlin. “We expect the delivery of the first batch of planes to Iran over the next months once the US grants export licences (because more than 10 percent of the parts for the planes are made in the United States),” he added.

Bergier said talks on the aviation deal have made good progress, saying he hoped to finalize the agreement soon. There is a good atmosphere in the negotiations and we hope to solve the remaining problems in a positive manner, the Airbus chief added.

Iran has reportedly signed a deal to buy 118 Airbus planes worth 22 billion euros. The agreement was signed during a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to France. Iran is also interested in buying planes from Airbus arch rival, Boeing.

Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi has estimated that his country will need 400 medium- and long-range planes, and 100 short-haul jets, in the next few years.

An embargo imposed in 1995 has prevented Western manufacturers from selling equipment and spare parts to Iranian companies.

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Europe keen to build scientific links with Iran

Tehran, 15 April 2016, IRNA – the upcoming visit to Iran by European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini signifies Europe’s interest to increase interactions with the county. It can also be regarded as an opportunity to promote Iranian universities’ interactions with eligible scientific centers of the world.

Mogherini is to arrive in Tehran on April 16 heading a high-ranking diplomatic-economic delegation consisting of seven EU commissioners in the fields of energy, scientific research, environment, sports and industry.

The EU delegation is to hold serious talks with the Iranian officials to promote bilateral cooperation in those fields. According to analysts, the trip will happen in the event of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) programs to develop diplomatic, scientific and economic cooperation with Iran.

Iran and the P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany – finalized the JCPOA on July 14, 2015, ending more than a decade of dispute over Tehran’s peaceful nuclear program.

Most analysts believe that the post-JCOPA era is a proper chance for Iran to obtain necessary modern technologies from other countries and introduce high potentials of its young generation as well to other nations in order to share their experiences in various scientific fields.

As this would be the second visit to Tehran by Mogherini, it indicates the importance given to Iran by Europe and will provide the necessary ground for increasing bilateral cooperation, especially in the economic and scientific fields, between EU and Iran.

According to Deputy Minister of Science, Research and Technology Hossein Salar Amoli, his ministry has serious plans for scientific, research and innovation exchanges with European universities.

Amoli added that during Mogherini’s visit to Iran; the Iranian side would issue a joint statement with the EU education commissioner.

He reiterated that the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology is to discuss with the EU education commissioner the prospect of bilateral cooperation in the next 10 years with on scientific and technological fields and find a more transparent image of both sides’ capacities for bilateral coperation.

Meanwhile Chancellor of Amirkabir University of Technology, Ahmadreza Motamedi also commented on the EU delegation visit to Tehran. He said Amirkabir university has already had scientific interactions with a number of European countries like Germany, France, Austria and other universities and has inked some MoUs with them as well.

Motamedi hoped that during Mogherini visit to Tehran, scientific officials of the two sides would sign more agreements for conducting joint courses between Iranian universities and their European counterparts to improve bilateral relations in different research and scientific fields including attracting university students from regional countries to study in the Iranian scientific centers.

He also called for increasing exchange of visits between Iranian and European academics to help transfer technology in Iran from European countries.

Motamedi added that the post-JCOPA era has created an opportunity to promote bilateral relations with the European universities and scientific and research centers.

Also commenting on Mogherini’s visit to Iran was Chancellor of Technical and Vocational University, Masood Shafiee who said grounds would be prepared for receiving scholarship from European universities as some joint MoUs have been already signed between Iranian officials and their counterparts in the European universities.

He said that Europeans are interested to improve their relations with Iran as the latter is a developing country with a geopolitical position and a large market for their products.

Shafiee added that Iran has to obtain various technologies from Europeans while purchasing their products since they own the technologies that Iran needs.

The official called for bilateral agreements for increasing cooperation between Iranian and European academics.

Officials of Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology believe that in the post-JCOPA era, Iranian universities have to strengthen bilateral ties and cooperation with the eligible scientific centers of the world in order to improve in various scientific fields and benefit from foreign countries technologies and experiments.

The upcoming visit to Iran by the EU foreign policy chief is a valuable chance to find remarkable achievements by signing different agreements on bilateral cooperation to introduce European universities technologies to the Iranian students and young generation and help them find access to those technologies and bring them into the country.

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Orumiyeh University inks MoUs with U.S., German universities

Orumiyeh, 15 April 2016, IRNA – Orumiyeh University has signed memorandums of understanding on scientific and research cooperation with the American University of Utah and the German University of Philipps Marburg.

Chancellor of the Orumyieh University, Rahim Hobbe-Naghi told IRNA here Thursday that the goal of the five-year MoUs that would be renewable is to have joint cooperation on education, research and technology and also to provide facilities for active collaboration among the three university professors and researchers in fields of science and research.

The MoUs will also accommodate conditions for their professors and researchers to take part in international meetings and seminars, to exchange professors and students and grant fellowships, interchange books, information, and scientific magazines and establish research and scientific cooperation in various fields of study, including studying Orumiyeh Lake in cooperation with the Center for Studying Lake Orumiyeh.

Orumiyeh University was founded in 1965 and is one of the nation’s top universities. It has 10 faculties with more than 17,000 students at BA, MA and PhD levels. It has also more than 500 faculty members.

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CBI governor: Iran’s trade partners return in post-sanctions era

Tehran, 15 April 2016, IRNA — Governor of Central Bank Valiollah Seif underlined that Iran’s trade partners have returned to business with Tehran in the post-sanctions era.

‘The upgrade of Iran’s status at an international level resulted in cooperation with the foreign trade partners in the post-sanctions era,’ Seif said in a Thursday meeting with US Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew in Washington.

‘Our goal is making full use of the huge trade, investment and financial capacities of Iran in its $1.4 trillion,’ he added.

Seif reiterated that the Central Bank of Iran has had considerable progress in restoration of stability to macro economy, improvement of budget management and strengthening the banking system and it has also been successful in improving the infrastructural reforms to increase job opportunities and reducing reliance of the country’s economy on oil.

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Anzali to host int’l Caspian beach soccer cup tournaments

Bandar Anzali, 15 April 2016, IRNA – Head of World Beach Soccer Organization Joan Cusco announced that Iran’s Anzali port will host the international beach soccer tournament in the near future.

‘This tournament will be held in Anzali port about six months from now,’ Cusco said while visiting Anzali free zone on Friday evening.

He pointed to the completion of beach soccer sports complex by Anzali free zone, and said, ‘This region is capable of hosting the international tournaments like Caspian tournament.’

Joan Cusco congratulated and highlighted the great work developed by the Iranian FA and its beach soccer committee.

“Iran is a great example for all the countries in the world. They have not only built one of the strongest National Teams in the world, but also developed a powerful national league with different divisions and great stadiums. They have supported and projected women’s beach soccer, and also introduced different youth categories. I really want to highlight this excellent job”, he said.

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Turkey expecting visa-free travel in EU by June

Amsterdam, 13 Apr 2016, (IINA) – Turkish nationals can expect to be able to travel to the European Union visa-free by June, the country’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkir said Tuesday, Anadolu Agency reported.

“We expect that the decision for the citizens of the Republic of Turkey to enter the Schengen zone without visa requirement will be taken before the end of June”, he said following a meeting with Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, whose country currently holds the EU presidency.

Bozkir said the EU Commission would release a report on early May on the visa agreement.

“We expect that the commission report will be positive and they will express opinion for removing the visa”, he said at a news conference in Amsterdam. “All the developments are advancing in this direction”.

“Following that, the topic will be presented before term president the Netherlands. It is the Netherlands that will organize the council’s decision. We talked about this. Then it will go to parliament and the decision… will be finalized”.

He said the necessary legislation would be finalized by the end of April. A decision to open Chapter 33 on financial and budgetary provisions would also be taken soon to speed up Turkey’s EU accession.

Under an EU-Turkey deal to ease the refugee crisis facing Europe, EU leaders agreed to cut visa requirements for Turkish citizens and accelerate Turkey’s EU membership bid.

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Dubai to host 11th annual World Takaful Conference

Dubai, 10 April 2016, (IINA) – The 11th annual World Takaful Conference (WTC) will be convened by leading financial intelligence platform, Middle East Global Advisors, in strategic partnership with the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Saudi Gazette reported.

