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16 May, 2016

Islamic Satellite TV Channel feasibility study approved

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islamfor the week ending 16 May 2016 (09 Sha’baan 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.

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A WORD FROM MY SPONSORS: TOURISM MALAYSIA

SPECTACULAR SUCCESS FOR MALAYSIA AT ARABIAN TRAVEL MARKET 2016

A total of 124 Malaysian sellers from 77 organisations joined Tourism Malaysia to participate in ATM, held in Dubai from 25 to 28 April. During the launching ceremony, guests were shown a 30-second TVC on West Asian market. After that, the Melaka Art Brigade from the Melaka Tourism Promotion Division, Melaka Chief Minister’s Department, presented a glittering spectrum of dances from the various ethnic groups to reflect the unique heritage of Malaysia. Tourism Malaysia helped to promote tourism products and campaigns of other participating states, such as Visit Perak Year 2017, Visit Pahang Year 2017 and Visit Terengganu Year 2017, and assisted during the launching of “Experience Penang a Muslim Travel Guide 2016/2017” brochure by the Penang State Tourism, and “Malaysia Travel Guide” by a local wholesaler agency Explore The Wonders. A local PR agency Media Hub also launched its “Malaysia Tourist Guide” Arabic brochure. The Nancy Ajram concert will be held on 30 and 31 July 2016 at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC). Tourism Malaysia also hosted a Networking Dinner at Grand Hyatt Dubai to thank buyers, media and invited guests for their support and assistance in promoting Malaysia.

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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

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Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.

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

Malaysian bank scoops award at ADFIAP awards 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 (Bernama) — Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Berhad (BPMB or the Bank) received an award from the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia Pacific (ADFIAP) for its outstanding work in environmental development and infrastructure development at a ceremony held in Apia, Samoa on Monday, 2nd May 2016.

The ADFIAP awards, established since 1997, is recognised for honouring individuals and institutions who have contributed significantly to the development of their respective countries.

ADFIAP named BPMB as the winner for ADFIAP Outstanding Development Project 2016 for two projects, namely (i) Perdana Putra High Performance Green Building and (ii) Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) in Education Sector.

The Perdana Putra Project in Putrajaya is a large-scale upgrading of the Prime Minister’s Department Complex into a certified green building. The project started in October 2011 and completed in May 2014. It was accorded a platinum rating in the Green Building Index (GBI), Malaysia’s industry recognised green rating tool for buildings to promote sustainability in the urban environment. Perdana Putra is now a benchmark to encourage more businesses in Malaysia to achieve greater heights in energy efficiency. The successful retrofitting project is also considered the largest retrofitting project for government buildings in Asia.

BPMB was involved in financing the construction of new campuses for Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), under PFI. PFI projects initiated by the Government allows private sector participation in the public higher education sector particularly in the provision of long term asset-based services under the 9th Malaysian Plan in 2006. Other than UiTM, BPMB has also participated in the financing of PFI projects for other public universities/colleges. BPMB has provided financing of more than RM2.3 billion in PFI projects related to the education sector.

Encik Mohammed Rafidz Ahmed Rasiddi, President and Group Managing Director of BPMB said “As a development bank, BPMB plays a crucial role of providing debt financing to projects in strategic sectors of the ‎Malaysian economy. We are delighted and very proud that ADFIAP has recognised and chosen to award BPMB for its involvement in two very important landmark projects in the field of environmental development and infrastructure development. We view this award as an affirmation by ADFIAP of BPMB’s role in financing projects that yield substantial economic, social and environmental benefits”

More information about BPMB, can be found on their site at www.bpmb.com.my

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Petronas Continues To Nurture Malaysia’s Best Talents

KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 (Bernama) — PETRONAS, through its PETRONAS Education Sponsorship Programme (PESP), continues to provide qualified and deserving students with the opportunity to pursue tertiary education at prominent local and international universities.

PETRONAS started sponsoring students since 1975 under the programme which to-date has benefited more than 35,000 students with an estimated investment of more than RM3 billion.

Despite the current price challenges faced by the oil and gas industry, PETRONAS remains committed in its efforts to empower young Malaysians with the right skills and knowledge needed to sustain the nation and industry demands in various fields and disciplines.

The aim of PESP is to develop well-rounded leaders with the right skills to excel. Each year, recipients undergo a stringent selection process that assess them based on academic excellence, leadership and co-curricular activities. Selected students are supported from foundation studies up to first degree level.

