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30 May, 2016

International Muslim Media Alliance to be set up

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 30 May 2016 (23 Sha’baan 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.

Wishing all my readers a peaceful and blessed upcoming Holy Month of Ramadan




Tourism Malaysia has launched 16 holiday packages to promote Labuan as a holiday destination. The ‘Best of Labuan Holiday Packages 2016’ is the result of collaboration between Tourism Malaysia and four local tour agencies: LGM Tour & Travel Sdn. Bhd., Borneo Star Dive Sdn. Bhd., Destination Borneo Sdn. Bhd., and Jiwaja Rent A Car Sdn. Bhd. Each package offers different activities to make it easier for tourists to choose the destination that they want to visit based on their interests. Among the activities include reef diving at Marine Park, diving at World War II and 1980’s shipwreck sites, exploring a coal mining tunnel, shopping at Labuan market and duty free shops, and many more. The 3D2N Par-Fect Experience At LIGC package offers consumers the best golfing experience at the Labuan International Golf Club which opened in 2013. It costs RM748 per person with minimum two people. The Island Hoping Fun Tastic package promises an unforgettable snorkeling experience at the Marine Park comprising Kuraman, Rusukan Kecil, Rusukan Besar and Papan Islands. The one day tour package starts from RM1,208 per person with minimum of 12 people. Additional efforts by Tourism Malaysia to boost travel to Labuan includes the arrangement of six charter flights to bring in holidaymakers from China, which will begin on 15 July this year.

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


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.



Bernama TV Gets New Look

Kuala Lumpur, 25 May 2016, (Bernama) — The Malaysian National News Agency – BERNAMA has taken a bold step by re-branding its news station currently known as Bernama Tv, to suit the current trend in the broadcasting industry.

As of May 25 2016, the 24-hour channel will be known as BERNAMA NEWS CHANNEL with the abbreviation BNC.

The re-branding exercise include the changing of its id, logo and colour scheme.

The logo, made up of three letters, depicts 4 magnets with colours that has long embodied the identity of Malaysia: blue, red, and yellow for each alphabet in its abbreviation, BNC, respectively.

The philosophy of the logo: Magnet in itself symbolises attraction, which is what BNC intends to do, to attract its viewers with news and information which are fast, accurate, and trustworthy.

To watch BNC news and news related programmes, viewers can continue tuning in to Astro 502, Hypp tv 410, MYTV and www.bernama.com

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ASEAN Integration: Malaysian, Laotian Banks sign cooperation pact

KUALA LUMPUR, 26 May 2016, (Bernama) – On 25 May 2016, Export–Import Bank of Malaysia Berhad (EXIM Bank) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Joint Development Bank (JDB) of Lao P.D.R aimed at strengthening the cooperation of financing, guaranteeing and other financial mechanisms to support the capacity of both organizations.

The signing was represented by Mrs. Norzilah Mohammed, President/ CEO of EXIM Bank and Mr. Sounthorn Chanthavong, Director General of JDB. The memorandum was witnessed by Mr. Shahmir Bin Nor Shahid, Senior Vice President II – Banking Department of EXIM Bank and Mr. Sakhone Yorphanxay, Credit Loan Manager of JDB.

The memorandum summarizes the collaboration arrangements relating to common objectives in promoting mutual business relations between Malaysia and Lao P.D.R to uphold the trade and investment opportunities supporting both Lao and Malaysian Companies in their globalization / internationalization efforts. This collaboration between two countries is seen to be a good platform to intensify efforts and build up a high competitive environment with strong business integrity in order to penetrate the global market.

Speaking on the occasion, Norzilah Mohammed, President/Chief Executive Officer of EXIM Bank said that “EXIM Bank is mandated to assist Malaysians business venturing abroad by providing its financing and advisory services. Hence, this collaboration will be another important initiative for businessmen to explore funding support and setting up operations in Malaysia and Malaysian Companies setting up operations in Lao”, added Norzilah Mohammed.

The Export-Import Bank of Malaysia Berhad (EXIM Bank) was incorporated on 29 August 1995 and is wholly-owned by the Government of Malaysia. The Bank has assisted a diverse range of Malaysian business in an equally diverse range of sectors in their global ventures. EXIM Bank takes pride in meeting its mandated role of stimulating and enhancing the competitiveness of Malaysian industries for exports and investments globally via the provisioning of internationally and domestically competitive banking and insurance products and advisory services.

Joint Development Bank of Lao is a privately-held Bank of Lao since 2012. It was set up in 1989 by a group of Thai businessmen and Bank of Lao, P.D.R. Currently the people of Lao P.D.R own 100% of the Bank. Its principal activities are Corporate Banking, Personal Banking and Money Transfer. JDB head offices is in Vientiane, Lao P.D.R. It has 14 service units located all over Lao P.D.R.

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30 Mardi Youth Agropreneurs Showcasing 100 Malaysian Products

KUALA LUMPUR, 26 May 2016, (Bernama) — Low Yat Group in collaboration with MARDI jointly launched MARDI Agropreneurs Products Showcase 2016 which enables 30 youth Agropreneurs a platform to showcase Malaysian agro-based products for the next two weeks from 26th-28th May and 2nd to 4th June at Riverwalk Village, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah (formerly 3rd Mile Jalan Ipoh), Kuala Lumpur.

The official launch is graced by YBhg Dato’ Dr. Sharif Bin Haron, Director General of MARDI, Dr Ahmad Safuan Bin Bujang, Deputy Director of MARDI Youth Agropreneurs Program, and Ms Low Su Ming, Executive Director of Low Yat Group’s property division. Other attendees include Directors and Management teams of MARDI and Low Yat Group, and participants of MARDI Youth Agropreneurs programme as well as Members of the Media.

Youth Agropreneur Unit (Program Agropreneur Muda) is a nationwide initiative under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture with the main aim of encouraging and inculcating interest among youth from the ages of 18-40 years old, to venture into agro-related business activities. These activities include livestock rearing (chicken, beef, lamb and venison), fertigation (fruit and vegetable crops) and agro-based food products (frozen food, paste, sauces, premixes, etc).

With generation of income a focal point in this initiative, the program also targets lesser dependency on foreign imports of food commodities to safeguard the nation’s food security. Agencies like MARDI are tasked to organize trainings, short-courses, technical consultancies, as well as facilitating application of grants to achieve these goals. Furthermore, this program also provides platforms and avenues for agropreneurs to promote their products and expand their marketing network. This is done through many activities including roadshows, exhibitions and product showcases nationwide.



The collaboration between MARDI and Low Yat Group is a significant private-governmental initiative – a perfect merger of entities – that can benefit small and medium entrepreneurs such as MARDI’s Youth Entrepreneurs in accessing new networks and markets, as well as expanding their brand awareness.

This joint event is Low Yat Group’s first initiative to support MARDI in providing technology leadership to young generation entrepreneur involved in the development of food and agriculture sectors through technology transfer and facility utilization. It is a continuous initiative by MARDI to create and develop competent young entrepreneur. The collaboration will enable MARDI and Low Yat Group to further spin-off new ideas and other joint initiatives or cross selling opportunities across its varied business activities, both locally and abroad, in the near future.

In conjunction with the launch of MARDI Agropreneurs Products Showcase 2016, MARDI has selected 30 youth agropreneurs to showcase a total of about 100 their unique and attractive food and agro based products in this event.

The public and stakeholders will also be able to participate through a product survey that will be used to gauge and assess product appeal, quality and value. This will provide vital feedback to help these agropreneurs to improve and enhance their product.

This program will be held over the last weekend of May (26 to 28th May 2016) and the first weekend of June (2 to 4th June 2016) from 10 am to 6pm at Riverwalk Village. Selected product demos and cash voucher giveaways every are also included during this event to ensure that not only it will be an engaging experience for the participants involved, but also an eye-opening and captivating experience for the public.

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Two holy mosques ready for Ramadan rush

Makkah, (IINA), 23 May 2016 – About seven million Umrah pilgrims are expected to arrive during the remaining two weeks of Shaaban and during the fasting month of Ramadan. They will be served by thousands of employees who want to guarantee the pilgrims’ safety and comfort in Makkah and Madinah, Arab News reported Monday.

Umrah pilgrims come through various entrypoints, the most important ones being King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah. The kingdom uses all its powers to receive the pilgrims and facilitate all procedures until they reach Makkah and Madinah.

Mohammad Bejawi of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Madinah said that Egypt ranked first in terms of the grant of Umrah visas this year with 1,275,785 visas.

Pakistan came second with 918,063 visas; Indonesia third with 655,163 visas, followed by India with 436,000 visas; Turkey with 439,000, Jordan with 343,000, Algeria 313,000, Malaysia 211,000, Iraq 183,000, and Britain with 77,000. He noted that there were 695,000 coming from several other countries.

Abdul Wahid Al-Hattab of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques reviewed the operational plan for Umrah season, which includes plans for 5,000 employees in cooperation with all service directorates.

He said the presidency offers cool Zamzam water inside the Prophet’s Mosque and Grand Mosque. He confirmed that prayer areas have been laid with good quality carpets inside and on the roof of the two mosques and that the areas are kept clean around the clock.

He said the Prophet’s Mosque’s yards have been provided with 436 fans to offer cool surroundings and 250 shades to protect pilgrims from the heat of the sun.

He pointed out that 100 gates and six pedestrian paths have been allocated to worshippers in addition to 20 carts for the elderly and the disabled.

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LEAD STORY: International Muslim Media Alliance to be set up

Jakarta, 18 Sha’ban 1437 /26 May 2016 (MINA) – The International Conference of Islamic Media (ICIM) held in Jakarta on 25-26 May 2016 agreed to form an International Muslim Media Alliance (IMMA).

The formation of the association aims at strengthening the realization of the unity of the international Islamic media in accordance with its basic values, proactive defense of the interests of Islam, Muslims and humanity. IMMA Association specifically put the struggle of Palestine and Al-Aqsa as a top priority in its agenda.

The alliance is also in charge of developing the awareness of the international community as a real support to the Palestinians and Al-Quds As-Sharief, and also build networks with other Muslim media.

IMMA’s temporary secretariat will be in Jakarta, and will be succeed in participant member countries, Palestinian territories, Middle East, Asia, Europe, Australia and America in the future.

The conference convened the role of Islam in the media to support the Palestinian struggle from the Israeli occupation and the counter of Muslim bad images nowadays. The media is an important part in the spread of the world’s information, whether social, economic or political. Even the media became a tool of war in this age.

Therefore, IMMA is expected to be a strategic moment in the midst of increasing support from countries toward Palestinian independence and liberation of Al-Aqsa.

The ICIM has invited the chief editor of news agencies and mass media from 50 countries in the world, such as Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Palestine, Turkey, London, United States, Nigeria, Iran, Lebanon and Indonesia.

The Jakarta Declaration for Islamic Media Unity says, “It is merely carrying out orders of Allaah to protect and defend the interests of Islam and Muslims, especially the liberation of Palestine and Al-Quds.”

The statement, read out by Dr Cikgu Azmi Abdul Hamid, one of members of the Declaration Drafting Team, said the declaration was announced to fight for justice and peace on earth and the liberation of people from oppression, injustice and occupation.

Some participants of the International Conference of Islamic Media which consists, Chief Editors of Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA), ANTARA news agency, WAFA Palestine News Agency (Wakalah al-Anba al-Filistiniyyah), the Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency (AA ), and others, have also agreed to strive for the realization of the unity of the international Islamic media based on the principles of the Islamic brotherhood.

“International Islamic Media should unite to build a significant force to offset the dominance of Western media, the Zionist media, or any media that is waging war by making an adverse opinion of Islam and Muslims,” said Cikgu Azmi.

The statement added that the international Islamic media to be proactive in defending the interests of Islam, Muslims and humanity to the level of readiness and high reliability to fend off any attacks against the interests of Islam and Muslims.

“Each of us also is scheduled to mutually quote news supplied under news exchange program and news free of charge, to develop human resource competencies Muslim journalists through training and exchange of journalists,” he said.

The statement said they agreed on the need for promoting and diseminating news covered in the holy cities in Palestine, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as an assistance for the smooth delivery of prospective students to study in Palestine. Such activities can be facilitated at the invitation of the Palestinian News Agency WAFA through the Palestinian Embassy in Jakarta.

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Accessible Film Festival opens in Ankara

ANKARA, 25 May 2016,(Hürriyet Daily News)—The 4th Ankara Accessible Film Festival, which presents all screenings and side activities accessible for visually impaired and hearing impaired film lovers, opened on May 24.

This year, the festival program once again offers modern and classic movies of Turkish and world cinema, as well as workshops and Q&A sessions with directors, actors and film crews.

The only film festival in Turkey where everyone can watch movies together regardless of disability, the Ankara Accessible Film Festival presents all films with audio descriptions for visually impaired audiences and with sign language and detailed subtitles for hearing impaired viewers.

Workshops and Q&A sessions with directors and film crews are accompanied by a sign language translator, while opening and award ceremonies are presented with audio descriptions alongside sign language translation.

All festival venues are selected from the venues in the Turkish capital that are accessible for orthopedically impaired audience.

Visually impaired film lovers can follow films with headsets that provide an audio-description of the films, which are available on request at screening venues. Hearing impaired audiences will be provided with detailed Turkish subtitles as well as a sign-language translator embedded on screen.

All festival movies being screen have been made accessible by the Audio Description Association.

The Goethe-Institut Ankara and the Ulucanlar Prison Theater Hall are hosting the festival screenings this year, with all screenings and side activities free of charge.

The festival has a special guest this year, Yana Novikova, the leading actress of the movie The Tribe (Plemya), which was awarded at the Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week with the Grand Prize and has been in the limelight at every festival where it has been screened, as the first movie ever to be shot in sign language, without any audible dialog or subtitles.