WTC will take place on April 11-12, in Dusit Thani Hotel, Dubai. WTC 2016 will convene high profile guests and dignitaries from Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre, Dubai International Financial Centre, Islamic Insurance Association of London, Insurance Authority UAE, PwC, Moody’s, EY, Swiss Re, Munich Re, Noor Takaful, Watania, Emirates RE, among others.

DIFC is the financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, providing a world-class platform connecting the region’s markets with the economies of Europe, Asia and the Americas.

It also facilitates the growth in South-South trade and investment. An onshore, international financial center, DIFC provides a stable, mature and secure base for financial institutions to develop their wholesale businesses. The Centre offers all the elements found in the world’s most successful financial industry ecosystems, including an independent regulator, an independent judicial system with a common-law framework, a global financial exchange, inspiring architecture, powerful, enabling support services and a vibrant business community.

Speaking ahead of WTC, Chairman of Middle East Global Advisors, Ehsan Abbas said: “We are delighted to host the World Takaful Conference in strategic partnership with the DIFC Authority. For over a decade, WTC has generated powerful insights to spur industry growth in Dubai and indeed it is very fitting to have the DIFC as our partner, as well as to have the participation of luminaries from the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre and UAE Insurance Authority.”

On April 11, WTC will host keynote addresses by Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre; Ebrahim Obaid Al Zaabi, Director General Insurance Authority; Salmaan Jaffrey, Chief Business Development Officer, Dubai International Financial Centre Authority; and Dave Matcham, Member of Executive Committee, Islamic Insurance Association of London.

Speaking on DIFC’s partnership with the WTC, Jaffery said: “With the Islamic finance industry registering a sustained momentum, the demand for takaful products has witnessed a proportionate year-on-year surge, gaining increasing popularity among people seeking Shariah-compliant insurance options.”

He added: “At the same time, it is crucial for policy makers and key stakeholders to address the challenges facing the industry in order to achieve the long-term sustainable growth of the Islamic economy. The WTC is the ideal thought leadership platform for engaging with decision-makers and delivering insights on the long-term development of the takaful industry.”

Jaffrey noted that the “DIFC is privileged to support the 11th WTC as a strategic partner. We will continue to articulate the vision of Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in making Dubai a global hub for Islamic finance. We look forward to engaging in productive discussions with industry leaders on current takaful trends, expected challenges and opportunities, and to facilitating actionable recommendations.”

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Gulf Air offers 50% miles redemption

Manama, 13 April 2016, (BNA): Gulf Air, the Kingdom of Bahrain’s national carrier, recently launched an exclusive offer for the airline’s Falconflyer loyalty programme members offering 50% off Falconflyer miles redemption.

Customers can redeem their Falconflyer miles for Gulf Air tickets – at a 50% discounted rate – between now and 30th June 2016.

The airline’s 50% discount* offer is available to Falconflyer members when redeeming Falconflyer miles online at gulfair.com, via any local Gulf Air office or by calling the airline’s 24 hour Worldwide Contact Centre at (+973) 17373737. The 50% redemption promotion is valid from today until 30th June 2016.

Gulf Air’s FalconFlyer Programme, with its innovative incentives and benefits for the airline’s frequent flyers, offers members attractive privileges and value-added benefits such as bonus miles up to 250%, family membership and special privileges both on the ground and in the air.

Other advantages of the program include the best redemption rates and the best miles earning system for premium class in the GCC and Middle East region, special online booking bonuses, a generous baggage allowance, three years miles validity, unlimited lounge access, priority baggage handling and guaranteed seats among many other benefits intended to make the traveling experience more enjoyable and rewarding.

Enrolling in the Gulf Air FalconFlyer Programme and/or booking Gulf Air flights across the airline’s 39 destination network can be done online at gulfair.com, by calling the airline’s 24 hour Worldwide Contact Centre on (+973) 17373737, or through any Gulf Air sales office.

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Non-Muslim woman launches campaign against anti-Islam billboard in Florida

St. Augustine beach, Florida, 13 April 2016, (IINA) – A non-Muslim woman in Florida has launched a campaign against an anti-Islam billboard in St. Augustine beach, Florida, according to media reports.

“It was disturbing to me,” says Becky Williams. “My daughter was in the back seat with me and my first thought was, ‘if that was the faith we followed, how would we explain that to her?”

Williams, who is not a Muslim, says this is not the message her community wants to send to those following the Islamic faith.

Therefore, she started an online petition. Since Saturday, it has gathered more than 2,000 signatures. Some of them were from as far away as India, First Coast News reported.

“I’m amazed at how many people have spoken out,” Williams said.

A sign, which reads St. John’s Outdoor Advertising, is on the bottom of the billboard. First Coast News tried reaching the company. But the phone number is no longer working and no one answered the door at the business’ address.

It’s also unclear who paid for the message on the billboard. Anas Benjelloun the Imam of the Islamic center in Saint Augustine said, “To see a billboard like that, it has a bad tone for the whole city.”

He and members of the Islamic Center of St. Augustine were very surprised to see the billboard in their own city. They say their religion is a religion of peace, love, and respect, but that the billboard promotes hatred.

However, he is touched by the woman who started the petition. “I haven’t met her and these are the kind of people I now in St. Augustine caring, loving people,” Benjelloun said. “To see it’s somebody not from the Muslim faith that started this, this truly shows the kind of people who live in St. Augustine.”

Meanwhile, Williams says she understands the person who paid for the billboard has freedom of speech, but she does too.

She said, “When you see something unfair happening, you have to stand up and do something about it, no matter how small the action.”

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Saudi Arabia bans junk food in hospitals

Riyadh, 13 Apr 2016, (IINA) – Saudi Health Minister Khaled Al-Falih’s decision to ban the sale of soft drinks, candies and all kinds of junk food in hospitals across the Kingdom has won praise from the GCC Health Ministers Council, Arab News reported.

Dr. Tawfiq bin Ahmad Khojah, director-general of the executive board of the council, said in a letter to the Health Ministry that the Saudi minister’s decision is commendable and will help in promoting a culture of preventing diseases and their causes as well as reducing risks in society.

He also hailed the ministry’s efforts to activate risk reduction factors and interventions prescribed by the World Health Organization on control of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, blood pressure, high blood lipids and cardiovascular diseases.

The official said the issue was recently discussed during the latest meeting of the GCC Nutrition Committee in Qatar. The meeting took up the obesity rates in adults, adolescents, and children in the Gulf states. It covered the GCC’s nutrition plan to control overweightness in the area. The plan suggested a number of goals including the development of a monitoring framework for children, adolescents, adults and the elderly nutrition, according to the needs of each state.

It emphasized on adopting standardized measurements such as height, weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference to activate monitoring and data collection and to assess the GCC-tailored changes, which are needed to meet the regional requirements.

In addition, it suggested the development of a food consumption survey program for the GCC states in order to provide valuable data for nutrition intervention programs, and to unify efforts and goals set for improving the nutritional health in the Gulf area.

Moreover, it included nutrition education programs on obesity and overweight problems in children and adolescents via TV shows and training health educators and intellectuals on delivering health nutrition messages and managing anti-obesity campaigns. The suggested campaigns will aim at reducing consumption of bad fats and sugar, improving nutritional choices and monitoring the BMI.

The GCC health official cited scientific studies warning that soft drinks are responsible for doubling the number of obesity cases among different age groups, particularly children and adolescents, over the last decade.

Studies showed that consumption of soft drinks by children in the United States jumped from 375 ml to 570 ml during this period, he said.

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Kalash spring festival to start from May 14

ISLAMABAD, 13 April 2016, (APP) – Three day Kalash Spring Festival would start from May 14 in Kalash valley Chitral with traditional fanfare and festivities. The festival commemorates the arrival of spring followed by summer and celebration of the expected abundance of dairy products during the season. A large number of local and foreign tourists are expected to be part of the festival.

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Virsa Media center compiles fifty one cultural documentaries

ISLAMABAD, 13 April 2016, (APP) – Lok Virsa Media Center compiled and produced a set of fifty one cultural documentaries and three thousands hours of audio recordings since its inception.

“A professional state-of-the-art studio is operational and so are the mobile units which are well-equipped to capture/record event in any part of the country,” an official of Lok Virsa said here Wednesday.

He said that Lok Virsa was one of the largest publishers of the traditional music and culture, adding that audio and video cassettes, CDs, VCDs and DVDs produced by Lok Virsa were available in the market.