This year, PETRONAS will continue to award education sponsorships to SPM school leavers at the PESP Award Presentation ceremony to be held at various locations. The first of such events will be held this weekend at Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) in Tronoh, Perak.

This will be followed by similar events in Sabah, Sarawak and Terengganu in the following weeks.

For more information, please log on www.petronas.com.my

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ASEAN Culture and Arts Sector Forge Solidarity with Stakeholders

Jakarta, 13 May 2016 – About 50 participants representing 26 culture and arts organisations discussed cooperation opportunities to advance the culture sector of the ASEAN region at the ASEAN Culture and Arts Cooperation held on 12-13 May 2016 at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.

“This is an important milestone for the culture sector in ASEAN as never before has ASEAN convened such a wide representation of stakeholders who work for the development of culture and arts in the region,” said H.E. Dr. AKP Mochtan, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Community and Corporate Affairs. “We fully recognise the role of all the stakeholders in the culture and arts sector in the region and we hope that through this forum we could take the first steps of engagement with all of you,” he added.

The dialogue was a platform for conversation, brainstorming and stocktaking between ASEAN and stakeholders comprising of non-government, inter-government, foundations, youth organisations, arts festival organisers, the academe, etc.

The Chair of the ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information (ASEAN-COCI), Mr. Hilmar Farid stressed that “Through this Dialogue, we could enhance mutual understanding and solidarity among our people.”

The Dialogue showed that stakeholders in the culture and arts sector have strong expertise and a wide array of resources that may be interlinked with each other.

The participants raised partnership ideas such as mapping the culture stakeholders in the region, developing a network of networks among heritage professionals and other fields, supporting the creative cultural industries, strengthening ASEAN branding, cooperation in art and culture festivals, further pursuing policy fore, and sharing of success stories, which are aligned with the draft ASEAN Strategic Plan for Culture and Arts 2016-2025.

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ASEAN films shine at the Cannes Film Festival

CANNES, 13 May 2016 – The spotlight was cast on ASEAN films at the 69th Cannes Film Festival. This year, a record number of ASEAN films was registered on screen for the main competition. In addition to this, the FILM ASEAN Pavilion was established and stood on the first row at the premier Village International at the Riviera. This was also the first time, a group of ASEAN film agencies and commissions, has come together to introduce and showcase the best of ASEAN productions to the international film community.

H.E. Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, Deputy Secretary-General for the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, presided over the opening of the FILM ASEAN Pavilion, and highlighted that “film is a powerful medium to raise awareness about ASEAN, and develop a sense of community among the peoples of ASEAN.” With a strong ASEAN presence and recognition at Cannes, DSG Vongthep coined this a new era of “ASEAN Film Renaissance.”

Mr. Briccio Santos, Chairman of Film Development Council of the Philippines and also the President of the FILM ASEAN, noted that the FILM ASEAN Pavilion at the Marche du Film in Cannes is one of the best opportunities to promote ASEAN films to representatives of the international film industry.

A press conference on was organised following the FILM ASEAN Pavilion ribbon-cutting ceremony. Questions were raised about the potential for ASEAN to co-produce films, and how ASEAN can work together to nurture young film talents, and finance and distribute ASEAN films within and outside ASEAN region.

DSG Vongthep highlighted that “the FILM ASEAN Pavilion is not an ultimate goal but a milestone in our journey. It is a manifestation of the ASEAN Member States’ conviction that it is only through collective efforts can the industry have a louder voice. It is a great example of regional collaboration to collectively showcase ASEAN as a region with great cultural vibrancy and dynamism.”

Representatives of ASEAN Member States at the conference agreed that the pavilion is a good initiative and suggested more ASEAN film pavilions would be organised in the future.

The Marche du Film was participated by more than 3,200 producers, 2,300 distributor rooms, 1,500 sellers and 790 festival organizers. It will run from 13 to 22 May 2016.

Representatives to the FILM ASEAN Pavilion this year include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

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ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission On Human Rights to meet in KL

PUTRAJAYA, May 13 (Bernama) — The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) will organise the “AICHR Regional Forum on Media and Human Rights in ASEAN” at Istana Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on 16 and 17 May 2016. This Forum is a continuation of the AICHR’s endeavor to reach out to the media practitioners in ASEAN in promoting and protecting human rights in the region.

This Regional Forum will be jointly organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia with the support of National Partners namely the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia, and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), and in collaboration with the Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (READI), Human Rights Facility.