This year 27 feature, short and documentary films will be screened at the Ankara Accessible Film Festival under the thematic sections named “Competition Without Barriers,” “Turkish Cinema,” “From the World,” “Films Without Barriers,” “The Long and Short of it,” “For Children,” “From the History of Cinema” and “Autism-Friendly Screening.”

Emin Alper’s “Abluka,” (Frenzy), Faruk Hacıhafızoğlu’s “Kar Korsanları” (Snow Pirates), Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s “Mustang,” Emine Emel Balcı’s “Nefesim Kesilene Kadar” (Until I Lose My Breath) and Tolga Karaçelik’s “Sarmaşık” (Ivy) will all compete for the Audience, Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay awards.

Audiences will have the chance to attend Q&A sessions with directors, cast and crew of the movies, accompanied by a sign language translator.

Consisting of critically acclaimed films from world cinema, this year the “From the World” section presents outstanding movies from United Kingdom, Greece and France including “45 Years,” “The Lobster,” “The Guest,” and “Far From Men.”

The “Films Without Barriers” section invites us to question what we know about disability and explore what is unknown to us. This special selection includes “The Tribe,” a movie widely discussed in the last year’s festival circles.

The autism-friendly screening was arranged for the first time last year. This year, the animated movie “The Little Prince” will be screened in a dimly-lit theater with relatively low sound levels. There will be no trailers before the movie, during which the audience will be allowed to walk around the room and eat food and drink beverages.

Organized by Puruli Culture & Art, the festival’s award ceremony will take place at the Ankara Opera House on May 29.

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Afghan Cricket Team Beats Pakistanis By 216 Runs

Kabul,28 May 2016,(BNA)— Afghanistan’s Development (AD) cricket team has defeated Pakistan’s Habib Bank (PHB) cricket team in second 4-day match.

Farid Hotak spokesman of Afghan cricket board today said BNA correspondent, in the second 4-day match first Afghanistan’s Development cricket team started bowling and targeted 393 runs, but Pakistan’s Habib Bank cricket team made 150 runs and in second round of the match Afghanistan’s Development cricket team targeted 264 runs and Pakistan’s Habib Bank cricket team perform 262 runs, in which Afghanistan’s Development cricket team with difference of 216 runs won the match.

Zaher Khan Pakteen, Afghan athlete has achieved the cup of best player of the competitions.

One-day matches between the mentioned two teams will begin tomorrow.

The first 4-day match between Afghanistan’s Development cricket team and Pakistan’s Habib Bank cricket team was ended equality.

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Amman Hosts Arab Forum for Sustainable Development 2016

Amman, 29 May 2016,(NNN-Petra) – The Arab Forum for Sustainable Development, 2016, which is organized by ESCWA in cooperation with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and the Arab League, kicks off in Amman on Sunday.

The Forum is a high-level meeting intended as a primary regional platform to discuss cohesive and coordinated implementation and follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Arab region.

The forum will discuss the modalities of a regional approach to complement national policy setting and planning. It also focuses on challenges and opportunities for implementation and monitoring of Agenda 2030 in the Arab region.

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Antalya home to most number of national parks in Turkey

ANTALYA, Anadolu Agency, 29 May 2016, (Hürriyet Daily News) -The Mediterranean province of Antalya, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, is also home to the highest number of nature parks, followed by Ankara, the Aegean provinces of Balıkesir and Muğla, and the Black Sea provinces of Artvin and Kastamonu.

Although covering a relatively small part of the world’s total landmass, Turkey is home to 2.4 percent of the world’s plant species and 2.9 percent of its mammals. It also has species belonging to regions of three of the world’s 37 floral areas, namely the Irano-Turanian region, the Mediterranean region and the transition region from Europe to Siberia.

According to data compiled from the official figures of the Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks, Turkey is currently home to a total of 40 national parks, 31 natural conservation areas, 112 natural monuments and 206 natural parks.

While 40 national parks cover a total of more than 800,000 hectares of land, Antalya is home to four national parks – the highest number across the country.

Antalya is home to the Altınbeşik Cave National Park, established in 1994 around a subterranean lake on Manavgat Hill; the Beydağları Coastal National Park, also known as the Olympos Beydağları National Park; the Köprülü Canyon National Park, a canyon that stretches for 14 kilometers and sometimes as deep as 400 meters; as well as the Güllük Mountain Termessos National Park, the city’s oldest national park which is also home to the ancient city of Termessos, one of the country’s best preserved ancient destinations.

Antalya is followed by five other provinces, all of which are home to two national parks, Ankara, Balıkesir, Muğla, Artvin and Kastamonu.

The largest national park, however, is the Ağrı Dağı National Park (also known as Mount Ararat National Park), covering 88,014 hectares of land along the border between the northeastern provinces of Ağrı and Iğdır, near the country’s borders with Armenia and Iran. The second largest park is the Lake Beyşehir National Park located in the southwest of the Central Anatolian province of Konya covering some 86,855 hectares of land.

In addition to the protected areas and parks, Turkey also hosts a total 81 wildlife protection areas declared between 2005 and 2014, covering nearly 12 million hectares of land.

The largest wildlife protection area is located in the Çat district of the eastern Erzurum province, followed by a second park in the same province.

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Around 100 Sumatran tigers in Mount Leuser National Park

Langkat, N Sumatra, 26 May 2016, (ANTARA News) – A recent study has shown that there are only around 100 Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris Sumatrae) currently inhabiting Mount Leuser National Park which straddles the border of Aceh and North Sumatra Province.

“That was the current number based on the data collection done by our field officers,” Head of Area III of Mount Leuser National Park Sapto Aji Prabowo said here Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in overall Sumatran regions, the population of the endangered endemic wild cat is about 400 to 500.

Illegal poaching has become a threat to the existence of the Sumatran tigers, Prabowo said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Police of Langkat District, North Sumatra arrested three residents suspected of hunting the tigers in Kutagajah Village of Kutambaru subdistrict.

The Langkat Police and personnel of Mount Leuser National Park Authority arrested them Tuesday evening along with some evidence such as a dried tiger skin, a plastic bag containing tiger bones, and two motorcycles.

The tiger skin and bones were valued at Rp42 million (roughly US$3,000) by the suspects.

The poached tiger was only five years old as per the observation of its teeth and bone size, Prabowo said.

The Mount Leuser Authority has urged the peoples participation to provide any information concerning the hunt on not only Sumatran tigers but also other protected animals in the national park.

Mount Leuser National Park covers around 7,927 square kilometer in northern Sumatra.

The park, located in the Barisan Mountain Range, is named after Mount Leuser (3,199m) and protects a wide range of ecosystems such as the Sumatran tigers and orangutans.

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Art Of Bead Making: Khala Zada’s Journey From Afghanistan To Amrapali

Kabul, 28 May 2016, (BNA) – Designing and selling handmade jewelry fashioned from tiny beads of the semi-precious lapis lazuli stone has helped Khala Zada, a widow from Afghanistan support her family of eight for the last 17 years.

In her fifties, Khala Zada, who first learnt the art of bead making from a neighbor and now runs a small-scale business in downtown Kabul, is here to participate in a showcase featuring a collection of the intense blue semi-precious stone jewelry at the Amrapali store in the city.

The showcased collection celebrates a partnership between Amrapali and Afghanistan’s Aayenda Jewelry Cooperative whose members comprise local Afghan craftswomen. “I was engaged in carpet making from my childhood along with other household works. Now I dedicate 10 hours of the day for bead-making and the remaining for my house. I am not the only one doing such things.

Almost all the women in my village are doing something or the other to support their families and contributing to the household income,” Zada said. Not fluent in either Hindi or English she spoke with the help of a translator. In 2013, Zada along with 35 other artisans received training in jewelry design, craftsmanship, gem-cutting and business management skills at the Institute of Gems and Jewelry in Jaipur.

The 6-months long skill enhancement training program, organized by a non-governmental organization Future Brilliance also imparted training on the use of social media, m-commerce and basic IT skills to enable research, development and selling of products online with work placements at Amrapali.

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Azerbaijani business, culture and music combine in Reims

Baku, 29 May 2016, (AZERTAC) – The French city of Reims, located 143km from Paris, hosted an event featuring an enthralling mix of Azerbaijani business, culture and music on 26 May. This was hosted by the CCI Reims-Eperney, and organised by the French office of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), in partnership with Jazzus Productions, CCI International Champagne-Ardenne and the Azerbaijani Embassy to France. This was also a celebration of Azerbaijani Republic Day – remembering the achievements of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR), the first democracy in the Muslim East – which existed from 1918–20.

The afternoon began with a roundtable focusing on how cultural co-operation can create economic opportunities as a vehicle for increasing understanding of the country, its tolerance, and westward-facing stance, attended by over 30 company representatives of Reims and its region.

Marie-Laetitia Gourdin, Director, TEAS France, explained how the meeting came in the wake of events held in Reims in 2012 when it hosted the now-famous Azerbaijan – Pearl of the Caucasus exhibition, opened by Mrs Mehriban Aliyeva, First Lady of Azerbaijan. Last year, TEAS decided to support the creation of a new jazz festival in the city, known as the Sunnyside Festival, founded by Jazzus Productions. It facilitated the participation of Azerbaijani jazz pianist Emil Afrasiyab and his Quartet. The enthusiasm generated by this collaboration provided the groundwork to add cultural and business roundtables to the proceedings.

Mrs Gourdin explained how Azerbaijan is a close partner to the EU, and that the country is officially secular, combining the oriental and European. She outlined how TEAS is contributing towards developing links between French and Azerbaijani cities, mentioning examples from Colmar and Mulhouse, where TEAS organised its Azerbaijan Through the Lens exhibition and participated in the Christmas Market, which showcased typical Azerbaijani products for French consumers.

Composer Pierre Thilloy spoke of his experiences in Azerbaijan since he began visiting the country regularly as Composer-in-Residence for the French Embassy in Azerbaijan in 2001. He explained how music remains integral to every element of Azerbaijani life and is a key to comprehending the country. Mr Thilloy referred to the great 20th century symphonic tradition of such Azerbaijani composers as Gara Garayev and Fikret Amirov, and how music can be harnessed to speak of difficult or challenging subjects.

His sentiments were reflected by Jean Delestrade, Co-Founder of Jazzus Productions, organiser of the Sunnyside Jazz Festival. Looking forward to the concert by the Elchin Shirinov Trio that evening, he commented how the three participations of Azerbaijani jazz musicians in the Festival Jazz à Saint-Germain-des-Prés Paris – organised by TEAS France – and this second participation in the Sunnyside festival were placing Azerbaijan on the map for jazz fans.

The Paris festival has previously featured the now-famous Isfar Sarabski and Emil Afrasiyab and will now also place Elchin Shirinov in the spotlight. He commented that those musicians from France and other countries who were collaborating with Azerbaijani jazz artistes are now beginning to understand the country through its music.

Ayaz Gojayev, Cultural Counsellor and First Secretary, Azerbaijani Embassy to France, spoke of the cultural work undertaken by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in France, such as the restoration of five 14th century stained glass windows in Strasbourg Cathedral; contributing to the restoration of several rural churches in the Basse-Normandie region; and playing an integral role in creating the Islamic art department in the Louvre Museum.

He discussed the importance of establishing friendship and co-operation charters between French regions and towns and those in Azerbaijan. Since 2011, 11 such charters have been signed, and there is a high level of decentralised co-operation between France and Azerbaijan in business and cultural terms. An agreement on academic exchange has also been signed between Ganja University and Reims University, and it is hoped that today’s meetings will prompt new areas of collaboration between Reims and Azerbaijan.

A second roundtable concentrating on economic opportunities in the Azerbaijani non-oil sector followed. The Azerbaijani government is currently seeking to diversify the economy away from over-reliance on hydrocarbons and is seeking collaboration with French businesses. This presentation before over 30 local industry kingpins gave an invaluable overview of the economic fabric of the country; its business climate; investment opportunities; and presentations covering a range of sectors, including viticulture; agribusiness; tourism; and pharmaceutical manufacture.

The evening culminated with a jazz concert by the Elchin Shirinov Trio as part of the annual Sunnyside Jazz Festival before around 120 ecstatic fans. Pianist Shirinov combines elements of post-bop jazz, blues and funk with the modes, melodies and microtones of Azerbaijani mugham and classical music.

Throughout, Shirinov’s pianistic pyrotechnics entranced the jazz cognoscenti, particularly in his variations around the Waltz from Gara Garayev’s ballet The Seven Beauties – one of the most best-known Azerbaijani classical pieces; Sari Gelin and Durna, two of the most popular Azerbaijani folksongs; and his reflective self-penned compositions Waiting, Missing and Muse, many of which featured the sound of the Melodica, a wind-operated keyboard, which he balanced on top of the grand piano.

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Banana cultivation changes Bangladesh farmers’ lot in Panchagarh

PANCHAGARH, 29 May 2016, (BSS) – Banana cultivation has brought smile on the faces of a large number of farmers at Sonaher and Chilahati village under Debiganj upazila of the district this year.

The farmers of different villages of the district are now getting interest to raise Banana orchards instead of cultivating Jute and paddy.

Farmer, Amol Kumer of Sonaher village in the upazila said “I have cultivated Banana on two acres of land spending Taka 60,000 and got Taka 1.5 lakh by selling Banana.”

Deputy director, Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) of Panchagarh Md Rafiqul Islam told BSS that due to better yield and high profits with less investment they are encouraging farmers to cultivate Banana.

Traders from Dhaka, Khulna and other parts of the country are coming to the area and supplying Banana from Banana orchard. he added.

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China keen to invest in Bangladesh jute sector

Dhaka, 25 May 2016, (BSS)- China has evinced keen interest to invest a huge amount in country’s jute sector aimed at developing country’s industrial sector and increasing efficiency.