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Qatar aims to stimulate SME sector

MENAFN, 14 April 2016 – Increasing Qatar’s small and medium enterprises (SME) sector will enhance the country’s ongoing efforts to spread its economy.

Furthermore, the country will remove issues that delay the growth of Qatari SMEs, which is a huge step in the transactions of the business sector.

Addionally, Qatari economy changed from an oil-based economy to a knowledge-based economy to increase the non-oil gas sector by 7.4 percent.

The country organized 66 workshops for SMEs last year, almost 550 entrepreneurs participated in it and funding to many institutions reached USD 4.5bn.

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China-Pakistan business platform proposed for joint production in economic zones

ISLAMABAD, 15 Apr 2016, (APP) – Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Prof. Ahsan Iqbal Friday proposed China-Pakistan business platform for joint production in economic zones under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He also proposed for working out a mechanism for training of Pakistani human resource in Shandong province to learn about setting up and management of economic zones in Pakistan.

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Pakistan Airlines fleet, products being overhauled

ISLAMABAD, 30 Nov 2015, (APP) – Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Aviation Shujaat Azeem said the strength of Pakistan International Airline’s (PIA) fleet was being raised to expand its flight operation. Some 15 aircraft had already been added in the fleet of 37 and with addition of five more by the current year end, the total strength would become 42, he said while talking to a private news channel.

He said revival of the national airline was the vision of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, who had entrusted that task to him. He had accepted the challenge and would do his utmost in that regard. There was no personal benefit involved as he was not drawing any salary for the job. In fact he was working for a national cause, he added.

Shujaat Azeem said collective wisdom was needed to run the airline. For the first time a professional board had been constituted. Moreover, competent people were being hired, including some Germans in the marketing department. He said more than 300 employees holding fake degrees had been terminated.

Replying to a question, he said the age of an operational aircraft had been reduced to nine years from 14, which would be further decreased to six.

Shujaat Azeem said after lapse of 15 years, an aviation policy was being fomulated on the directives of the Prime Minister. Under the policy, investment in the sector would be exempted from tax. Only the revenue generated would be taxed, he added.

He said that facilities such as Internet and Wi-Fi would also be introduced in PIA’s flights. The Special Assistant said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was working to provide best facilities to the passengers at airports.

He said for the first time in the country’s history, fog lights were being installed at airports which would work in the radius of 50 meters even in zero visibility. The initiative would help smooth flight operation during bad weather, he added.

To a query, Shujaat Azeem said the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA) was a welfare organization which should work for the progress of PIA rather halting the flight operation for their personal demands. The government, he said, was committed to address genuine concerns of the pilots and other employees but they also should perform duties with dedication.

He said salary of Grade I to IV had been increased by around 55 per cent despite the fact that the airline was facing financial problems.

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Week of Azerbaijani films held in Brazil

Baku, 15 April 2016, AZERTAC – The Azerbaijani Embassy in Brazil in partnership with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and Azerbaijan Ministry of Culture and Tourism organized a Week of Azerbaijani films in the city of Brasilia.

The Week featured the screening of documentaries and feature films in Portuguese. “Target Baku. Hitler’s war on Oil” documentary, as well as Azerbaijani films “Arshin mal alan”, “Nabat”, “Cholchu”, “Tahmina” and “Axınla ashagi” feature films were shown, the Embassy said.

The documentary “Target Baku. Hitler’s war on Oil” produced in partnership with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation by Arzu Aliyeva, has been selected as the event’s main film by Bank of Brazil Cultural Center. Prior to the demonstration, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Brazil Elnur Sultanov spoke of the documentary, noting the role of Baku oil in the victory over fascism during the WW II. He said the film commemorated the 70th anniversary of Victory.

The event was attended by representatives of diplomatic missions accredited in Brazil, staff members of the Azerbaijani Embassy.

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Chumki for upholding Bangali heritage across world

DHAKA, 15 April 2016, (BSS) – State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroz Chumki has urged the people to uphold the unique Bangali cultural heritage globally.

“We should not follow the culture and tradition of others as we have a unique cultural heritage including language, culture, arts and literature,” she said.

She said this while speaking as chief guest at a Nabo Barsho celebrating programme organised by Joyita, a centre that works for marketing the products of grassroots women small entrepreneurs, in city’s Dhanmondi area.

Chumki said, “We have to bear our own culture and tradition so that the next generation does not become confused. At the same time, we have to promote our heritage at international level,” she added.

The government, she said, had established the platform, Joyita, aimed at strengthening different business initiatives of women entrepreneurs at grassroots and encouraging women entrepreneurs to boost their business initiatives.

With Managing Director of Joyita Foundation M Ashraf Hossain in the chair, Women and Children Affairs Secretary Nasima Begum spoke, among others, on the occasion.

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Folklore is important element of people’s life: Bangladesh minister

RAJSHAHI, 15 April 2016, (BSS)- Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon, MP, has said folklore is an important element of people’s life and folk culture is part and parcel of our history and tradition.

He urged all concerned particularly the researchers to work together for protecting the valuable folk resources for our own interests and existence as many of those are on declining condition in the present era of globalization.

Menon was addressing the inaugural session of a two-day International Folklore Conference and Alumni festival at Kazi Nazrul Islam auditorium of Rajshahi University (RU) as chief guest today. Fazley Hossain Badsha, MP, spoke as special guest with Prof Mijanuddin, VC of RU, in the chair.

Menon told the meeting that the present government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is working relentlessly to protect the indigenous culture and heritage of Bangladesh. Parjatan Corporation has also adopted different schemes to this end. Menon said the parjatan guides are working for familiarizing the tourists with the famous archeological sites and other interesting places.

Besides, they are also describing about the folk culture and literatures. With this breakthrough, interests are created among the tourists to the country’s culture and heritages and diplomatic relation of Bangladesh with different countries in the world has been established, Menon added.

During his keynote presentation, Varun Kumar Chakravarty, Professor Emeritus of Rabindra Bharty University in Kolkata, gave an overview of the region’s folklore and folk culture and literature.

Vice-chancellor of North Bengal International University Prof Abdul Khaleque, Pro-VC of Uttara University Prof Yeasmin Ara Lekha, Dean of RU Social Science Faculty Prof Nilufar Sultana and Chairman of Folklore Department Prof Mobarra Suddiqua also spoke.

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Gambia: US$32 Million Airport Project Nears Completion

15 April 2016, – The contractors and the consulting firm of the Banjul International Airport improvement project will soon hand over the project to The Gambia government, after the end of an 18-month period of painstaking work.

Work on the project began in 2012, and the consulting firm and contractors are looking forward to handing over the project by next month.

Speaking to GRTS, the Project Manager, Kabiru Jammeh paid tribute to President Jammeh’s administration for the massive infrastructural

developments initiated from July 22nd 1994 to date. He spoke about the numerous interventions made by government to modernise and standardise the country’s only airport.

The Resident Engineer and Consultant from the Netherlands based NACO, Johannes Geres recalled 35 years ago when the same company was consulted to supervise works at the Banjul International Airport. Geres was quite impressed with the level of commitment and dedication manifested throughout the period of the contract.

The Deputy Director General of The Gambia Civil Aviation Authority, Catherine Nying said there was no doubt about Gambia’s impressive track record in the industry. In 2005, The Gambia was ranked 3rd in the continent for making robust investments and putting in place the necessary structures aimed at standardising the airport.

During a visit at the security areas such as the Instrument Landing Site (ILS), a bevy of experts where at hand to explain the significance of such a highly sophisticated system. The Manager of Electronics, Falu Njie gave a detailed presentation of the ILS, saying it was an essential element required in modern-day airports, pointing out that it helps aircrafts touch down safely without any major incidence.

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Pakistan, Turkey to finalize FTA by September

ONBOARD SPECIAL FLIGHT, 15 April 2016, (APP)- President Mamnoon Hussain on Friday said Pakistan and Turkey would finalize the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by September this year to further promote and encourage trade between the two brotherly countries.

“This issue came under discussion during my meetings with the Turkish President and PM and we will finalise FTA by September 2016,” the President said while talking to mediapersons on board his special flight on way back to Islamabad from Istanbul.

The President, who represented Pakistan at the 13th Islamic Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation hosted by Turkey from April 14 to 15, was very hopeful about the results of Istanbul Summit.