The Regional Forum aims at providing the media with a panoramic understanding and exposure on the professionalism and ethics in reporting as well as on the regional (ASEAN) and international human rights instruments in relation to the work of media practitioners. It also aims at providing an empowering platform for the media practitioners and human rights experts to discuss and exchange views on the challenges and their potential roles in promoting and protecting human rights in ASEAN.

A total of 70 participants from ASEAN member countries are expected to partake in the Regional Forum, including the Representatives of AICHR, representatives of related government agencies of ASEAN Member States, media practitioners, academicians and human rights experts who will share their thoughts and expertise on the development of human rights mechanisms and issues in ASEAN.

The Ministry is of the view that with the knowledge and exposure gained from this Forum, the media – both conventional and the new media – would be able to further contribute in raising the awareness on human rights, including the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), to the different segments of society in the region.

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LEAD STORY: Islamic Satellite TV Channel Feasibility study approved

12/05/2016 – The Second Open-ended Meeting of the OIC Member States at the Level of Experts on Launching the OIC Satellite Channel, held at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah on Wednesday, 11 May 2016, approved the Feasibility Study on launching it. The Meeting recommended that the project be submitted to the 43rdSession of the Council of Foreign Ministers for its adoption and the launching of the channel.

The Director of the Information Department of the OIC General Secretariat, Ms. Maha Mustafa Akeel, delivered a statement on behalf of the OIC Secretary General, Iyad Ameen Madani, in which she shed light on the role of media as an effective and influential means in shaping public opinion, and whose effect transcends space and time.

She stated that the Islamic world is in need of a serious satellite channel speaking for the OIC and ableto effect positive change, frame media messages, and contribute to attaining the objectives of Islamic peoples, in particular those related to economy, finance, trade, science, culture, health, women and family.

Ms. Akeel emphasized the importance for the channel to have a balanced message that nurtures moderation, tolerance and cooperation and endeavors to transfer knowledge to all peoples and raise their awareness, therefore contributing to the promotion of stability, prosperity and growth in the Islamic world in all areas.

She commended the invaluable efforts exerted by the representatives of Member States in the First Open-ended Meeting of the OIC Member States at the Level of Experts on Launching the OIC Satellite Channel that was held at the OIC headquarters on 23-24 February 2013. She also applauded the efforts of the committee in charge of following up on launching the Channel, which held three meetings at the OIC headquarters and discussed the different administrative, financial and technical aspects and the feasibility study conducted by specialized experts. The last meeting of the committee recommended the adoption of the feasibility study.

The Director of the Information Department underscored the importance of inviting the private sector in OIC Member States, as recommended by the study, to partner with the OIC for the launching of the channel and the management and financing of its work, under Member States’ supervision.

It is worth mentioning that their Excellencies the Ministers of Information of OIC Member States had adopted a resolution on the establishment of the OIC Satellite Channel at the 9th Session of the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers held in Libreville, capital city of Gabon, on 19-20 April 2012.

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US Returns 73 Valuable Ancient Artifacts To Iran

TEHRAN, May 9 (NNN-FNA) — The US returned 73 Persian artifacts to Iran after years of follow-ups by Iran’s cultural heritage officials.

“After consultations, 73 valuable ancient artifacts belonging to the Sassanid period were returned to the Islamic Republic of Iran by the US government,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansarie said.

“The valuable ancient cargo was delivered to the National Museum of Iran on Sunday afternoon in a ceremony attended by the foreign ministry representative,” Jaberi Ansari added.

Also in 2013, Washington returned a Persian artifact to Iran after 10 years of consultations.

The 2,700-year-old Persian silver drinking cup cast in the form of a griffin was returned to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a token of goodwill while he visited the US to participate in the 68th Annual Session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The ancient griffin had been in the US since 2003 when an art dealer smuggled it into the US.

Griffin is a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and eagle talon as its front feet.

As the lion was traditionally considered the king of the animals and the eagle as the king of the birds, the griffin was thought to be a specially powerful and majestic creature.

The griffin was also thought of as king of the creatures. Griffins are known for guarding treasures and priceless assets. — NNN-FNA

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1st Iran-Japan symposium kicks off

Tehran, May 9, IRNA- The first Iran-Japan symposium on ‘Women’s Role in Sustainable Development’ started work in the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) here on Monday.