“Simultaneously, China wants to invest more in sugar mills and newsprint mills to give it a modern look . . . It also wants to invest in manufacturing agricultural machineries, generating coal-based electricity and producing fertilizers here,” Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ma Ming Qiang told Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu during a call on at his office today.

Expressing China’s keenness to extend support to Bangladesh in developing industrialization and in relocating the industries and factories,t he envoy said his country would import industrial products from Bangladesh and concurrently Bangladesh would get duty-free export opportunity.

The minister thanked the Chinese ambassador for showing their keen interest in Bangladesh.

The industries minister said the Chinese investors can invest in the light engineering sector alongside heavy industrial sector in the economic zone. Drawing attention of the envoy to invest in car manufacturing sector in Bangladesh, Amu expressed the hope that there could be a joint-investment of Progati Industries Limited, the state-run car manufacturing institution, with China in this regard.

Industries Secretary Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, chairman of Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC) Mohamamd Iqbal and senior officials of the ministry and Chinese Embassy to Bangladesh, among others, were present.

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China Southern Airlines launches Baku-Urumqi-Guangzhou flight

Baku, 26 May 2016, (AZERTAC) – China Southern Airlines company will open regular Baku-Urumqi-Guangzhou flight from July 3.

The flight will be carried out on Thursdays and Sundays by Boeing 737-800 aircrafts.

The flight will departure from Baku at 23:05 local time, arrive in Urumqi at 07:00 local time, departure from Urumqi at 09:40, and arrive in Guangzhou at 14:35 local time.

The opening of the flight would contribute to the expansion of commercial and economic ties between Azerbaijan and China.

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China to build ‘largest Free Trade Area’ in Horn of Africa

Djibouti, 27 May 2016,(IINA) – Djibouti’s Finance Minister Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh said Thursday that China is set to build the largest free trade zone in the Horn of Africa.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Dawaleh said China plans to set up the trade zone in Djibouti, which will boost its efforts to increase business and trade activities in northeast Africa. “The FTA (Free Trade Area), which covers an area of six square kilometers, is aimed at stimulating China’s presence in Africa and the Red Sea regions,” Dawaleh said.

“The FTA agreement between Djibouti and China embraces catalyzing custom affairs, monitoring and using international standards at shipment checkpoints, and producing some Chinese goods in the country,” he added.

According to analysts, the ports of Horn of Africa were turning into economic hubs, thanks to foreign investments and increasing competitiveness between Arab countries and foreign investments.

About the involvement of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in the Horn of Africa, a Somali-based economist, Abdullah Taher, said there was a 21-year agreement between Dubai-based Jebel Ali Free Zone, one of the world’s largest free trade zones, and Djibouti port.

In December 2014, Chairman of Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority (DGZ) Aboubaker Omar Hadi told Anadolu Agency that China was a shareholder in the construction of the Port of Djibouti, which is strategically located at the crossroads of one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, linking Europe, the Far East, the Horn of Africa and the Gulf region.

Out of the total cost, 90 percent of funding for the port infrastructure development came from China, Hadi said. China is an important economic partner for Djibouti, providing funding for several major projects, including for the construction of a railway between Djibouti and Ethiopia.

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Dubai Ruler Inspects New Concourse At Dubai International Airport

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, 27 May 2016, (NNN-WAM) – Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, today inspected the AED 4.5 billion (USD 1.23 billion), Concourse D, at the Dubai International Airport.

The new building is deemed the world’s first airport green building to receive the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC). It is also the world’s first dedicated facility at Dubai International Airport, home to the Airliner’s growing fleet of super jumbos. The building features dedicated first and business class lounges.

Sheikh Mohammed toured the building and was briefed on its designs and components, which aim to provide maximum comfort and good facilitations for travellers, through this global airline network building.

During the tour, Sheikh Mohammed got into the gate transfer train that connects Terminal 1 with the new Concourse D, which is a kilometre-and-a-half-long trip to the departure hall.

The hall includes a large area, 13,000 square metres, for shopping, including the free market, shops, restaurants and other leisure facilities. Sheikh Mohammed also toured counters of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs.

He continued his tour in the building with a total area of 150,000 square metres. At the arrival lounge, he was briefed on the facilities provided there.

Passengers expressed their happiness at seeing Sheikh Mohammed, praising the building’s world-class facilities. He exchanged greetings with them. He also expressed his satisfaction at the confidence of the passengers.

Sheikh Mohammed also inspected the First Class and official guests lounges, and other facilities.

He hailed the efforts of Dubai Airports staff, including engineers, administrative and technical staff, under the leadership of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Emirates Group.

During the tour, Sheikh Mohammed was briefed by Sheikh Ahmed on the strategic plan set by Dubai Airports, regarding Dubai International Airport till 2020, including Concourse D.

Sheikh Ahmed briefed Sheikh Mohammed on the capacity of the building, which can accommodate up to 18 million passengers annually, and connects 17 runways.

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E-Learning Africa 2016 kicks off in Cairo

Egypt, Cairo, 25 May 2016, (MENA)- Egypt’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Yasser ElKady on Tuesday (24/5/2016) opened the 11th international conference on ICT for development, education and training; eLearning Africa (ELA) 2016, under the theme “Making Vision Reality”.

The conference is hosted by the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA).

During the opening session, ElKady stressed the need to create mechanisms for implementing solutions related to information, communication, education, training and technology issues, which comes at the heart of African Union’s vision “Africa 2063” for an “advanced continent”.

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“Economy of Resistance” helps Iran overcome global shocks

Beirut, 28 May 2016, (IRNA) – Iran’s Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali said Economy of Resistance can make the country stronger in dealing with global shocks.

Referring to wavy situation in the world and region as well as economic competitions, Fathali said Economy of Resistance will be helpful for dealing with domestic and foreign shocks.

Exclusively talking to IRNA, he hoped products of Iran’s Saipa Motor Corporation would be presented to Lebanon soon.

According to Fathali, preliminary talks on the issue have been held.

On Tehran’s ties with Beirut, the diplomat said Lebanon can act as an important economic side for Iran.

With five-million population, Lebanon is not a big country but can be an important economic partner as it imports 20 million dollars’ worth of different goods, he added.

Unfortunately, he said, Iran’s share in Lebanese market has been little due to sanctions imposed on Iran. Anti-Iran sanctions were lifted on January 16.

Iran and Lebanon will widen relations within the framework of the goals of Economy of Resistance and opportunities that have been created after implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), he noted.

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Film Festival marks establishment of first cinema hall in Syria

Damascus, 23 May 2016, (SANA) – A festival will be organized on May 27th marking the centenary of establishing the first cinema hall in Syria at Dar al-Assad for Culture and Arts in Damascus, said Mohammad al-Ahmad Director General of the Cinema General Establishment in Syria.

The first cinema hall in Syria was established one hundred years ago and it was located where the current building of People’s Assembly stands. Before that date, theatrical shows were mainly popular festivals at cafes where amateur dramatic groups performed the Seventh Art productions in Damascus and Aleppo.

In a press conference held at Kendi Cinema Hall, al-Ahmad said that the main aim is to hold a mini film festival, noting that Damascus International Film Festival has always been an important and extraordinary event in the Syrian cultural scene due to the opportunity it provides to know the latest film productions worldwide.

He added that an official competition for long films will be held with the participation of 17 films: “Me, You, Mother and Father” by Abdul Latif Abdul Hamid and “Syrians” by Basel al-Khateeb from Syria, the Lebanese film “The Bride’s Bracelet”, the Moroccan film “Jok Lomian”, the Algerian film “The Well” and the Egyptian film “Nawarah”, in addition to premieres for movies from Ireland, China, Pakistan, Argentina, Poland, Russia, Canada and Scotland.

He noted that the jury committee will be headed by Syrian actor Duraid Lahham and the membership of star actress Sulaf Fawakherji, Egyptian Director Munir Radhi, Musician Samir Kwaifaty, Author Lina Kaylani, the Lebanese director Simon el-Haber, journalist Hiam Hamwi and writer Mahmoud Abdulwahed.

The French film “Dheepan” by Director Jacques Audiard and winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2015 will be screened at the opening ceremony while displaying the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight” will wrap up the closing ceremony.

He added that a ceremony will be held honoring actor Houssam Tahsin Bek, director of photography Bahjat Haidar, writer Hassan M. Yousef from Syria, star actress Bossy, actor Samir Sabri, producer Mohsen Alam Eddin and Director Omar Abdulaziz.

Egyptian star actress Fardous Abdul Hamid, Director Mohammad Fadel and star actress Suzan Najm Eddin will be honored at the closing ceremony too, he added.

Al-Ahmad said that 35 best movies of the third millennium and award-winning films at Venice, Berlin, Cannes, and Oscar festivals between 2000-2015 will be screened at Kendi Hall in Damascus.

War films including Mariam, al-Umm (The Mother) by Basel al-Khatib, Waiting for Autumn by director Joud Said, Abdul Latif Abdul Hamid’s The Lover (El Asheq), Najdat Anzour’s film “Mortal and Dispersing”, “Cherries Letter” by Sulaf Fawakherji and others will be also displayed.

Movie stars and actors from Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt and other countries are participating in the festival which last till June 2nd.

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Fishing in Oman, a year-round experience

MENAFN, 29 May 2016, (Muscat Daily) – One of the many amazing geographical features of the Sultanate, is that it has endless miles of pristine beaches, extending from the southern coasts of Salalah to the azure waters of Musandam in the North.

Quraiyat: Quraiyat is about 100Km from Muscat, and is an ideal place for a weekend fishing getaway from Muscat. Quraiyat has also been an important maritime city historically, were many trading vessels came from around the world to trade with the Sultanate. Fishermen here get the pleasure of attempting to catch the prized yellow fin tuna, which is known worldwide as one of the most exhilarating fish to reel in.

Salalah: Home to the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches in the country, Salalah has a wide range of prized fish for anglers to aim for, such as the Doraro, Swordfish, abalone and shellfish like lobsters and crabs. The beaches of Salalah are also great for fishing as the rocky coves offer a great vantage point to catch bottom feeding fish like the grouper.

Dibba: The azure waters of Musandam are rich with colorful sea life, and the waters of Dibba in particular explode with a variety of fish that attract divers and fishermen from all around the world. Often named as one of the best locations to dive and discover marine life, fishing in Dibba is also highlighted as yellow fin tuna is abundant.

A Fisherman’s testimony: A fisherman from Khaborah, Mubarak Al Qartoobi, said: ‘One of the great pleasures of fishing in the Sultanate is catching fish the traditional way, using a hand line. Each fisherman has a story with the sea and mine is one where I take time to relax and get away from city life to feel the nature of the Sultanate. Fishing in each area of the Sultanate has a different thrill, be it catching yellow fin tuna from the waters of Salalah or trolling in the waters of Dibba, each destination has its different tone and magic.’

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Drivers and Commuters Rejoice As Senegal-Gambia Border Reopens

26 May 2016, (AllAfrica) – Drivers and commuters from both sides of the political and historical divide have commended the move by the authorities to re-open the borders on Tuesday morning after three months of blockade.

On Tuesday morning, drivers and commuters alike were taken by surprise upon hearing that the Senegal-Gambia borders have been reopened. Speaking to the Daily Observer, Ousman Dampha, a regular taxi driver who plies the Ziguinchor-Kombo Brikama route said he has nothing but kind words for Presidents Macky Sall and Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya AJJ Jammeh. Dampha called on the authorities to work towards consolidating the gains recorded by the two leaders and avoid issues that will undermine sub regional integration.

For his part, head of the security forces posted at the Giboro-Selety border checkpoint, Buba Ceesay said it was a sigh of relief for many commuters and motorists who have endured three months of struggle. He said the re-opening of the borders would ease the challenges faced by many traders within and outside the sub region.

From Guinea Bissau on a personal visit, Sarjo Touray said he was really surprised when he realized that the borders have been re-opened. He recalled few weeks ago how he struggled, moving from one car to the other when foreign vehicles put out passengers from either sides of the political divide.

Several other commuters who spoke to Daily Observer expressed happiness on the borders reopening and used the opportunity to commend the Senegambia leadership for the move.

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IMF approves program for economic reconstruction of Somalia

Washington, 29 May 2016, (IINA) – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced Friday that managing director Christine Lagarde approved a program to help rebuild Somalia, Sputnik News reported.

“The SMP (Staff-Monitored Program) is geared toward reestablishing macroeconomic stability, building capacity to strengthen macroeconomic management, rebuilding institutions, and improving governance and economic statistics”, the IMF stated.

The approved IMF policy will focus on currency reform, strengthening bank system and enhancing anti-money-laundering framework, among other measures, according to the press release.
Somalia has been experiencing violence since the country devolved into civil war in the early 1990s. The state’s collapse provided a breeding ground several warring parties including the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab terrorist group.

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Indonesian govt prioritizes regions for railway projects

Jakarta, 28 May 2016, (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian government is focusing on developing railway projects outside Java in an effort to improve transportation and establish connectivity among regions across the country.

Regions outside Java are being accorded priority in railway development as part of the governments endeavor to ensure equitable development and boost national economy through increased connectivity among the regions.

“The railway projects being taken up on priority are not in Java. In fact, priority is being accorded to eastern regions. Therefore, we want to first complete the work on the Trans Sumatra and Trans Sulawesi projects as soon as possible,” Director General of Railways Prasetyo Boeditjahjono stated at a function in Jakarta on Thursday.

In order to implement the Trans Sumatra and Trans Sulawesi railway projects, the government is expected to cooperate with China. This month, the Directorate General of Railways will submit documents containing details of the Trans Sumatra and Trans Sulawesi projects to China.

The Chinese government will provide loans for financing these railway projects worth Rp80 trillion, but it will first study the project in detail.

“They (China) are interested in providing loans worth Rp40 trillion to Indonesia for the two projects, Trans Sumatra and Trans Sulawesi,” Prasetyo Boeditjahjono informed.