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Documentary on Karabakh horses launched

Baku, 12 April 2016, AZERTAC – The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan and BP Azerbaijan, together with Azerbaijanfilm and STUDIO TOR 1 Filmproduktion of Berlin have announced the launch of a new documentary “Sarylar – a journey to the Karabakh horse”.

The documentary is a joint product created by an international film crew to introduce the Karabakh horses – one of the last purebred horse breeds in the world. The story is inspired by a search of the descendants of the Karabakh horse “Golden Boy” from Azerbaijan presented to the Queen of the United Kingdom in 1956.

A long and fascinating journey ends all the way across Europe and the Caucasus Mountains to find the successor Karabakh horse “Golden Boy II” in his homeland Azerbaijan safe and glorious. The story once again highlights how human beings and animals depend on and can learn from each other.

The official public presentation of the documentary will take place at the Nizami Cinema in Baku on 15 April 2016.

Gordon Birrell, BP’s Regional President for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, says: “This is a touching story about how people think animals are part of their lives and, most importantly, part of their culture. For us in BP, support for cultural legacy is one of the key areas of our social performance.

“Throughout our 20+ year-presence here, in addition to our primary responsibility, which is to operate major oil and gas fields, we have developed and implemented numerous very successful social and cultural projects.

These have mainly focused on support for education, community development through trainings and capacity building, creation of economic opportunities for local enterprises, support for sport and cultural legacy, environmental protection and a number of others. As Azerbaijan’s long-term reliable partner, we aim to continue to invest in these most important social development areas”.

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Suez Canal inks cooperation pact with Chinese port

15 April 2016, (MENA) – The economic authority of the Suez Canal area signed Thursday 14/04/2016 a cooperation protocol between Port Said Harbor and Chinese Qingdao Port.

The protocol aims at benefiting from the initiative of establishing the economic Silk Road, boosting cooperation in the domains of planning, administrating and operating ports, exchanging expertise and creating a mechanism for sharing information and technology in the harbors field, according to a statement by the Suez Canal Area.

The protocol was inked by Deputy Head of the Commission Abdel Qader Darwish and chairman of the Chinese port.

The protocol is an outcome of the recent visit of the Chinese President Xi Jinping to Egypt which resulted in signing number of agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoU) in many domains to increase the Chinese investments in the Arab country, enhance the joint economic relations and flourish the Egyptian economy, the statement added.

Meanwhile, Port Said Harbor is one of the six ports affiliated to the economic commission for the Suez Canal Area.

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Indonesian tourism potential highlighted in Baku

Baku, 8 April 2016, (AZERTAC) – Indonesian Embassy in Baku has hosted an event highlighting the country`s tourism potential. The event has been held within the Azerbaijan International Travel and Tourism Fair AITF 2016.

The event brought together Indonesian Deputy Assistant for Industry, Trade, Tourism and Creative Economy Muchammad Zulkarnain, representatives of the tourism companies and the Media.

Indonesian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Husnan bey Fananie said his country attached great importance to this event. The diplomat highlighted relations between the two countries, adding mutual sympathy and respect lie at the heart of our ties. On prospects of the friendly relations, Husnan bey Fananie provided an insight into business and economic bonds between the two countries.

The Ambassador expressed hope that these relations would cover the tourism field. “There are thousands of small islands in Indonesia. We hope that we will work together following the meetings of the representatives of tourism companies between the two countries. I also hope we will attract the view and will increase a number of tourists from Azerbaijan to Indonesia.”

Indonesian Deputy Assistant for Industry, Trade, Tourism and Creative Economy Muchammad Zulkarnain said about 480 Azerbaijani tourists annually visited Indonesia and the island of Bali is the most popular holiday destination. “But we have other islands such as Papua, Komodo, the Moluccas Islands and Anobon, where tourists can also find a lot of interesting things,” added Mr. Zulkarnain. He stressed the importance of opening direct flights between Azerbaijan and Indonesia.

“Training also can be carried out here for the local employees. Currently, about 20 Indonesians work in Azerbaijan in the sphere of tourism.”

Mr. Zulkarnain also highlighted the aim of their visit, adding Indonesian delegation visited Baku to learn the tourism opportunities of Azerbaijan. The event featured a demonstration of video on tourism potential of Indonesia.

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US Backs Bethlehem Business Incubator to Help Palestinian Entrepreneurs

BETHLEHEM, 14 April 2016, (WAFA) – U.S. Consul General Donald Blome and officials from partnering Bethlehem University and Bank of Palestine officially launched the Bethlehem Business Incubator on Wednesday in Bethlehem, said the Consulate General of the United States in a press release.

The Consulate said the Bethlehem Business Incubator (BBI), an innovative hub and physical space to incubate, mentor, and support Palestinian entrepreneurs, students, and faculty, was part of a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

The incubator will be housed within Bank of Palestine office space in Bethlehem and it would support the start-up of West Bank small businesses by providing the resources, office space, and logistical support needed to scale up quickly into profitable ventures.

The program, under the title of Building Entrepreneurship Excellence and Developing Economic Enterprises will not only directly contribute to the success of Palestinian small businesses with special attention to women and youth-run ventures, it will support Bethlehem University in the development of an entrepreneurship curriculum, investing in future generation of Palestinian innovators and creating an entrepreneurship “center of excellence”.

At the inauguration event, Blome said, “Did you know that the majority of Palestinians working in the West Bank and Gaza work in small- and medium-size enterprises? They work in the family business or store. They’re professionals and entrepreneurs. Just imagine what they could accomplish if they had access to the same resources as their peers in New York or Silicon Valley. Today’s inauguration is a step in that direction.”

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Egypt approves hosting UN Biodiversity Conference in 2018

15 April 2016, (MENA) – The cabinet approved in its meeting held on Thursday under Prime Minister Sherif Ismail of hosting the United Nations (UN) Biodiversity Conference in 2018 and offering the needed funding for that.

This comes in the framework of Egypt’s pioneering role at the regional and international levels and backing the international efforts exerted to save the biodiversity in the whole world and achieve sustainable development.

The three-week conference is held once every two years where 12,000 participants take part in the event.

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100 Ancient Sites Identified In Iran’s Dehloran Plain

TEHRAN, 14 April 2016,(NNN-IRNA) – Archeological studies in Dehloran plain, in the western province of Ilam led to the identification of 100 ancient sites, said director of the archeological group involved in the studies, wrote Iran Daily on Wednesday.

The archeological studies of Dehloran plain covers an area of 54,000 hectares, said Mohsen Zinivand.

Dehloran plain is one of the most important regions in terms of archeology, he said, adding that many excavations have been conducted in the region.

Dehloran plain has a distinctive location given its proximity to Shushan plain, Mesopotamia and the central Zagros region, he said.

According to Zinivand, some of the identified sites cannot be surveyed, including a Khazineh site which was destroyed due to agro-related activities.

Illegal excavations have also damaged the ancient sites, he added.

Dehloran plain lies to the southwest of the Iranian plateau. Meimeh and Do-Iraj rivers as well as mineral springs have heightened the importance of the region. Also Dehloran plain links Shushan plain to Mesopotamia.

Ilam, with its monuments and unique handicrafts, has a 6,000-year-old civilization. The region boasts of a variety of handicrafts, including carpet, jajim, embossed kilim and felt products.

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Air Arabia opens 2nd Sharjah city check-in

SHARJAH, 12 April 2016, (WAM) — Air Arabia today opened its second city check-in terminal in Sharjah, offering increased convenience for passengers travelling from the emirate.

Located at Air Arabia’s sales shop in Sharjah Industrial Area 10 and open daily from 9am till 10pm, the facility lets customers check-in their baggage and print their boarding pass up to 24 hours before departure.

Passengers can then simply proceed directly for security checks and immigration clearance upon reaching Sharjah International Airport. Air Arabia will also operate frequent shuttle services from the city check-in to the airport.

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Bakthar, Ainak Copper Relics Reflect Afghans’ Noble Culture, Civilization

KABUL, 13 April 2016, (BNA) Bakhtar, Ainak and treasuries of the country, with long background, represent the noble culture and civilization of the Afghans, Bakthar News Agency analyst writes.

The rich Bakhtar and Ainak Copper relics, which had been displayed in some countries of the world under the initiative of the Minister of Information and Culture, Abdul Bari Jahani is drawing attention and willing from these countries to host the world nations for visit each day, the analyst said.