The event was held in the presence of Foreign Minister Deputy for Legal and International Affairs and the former Iranian ambassador to Japan Abbas Araqchi, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Mollaverdi, Japanese ambassador to Iran Koji Haneda and the wife of the Iranian foreign minister Maryam Imaniyeh.

The spouse of the Japanese Prime Minister Akie Abe is also present in the event.

The event is hosted by Vice-Presidency for Women and Family Affairs in cooperation with IPIS and Sasakawa Peace Foundation.

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Indonesia offers more than 50 films at Cannes film festival

Cannes (ANTARA News) 15 Mei 2016 – Indonesia is offering more than 50 films at “Marche du Film”, an international film market held as part of the Cannes Film Festival at Cannes, in France, from May 11 to 22.

The films offered include those that have been screened at theaters, such as “Siti”, “November 10″, “A Copy of Mind”, and “A letter from Prague”, in addition to “Ada Apa Dengan Cinta” as well as those that have not been shown, head of the film development facility of the Film Development Center of the Ministry of Culture and Education, Prima Duria, said to Antara Saturday.

The films that have not yet been shown on offer include “Rudy Habibie” which shows the history of Indonesia’s third president BJ Habibie, and “My Stupid Boss” and “Undercover”.

“Prenjak” one of the Indonesian films that was shown in the Semaine De La Critique Cannes is scheduled to be screened thrice on May 15 and 16.

La Semaine de la Critique is a program running parallel with the main event of the Cannes Film Festival which is the Official Selection, head of the overseas festivals of the Indonesian Film Agency (BPI) Robby Ertanto said.

“Prenjak”, a short film produced by young director Wregas Bhanuteja, has successfully been entered at the Cannes Film Festival 2016 through La Semaine de la Critique or International Critics Week.

“In the Year of Monkey” has also been selected in the short film category of the La Semaine de la Critique.

Another Indonesian film – Marlina, the Murder in Four Acts – has been chosen at the LAtelier Cinefoundation selection. It is produced by Mouly Surya.

La Semaine de la Critique was initiated by the association of French film critics at Cannes in 1962 and was aimed at finding new potential cineastes from across the world.

Selling Indonesian films at the Cannes film market is not easy, Robby Ertanto, a graduate from the Jakarta Institute of Arts, said.

The Indonesia delegation to the Cannes Film Festival include best director at 2015 Indonesian Film Festival Joko Anwar, the best main actress at 2015 FFI, Andi Mutiara Pertiwi Basro, also known as Tara Basro, Wregas Bhanuteja, director of short film Prenjak, and Yohanes Budyambara, an actor of the Cannes de la Critique, who is part of the cast in a short film.

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Oman Air To Fly Daily To Manchester

Oman Air, the National Carrier of the Sultanate of Oman, confirms, based on the requests for information received, that it intends to start operating daily flights from its hub in Muscat to Manchester. The new service is scheduled from April 1st 2017.

The United Kingdom has always been one of the key markets for Oman Air. London Heathrow has been a flagship route for Oman Air and the carrier’s second daily frequency is a clear indication of the strong demand for flights between these two great cities.

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The Great Cairo Kidathon

Cairo, AlAhram Online – Hundreds of kids between the ages of six and 14 took to the streets of Zamalek last Friday for Muricata’s one-of-a-kind Great Cairo Kidathon. The aim of the event was to motivate youngsters to adopt a healthier lifestyle and contribute to society.

The event was launched by Egyptian mountain climber Omar Samra and his company Muricata, a branch of his firm Wild Guanabana, which organises wilderness experiences to young people.

The Kidathon was a free event. Each runner was asked to register by donating a toy or toys to the NGO Toy Run. When each runner registered, Muricata’s team got in touch, delivered a running kit to his or her doorstep and collected the toy to be donated.

All the donated toys, about 1,000 in number, will be distributed to children in the Abou Al-Reesh Hospital in Cairo.

The Kidathon followed a loop route around Zamalek, with children competing in three categories. Children between six and eight years old ran accompanied by their parents for two kilometres. Children aged between nine and 11 ran a two-kilometre solo run, and children from 12 to 14 ran for four kilometres.

“The event was just an idea six months ago. One of the things we do in Muricata is organise activities that enrich children’s self-reliance and personal capacities, our goal being to encourage kids to do sports from a young age. We used to run camps like the scouts, but then we discovered a great turnout among adults to do new sports, so we decided to do something special only for kids,” Omar Samra said.