The Chinese government had earlier asked for documents related to studies carried out by the Transportation Ministry on the projects.

“We have collected the documents and promised to hand these over to them this month,” the director general explained after receiving the Chinese ambassador to Indonesia on Thursday.

He informed that China would study the documents. “They will possibly assess these first because the documents are related to the results of the study carried out more than five years ago. So, these need to be reviewed,” noted Prasetyo.

While feasibility studies have been conducted for some projects, that did not happen in case of others. In case of some, ground planning did take place and detailed engineering designs (DED) were prepared.

The Rapat-Duri-Pekan Baru section of the Trans Sumatra project is at the DED stage.

According to Prasetyo, the government hoped that China would not take more than one year to arrive at an assessment of the projects. “We hope China would find determine which of the projects it is interested in and provide loans for it.”

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said early this year that the government had actually started the development of some sections of the railway projects in Sumatra and Sulawesi.

“We have started developing railway projects in a number of regions in Sulawesi and Sumatra. I hope that a project will also be started this year in Papua. If that does not happen in the first semester, then it would surely happen in the second half of 2016. The work should begin this year,” President Jokowi said as he opened a limited cabinet meeting in Jakarta on January 4.

Jokowi on November 25 last year, inspected the construction of the first phase of the 2000-kilometer (km) Makassar-Manado Trans Sulawesi Railway Project.

The first phase of the Trans Sulawesi section stretches 145 km from Makassar, the South Sulawesi provincial capital, to Parepare Municipality.

“The railway service is expected to commence operations in 2018 and will connect the two capitals,” the President told newsmen after the inspection of the first phase.

On a separate occasion, Hemi Pamurahardjo, the public information and communication bureau head of the Transportation Ministry, said the government had offered Japan to cooperate in the Trans Sumatra and Trans Sulawesi railway projects.

But it preferred to upgrade the train speed on Northern Javas railway network as it could showcase its latest technology.

The directorate general of railway affairs earlier revealed that Japan had expressed interest to revitalize Northern Javas railway network. It expressed its interest to revitalize the Jakarta-Surabaya railway network to increase the train speed from the current 80 kilometers (km) per hour to 150 km per hour.

If the speed is upgraded to 150 km per hour, then the Jakarta-Surabaya sections could be covered in five hours.

Regarding the Jakarta-Surabaya railway network, the Directorate General of Railway is still waiting for a decision by President Jokowi, who is currently on a visit to attend the Group of Seven meeting in Japan.

“We are still awaiting the return of the president. The (transportation) minister has not informed us anything about it,” Director General of Railways Prasetyo Boeditjahjono stated at a function in Jakarta on Thursday.

Prasetyo said if Japan realized its financing for the revitalization of the Jakarta-Surabaya railway route in Northern Java, the project could be carried out soon.

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Iran to assign USD28b for crucial power schemes

29 May 2016, (MENAFN)-Iran is fully prepared to set up vital power projects worth more than USD28 billion for foreign investment in the next few years, according to the latest reports.

It will need to add some 50 MW to its power generation capacity over the next 10 years and this will require investments in the power segment from domestic and foreign financiers.
Moreover, a number of foreign companies have so far indicated their willingness to fund power projects in Iran, adding that talks are underway with several foreign investors.

Iran has been very anxious for the day that all imposed sanctions will be completely removed, and it considers it as a launching pad for its ambitious schemes and projects.

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Iraqi embassy daily issuing 6,000 visas for Iranian tourists

Tehran, 28 May 2016, (IRNA) – An Iraqi top tourism official said on Saturday that the Iraqi embassy in Tehran issues some 6,000 visas for Iranian tourists every day.

Mahmoud Abdul-Jabbar al-Zubaidi, the head of the tourist department of Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, said that Iraq plans to provide more visa for tourists in the context of activating non-pilgrimage tourism.

Abdul-Jabbar, who was speaking during an Iran-Iraq joint meeting on tourism cooperation, said that ten Iranian private tour operators held consultations with ten Iraqi tour agencies in the meeting.

He said that the meeting is being held following an agreement in August 2015 between Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.

The Iraqi official called for removing red tape on the way of travel between Iran and Iraq, saying it will help increase the current three million number of Iranian pilgrims visiting Iraq.

The Iraqi cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi are determined to give a boost to the country’s tourism industry so that it becomes Iraq’s second source of revenue in the future, Abdul-Jabbar said.

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Islamic bank, Turkish Airlines sign cooperation deal

Ankara, 26 May 2016, (IINA) – The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and Turkish Airlines (THY) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Wednesday for enhanced cooperation among 56 IDB member states, Anadolu Agency reported.

The MoU will enable Turkey’s national flag carrier to provide aviation training in member countries, said a statement released by IDB.

The airline agreed to provide technical support to member countries that seek to establish regional airlines, the bank said. “The IDB and THY will cooperate within the framework of the Parties’ Social Responsibility Program including but not limited to, the transportation and distribution of Adahi Meat” — Hajj sacrificial meat provided to the poor — “or in other areas like health and education”, the statement added.

Commenting on the deal, IDB President Ahmad Mohammed Ali said: “This is a landmark step in many ways”.

“This deal will enhance cooperation between Islamic countries, and the IDB and Turkish Airlines would like to facilitate this cooperation. Turkish Airlines has vast experience and with its success story, the flag carrier will definitely be an excellent model for other countries”.

Temel Kotil, CEO of Turkish Airlines, said: “Turkish Airlines is willing to share all its extensive experience with other countries, and we believe that this MoU will open new doors to provide synergy in this world”.

The IDB was established in 1973 by members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and started operations two years later.

The bank works to contribute to the social and economic development of its 57 member countries and Muslim communities individually in line with the principles of Islam.

Since commencing operations 41 years ago, the bank has provided member countries total financing worth more than $115 billion.

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Istanbul to mark Ottoman conquest of city with grand ceremony

Istanbul, 27 May 2016, (Hürriyet Daily News) – is set to mark the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul on its 563rd anniversary with a major event created by a grand team of 1,200, as expectations rise for the event, which is expected to attract 1 million spectators.

“A 563-men Mehter concert (an Ottoman military band), a show by the Turkish Air Force ‘Turkish Stars’ (the air force’s aerobatics team), special conquest celebration and a fireworks display will be performed for Istanbulites and the entire world through a live broadcast,” Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality said.

The celebration will feature Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on May 29.

In its statement, the municipality said a large crew of 520 who are “experts in their fields” had been working on preparations at the city’s seaside Yenikapı venue, which is being decorated with advanced technology.

The world’s largest 3D mapping stage will be employed to revive the conquest of Istanbul, then called Constantinople, by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II (“Mehmed the Conqueror”) on May 29, 1453.

Around 1 million people are expected to attend the celebrations using the 150 gates amid tight security measures, the municipality said.

The live broadcast will not only be in Turkish but also in English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Russian and sign language.

A number of roads, including Aksu Avenue in Bakırköy and the coastal road stretching between Fatih and Aksakal Street will be closed in Istanbul on March 29 between 6 a.m. and 12 p.m.

Last year’s celebrations in Yenikapı Square were also a major political tour de force as hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the venue just a week before the general election of June 7, 2015.

A new ceremonial brigade, the 478-man “Conquest Unit” that was formed by the Turkish Armed Forces on Erdoğan’s order, was present at the event, dressed as Ottoman soldiers. They were joined by an 84-men Ottoman military band, known in Turkish as the “Mehter.”

A 4,709-square-meter poster at the square, featuring Erdoğan and then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who also attended the event, entered the Guinness Book of World Records, according to Anadolu Agency.

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Italian magazine FEM lauds Azerbaijan’s tourism potential

Baku, 28 May 2016,(AZERTAC) – Italian magazine FEM has published an article about Azerbaijan`s tourism potential.

The article features information about Azerbaijan`s tourism potential, as well as its culture, literature, cuisine, history, economic development and potential. The author hailed the organization of the inaugural European Games, and added that the country will soon host the Formula-1 Grand Prix of Europe.

The article also included the information about Azerbaijans capital city of Bakus architecture, as well as modern and ancient monuments.

The author described the Azerbaijan-Italy relations as in “high level”.

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Jazz comes to the city of Ankara and stays

ANKARA, 27 May 2016, (Hürriyet Daily News) ‎- Ankara’s jazz lovers honored prominent figures who have “kept jazz alive,” including İlham Gencer, a monument to jazz, and Tuna Ötenel, a legendary maestro, at an award evening on May 24.

Upon a call by the Ankara Jazz Society (ACD) which has been proudly conducting the 20th edition of the International Ankara Jazz Festival (AJF), jazz lovers gathered on the evening of May 24 at the Güven Çayyolu Health Campus, a facility of the private Ankara Güven (“Trust” in Turkish) Hospital.

Ötenel, 69, was presented with the award for “Those Who Keep Jazz Alive-Composer” field, while Gencer, 90, was granted the award in the “Those Who Keep Jazz Alive-Performer” field.

Having had serious health problems for the past eight years, Ötenel was accompanied by his spouse, veteran theater actress Berin Ötenel, when he took to the podium to receive his award, as he stood tall before a sentimental audience.

Receiving his award, an energetic Gencer quoted Duke Ellington as saying, “Jazz is a good barometer of freedom.”

The rest of the original quote is as follows: “In its beginnings, the United States of America spawned certain ideals of freedom and independence through which, eventually, jazz was evolved, and the music is so free that many people say it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country.”

While calling on Deniz Zeyrek, the Ankara bureau chief of daily Hürriyet, in order to present him the “Jazz and Civil Society” award on behalf of the daily’s editor-in-chief, Sedat Ergin, the curator of the festival, Özlem Oktar Varoğlu, said, “This association, the ACD, could not have been founded, if not for (Ergin).”

In a bid to emphasis the importance Ergin attached to the festival and to the award, Zeyrek explained how he told him “You definitely have to go and receive it.”

“It’s not my problem. You will go there,” Ergin told Zeyrek when the latter asked how he could go amid all the last-minute developments on Turkey’s political scene that required attention for the following day’s paper.

“I left aside the front page and I’m here, not only to receive the award, but also to enjoy the music,” Zeyrek said.

While receiving her award in the field of “Jazz Sprout,” 22-year-old Su İdil thanked her mother and prominent jazz singer Sibel Köse, who performed with her quintet following the ceremony.

When his name was announced, the former commander of the Turkish Air Force, retired Gen. Ergin Celasin, ran to the podium with the dynamic steps of a young man in order to receive his award in the “Jazz Lover” field.

Celasin said he was receiving the award on behalf of “all jazz lovers without whom the festival wouldn’t have been able to mark two decades.”

“Jazz is the discipline within freedom and freedom within discipline,” Celasin said, paying homage to Dave Brubeck, a legend who helped define jazz.

“Jazz is about freedom within discipline,” Brubeck said in a 2005 interview with The Associated Press. “Usually a dictatorship like in Russia and Germany will prevent jazz from being played because it just seemed to represent freedom, democracy and the United States. Many people don’t understand how disciplined you have to be to play jazz. … And that is really the idea of democracy – freedom within the constitution or discipline. You don’t just get out there and do anything you want,” Brubeck said at the time.

Later, the Sibel Köse Quintet took to the stage. When she was singing and reciting some lines about “white lilies,” some of the audience recalled a famous book, Gregory Petrov’s “The Land of White Lilies.” The book, describing the rise of Finnish national consciousness and significance of education and civic society through the national philosopher, J.V. Snellman, was at the time made by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, essential reading in Turkish educational institutions.

Having already mesmerized the audience, Köse later invited İdil to the stage and they together sang “Jardin d’Hiver” (Winter Garden) to the audience, who stole a few hours of respite from the heavy mood of Ankara.

Other awards at the Ankara Jazz Festival
Jazz Writer: Cüneyt Sermet
Jazz Festival: Istanbul Jazz Festival – Görgün Taner
Supporters of Jazz: Ali Kemaloğlu – Turmaks
Jazz Publication: ‘Jazz’ magazine – Zuhal Focan
Jazz Club: Nardis Jazz Club’s founders – Zuhal and Önder Focan
Social Media: Cazkolik – Feridun Ertaşkan

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JETRO to promote Japanese investment in Bangladesh

DHAKA, 29 May 2016, (BSS) – Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) will soon launch a joint initiative with the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) to bring major Japanese investment in Bangladesh’s private sector for investing in bigger projects.

The government organisation of the island state in the Pacific today (Sunday) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the apex trade-body of Bangladesh on promoting bilateral trade and investment, particularly in the private sector.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina witnessed the MoU signing after attending a breakfast meeting with leading Japanese businessmen in Tokyo.

“This is for the first time that JETRO joined hands with Bangladesh private sector to promote here Japanese investment”, FBCCI President Abdul Matlub Ahmad told BSS by phone. He is now leading a 30-member FBCCI team, as entourage of the prime minister, to the G7 Outreach Meeting.

He said 16 top Japanese business leaders attended the event when they expressed their keen interest in investing in Bangladesh in various sectors covering infrastructure and manufacturing.

The business leaders included Terau Asada, chairman, the Japan Bangladesh Committee for Commercial and Economic Cooperation, Hiraoki Otani, director and executive vice president, Fastening Products Group, YKK Corporation, Kazuyuki Inoye, president and director of Shimizu Corporation, Hiroyaki Ishiqa, chairman and CEO of Japan External Trade Organization, Masahi Munoshi, director and CEO of Toshiba Corporation and Shnizi Ayenua, operating officer and director, Honda Motor Corporation.

Ahmad said under the MoU, FBCCI and JETRO would draw a roadmap to promote and facilitate Japanese investment in Bangladesh and relocate their industries.

“We will also organise monthly visit of business delegation to Bangladesh so they could know better the business and investment opportunities here,” he said.