By displaying the precious relics, the world, by passing each day gets familiarized with the Afghan enriched culture and civilization, according to the writer adding, “When the Tella Tappa’s relics became unhidden, some of the world countries become enthusiasts of showing them in their own exhibitions.

The relics of Bakhtar treasury and Tella Tappa could make long trips; being fist shown in Paris, could draw visitors in U.S. and Canada and finally hosted by Japan and South Korea.

Initiated by the minister of information and culture, the relics shown in the world countries not only collected wide financial incomes, but also demonstrated that Afghanistan was making efforts to generously put in show its spiritual having, believing them as part of the world cultural heritages, as Afghanistan, in the past had been the confluence center of the world’s cultures, migrations route, trade and the center of training of people with particular culture and spiritual having.

This is why the ancient Aryana (present Afghanistan) culturally get more and more civilized and transfer the noble culture from one generation to another. Under the current rapid expansion of modern technology, tolerance and coordination, Afghanistan can once again play vital role in development such cooperation, rehabilitation of the Silk Route, rehabilitation of Azure Way, indicating that the ancient Aryana and the current Afghanistan would keep its positions in the regional deals.

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Tunisia projects strong growth in Canadian tourists

12 April 2016, (African Manager) – The direct flight Tunis – Montreal – Tunis will accelerate trade between the two nations and boost Tunisian tourism, Moncef Zouari, president of the Tunisian-Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Express FM on Monday, April 11, 2016.

He added that the Canadian market is a very promising niche. “The study by Tunisia ’s National Tourist Office (ONTT) on the profitability of that air service expects an increase in the number of Canadian tourists (from 20,000 to 100,000 tourists per year),” he said.

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AirAsia To Launch Flight From Johor Baharu To Guangzhou

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 15 April 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – AirAsia Bhd will launch daily flights from Johor Baharu (JB) to Guangzhou from May 29, 2016.

In a statement today, AirAsia said, the flight will be its 17th route into China from Malaysia and the second into China launched this year after Shantou.

AirAsia Head of Commercial, Spencer Lee, said the southern hub of Johor Baharu was one of the key development points for the airline this year.

“We are pleased to be connecting the rapidly-developing Johor Baharu to Guangzhou,” he said.

Chief Executive Officer of Senai Airport Terminal Services Sdn Bhd, Md Derick Basir, said with the ongoing development in Iskandar Malaysia, there has been a lot of demand for air travel between Johor and certain parts of China.

The all-in-fares will start from as low as RM88 one one-way inclusive of taxes and fees.

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Islamic Development Bank funds US$27 for Tunisian agriculture

Manama, Bahrain, 7 April 2016 – New funding from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) will contribute to improving the lives of people in Tunisia and support the government’s goal to combat poverty and unemployment in the country.

The agreements contribute to the funding of US $27.7 million for the Sfax Integrated Agricultural Development Project. They also provide US $200,000 in grants to support Tunisia’s Ministry of Development and International Cooperation.

They were signed by IDB Group President Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali and H.E. Yassin Ibrahim, Tunisia’s Minister of Development, Investment and International Cooperation, who is also IDB Governor for Tunisia. The signing took place during the Joint Meeting of Arab Financing Institutions on 5-6 April.

The Sfax project will support investment in infrastructure and boost agricultural harvest and dairy production. It advances Tunisia’s goals to combat poverty in rural areas, tackle unemployment and promote its global status as an important country for growing olives and producing olive oil.

The technical assistance grant will facilitate capacity building in Tunisia’s Ministry of Development and International Cooperation to improve the productivity of the ministry’s staff.

It will help the ministry improve strategic planning, better coordinate investment and development opportunities, supervise development projects and increase its technological skills through training, exchange of expertise. It will also provide an office and information technology equipment.

Tunisia is a founding member of IDB, which has been maintaining solid cooperation with the Bank. To date, IDB Group approvals for the country surpass US $4 billion for development initiatives and infrastructure projects.

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Malaysia’s Ramli Dazzles Delhi On Odissi Dance Tour

NEW DELHI, India, 15 April 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – Malaysia’s Ramli Ibrahim has delivered a scintillating performance of his Ganjam dance show in New Delhi, launching an Indian tour that seeks to make a strong “bilateral cultural statement.”

Malaysia’s cultural icon and legendary choreographer of the Indian classical dance is currently performing in India to showcase his new production, ‘Ganjam’ which premiered in Kuala Lumpur last year.

The Odissi dance show derives inspiration from the cultural heritage of the Ganjam district in the state of Odisha.

A troupe of nine dancers from Ramli’s Sutra Foundation performed to a packed auditorium at the Indian capital’s Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra on Wednesday. Other stops on their India tour are Bhubaneswar, Rourkela Steel City and Behrampur in Odisha.

Ramli, 63, described ‘Ganjam’ as a new and adventurous production that could enjoy “global appeal and universality.”

He said Ganjam integrated dance and choreography with a medley of various other dramatic and theatrical elements.

Sutra Foundation’s performances in India made a “significant bilateral, cultural statement” and promoted further Indo-Malaysian cooperation in arts and music, added Ramli.

“One of the things that India should celebrate is that with such shows, Indian culture becomes world property,” he told Bernama.

Talking about his foundation’s work in Malaysia, Ramli said his efforts were aimed at promoting Kuala Lumpur’s cultural branding.

“No city can be a business hub without a lively arts and culture scene,” he noted.

Ramli’s Indian odyssey has received support from the High Commission of Malaysia in New Delhi, Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysia-India Business Council and other various business and cultural groups.

Marking the start of Ramli’s 10-day tour, the ‘Quintessential Sutra’ book was launched at the Malaysian High Commission on April 12.

Ramli is widely acknowledged for his mastery in Bharatanatyam, Odissi as well as contemporary dance.

He became the first Malaysian to receive India’s prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award 2011, in recognition of his contributions to Odissi, said to be the oldest surviving dance.

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Zero Chance Haze Will Occur In Southeast Asian Region 2016

SINGAPORE, 15 April 2016, (NNN-CNA) – There is “zero chance” that the region will experience the same bout of haze this year as it did in 2015, according to the Head of Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency Nazir Foead.

This is due to the determination from the government, palm oil and pulp and paper companies, and the community to make sure that steps are taken to ensure that fires do not break out on peatlands, added Nazir, who was speaking at the third Sustainable World Resources dialogue here Friday (Apr 15).

The Peatland Restoration Agency was set up in January this year by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to restore about 2 million hectares of peatland that have been damaged by fires.

It is a move by the Indonesian government to prevent fires from happening, which is a shift from a focus on mitigation efforts in the past.

The agency is now in the process of creating more detailed maps to complement the One Map initiative. This will be completed in the next two to three months.

It is also urging companies to play their part in restoring peatlands, which is something touched on by Singapore’s Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli at the same event.

“Agro-forestry companies should take full responsibility for fire prevention and mitigation in their concessions. There must not be a repeat, for example, of last year’s fires. Companies should invest in efforts to rehabilitate degraded and fire-prone peatlands. Companies must ensure that sustainable policies and practices don’t stop with them,” said Masagos.

Restoration involves rewetting the carbon-rich peatlands, which burn easily when dry. The agency wants to create dams and canals to increase the water level in peatlands. It will also identify other types of crops besides palm oil that can grow well on peatlands, like the sago plant.

Nazir added the agency is in talks with the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), to consider including companies’ efforts in peatland restoration as a criteria in issuing the Singapore Green Label certification.

“SEC has just announced that it is now taking it further and working on a new category for products with pulp and paper, which will include in its criteria the requirement for peatland management and fire prevention standards. When fully developed, I believe this standard will be the most holistic certification standard for pulp and paper in the world,” said Masagos.

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Vietjet Air Launches New Routes To Kuala Lumpur

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam, 13 April 2016, (NNN-Bernama) — The low-cost carrier Vietjet Air will start operating new routes from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City to Tainan (Taiwan) and Kuala Lumpur starting June, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

According to the airline’s press release issued Tuesday, the Ho Chi Minh City – Tainan City route will be operated every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from June 22, with about three hours and 15 minutes per leg.

The airline will also increase flight frequency between Ho Chi Minh City and Taipei city of Taiwan from one round trip per day to twice from June 18 with flight time of three hours 25 minutes per leg.