“This is the first event of its kind in Cairo, though it’s the third one in Egypt as we organised two marathons for kids in Gourna in 2014 and in Sahl Hashish in 2015, respectively. We want to organise this new event periodically, especially because of the overwhelming enthusiasm even before the event began. We received more than the number of competitors we planned for, or 300 children, well before the registration deadline.”

As for the challenges Samra and his team faced during the last three months preparing for the event, Samra said, “The difficult part was securing the route, closing the streets where the run takes place, and getting the necessary permits. However, the authorities were helpful all the way. We also collaborated with Zamalek Guardians group volunteers on the logistics and finding the safest route for participants. They went first on bikes to make sure the route was safe for the participating children, so everything was kept well under control.”

Inertia, a real estate company and the event’s sponsor, also allowed Muricata to make it a free event offering prizes to the winners. “The event had MBC TV as an exclusive media sponsor covering it, and Nougum and Nile FM covered it for the radio.

The Sawy Cultural Wheel was the venue for the starting and ending points and for announcing the winners, as well as for hosting activities including family yoga classes and arts and crafts sessions. The day finished with an exclusive Cairokee concert on its stage,” Norhan Kandil, the public relations organiser of the event, said.

All the children received certificates for participating, along with Kidathon T-shirts, medals and invitations to the concert. Prizes were given to 18 winners, three for boys and three for girls in each age category. In the eight to ten years category for boys, Basel Allaa took first place, with Mohamed Khaled second and Youssef Mamdoh third. For girls in the same age group, Lily Ahmed came first, followed by Khadija Amr and Haya Khaled.

In the ten to 12 years category for boys, the first prize winner was Abdel-Rahman Yehia followed by Seif Ashraf and Ahmed Alaa Al-Din. For girls, it was Malak Khaled followed by Reham Hassan and Habiba Khaled. In the 12 to 14 years category for boys, first prize went to Adam Atwa, followed by Karim Hesham and Abdel-Rahman Ragab. For girls, first prize went to Hala Hany, followed by Jacqueline Riad and Salma Ashraf.

Hala Hany, 14 years old and the first prize winner in the 12 to 14 category, expressed her happiness at being a Kidathon participant, saying, “I’m a member of the Police Union pentathlon team, and of course I love running. I heard about the event through team members who are all participating today. My parents and coach refused to let me participate, but eventually I convinced them, and here I am.”

Hala said that she loved the organisation of the event and the transparency of the prize-giving. She also loved her bicycle, a gift from Inertia. As for Salma Ashraf, who won third place in the same age category, she said, “I won a trampoline, but I’m happier with my participation than with the gift. I heard about Wild Guanabana before, and I know who Omar Samra is. I have been longing to see him for ages. I will definitely join the Kidathon next year.”

Although Khadija Amr, second place in the eight to 10 category, is only nine years old, she knows Omar Samra was the first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest. “I’m happy because I won, and they gave me a nice watch,” she said.

“It’s rare to find such a special and well-organised event for kids, which is why we were encouraged to join,” said Amr Hamada, Khadija’s father. “The venue is beautiful, the run was very secure, and the organisers were very helpful. We will definitely participate next time round to defend our prize.”

Mahdy Al-Olaby, the father of seven-year-old twin runners, said, “I knew about the event by following the Wild Guanabana and Muricata pages on Facebook. My wife and I joined them in two trips, and I’m planning to let my kids join their camps as well. The day exceeded our expectations. The idea is totally new for Egyptian kids, and the charity part was very encouraging, plus there was no cost at all for us.”

Said Al-Olaby, “I would like to thank everybody from the organising team who made enormous efforts to control this huge number of kids and parents. I would have liked to have seen more support from the authorities to help close the streets, however. In the end, the participants are all kids, and if even one had got hurt everything would have been ruined.

“All in all, the thing we loved the most was the positive energy that we got from giving the kids the opportunity to participate in the competition. Whether they won or not, we enjoyed the day as a family.”

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Malawi: Government Commits to Developing Young Generation

Mangochi — Vice President Dr. Saulos Chilima has reaffirmed government commitment to empowering the young generation by providing the necessary support in order to create opportunities for personal development.

Chilima said government would remain committed to developing the next generation through the education sector by providing the necessary support for those in need to create opportunities to ensure personal development.

“It is our shared responsibility both as government and as Rotarians to listen to the young people, nurture them, respond to their needs and empower them with the requisite knowledge and skills to make our world a better place,” said Chilima.