The FBCCI chief said that under the joint initiatives, Bangladesh would get large-scale investment from Japan in bigger projects.

He also said that besides encouraging and facilitating relocation of Japanese industries to Bangladesh, technical assistance and transfer of technology from the Pacific country to Bangladesh would also be one of the major targets of the MoU.

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Jordan Holds AFAQ Economic Forum

AMMAN, 29 May 2016, (NNN-Petra) — The 8th Jordan AFAQ Economic Forum will convene here in Amman Monday, with a major focus on the royal vision to attract more investment, hidden economy, banks and modern issues and their impact on the economy and other topics.

The two-day economic event brings together economists and financial companies from around 15 Arab and foreign countries, besides Jordanian firms engaged in various economic sectors.

Participants will also discuss renewable energy in light of the drop in oil prices, banking secrecy standard and impediments to Arab investment and economic integration.

Economists told Petra that hosting the event for the eighth time in a row in Jordan indicates a great confidence in the Kingdom’s economy, besides it shows that the event had made its way competently and formulated its own identity and gained high appreciation at the local and Arab levels.

The event will provide participants with the opportunity to discuss challenges and risks faced by various Arab sectors. It would also contribute to exchanging views on increasing investment cooperation among Arab countries.

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Kuwaiti, UAE Funds Sign MoU Encouraging Entrepreneurs

KUWAIT, 29 May 2016, (NNN-KUNA) — Kuwait’s National Fund for SME Development and UAE’s Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development (KFED) signed on Saturday a MoU bolstering bilateral cooperation in supporting small and medium enterprises or SMEs.

KFED’s CEO Abdullah Al-Darmaki told KUNA that for the past eight years KFED has been goading UAE youth to tap the private sector to start their business ventures there through easy term loans from KFED.

He said the MoU signing augments efforts by Gulf countries to encourage young entrepreneurs to take the plunge into starting their own small and medium size businesses.

Further, he said KFED has a capital of two billion Emirati Dirham and focuses its business on giving Emiratis loans to start SMEs, especially to those whose loan requests have been turned down by banks.

In that sense, KFED has so far funded no less than 1200 SME projects in the UAE, and seeks to do more of that in Kuwait in view of the signing of the MoU.

The signing of the MoU came on the sideline of a meeting of the Higher Advisory Board of the National Fund for SME Development which has KFED as a board member.

National Fund Chairman Dr. Mohammad Al-Zuhair told KUNA about the importance of developing the country’s entrepreneurial culture and encouraging and supporting small and medium enterprises in Kuwait.

He added that the Fund’s main objectives are to increase SME participation in the economy and help create a business-friendly environment for small and medium enterprises and Kuwait’s entrepreneurs.

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Pakistan Folk Institute produces 51 cultural documentaries

ISLAMABAD, 26 May 2016, (APP)- National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, Lok Virsa has produced and compiled a set of fity one cultural documentaries and three thousands hours audio recordings.

Virsa Media Center undertakes recordings to focus on traditional music and cultural heritage, an official of Lok Virsa told APP. He said that Lok Virsa is one of the largest publishers of the traditional music and culture.

He said that it has helped edit, compile and produce a set of fifty one cultural documentaries and three thousand hours of audio recordings.

He said that 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.
“CDs, VCDs and DVDs produced by Lok Virsa are available in the market,” he added.

He said that a professional video studio has been established by the center at Islamabad, adding that the equipped mobile units of the center can reach any part of the country to capture an event.

He said that the center offers professional documentaries and video programs to television networks, universities and other institutions on rental as well as on sale basis, adding that it also markets its productions on CDs and DVDs for home consumption.

He said that it conducts and commissions research in all sub-fields of folk and traditional heritage like oral traditions (folk songs, romantic folktales, nursery rhymes; etc), children games, celebrations at birth and weddings and others.

The Publishing house aims to make regional folk literature available in the national language to promote greater understanding and closer fraternity amongst Pakistanis and to make cultural literature available to schools, colleges, universities and social scientists, he added.

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Javanese city of Malang to get international airport

28 May 2016, (The Jakarta Post) – A new international airport is to open in Malang, the second largest city in East Java, with officials expecting construction to begin in 2019.

Purboyo Airport, to be built in Srigonco village in the southern part of the city, would require at least 600 hectares of land, said Malang Regent Rendra Kresna.

The airport is slated to replace the current Abdulrachman Saleh Airport in Saptorenggo village, Pakis district, which is essentially an Air Force base that doubles as a commercial airport.

The detailed engineering design ( DED ) and feasibility study are currently being drafted by the East Java provincial administration, said Rendra, adding that the drafting process was expected to conclude in 2017 so that physical construction could begin in 2019.

“In principle, we are ready to fully support (the project) within our role and capability,” Rendra said on Friday, as quoted by tempo.co.

Rendra said the central government had allocated budget funds of Rp 4 billion ( US$294,000 ) for the airport’s construction. Those funds would be sourced from the 2017 state budget, he added.

Rendra said the funds had been approved by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who had agreed to the building of the airport after East Java Governor Soekarwo had applied for funding on March 26.

The head of East Java’s transportation agency, Wahid Wahyudi, confirmed the current drafting of the DED and feasibility study.

So far, he said, the construction plans were still at the stage of coordination between the East Java provincial administration, the Malang administration, the Transportation Ministry and the Indonesian Navy.

Currently, Purboyo lands, which stretch across 4,811 hectares, are used for the Marine Combat Training Centre. Tempo magazine has reported that 47 hectares of those lands were currently disputed between the marines and the residents of five villages in Bantur district, namely Srigonco, Pringgodani, Sumberbening, Bandungrejosari and Karangsari.

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56 Teams To Compete In Melaka River International Festival Dragon Boat Race

MELAKA, 26 May 2016, (Bernama) – The Melaka River International Festival’s Dragon Boat Race to be held at the Melaka River on Sunday has attracted 56 teams.

Melaka Islands, Riverine & Coastal Development Corporation (PPSPM) chief executive officer Nazary Ahmad said the boat race would feature two categories – Melaka Closed and Open.

Among teams competing in the Dragon Boat Race are Royal Malaysia Police, Royal Malaysian Navy, Akademi Laut Malaysia, Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka, Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Penang.

“This year the International Dragon Boat category is not held because most of the teams are involved in other competitions,” he told reporters here today.

Nazary said the festival is expected to be officially opened by Melaka chief Minister Idris Haron.

This month-long water sports festival features more than 50 types of activities and competition such as angling, kayaking, dragon boat racing,treasure hunt, float processions and many more.

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Musical Night arranged at Rawalpindi Arts Council

RAWALPINDI, 28 May 2016, (APP) – Sabaat Foundation in collaboration with Rawalpindi Arts Council arranged a musical night titled ‘Sur k Musafir’.

Senior PML N Leader Sardar Naseem was chief guest on the occassion.

Khalid Siddique, Chairman Sabaat Foundation and Resident Director RAC Waqar Ahmed welcomed the distinguished guests. Senior poet Khurran Khalique anchored the event.

The young singers Sana, Irfan Khalid, Sanobar, Shah Rukh, Jahangir Niazi, Meher Anjum, Nisar Danail, Pervaiz Sadiq, Tabassum Ikhalq, Javed Niazi, Mehmooda Qamar, Azam Sabir, Anjum Shahbaz, Naeemullah, Afzal Lateefi and Rahil Mustafa performed.

Addressing the occasion, Sardar Naseem said Potohar region has immense talent and artists of this region had presented the positive image of the country worldwide.

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Afghanistan National Archive New Studying Hall Opened

Kabul, 29 May 2016, (BNA)- Abdul Bari Jahani, Minister of Information and Culture inaugurated national archive’s studying Hall yesterday.

The researchers studying hall of the archive has been prepared and equipped by TIKA of Turkey.

In a ceremony held on this occasion, minister of Information and Culture spoke related to good and friendly relations between Afghanistan and Turkey and by praising Turkey for its cooperation with Afghanistan said, the country had always cooperated with Afghanistan particularly in culture sector and now they witnessed that country’s cooperation in equipment of the archive’s studying hall.

In the ceremony, head of national archive Masouma Nazari by praising TIKA for its cooperation in this regard said, the organization not only renovated the studying hall but also equipped the hall with books shelves, computers, printers, scanner, projectors, desks, chairs and all other necessary appliances.

Meanwhile, TIKA Chairman Suliman Shaheen briefed related to operations of the organization in Afghanistan particularly in cultural sections, asserting that equipment of the archive’s studying hall was the start of the organization’s assistance to national archive of Afghanistan.

In the ceremony, minister of information and culture granted the ministry’s appreciation letters to TIKA chairman.

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Pakistan’s History & Literary Heritage unit to organize book festivals

ISLAMABAD, 26 May 2016, (APP) – The National History and Literary Heritage Division would organize a series of book festivals in all the four provinces.

An official of National History and Literary Heritage Division told APP that on the special directives of Advisor to Prime Minister on National History and Literary Heritage Irfan Sidduqi National Book Foundation (NBF) started preparations for organizing the book festivals in various cities including Hyderabad, Bahawalpur, Quetta and Peshawar.

He said that the book festivals would promote book reading culture in the country, adding that specially students of various institutions would be invited to visit the book festival to buy books on discounts prices.

He said that the publishers and book sellers also invited to set up their stalls at book festivals.

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New Islamic finance infrastructure bank announced

Jakarta, 24 May 2016, (IINA) – Saudi Arabia has joined Turkey, Indonesia and the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) as a prospective founder member of a new Islamic finance infrastructure bank, according to Indonesia’s Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro.

Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the annual IDB meeting of governors in Jakarta, Brodjonegoro said the four could contribute around $300 million each for the project, with plans calling for the establishment of two regional Islamic banks based in Istanbul and Jakarta. “It will be the effort of not only the four of us, but also others. But the four will be the founders.”

The new entities could be operational as early as next year, tasked not only with financing via Islamic bonds (sukuk) but also supporting the secondary market for those financial instruments, Brodjonegoro added. “In order to make a market for sukuk, the existence of this bank will be very important.”

Efforts to create an Islamic bank with the balance sheet to underwrite large infrastructure deals dates back more than a decade, but previous efforts have failed to materialize. The addition of Saudi Arabia, the IDB’s largest shareholder and home to some of the world’s largest Islamic banks, could spell success this time. Last year, Indonesia, Turkey and the IDB said they planned to launch an Islamic infrastructure bank, but until last month no other countries had signaled an interest to join them.

The asset-backed nature of Islamic finance should in theory make it ideal to build highway networks and ports, with no shortage of projects across Muslim-majority countries. The IDB has also held discussions with the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to use Islamic finance in joint transactions. The two multilateral lenders could help co-finance a $1.74 billion national slum upgrading project in Indonesia, which could be announced as early as next month.

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OIC Participates in “Russia and the Muslim World” Conference

28 May 2016,(OIC) – The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) participated in the conference held in the Russian city of Kazan from 25 – 27 May 2016 themed: “Russia – Islamic World” at the invitation of President Rustmm Minnikhanov of the Republic of Tatarstan.

At the gathering which deliberated on the prospects of cooperation between Russia and the Muslim world, the OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani was represented by the Director of the Department of Dialogue and Outreach Mr Bashir Ahmad Ansari.

Part of the conference programme was a visit to Bulgar where Islam had reached more than 1000 years ago during the reign of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Muqtadirbillah. The delegation also saw the Bulgar Islamic Academy and other landmarks of Kazan, capital of the Republic of Tatarstan and one of Russia’s biggest cities where Muslim constitute the majority.

The Secretary General in his statement at the closing session delivered on his behalf by the Director of the Department of Dialogue and Outreach thanked the Republic of Tatarstan and the Russian Federation, and expressed the hope for new prospect of cooperation and a world where peace, justice, human rights and dignity and respect for cultures and identities prevail.

On the sidelines of the conference, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Islamic Development Bank and some Russian banks, including Russia Central Bank, was signed. The President of the Islamic Development Group, Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali, underscored the need for the development of economic and technological partnership, as well as exchange of knowledge of expertise and discovery of available opportunities between Russia and the Muslim world. He recalled the efforts of the IDB in this regard. Russia is an observer state in the OIC.

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OIC welcomes WHO report on Health Conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

25 May 2016, (OIC) – Organisation of Islamic Cooperation OIC welcomes the assessment and draws attention to the World Health Organisation’s report on the Health conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the Occupied Syrian Golan, as well as the WHO Director General’s field assessment report.

OIC’s Acting Permanent Observer to the United Nation in Geneva, Ambassador Aissata Kane, made the statement onbehalf of the OIC at the 69th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) taking place from 23 to 28 May 2016, at the Palais des Nations Geneva.

“The health conditions described herein, which are precarious, should be denounced vigorously and addressed in significant and urgent manner,” said Ambassador Kane.

“OIC is deeply concerned particularly over the attacks against health services and the deterioration of mental and physical health, including the health of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons and ex-detainees. In the same vein, OIC is extremely worried on the continuous removal of medical supplies on UN humanitarian convoys, destruction of health facilities, killing of medical personnel and the refusal of medical evacuation in favor of Syrian people already confronted with serious health constraints,’ she added.

Ambassador Kane noted that OIC continues its cooperation with WHO and other relevant UN agencies in the area of health as reiterated by the biannual OIC-UN cooperation meeting held in Geneva mid May 2016.

This coordination meeting outlined joint action areas for improvement in public health, in particular for maternal and newborn and child health, communicable and non-communicable diseases, among others.

According to Ambassador Kane, OIC and its relevant institutions are working with the US Government along with WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA to address the high burden of mortality of mother during delivery and death of new born baby.

Moreover, OIC General Secretariat, along with the IDB signed practical arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on cancer control in OIC Member States, early this month (May 2016).