To celebrate the new international routes, Vietjet will offer 50,000 promotional tickets.

The promotion, which runs from April 12 to 18 between 12pm and 2pm daily, is applied for all tickets on routes connecting Ho Chi Minh City with Kuala Lumpur, Tainan and Taipei.

Travel period for Ho Chi Minh City – Kuala Lumpur route is from June 1 to Oct 30, for Ho Chi Minh – Tainan/Taipei route is from June 22 to Oct 30 (excluding public holidays).

Tickets can be booked at www.vietjetair.com or at www.facebook.com/vietjetvietnam by clicking the “Booking” tab.

Payment can be easily made with debit and credit cards of Visa, MasterCard, JCB, and American Express and ATM cards issued by 24 Vietnamese banks with Internet banking.

Vietjet is the first airline in Vietnam to operate as a new-age airline with low-cost and diversified services to meet customers’ demands.

Currently, the airline boasts a fleet of 35 aircraft, including A320s and A321s, and operates 250 flights each day.

It has already opened 47 routes in Vietnam and across the region to international destinations such as Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Myanmar and Malaysia.

It has carried more than 20 million passengers to date.

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South Africa Deputy Arts And Culture Minister Visits Qatar

DOHA, 15 April 2016, (NNN-SA NEWS) – South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, is on a visit to Qatar to lay the groundwork for further engagements in the cultural field with her Qatari counterparts.

“The South African Department of Arts and Culture and its Qatari counterpart have finalised a Memorandum of Agreement on Arts, Culture and Heritage to be signed soon,” she said here Thursday.

She said the Memorandum of Agreement seeks to consolidate and strengthen the ties of friendship and of reciprocal understanding between people of the two countries.

Mabudafhasi, who is also here at the invitation of the South African Embassy in Doha to participate in its Freedom Day celebrations, said this year marked 22 years since the demise of the apartheid regime in and the birth of the democratic South Africa.

The Department of Arts and Culture’s participation during the Freedom Day celebrations in Qatar also served as a platform to showcase South African dance and music in line with the department’s objective of creating opportunities and exploring markets for South African culture and products in the Middle East region.

“It is for this reason that we brought the Garage Dance Ensemble from O’okiep in the Northern Cape (province) to participate during the Freedom Day celebrations. This group was created for the empowerment of young people through performance and teaching that instils a sense of personal pride, discipline, responsibility and a ‘can do’ attitude, which in turn will open them to new possibilities in life,” Mabudafhasi said.

In South Africa, April is dedicated to Freedom Day, which will be celebrated on April 27.

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Palestinian Issue the Central Cause of Islamic Countries, OIC Summit Says

15 April 2016, (Federation of Arab News Agencies) – The Conference also stressed its support for the State of Qatar in countering the political and media campaigns aiming it is facing with regard to workers’ rights and took note of the efforts of the State of Qatar on the improvement of workers conditions and the paramount importance it attaches to them, ensuring their rights in full, consistent with its national laws.

– The Conference commended the actions by Member States leading to the progressive increase in the Authorized Capital of IDB which currently stands at 100 billion Islamic Dinars, the full payment of its Subscribe Capital of 50 billion Islamic Dinars, and the innovative resource mobilization mechanism introduced by the IDB Group.

– The Conference expressed satisfaction with the implementation of the Special Programme for Development of Africa (SPDA), which has effectively contributed to social and physical infrastructure development in 22 countries, while supporting ongoing initiative to elaborate a successor programmewith emphasis on cross-border and regional projects.

Similarly, the Conference welcomed the implementation of OIC Plan of Action for Cooperation with Central Asia (OIC-PACCA), which has demonstrated its potentials in fostering active cooperation with OIC Member States in Central Asia.

– The OIC summit also emphasized the significance of Small and Medium Enterprises promotion policies in attaining sustainable economic growth as well as fighting unemployment and poverty.

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Afghanistan Beat Namibia in ICC Cricket Match

KABUL, 13 April 2016,(BNA)- Afghanistan on Tuesday clinched defeated Namibia by an innings and 36 runs in first-class four-day match played at Greater Noida Sport Complex, New Dheli-India.

Mohammad Shezad’s patient 139 and five-fors from off spinner Mohammad Nabi nd Zahir Khan, in the first and second innings respectively, shaped Afghanistan’s innings-and-36-run victory over Namibia in an ICC Intercontinental Cup match. Nabi led Afghanistan’s charge with the ball in the first innings, after Namibia opted to bat, dismissing Stephen Baard in the 12th over.

Namibia opener Pikky Ya France and Gerhard Erasmus added 56 for the third wicket but the latter’s dismissal set off a collapse that saw Namibia slip from 109 for 2 to 149 for 9. Nabi, who finished with 5 for 25, had support from Zahir (3 for 31), and Dawlat Zadran and Rahmat Shah, who took a wicket each.

Ya France were Namibia’s top-scorer with 46 in an innings where no other batsman made more than 30. Afghanistan has strengthened their grip on their four-day Intercontinental Cup match against Namibia in India, thanks to a superb century by Mohammad Shahzad. The gutsy batsman smashed his fourth first-class century (139) to help Afghanistan take a valuable 162 runs lead over Namibia, which struggled at 19 for 2 in their second innings on Monday.

At stumps on Monday, Afghanistan was in control of the duel. Nabi trapped lbw Stephan Baard, the Namibian captain, and Zane Green, the ACB spokesman said, praising Afsar Zazai for his determined unbeaten 49. Namibia is in seventh place, with one victory and one loss. They outplayed Hong Kong in May, but lost to Ireland in October by an innings and 107 runs.

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Brunei Islamic Bank launches ‘SME 360’ solution

15 April 2016, (Borneo Bulletin) – BANK Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) yesterday launched its SME 360 offering during His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah ibni His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Deputy Sultan, working visit to the Business Support Centre (BSC) of DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) in Anggerek Desa, Berakas.

In a press release, Mubashar Khokhar, BIBD Managing Director said, “Today’s launching, along with all our other products and services, aligns us closer towards 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’s vision of the country in developing a dynamic and sustainable economy. Along with building on our relationship with DARe, we will be pursuing more partnerships with government institutions to create improved solutions and opportunities.

“We are also very thankful and supportive of the efforts and policies in place by the Government of His Majesty. We are confident our contribution today, especially in support of Brunei Vision 2035, will create more avenues for SMEs to grow, and, Insya Allah, develop more business and industries leaders in Brunei Darussalam.”

The SME 360 offering provides a comprehensive banking solution that complements the needs of businesses, especially SMEs, which includes dedicated relationship management team, financial solutions and digital payments.

The dedicated relationship management team provides access to sound banking advice and financing solutions which include working capital, property, bridging, supply/procurement contract, trade finance, and guarantees. On top of that, businesses will have access to BIBD’s array of digital payment solutions including card merchant services, e-tunai, e-bayar, MasterCard Internet Gateway Service, and Corporate Internet Banking.

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Turkish Airlines To Boost Flights On KL-Istanbul Route

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 13 April 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – Turkish Airlines, Turkey’s national flag carrier, will increase its flight frequency from Kuala Lumpur (KL) to Istanbul to 14 times weekly from the current 10 times weekly, beginning June 1 this year.

Turkish Airlines Inc, General Manager (M) Osman Safak Kucukcolak said the additional flights were to cater to the needs of Malaysian and foreign tourists flying to Istanbul as well as other European countries via KL.

“We are adding more flights as we believe that Malaysia is one of the powerful countries in ASEAN.

“We have a really strong network in Europe. (We can connect) people who want to fly to Malaysia, and gather them in Istanbul. With our supporting directories in the region, we will have no problem loading our aircraft,” he told Bernama.

To celebrate the additional frequencies, Osman Safak said Turkish Airlines would offer promotional fares in June and July 2016 for one-way trips to major European cities including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and others.

The airline would also offer promotions for business class seats, he said.

Turkish Airlines started operations in Malaysia in April 2013, with introductory round trip flights three times per week on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Given the tremendous demand, Osman Safak said the airline’s business in Malaysia remained robust and it was eyeing for more expansion in the future.

“We’re investing here as we believe in our future in Malaysia. We are able to bring more passengers to Europe. So that’s why Malaysia is so important to us.

“Until now (the business is) doing very well. We believe we can do more in the future, but at the moment we are only increasing the flight frequency,” he said, adding the airline currently deploys a brand new 289-seater Airbus 330 aircraft on the KL-Istanbul route.