The OIC envoy also recalled that a Special Session on OIC First Ladies’ Leadership on Cancer Control in Member States was held at the sidelines of the OIC leaders’ Summit, held in April 2016 in Istanbul.

The Special Session raised and enhanced awareness on the increasing cancer burden in OIC Member States and recommended ways to access to effective cancer prevention, diagnostics, treatment and care.

She added that OIC remains committed to polio eradication and is working closely with partners of the Islamic Advisory Group, comprising Al Azhar University, OIC, Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA) in this regard.

The World Health Assembly is World Health Organization (WHO) supreme decision-making body that gathers Member States in a yearly basis. The theme for this year’s general debate is “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

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Pak-Thailand FTA to be finalized by year end: Envoy

ISLAMABAD, 27 May 2016, (APP) – The Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan and Thailand would hopefully be finalized by the end of this year and Pakistani businessmen should prepare themselves to take full benefit from this facility to promote trade with Thailand.

Suchart Liengsaengthong, Ambassador of Thailand in Pakistan said while addressing business community here at Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) on Friday.

He said signing of FTA between the two countries would be a new milestone that would take our bilateral trade to higher levels.

“Leadership of our both countries want to double the existing volume of trade in few years and added that finalization of FTA would help in achieving this objective”, he added.

He was accompanied by Counsellor Marisa Indramangla and Political and Economic Assistant Syed Hassan Iqbal.

The Ambassador said that a 12-member Thai trade delegation would visit Pakistan in August this year to explore business matchmakings with Pakistani counterparts.

The delegation would bring samples of Thai products to introduce them to Pakistani counterparts as seeing was believing.

He said ICCI should also organize visit of its delegation for Thailand as frequent interactions between businessmen of both countries were the best way to know each other, build confidence and explore areas of mutual cooperation in order to promote bilateral trade.

He assured that Thai Embassy would fully cooperate to make visit of ICCI delegation to his country productive.

In his welcome address, Sheikh Pervez Ahmed, Senior Vice President, ICCI said that Pakistan and Thailand have great potential to increase bilateral trade if tariff and non-tariff barriers were addressed.

He stressed that the proposed FTA should focus on lowering all tariff and non-tariff barriers to provide enhanced role to the entrepreneurs for boosting two-way trade between the two countries.

He said Thailand has comparative advantage in electrical and electronic appliances, machinery and components, and automobiles/parts while Pakistan has comparative advantage in cotton yarn, woven textiles, readymade garments, leather products, surgical instruments and sports goods.

Thus both countries has good potential to complement each other by enhancing two-way trade.

Sheikh Pervez Ahmed emphasized that Pakistan and Thailand should focus on encouraging frequent exchange of trade delegations and organizing exhibitions on reciprocal basis that will help in improving trade up to the potential.

He said both countries should develop strong connectivity by land, sea and air routes as Thailand was a gateway for Pakistan to reach South East Asian countries while Pakistan was a gateway for Thailand to get access to Central Asia, Middle East and West China.

He assured that ICCI would consider taking its delegation to Thailand and would like to work closely with Thai Embassy to bring the two countries even closer on trade and economic fronts.

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Pakistan urges more border crossings with Iran

Islamabad, 28 May 2016, (IRNA) – Pakistan commerce minister says establishment of more border crossings between Iran and Pakistan would help in boosting bilateral trade.

According to Pakistan state media, Khurram Dastgir made the remarks during his visit to Taftan-Mirjaveh border on March 27.

Iran and Pakistan have already agreed to open new border crossings to promote trade and security in the bordering areas.

Khurram Dastgir said border posts will help transform the brotherly relations into trade partnership.

He viewed that these posts will mobilize import of agriculture products to Iran.

He added the increased investment in infrastructure by the government will connect Pakistan and neighbouring countries with the international trade routes.

Meanwhile Pakistan and Iran have agreed on revival of weekly train service between Quetta and Zahedan to boost trade activities between both the countries.

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Rare Arab, Muslim Manuscripts On Display At Kuwait’s Library

KUWAIT, 25 May 2016, (NNN-KUNA) – The Kuwait National Library, in collaboration with the Georgian National Centre of Manuscripts, opened Tuesday evening, the first exhibition for the Arab and Georgian manuscripts.

The event, sponsored by the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL), is part of the celebrations of Kuwait Capital of Islamic Culture 2016, and is organised in cooperation with the Georgian embassy.

The exhibition highlights “bright and exciting” pages in the history of the Arabs and Muslims, reflecting major features of the Islamic civilisation, Director General of the Kuwait National Library, Kamel Abdul-Jalil told KUNA, on the sidelines of the opening ceremony.

It features rare items from the Georgian National Centre of Manuscripts, located in the capital Tbilisi, including a multitude of works by Arab and Muslim scientists, as well as, by pioneer Georgian calligraphers.

Abdul-Jalil stressed the library’s eagerness to enhance Kuwait’s status as a “Capital of Islamic Culture 2016” and reveal its openness to the world, in particular ones that own Islamic manuscripts.

This “cultural openness is part of Kuwait’s identity and heritage,” he said.

For his part, Georgian ambassador to Kuwait, Roland Beridze, said, the event will contribute to efforts to bolster bilateral ties, since cultural activities constitute a major channel for convergence among nations.

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Riyadh Governor presents 2016 OIC Tourism Capital Award to Konya

22 May 2016, The Governor of Riyadh, Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz, delivered to the representative of the Turkish government, Dr Mujahid Sami, the 2016 OIC Tourism Capital award won by the Turkish city of Konya. The award was presented on the sidelines of the 15th Trade Fair of OIC Member States held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, from 22 – 26 May 2016.

The City of Konya had won the Islamic Tourism City at the 9thsession of the Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers held in Niamey, Niger in December 2015. The Turkish government has prepared a series of promotional programmes and activities about Konya which would be implemented this year.

In April 2016, the Turkish government held a meeting about Konya as Islamic Tourism capital. It has also set up a booth at the ongoing Trade Fair in Riyadh to provide information about the City.

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Saharan tourism driving force for development in Algeria

AL-MENEA, 26 May 2016,(Ghardaia)- Saharan tourism is a growth sector and a genuine driving force for sustainable economic development, Minister of National Planning, Tourism and Craft Industry said Thursday in the sup-province of Al-Menea (Ghardaia, 600-km south of Algiers).

The minister added that southern regions have various assets and wonderful landscapes, not yet exploited and which can become major tourist attractions.

Ghoul urged the professionals in the sector of tourism to step up efforts to boost tourism up to a level commensurate with the huge potentialities of these regions, which are known for their age-long traditions of hospitality.

He underlined the need to “promote our tourism, handicraft, cultural and historic heritage to achieve sustainable development, especially in southern provinces.”

The minister also stressed the need to identify new sites likely to become tourist attractions.

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Iran auto-maker, Korean company sign $1 bn finance deal

Tehran, 28 May 2016, IRNA – Deputy Commercial Manager of SAIPA auto making group Hassan Baghaei said on Saturday that the group has inked a one-billion-dollar finance deal with South Korean company SK networks.

Speaking to IRNA, Baghaei said following preliminary talks between the two sides, the deal was inked on Friday.

The South Korean company is to finance SAIPA’s purchase of dlrs one billion worth of spare parts in complete knock-down (CKD), he said.

Talks between the two companies on joint venture investment is now underway, he said.

SAIPA has recently placed a dlrs. 250,000 order for purchase of auto-parts from South Korean company, he said.

During the recent visit of the South Korean president to Iran, 19 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) on broadening of mutual economic cooperation were inked between the two countries.

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Saudi Arabia mulls issuing passports for women without guardian’s approval

Jeddah, 24 May 2016, (IINA) – A full session of the Saudi Shoura Council is expected to discuss a proposal seeking to grant Saudi women the right to apply for their own passports without their guardians’ permission, Arab News reported Tuesday.

The proposal was submitted by the Shoura’s security committee and is aimed at empowering women and protecting them from attempts to smuggle them across the nation’s borders to conflict zones, including Iraq, Syria and Yemen, a local publication reported.

The report stated that the discussion at the Shoura would focus on achieving consistency in terms of the way women are treated compared to men with regard to the issue of passports, which includes reducing the harm caused to them.

The issuing of passports to women without the consent of their guardians is consistent with the current law, which states that a citizen only has to be 18 years of age to apply for a passport, with no distinction made in terms of gender.

The security committee said that the issue of granting passports to married and unmarried women would reduce the problems they face while traveling.

These amendments would not contravene Islamic law or the customs of the country, the committee stated in its proposal.

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Sellal opens 49th International Fair of Algiers

ALGIERS, 28 May 2016 – Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Saturday has opened the 49th International Fair of Algiers, which will run until 2 June.

The Premier was accompanied by members of the Government, senior officials of the economic sector and representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited to Algiers.

A total of 810 exhibitors, including 405 foreign companies from 33 countries, are participating in this major trade show.

The stands of national exhibitors are stretching over an overall area of 30,351 square metres, while foreign firms are preseting their products and services over an overall area of 7,000 square metres.

The organizers of this year’s edition have decided to grant the status of guest of honour to representatives of African importing companies.

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World stars opting for Turkish-made cymbals

SAMSUN, 26 May 2016, (Doğan News Agency)- Global stardom is something that each of Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Madonna and Ricky Martin share in common. Another thing, however, is the cymbals their drummers use: Murat Diril cymbals – which unexpectedly hail from Turkey’s Black Sea shores in Samsun.

“I am working to put my name among the top four in the world cymbal sector,” said producer Murat Diril.

Diril, 42, started working in the sector as an apprentice in the 1990s in Istanbul and began producing hand-made cymbals in an atelier that he established in the Örnek Industrial Estate of Samsun’s Tekeköy district at the beginning of 2000s.

“I worked as an apprentice with masters like Agop Tomurcuk and Mehmet Tamdeğer. I learned this business from them,” Diril said.

“Currently, world-known cymbals are produced in factories. Machines are hammering the cymbals. This is why the cymbals of the same series have the same sound. Our cymbals are higher quality because we work by hand. It is never possible to produce the same cymbal once again. This is like a fingerprint of a cymbal. Machines use the same power while hammering each cymbal. But the human hand has different power in every stroke. Therefore the sound and quality are different,” the master said.

Diril said he and his seven employees produced around 600 cymbals a month in a variety of sizes, ranging from four to 28 inches. “The prices of our cymbals range between 250 and 700 euros. Our goal is to be among the top four in the world cymbal market.”

Diril said he started working with manual labor and never thought of switching over to machine production.

“Cymbal companies which currently conduct production with machines used to produces cymbals by hand in the past, and these were very good. But they have lost their features. Machine-made cymbals are all the same. For a professional drummer, the brand is not important. Amateurs are interested in brands,” Diril said.

Diril learned this profession by working with the world-renowned Zildjian family, as well as the masters Tomurcuk and Tamdeğer.

The ancestors of the Zildjian family migrated to Istanbul’s Samatya district from the Black Sea province of Trabzon in 1623. They first started producing boilers before switching to cymbals. The cymbals, produced with a special technique, quickly became famous among the Ottoman sultans and viziers. Besides the Ottoman army, the Prussian army also began playing these cymbals.

The cymbals produced by the Zildjian family have won many international awards.

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34 Syrian companies take part in Algeria’s International Fair

Algiers, SANA, 29 May 2016 – 34 Syrian companies are taking part in the 49th edition of the International Fair of Algiers (FIA) which was opened Saturday at the Exhibition Centre (Pins Maritimes).

A total of 810 exhibitors, including 405 foreign companies from 33 countries, are participating in this major trade show which lasts till June 2nd, 2016 .

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, who opened the Fair, accompanied by Syria’s Ambassador in Algiers Nomair Ghanem, visited the Syrian pavilion which includes 34 companies representing food, textile, agricultural and chemical sectors.

The Syrian participation in FIA is part of the Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade efforts to widen commercial business with four countries which are Algeria, Russia, Iran and Iraq.

On 25 of last April, Syria’s Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Humam al-Jazaeri and Algerian Minister of Maghreb Affairs, African Union and Arab League Abdelkader Messahel signed in Damascus the minutes of the meetings of Syrian-Algerian committee for economic cooperation, which set the general framework for joint cooperation between the two countries in all fields, mainly commercial, industrial, and scientific fields.

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Sheikh Mansoor Festival races set to boost Arabian racing in Italy

ROME, 28th May 2016 (WAM) – The HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival is all set to trigger a huge boost to the Purebred Arabian racing scene in Italy when three of its major race series will be worked off on ‘Emirates Race Day’ at the Capanelle race course in Rome on Sunday, May 29, 2016.

The Festival which has staged Endurance rides here in Italy, will be making its debut with Arabian horse flat racing through the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Cup (Listed) race, the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship race and the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Apprentice World Championship race.

“This will be the biggest day for Purebred Arabian racing in Italy and with over 500 delegates from all over the world, who are here for the World Arabian Horse Racing Conference, in attendance on Sunday, it is a great opportunity for the Italians,” said Ms Lara Sawaya, Executive Director of the HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival, Chairperson of Int’l Federation of Horse Racing Academies (IFHRA) and Chairperson of Ladies & Apprentice Racing Committees in the International Federation of Arabian Horse Racing Authorities (IFAHR).

The Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan race is a Listed event with ten runners contesting over 2400 meters and Al Janoob under Anna Pilroth is the top weight. The added importance of this race is the fact that it is one of the three legs of the Festival’s European Triple Crown and this has attracted four international runners.

But the one to watch is Ziyadd under Pierantonio Convertino, a 4-year-old trained by Antoine Watrigant for owner HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

The biggest danger for Ziyadd could come from Tornado Byzucchele under Antonio Fadda and Nasco under Domenico Migheli while Al Janoob, Fedayn, Nil Ashaal and Lares De Pine are all capable of finishing in the frame.