Turkish Airlines, among the youngest fleets in Europe, has been awarded the Best Airline Europe by Skytrax for the last five consecutive years.

The airline aims to increase its number of passengers to 120 million in 2023 from the current 60 million, and the number of aircraft from 300 to more than 500.

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Reconstruction of Bakhtar School Building Complete

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, 13 April 2016, (BNA) – The reconstruction work of Bakhter High School has been completed by Turkey in northern Balkh province yesterday.

Najibullah deputy of the school told BNA, reconstruction work of the school was begun one year ago and inaugurated by general consul of Turkey in Mazar-e-Sharif yesterday.

According to him, the building of the school was built in 1318 on 28 acres of lands.

The school building reconstructed at the cost of 1, 250, 000 USD with financial assistance of Turkey in three floors with having 36 classrooms.

Now Bakhtar High School has 6000 students which taught by 235 teachers, the source added.

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INTEL: Kazakhstan remains a promising market for IT industry

15 April 2016, (Khabar Agency) – INTEL: Kazakhstan remains a promising market for it industry 15.04.2016 11:30 Kazakhstan is one of the most promising markets for the IT industry, and development of cloud computing and Internet of Things technology will be the main trends in the country’s information industry in the next few years. This opinion is shared by Intel experts having conducted a global market research. Today, global manufacturers are willing to cooperate actively with domestic businesses both in promotion of products and staff training.

Dmitry Konash, Regional Director, Intel in Russia and CIS said, “There are several cooperation spheres. First of all, this is the work with customer segment. The second part of cooperation is connected with educational organizations, schools or universities. And certainly this includes cooperation with businesses since today any business cannot run without computers and new technologies. Speaking about the prospects, specialists pay special attention to creation of “smart” digital infrastructure which is based on the Internet of Things technology (IoT).”

He added, “It is when computers ‘talk’ to each other. It is great that a number of such technologies are present in Almaty. For example, several information steles that already appeared in the city display helpful information so that drivers could easily move around the city. Such information includes reports about traffic jams, current events and of course advertisements. Other trends which catch the experts’ attention are medicine and healthy lifestyle as well as expansion in music, fashion and inventions.

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700 kms of Tunisian roads to be upgraded.

1 April 2016, (AfricanManager) – Minister of Public Works, Housing and Spatial Planning, Mohamed Salah Afraoui kicked off the Road Infrastructure Modernization Project (French: PMIR) on Thursday, March 31.

This project is particularly important for Tunisia, especially as it concerns priority key areas, namely structural transformation of the country’s economy, regional development, strengthening infrastructure and creating jobs, the minister said.

It is strategic, the Minister has added, noting that this project worth 855 million dinars and 3.3 million dinars for technical assistance will strengthen positive discrimination, while improving the quality of the road network mainly in inland areas and opening up real opportunities for investment.

Mohamed Salah Arfaoui noted, in this context, that the amount allocated to technical assistance will support the country’s efforts in establishing the foundations of a modern infrastructure.

“This work will materialize only through achieving stronger and broad-based growth, deepening reforms and strengthening infrastructure,” the minister also said, noting that the launch of PMIR is at the heart of the regional development strategy for the period 2016-2020 aimed at upgrading of disadvantaged areas.

Mohamed Salah Arfaoui secondly focused on the strategic role of the project that will enhance the modernization of road infrastructure. “Efforts are combined to ensure that our roads meet international standards and that is why this project aims to achieve this goal,” he said. He added: “our goal is to enable our roads to better comply with international standards with a rate of 68 percent.”

The minister also said that the project will affect approximately 700 km of Tunisia’s main and secondary roads, not to mention 23 works.

Regarding the components of this project, Salah Zouari, Director General of Roads and Bridges, said they are focused on the development of roads, technical assistance with periodic maintenance to meet this challenge.

In the same context, the official said the project that will target 21 areas will start in early April and run for a period of three years.

Moreover, works for the realization of the first phase will start soon and be completed in 2017, while the second phase will begin in 2017 and will continue until the end of 2018.

The launch of this project was supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB), as a strategic partner in its financing. Indeed, this financial institution contributes 400 million dinars under a loan granted to the Tunisian government.

AfDB Operations Director for North Africa, Jacob Kolster placed emphasis on this project that targets systematic inclusion. “This project will be inclusive, since 60 percent of the planned investments are dedicated to regions most affected by unemployment, deterioration of infrastructure, but also marked by the absence of connectivity to economic centers,” he noted.

The official was optimistic, especially since this project will certainly ensure access to economic opportunities, since it will address the problem of road sector reform, through the development of an upgrade study to be financed by the AfDB.

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Training Course on ‘Market Operations’ in Iran

SESRIC will organise a training course on ‘Market Operations’ within the framework of the OIC Capacity Building Programme for Central Banks (OIC CB-CaB) on 18-19 April 2016 in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran. The training course will be provided by the experts of the Istanbul School of Central Banking (ISCB), Republic of Turkey, with the participation of relevant members of the Central Bank of the Republic of Iran.

For other activities of the OIC Capacity Building Programme for Central Banks (OIC CB-CaB), please visit: http://www.oicvet.org/cbp-centralbanks.php

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Kazakhstan expands cooperation with EU in transit of agricultural products

14 April 2016, (Khabar Agency) – European farmers are ready to export their products to China and South-East Asia through Kazakhstan. Arrangements have been made today in Astana during the meeting of Minister of Agriculture Assylzhan Mamytbekov with his European counterpart Phil Hogan.

The EU will develop business relations with Kazakhstan in a variety of agricultural developments. It is regulated by a special agreement. The volume of trade turnover between Kazakhstan and the EU is estimated at more than $500 million. Our country exports about 100,000 tons of wheat, six thousand tons of fish fillets, 16 thousand tons of cotton fiber to Europe.

Assylzhan Mamytbekov, Kazakh Minister Of Agriculture: We have discussed the issues in the field of organic certification of products with the expansion of transit through the countries of the Silk belt. We are also very in-depth look at the experience of the EU on zoning areas in terms of improving the competitiveness of local farmers.

Phil Hogan, Commissioner For Agriculture Of EU States: Finally, I can say that the European Union is willing to cooperate and share own experience with Kazakhstan to mutual benefit. During the meeting we discussed issues on organics and rural development.

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Winners of UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture honoured in Paris

PARIS, 15 April 2016, (WAM) – The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, and Abdualla Al Owais, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Information of the Emirate of Sharjah, on Thursday presented the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture 2015 to Palestinian author Elias Sanbar and the Islamic Library of Spain’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), in a ceremony held at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris.

Madhed Hareb Al Khaili, UAE Ambassador to France, Abdullah Ali Masbeh, UAE Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), VIPs, diplomats and a crowd of intellectual and cultural personalities attended the award-giving ceremony.

An international jury of experts chose the laureates of 13th edition for their commitment to the dissemination of Arab culture around the world.

Al Owais conveyed the congratulations of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to the winners.

Elias Sanbar (Haifa, 1947) is one of the most distinguished Arab intellectuals today, whose activities encompass literature, law, history, translation, journalism and diplomacy. Over four decades, he has brought a significant contribution to an improved understanding of Arab culture. In 1981, he co-founded one of the most respected publications about Palestine anywhere, La Revue d’?tudes palestiniennes, of which he was the editor-in-chief for 25 years.

His translations into French of the work of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish is a major contribution to the dissemination of Arab culture. He also co-authored Le rescap? et l’exil? (The Survivor and the Exiled) with Holocaust survivor Stephane Hessel, a book that has had considerable international impact. Since 2012, Elias Sanbar has also been Palestine’s Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.

The Biblioteca Islamica, the Islamic Library of Spain’s Agency for International Cooperation and Development, has become an essential international reference in the field of Arabic and Andalusian studies due to the wealth of its collections and the services it provides. Based in Madrid since its founding in 1954, the library has a collection of 100,000 volumes.

The Islamic Library collaborates actively with university departments offering courses of Arabic and Islamic culture. It takes part in international conferences organized by the European Association of Middle East Libraries (MELCOM) and promotes intercultural dialogue by entering into partnerships with scientific and educational associations in the Arab world. The Library also brings its support to other Arab libraries through training and exchanges.

Created in 1998 at the initiative of the United Arab Emirates, the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture rewards the efforts of two personalities or organisations, one from an Arab country and one from any other country, who have made a significant contribution to the development, dissemination and promotion of Arab culture in the world. The prize carries a monetary value of $60,000, equally divided between the two laureates.

Established in 1998, the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture rewards, each year, two laureates – individuals, groups or institutions – who, through their work and outstanding achievements, endeavour to disseminate greater knowledge of Arab art and culture.

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Amir Ali Shir Nawayee International Symposium Held in Afghanistan

KABUL, 13 April 2016, (BNA) – The International Symposium for Amir Ali Shir Nawayee was held for the second day at the Intercontinental Hotel, with some Afghan and neighboring countries writers and poets reading their essays and poems on the occasion, Bakhtar News Agency said the other day. Attendees from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and India spoke on the great personality of Amir Ali Shir Nawayee and read their poems on the occasion.

Some Afghan writers and experts also delivered speech about the great personality of Nawayee and his life aspects at the meeting, where the participants received some booklets republished by Baihaqi Book Publishing House and visited the works of arts and types of calligraphy and paintings arranged by some of the countries art fans at one of the intercontinental halls, the agency added. The symposium is expected to be continued for the third day in Kabul, with the participants would leave for Herat-the native birthplace of Nawayee and visit the historical places. The fifth and final day of the symposium would be a visit by the participants to the northern Mazar-e-Sharif historical city.

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Bahrain Heritage Festival To Kick Off

MANAMA, Bahrain, 13 April 2016, (NNN-BNA) – The 24th annual Bahrain Heritage Festival, will kick off tomorrow (Thursday: Apr 14), under the patronage of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The event, themed: “Vocal Waves from Our Bahrain,” will be held in a special tent, near the Bahrain National Museum.

Bahrain heritage, related to pearl hunting and making, will be brought under the spotlight, in the one-week event, which will provide visitors with the opportunities to meet an elite of Bahraini craftsmen, while doing their jobs like basket making, pottery and handicraft.

Visitors will get a taste of shows, highlighting the Bahraini culture and traditions, as well as, tableaux of Bahraini folklore, which will be held daily, on a special indoor theatre platform. The festival will also feature various recreational and cultural functions, shedding light on the kingdom’s rich heritage.

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Tunisia: Domestic tourism in Nabeul up 11.4% in Q1 2016

15 April 2016, (AfricanManager) – Domestic tourism in Nabeul recorded a growth of 11.4 pc in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period of the previous year, according to the regional tourism commissioner in Nabeul.

Regional commissioner of tourism in Nabeul, Ezzeddine Grami said in a statement to TAP that the number overnight stays recorded in the first quarter is estimated at 64,519 against 57,925 in 2015 whereas the number of visitors is around 36,724.

The number of foreign tourists was down by almost 37pc, noted Grami. The regional tourism commission in Nabeul covers areas of Nabeul and Hammamet with 117 hotel units with a total capacity of over 40,000 beds.

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Training Course on ‘Competition Law and Policy’ in Cameroon

SESRIC will organise, in collaboration with the Turkish Competition Authority, a training course on “Competition Law and Policy” within the framework of the OIC Capacity Building Programme for Competition Authorities (OIC-CA-CaB) on 18-20 April 2016 in Yaounde, Cameroon. The course will be provided by the competition experts of the Turkish Competition Authority with the participation of relevant members of the National Competition Authority of Cameroon.

For other activities of the OIC Capacity Building Programme for Competition Authorities (OIC CA-CaB), please visit: http://www.oicvet.org/competition-authorities.php

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New plan to revive Egypt’s ailing tourism sector

Political instability and a series of violent events following the 25 January Revolution has driven tourists away from Egypt.

Incidents involving tourists, like the accidental killing of Mexican tourists last year and the downing of a Russian airliner over Sinai in October, have put the safety of Egypt as a touristic destination in question. The case of the Italian student whose tortured body was found in Cairo last month further darkened Egypt’s reputation abroad.

The figures spell it out. The losses of the sector over the last five years are around $24 billion. The number of tourists visiting Egypt declined from a peak of almost 15 million in 2010 to around 9.5 million in 2015.

The importance of the sector lies in the fact that tourism is Egypt’s main foreign currency earner and employs 12.6 per cent of the workforce either directly or indirectly, with dozens of professions depending on it.

Government figures show that, on average, tourism contributes 11.3 per cent of GDP and 14.4 per cent of foreign currency revenues in Egypt.

The first quarter of this year saw the number of tourists decrease by 40 per cent compared to the same period in 2015, according to the newly appointed tourism minister, Yehia Rashed.

Speaking to Reuters on Sunday, however, Rashed said he was confident about luring back millions of foreign visitors to Egypt. “The first quarter is down about 40 per cent compared to last year. However, there is a positive with every negative. The Gulf business is up about 45 per cent from last year,” Rashed said.

He said he is embarking on a plan to attract 12 million tourists to Egypt by the end of 2017, adding that the new plan will include increasing the presence of national carrier EgyptAir abroad and working with low-cost airlines.

Focussing on the airlines is the cornerstone of the plan, Samy Mahmoud, head of the General Authority for Tourism Promotion (GATP), told Al-Ahram Weekly. He said that without the airlines there could be no tourism so GATP is investing a lot of effort to support both regular and charter flights.

“We are planning to offer incentives to charter flights to encourage more such trips to Egypt. There is a plan to finance joint advertising campaigns in which we are paying a percentage of the cost.”

Last month, an Egyptian private airline revealed plans to purchase up to 10 Russian-made jets in a deal with the Russian Sukhoi Company. The deal would include the creation of a tour agency to restore the flights between the two countries that were stopped after the plane crash in October. The following month, Moscow suspended all flights to Egypt pending an investigation into the plane crash.

An anonymous source close to the deal told Reuters in February that the agency could be a vehicle for resuming tourist links, as it would provide the Russians with more flexibility than they might have working through state-owned EgyptAir.

However, Roman Skory, deputy head of Russia’s Federal Agency for Tourism, told the TASS News Agency last week that Russian tourists will not be back in Egypt this year, citing a lack of safety.

“By way of example, Britain and a number of European countries are not rushing to resume flights to Egypt either. Safety is the key issue, the number one problem,” he said.

The government hired the UK-based Control Risks Group, a consultancy firm, last month to evaluate security at three international airports, in Cairo, Sharm El-Sheikh and Marsa Allam. The first phase of the evaluation will take six months and cost an estimated $700,000.

“Improving the perception of Egypt in the foreign market is another pillar of the plan as the recent incidents have tarnished Egypt’s image in the minds of foreigners as it is now linked to terrorism and human rights abuses,” one commentator said.

The job of improving Egypt’s image is being undertaken by the New York-based J Walter Thomson (JWT), a multinational company that won a $68 million contract last September to promote Egypt worldwide.

Mahmoud explained that the three-year contract with JWT covers public relations, including communications with media representatives, buying advertising space on billboards and social media, and holding cultural and artistic events.

In the first six months of the contract, Mahmoud believes the company’s performance has been negatively affected by the recent incidents, however.

“It spent months preparing for an event like that of the Greek composer Yanni at the Pyramids. The event attracted a lot of attention, but all this was in vain when on the following day the Russian plane crash happened,” he said.

JWT is currently promoting Egypt in 11 markets, with its activities in the UK, Italy and Russia halted due to the recent events.

The ministry’s plan includes supporting the hospitality sector and upgrading the quality of services. More than 50 hotels in Sharm El-Sheikh have closed because of the drop in tourism, in addition to tens of others in Taba, Nuweiba and Marsa Allam, according to the South Sinai Investors Association, an industry group. South Sinai is home to 80 per cent of Egypt’s beach tourism destinations.

“The prime minister’s decision to postpone repayment of the tourism companies’ dues to the banks for six months to one year is aimed at making things easier for them,” said Adla Ragab, economic advisor to the minister of tourism.

Ragab noted that the postponement of the decision on the property tax on hotels also gives them space before imposing new taxes on them.

The GATP is currently targeting new markets other than the Russian and European ones. “We are focussing on opportunities in China, Japan and India, and we are also targeting the Gulf countries,” it said.

Visitors from the Gulf have the highest spending rate, with a Gulf visitor spending on average $150 per night while the average tourist does not spend more than $70.

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