In the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship race, 2015 world champion Astrid Wullschleger partners Mirko, the veteran runner starting as favourite despite being the top weight. Irish lady jockey Lisa O’Neil on Sibillina should also fancy her chances as will Moroccan Bouchra Marmoul on Sole Di Chia, Poland’s Anna Gil on Tintudi Gallura and Australian Cecily Eaton on Tabasco.

The other jockeys and the horses Denmark’s Rikke Bay Torp on Tiffany, German Silvia Pattinson on Tersilia, Omani Fatma Al Manji on Quadrieoglio, South Korea’s Lee Keumjoo on Turriga and Jessica Marcialis representing hosts Italy on Monnalisa.

The HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Horse Flat Racing Festival is sustained by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and coordinated by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, with National Feed and Flour Production and Marketing Co. LLC as associate sponsors, IPIC as Strategic Partner, The National Archives as the official partner and Emirates airline as the official carriers, in cooperation with Emirates Racing Authority, IFAHR, Emirates Arabian Horse Society, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare and sponsored by Al Aweer Stables, Ayadii LLC, Global United Veterinary Services LLC, Bloom, Petromal, Rise General Trading Co. LLC, Hayatna, Wathba Stallions, Abu Dhabi Falconers Club, Emirates Falconers Club, Mohamed Bin Zayed Falconry and Desert Physiognomy School, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), Al Awani General Enterprises, Kabale, Omeir Travels, Dr Nader Saab Switzerland, Laboratories Fadia Karam Cosmetics, YAS Channel, Racing Post, Paris Turf, Al Wathba Centre, the UAE’s General Women’s Union, The Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, the HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy, Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition 2016, Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club, Eastern Mangroves Suites-Abu Dhabi by Jannah, Anantara Eastern Mangroves Spa and Resort.

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Turkey sees steepest decline in monthly arrivals since May 1999

ANKARA, ISTANBUL, 27 May 2016 – The number of foreign arrivals visiting Turkey slumped by 28 percent in April to 1.75 million compared to the same month of 2015, marking the steepest decline since May 1999, according to data issued by the Tourism Ministry on May 27.

Almost half of the foreign arrivals were made by day visitors, the data showed.

In April, Turkey saw significant declines mainly in arrivals from Russia and Western countries amid rising security concerns and the diplomatic crisis with Russia, which was the second largest foreign tourist source for Turkey until recently.

The number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey declined by 79.2 percent to around 31,000 in April compared to the same month of 2015.

The number of arrivals from Germany also dropped by 35.4 percent in April and from Britain by 24.4 percent, to around 246,000 and 103,000 respectively.

The highest number of foreign arrivals was again seen from Germany in April, followed by Georgia with 182,249 visitors and Bulgaria with 147,880 visitors in April.

The number of foreign people visiting Turkey decreased by 16.5 percent to 5.82 million in the first four months of this year compared to the same period of 2015, data also showed.

The number of Russians visiting Turkey saw a decline of around 68 percent in the first four months the year compared to the same period of 2015, decreasing to 97,177.

These numbers are the worst since May 1999, when foreign arrivals to Turkey declined amid clashes between Turkey and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), after PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was arrested in February 1999.

Turkey lured the highest number of foreign people from Germany in the first four months of the year with around 730,000 visitors, taking around 13 percent of the share in total visitors. Germany was followed by Georgia with around 615,000 arrivals and a 10.5 percent share in the total, and Iran, which sent 561,560 people to Turkey, taking a 9.6 percent of share in the total.

The head of the Hoteliers Association of Turkey (TÜROB) predicted that the sector would close the year with double-digit declines in tourism numbers over 2016.

There were significant decreases in hotel occupancy rates across Turkey, mainly in Istanbul, after a series of bomb attacks as well as the ongoing crisis with Russia, TÜROB head Timur Bayındır told Reuters on May 26.

As any significant rise was not seen in summer reservations and many hotels cut their room prices, it is not likely for the sector to reach its year-end revenue targets, Bayındır said.

“The rising security concerns have hit our sector. As many countries have issued security warnings about Turkey, we have seen decreases in foreign arrivals,” he added.

Istanbul’s hotel occupancy rates decreased to 50.3 percent in April, the lowest figure in the last decade, according to TÜROB data.

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Togo, Saudi Fund sign $17 million road infrastructure deal

Lusaka, Zambia (IINA), 29 May 2016 – Togo and the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) have reached a $17 million financing agreement last week to sustain the construction of road infrastructures in the West African country, News Ghana reported.

The Togolese State Minister in charge of economy and finance, Adji Oteth Ayassor, signed the documentation to the effect in the margins of the general meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Lusaka, Zambia.

The financing will support three important road projects from the central region to the far north region of the country so as to ensure the economic development of the inland.

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Syria and Yemen Culture on show in St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum

Moscow, SANA, 26 May 2016 – Saint Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum is holding on Thursday and Friday a cultural event to shed light on the civilizational and cultural heritage of Syria and Yemen.

Russian cultural figures and folklore artists are participating in the “Days of Yemen and Syria in the Hermitage”.

A play titled “The Queen of Sheba” will be presented on the first day of the event telling the story of Queen Balqis as a Yemeni legendary heroine. Musicians will play pieces of Yemeni music and archaeologists will brief the audience on the results of their work in Yemen and its ancient sites.

The second day, however, will be dedicated to the history and civilization of Syria. The director of the Orient Section at the museum and its staff will talk about Syria and its culture and a play titled “On the Road to Damascus” will be presented.

An exhibition displaying ancient antiquities and artifacts representing the culture of Syria and Yemen will be held during the event.

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Chinese Loan US$700m for New Khartoum Airport

25 May 2016, (Sudan News Agency)- Khartoum — Vice-President of the Republic, Hassabo Mohammed Abdul-Rahman chaired on Wednesday, meeting of the High Committee assigned to follow up implementation of the new Khartoum International Air Port Project.

State Minister at Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Abdul-Rahman Dirar affirmed that the Vice-President gave directive to begin withdrawal from a loan of 700 million dollars, which was signed between the Government of Sudan and the Export and Import Bank of China for completing the technical arrangements and settling the financial commitments.

He said a Sudanese delegation will leave for China for completing the discussions with the Export and Import Bank of China over signing pf the last two agreements, then withdrawal from the loan will start.

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Sport Stadium To Be Constructed In Eastern Kunar, Afghanistan

Asadabad City, (BNA), 28 May 2016 – A sport stadium in the area of three acres of land to be built in Asadabad city the provincial capital of eastern Kunar province. According to BNA report, Zabihullah Safi head of financial and administrative department of sport while visiting the mentioned land said, the construction work on the stadium building will start as soon as possible. It is mentionable that the land is ownership of Asadabad municipality and also involved in city master plan.

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Sisi Issues Decree Allowing Saudis To Buy Egyptian-Only Land

CAIRO, 29 May 2016, (NNN-ALARABIYA) — Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has issued a decree allowing a Saudi national to buy a land previously allowed only for Egyptians to own, a statement published in the local Al-Jarida al-Rasmiya newspaper showed on Thursday.

The Saudi man, named Hamood bin Mohammed bin Nassir al-Salih, wanted to purchase two pieces of land – located on the Cairo-Alexandria desert highway – but was surprised to find out that only Egyptians were allowed to be the owners, the paper reported.

Without explaining how, the paper said this prompted Sisi to issue a decree allowing Salih to buy the land.

The news comes after judicial sources told Reuters that an Egyptian appeals court on Tuesday cancelled five-year prison terms handed to 47 people earlier this month for protesting a government decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi and Egyptian officials say the islands belong to the kingdom and were only under Egyptian control because Riyadh had asked Cairo in 1950 to protect them.

Egypt’s security has worsened since the ouster of its Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in a military coup, shaking its economy out of balance including its critical tourism sector.

This has prompted Sisi to deepen Cairo’s ties with the richer Gulf countries especially Saudi Arabia.

Showcasing the two countries’ cozying ties, Egypt’s cabinet has recently approved a $2.5 billion grant from Saudi Arabia, which was initially signed during King Salman Bin Abdel-Aziz’s visit to Cairo on 10 April, the official Al-Ahram newspaper reported.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed final loan agreements worth over $24 billion during King Salman’s visit, according to Egypt’s minister of international cooperation.

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Sharjah Archaeological Exhibition in Spain Attracts 4,500+ Visitors

MADRID, Spain, 25 May 2016, (NNN-WAM) – The Sharjah Archaeological Exhibition, which was organised by the Department of Culture and Information, in Sharjah, in conjunction with the Autonomous University of Madrid, UAM, at the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, has continuously received visitors to be briefed on a number of important original artefacts, that have been discovered in various archaeological sites in the Emirate of Sharjah.

The exhibition has seen a high turnout and marked interest from Spanish society of all ages, as well as students of schools and universities. More than 45,000 people visited the event.

The exhibition will run until the end of this month at the Autonomous University of Madrid.

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Ground Prepared for Iran, Portugal Expansion of Ties

TEHRAN, 29 May 2016, (NNN-IRNA) – Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says that ground for expansion of ties between Iran and Portugal is ready, especially in the field of tourism.

Zarif made the remarks in a meeting with the visiting Portuguese Deputy Foreign Minister Jorge Costa Oliveira on Saturday, a foreign ministry press release suggests.

Zarif said that promotion of Persian Language in Portugal is one of the ways to further ties between Iran and the European country.

Zarif underlined that in the field of economy, settlement of banking problems are among considerable issues.

We expect more to be done in this regard, so that the Portuguese companies and banks could easily resume activity in Iran, he said.

Oliveira also underlined teaching both Persian and Portuguese languages in the two countries and said that companies in his country are interests in participating in Iran’s market.

He said that the ground is ready for the two countries to cooperate in different fields adding that the time is now ripe to exploit the potential to enhance ties.

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Abu Dhabi Targets Visitors For Extensive Summer Season

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — The emirate-wide Abu Dhabi Summer Season will this year take place from July 7 to September 11 and presented by Yas Island being held across venues in Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain and Al Gharbia.

“Last year’s Summer Season witnessed a significant increase in the number of guest arrivals into the emirate – up 21 per cent over the same period the previous year and we expect it will be of significant interest to the travel trade at Arabian Travel Market,” said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Director of Promotions and Overseas Offices at Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), will focus on the extensive Abu Dhabi.

“We will build on this success by offering another superb selection of entertainment and promotions during our 2016 Summer Season targeting key markets across the GCC, India and Europe. Our annual Summer Season, along with our stunning scenery, rich culture and diverse range of entertainment and a fantastic choice of highly competitive priced accommodation makes the emirate an excellent destination to visit all year round,” he added.

“This year is packed with 18 thrilling international theatre and stage shows, leading comedy acts, music concerts, an illusionist and some amazing children’s shows, combined with a wide range of activities and extended activations, each lasting for a month at a time. We will also celebrate Indian Independence Day and Eid Al Fitr with fabulous concerts. Superb summer offers, promotions and prizes across Abu Dhabi’s hotels, malls and attractions will again feature across the Summer Season period.”

The three-month 2015 Summer Season, which ran from June 11th to September 5th, helped attract 951,979 guest arrivals into the emirate. The number of visitors from India showed the largest increase during the period, rising 29.8% from 2014. Visitors from within the UAE showed double digit growth, while visitors from the GCC, not including the UAE, increased by 9.8% to 79,086.

Along with the significant rise in visitor guest arrivals, participating malls across the emirate also saw large increases in footfall and trade. The 12 malls which hosted TCA Abu Dhabi’s weekly prize draw to win a Mercedes-Benz car reported 15-20% growth in business.

Joining TCA Abu Dhabi for the first time at ATM will be Al Maryah Island, representing all the island’s properties, which will be highlighting the location as Abu Dhabi’s business and lifestyle destination for regional and international tourists and investors alike.

For a full line-up of Abu Dhabi Summer Season events see: abudhabisummerseason.ae

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7th World Islamic Forum held in Iran’s Yazd

Yazd, May 24, IRNA – The 7th World Islamic Forum started work in this central Iranian city on Tuesday. Near 100 guests from 35 world countries have attended the two-day international event. The theme of the Forum is ‘Strategic Communications: Reference Values, Institutions and Individuals.’

The Forum is being supported by Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The reason why this Iranian city has been chosen for holding the Forum is that Yazd is the first Muslim Adobe City and also second Historical City in the World according to UNESCO.

Making think tanks of the World of Islam closer to each other and discussing issue of world free from violence and extremism are among important goals of the Forum.

Through a proposal to the United Nations General Assembly last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for an updated version of the 2013 WAVE resolution that seeks a world free from violence and extremism. The proposal was warmly welcomed by the UN.

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Iran shines at Cannes Film Festival

Tehran, May 24, IRNA – Despite plenty of speculations about who would walk away with the distinguished Palme D’or at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, it was the Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi’s ‘The Salesman” that stood in spotlight winning two prizes in the closing ceremony of the event.

Following “A Separation,” which became the first Iranian film to bag an Oscar prize in 2012, Farhadi had seemingly embarked on a path similar to his revered compatriot Abbas Kiarostami, whose last two films, “Certified Copy” (2010) and “Like Someone in Love” (2012), were both shot abroad.

Kiarostami won the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) award at the Cannes Film Festival for Taste of Cherry in 1997.

The Salesman is an Iranian-French movie directed by Farhadi who is also the co-producer of the film along with the French producer Alexandre Mallet-Guy.

The film is the only movie which succeeded to win two out of the eight prizes at this year Cannes Film Festival.

This is undoubtedly an unprecedented achievement which would remain in the memory of the Iranians all over the globe.

The Salesman portrays Ra’ana (Iranian actress Taraneh Alidousti) and Emad (Hosseini), as a couple who are part-time actors playing in the Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller as Linda and Willy. It is an Iranian version of Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The film explores the themes of marriage, privacy, suspicion, revenge, honor and violence.

Addressing the audience after receiving his prize, the soft-speaking Hosseini thanked God for his success and recalled the memory of his late father saying, ‘I’m sure my father is watching me from the heaven right now,’.

Thanking his Iranian compatriots, the 42-year-old Hosseini said: ‘This prize belongs to my people, so I give it to them.’

The acclaimed Iranian superstar won his first international award in 2011 at the golden globe for his play at Farhadi’s previously rewarded movie ‘A Separation’.

Thanks to the social media, Telegram in particular which is more common among the Iranians, the news and photos of Farhadi-Hosseini shinning in the Cannes immediately spiralled worldwide.

Many Iranians at home and abroad celebrated the valuable achievements made by the two popular artists and flooded the social media networks with messages of congratulations. Filled with pride and joy, the Iranians believe that winning such internationally prestigious awards would portrait the true image of Iran as a peace-loving country and a nation which respects art and demonstrate its rich civilization and culture in its artistic works.

More in his speech, Hosseini also thanked his co-star, Taraneh, who was entirely touched by his words and burst into emotions.

Her supporting tears for Hosseini impressed many Iranians.

Taraneh was also adored by many of her fellow Iranians for portraying a true image of an Iranian lady during her presence at Cannes.

The unprecedented achievements made by Farhadi and Hosseini at Cannes Film Festival also were highly welcomed by Iranians both inside and outside of the country.

Director of the Iranian House of Cinema (IHC), Reza Mirkarimi, was the first person that congratulated Farhadi and Hosseini, followed by other Iranian officials, artists and their fan and friends.

Many cinematographers believe there is a high chance that the Iranian superstar would win this year’s Academy Award for the Best Actor after taking home the best actor award from Cannes.

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Iran, China sign seven commercial cooperation pacts

Tehran, May 24, IRNA – Representatives from Iran and China in Tehran on Tuesday signed seven documents which envisaged enhanced economic and commercial cooperation.

The signatories to the documents were Trade Promotion Organization of Iran and China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and Zhejiang Province Chamber of Commerce as well as Iran and China private sector.

Two documents were signed between TPO and CCPIT and Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce for cooperation on different fields and five documents between private sectors of the both countries.

One of the documents was signed between Iran Chamber of Commerce and the Legal Bureau of China international promotion Council, undertaking to regulate trade problems between Iran and China.

Another document was signed between Iran-China joint Chamber of Commerce and joint chamber of Zhejiang province to follow up development of export and investment between the two countries.

The last document was signed between Iranian and Chinese companies to produce ‘LED’ lights and optic supplements and education materials and projectors.

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Afghan woman says literacy brought her from ‘darkness to light

Kabul, 19.05.2016 (UNESCO News) – Twenty-four-year-old Karima grew up forbidden to go to school – first under Taliban rule and then because of a lack of support from her family who believed that education was unnecessary for women.

In 2014, she took it upon herself to change that and enrolled in UNESCO’s Enhancement of Literacy in Afghanistan (ELA) programme. The difference to her is stark – “like moving from the dark to the light,” she says. “Literacy has given me new hope and motivation in life.”

The resident of Mazare Sharif in northern Afghanistan took the nine month ELA programme run by UNESCO with support from the government of Japan, which offers literacy and skills based literacy classes.

“Joining this literacy course, basically changed my life,” says Karima. “I would always look at myself as an incapable and useless person who could not do anything in life, but now I feel capable. If nothing else, now I can read a book.”

The skills-based focus of the ELA programme paid immediate practical dividends for Karina, who opened her own tailoring and sewing business bring in extra income for her household.

Her husband supported the endeavour and she says her literacy skills have given her a stronger voice in her family. “When I was able to read and keep in information, I could make better decisions and could contribute to the household income. It really changed my position in my family and the respect I received,” she says.

Karima also feels more empowered outside of her family. She’s taken on three trainees at the small tailoring workshop she runs out of her house and says that the literacy programme has made her a more confident leader as well as more skilled in her work.

“In the past, I used to sew too but without knowing how to measure and I would make mistakes,” she says. “Now, I measure using a pencil and ruler to draw lines and measure. I feel more professional now.”

Karima has been able to establish good links with local shopkeepers and finds her works are popular at the local market. “Every Tuesday, I take my work and my students’ work to the Mazar-e Sharif’s local bazaar. Our work sells well compared to others,” she says.

The opportunities that the ELA programme have brought have changed her life, she says, and made her realise that it’s never too late to start learning, even for those who, like her, never believed that they would be able to pursue education. “I wish all women could get a chance like this,” she says.

See Pictures: http://www.unescobkk.org/news/article/afghan-woman-says-literacy-brought-her-from-darkness-to-light/?utmsource=getresponse&utmmedium=email&utmcampaign=unescoasiapacificnewsletter&utm_content=UNESCO+Asia-Pacific+Newsletter+–+May-June+edition

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Reimagining Iqbal at the Mosque of Cordoba

By Usman Hayat

May 20, 2016, Dawn.com

O’ sacred place of Cordoba, you exist because of Ishq
Ishq that’s wholly eternal, which does not come and go

This is how Allama Muhammad Iqbal described the mosque of Cordoba in his famous poem Masjid-e-Qartaba; written in 1933, about five years before the poet’s death.

A note under the title of the poem says it was written in Spain, particularly in Cordoba. Having read it during my school years, I had long wished to visit the mosque that had inspired Iqbal.

My wish finally came true as an opportunity to visit Spain came my way in February 2016. As I drove the 400 kilometres from Madrid to Cordoba to see the mosque, the verses of Masjid-e-Qartaba kept playing in my mind and I wondered what the mosque would look like now.

The mosque was commissioned by Abd Rahman I around 785, more than 1100 years before Iqbal visited it. It then continued to be developed for many years since.

It was a very different era with Europe in the dark ages, and the Muslim civilisation flourishing. According to the World Heritage Centre, the mosque “represents a unique artistic achievement due to its size and the sheer boldness of the height of its ceilings. It is an irreplaceable testimony of the Caliphate of Cordoba and it is the most emblematic monument of Islamic religious architecture.”

Read the rest: http://www.dawn.com/news/1258712/reimagining-iqbal-at-the-mosque-of-cordoba

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Kazakhstan plans more than $6 billion in biggest privatization

Bishkek (AKIpress) – The countdown is on for the biggest wave of privatization in the history of Kazakhstan, Bloombergreports.

Authorities are targeting proceeds at more than $6 billion to $7.3 billion, the balance-sheet value of assets held by the companies they plan to offer, according to Berik Beisengaliyev, a management board member at Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna. Seven sales — which will include KazMunaiGaz National Co., uranium producer Kazatomprom and railway monopoly Kazakhstan Temir Zholy — will take place via initial public offerings, he said in an interview.

“We see huge interest from the side of investors in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia,” Beisengaliyev, who’s also managing director of asset optimization at the fund, said on Wednesday in the capital, Astana. The plans are garnering attention “even though we haven’t yet begun active implementation and are still at the stage of preparation.”

Privatization is in the spotlight for Kazakhstan after the worst oil crash in a generation clobbered the public finances of the second-largest energy producer in the former Soviet Union. Samruk-Kazyna gained assets accounting for about half of the Central Asian nation’s economic output after bailing out banks and companies hurt by a financial crisis in 2007-2009.

The planned selloff will include a list of 173 smaller assets, which will be made available starting this year through electronic auctions, and another lineup of 44 companies of “national scale,” according to Beisengaliyev. The larger offerings will take place from 2017 until end-2018, with the exception of IPOs, which won’t start before 2018 and may last until 2020, he said.

Consultants will be selected for each asset valued at more than 5 billion tenge ($15 million), and most will be hired by the end of this year, Beisengaliyev said.

While dual listings aren’t ruled out, Kazakhstan will favor domestic share sales, the official said. An IPO of KazMunaiGaz National Co. can take place without a de-listing of its London-traded unit, KazMunaiGas Exploration Production, he said.

Under the agreement to sell KazMunaiGaz’s unit that controls Rompetrol Group NV, a Chinese buyer is purchasing 51 percent for $680 million and pledging to invest $3 billion during a short period in Romania’s second-biggest oil company without diluting the stake held by KazMunaiGaz, according to Beisengaliyev.

Power generator Samruk-Energo will probably hold an IPO in 2019, Beisengaliyev said. Regardless of the outcome of privatization, Kazakhstan also wants to retain a 51 percent stake in the country’s flagship carrier, Air Astana, to comply with international agreements, he said. Shares in the airline will probably be offered in 2019 or 2020, he said.

Authorities will divest stakes of no more than 25 percent in the companies sold through IPOs, with the state maintaining control, he said. Besides IPOs, Samruk will consider proposals from investors for selling the assets by other means if they are deemed “economically interesting,” Beisengaliyev said.

Kazakhstan will adopt an “individual” approach to each asset sale, he said. The proceeds will largely go to repay domestic or foreign debt of the companies being privatized, including their borrowing from the National Fund, where the government channels most of its oil revenue.

The nation has a “clear ideology of privatization,” according to Beisengaliyev. That includes maximizing value over speed, giving equal access to all investors and maintaining the government’s control over strategic assets, he said.

“We are more interested in strategic investors,” he said. “National interests are above short-term benefits.”

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EBRD and AIFC to explore green finance in Kazakhstan

Bishkek (AKIpress) – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is taking the first step towards developing a green financial system in Kazakhstan in partnership with the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) Authority.

EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti and AIFC Governor Kairat Kelimbetov signed an agreement today on the sidelines of the Foreign Investors Council’s plenary session to commission a scoping study for the development of a green financing system in Kazakhstan.

The study, scheduled to be completed in 2017, will assess the demand for green investments, identify gaps in current regulations, and make recommendations for the introduction of green financing standards and for the development of the green bonds market and carbon market services.

The development of a green financing system would be consistent with the COP21 Paris Agreement, aligning financing flows with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development.

The AIFC Authority was put in place earlier this year and is tasked with developing an international financial centre in Astana. In March, the AIFC Authority, TheCityUK and the EBRD signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support the establishment of the financial centre and to encourage and improve opportunities for the financial and related professional services industries.

Janet Heckman, EBRD Director for Kazakhstan, said: “The EBRD is the largest green financier in its region, and in Kazakhstan we make every effort to support energy efficiency and renewable energy. But we also aim to help the country develop a new way of financing its green economy programme, and we believe the future AIFC can spearhead the green financial system development as its unique proposition.”

AIFC Governor Kairat Kelimbetov added: “AIFC is planning to develop instruments of green financial systems on its site. Today we see the rapid development and the reorientation of the economy towards cleaner technologies. In this connection, a high-tech area Astana EXPO – 2017 intends to provide the infrastructure in the field of green technology research, while AIFC can participate in its financial component”.

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Equestrian sports competition held in Kyzylorda region

28.05.2016, kazakh-tv.kz – Residents of the Kyzylorda region are reviving traditions of the Kazakh equestrian sports. The locals held a kokpar and tai baige tournaments. The best jockeys in the region took part in the competition. Event organizers dedicated the tournament to the 25th anniversary of the Independence celebrated this year.

Rustembek Bainazarov, Competition Participant, said: We had another victory. Today I became a champion among the Kokpar aul districts. The best horsemen are taking part in this competition and the strongest horses. I am glad that there are more and more fans of this game every year. In the 6-kilometer tie baige show among two dozen horses the favorites were young stallions named “Almaty” and “Expo”. The event’s last game was Kokpar – the game for real zhigits who fought for the trophy. In total 13 teams from different districts of the region battled for the goat’s carcass.

Kanagat Bizakov, Organizer, said: The competitions were dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. We contribute to the development of the national heritage and traditions of kokpar, audaryspak, baige and other games. It is encouraging that they are popular among our youth.

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French experts to help restore ancient monuments in Syria

28.05.2016, kazakh-tv.kz – French experts will help restore the destroyed after hostilities monuments in Syria. One of the first joint projects will be the famous castle Krak des Chevaliers, which is listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2014, for three months the fortress was occupied by terrorists. The castle miraculously wasn’t destroyed. But five years of civil war, could not help but leave its mark on the monument. Nicolas EDMET, EXPERT, FRANCE, said: After the restoration of Krac des Chevaliers is complete we can proceed to other objects. We are in talks with the Syrians to help them restore the ancient cities of Palmyra and Ugarit.

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Omani Iranian Investment Forum to Kick-off next Tuesday

Muscat, May 28 (ONA) – The Omani- Iranian Investment Forum, organized by the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Exports Development ‘ Ithraa’ in collaboration with the Sultanate’s Embassy in Iran and Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Minerals, will be held next Tuesday in Iran.

The Forum aims at highlighting the investment opportunities and services provided to investors to enhance the trade and investment exchange between the Sultanate and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Sayyid Faisal bin Turki al-Said, Director General of Investment Promotion in ‘Ithraa’ said that the Omani- Iranian Investment Forum seeks to focus on the targeted investment sectors, such as the logistic services, minerals and health care, which may attract Iranian investors, especially the Sultanate provides scores of incentives to potential investors in these sectors. The Omani delegation will highlight to the Iranian participants at the forum the wide range of incentives provided by the Omani government to investors.

He added in a press statement that the Forum stresses the economic and investment cooperation between the Sultanate and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which witnessed a remarkable growth over the past years resulting in setting up a number of joint ventures.

It should be noted that the Islamic Republic of Iran is the second biggest economy in the Middle East and South Africa after Saudi Arabia with a GDP of $393.7 billion in 2015. It is also the second biggest country in terms of population after Egypt with 78.8 million people as of 2015. The Iranian economy is expected to post a 4% growth in 2016.

The value of the Sultanate’s imports from Iran till the end of 2013 stood at RO133.2 million whereas the value of the Omani exports to Iran stood at only RO1 million.

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