He observed that the Rotary Club has its presence almost everywhere through various means and programmes one of which focuses on the future generation, saying: “We need to place a strong focus on providing guidance and support to our younger generation.”

The vice president was speaking on Thursday at Sunbird Nkopola Lodge in Mangochi when he opened a three day Rotary Club International District 9210 conference. District 9210 comprises clubs from Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Chilima commended the Rotarians for complementing government in its national development programmes, noting that the popular FINCA, a micro — financing institution with presence across the country was established with support from Rotary Club to assist the poor in rural areas access funds for starting up small scale businesses.

“Over the years FINCA has played a pivotal role in empowering families through business loans — Rotary Club was also instrumental in eradicating polio 20 years ago.

“Not only that, the involvement of Rotarians in the health sector is clear for all to see since they have arranged for specialized operations at Kamuzu Central Hospital and they are also behind the establishment of Beit Cure in Blantyre,” he pointed out.

Chilima also said government is grateful to Rotary Club for the numerous development initiatives including provision of potable water through the sinking of boreholes throughout the country.

He also said government is impressed with the project on ethics which the Rotary Club of Lilongwe has embarked on in collaboration with the Reserve Bank of Malawi and the Anti Corruption Bureau which attempts to advance ethical standards in the country.

“I was personally impressed with the project because it will go a long way in restoring ethical standards in the civil service. Ethical standards and mindset change is of paramount importance to the government as it has been said more than once by President Peter Mutharika,” he said.

“Mindset change is a vital ingredient in our journey to reforming the civil service. The President has always preached about patriotism, hard work and integrity,” Chilima emphasised.

Rotary Club International Director, Michael Webb advised Rotary Club members to strive at attracting more young members while not alienating old members to keep institutional memory.

Webb who is also Rotary club International President personal representative encouraged Rotarians to embrace changes in customs and attitudes to reflect changes taking place across the world.

“Since 1943 adherence to ethical standards has been a yardstick for doing business in the Rotary family,” he said. “We need to lead by example all the time whether in social or business circles.”

Webb thanked government for supporting Rotary Club interventions especially in the health sector where a lot of vocational programmes have been implemented. He said recently a team of 22 medical specialists from India were in Malawi to carry out cataract operations.

District Governor 9210, Dean Lungu said the conference would serve as a platform for sharing highlights and honour the extra — ordinary efforts by Club members in their pursuit to improving the social and economic status of communities in their localities.

“In the past few years we have seen key fundamentals being brought back where growth and integrity has been achieved, this has been as a result of the support that government has given through its expertise,” Lungu enthused.

Lungu, therefore, encouraged his fellow Rotarians to embrace challenges facing their respective countries as a springboard for coming up with innovations on how to serve communities more effectively and efficiently.

The theme of the conference which has attracted over 400 Rotarians and Rotaractors from Clubs in the four countries is: Be a gift to the World.

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China Grants US$16 Million to Mozambique

The Mozambican and Chinese governments signed an agreement in Maputo on 4 May under which China is to grant US$16 million for the purchase of 80 buses and the opening of 200 boreholes for drinking water.

The agreement was signed by Deputy Foreign Minister Nyeleti Mondlane and the Chinese ambassador Sun Jian.

The money will be used to build a China-Mozambique Cultural Centre in Maputo. The Chinese government has also promised to donate 10,000 tonnes of grain to Mozambique to boost the country’s food security, threatened by the drought that has hit the southern and central provinces.

A condition of the agreement is that the buses must be purchased from Matchedje Motors, the Chinese financed factory in the southern city of Matola which is the only vehicle assembly plant in Mozambique.

Su Jian took the opportunity to announce that this month Chinese companies will begin ten construction jobs in Mozambique – these include a professional training school in Nampula, the paediatric building in Beira Central Hospital, and a residential block for Mozambican doctors in Maputo.

Su made it clear that China is not worried by the enormous expansion of Mozambique’s public debt in recent years. “Mozambique is a very attractive country for us, and it has attracted many Chinese business people”, he said. “If the economy is not doing well, that’s not what we find”.

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US Ambassador to UN Pledges U.S.$40 Million to Aid Lake Chad Region

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, says the United States will provide nearly $40 million in new humanitarian assistance for nations in Africa’s Lake Chad region, to provide aid to people whose lives have been affected by Boko Haram violence.

Power made the announcement Tuesday in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, after meetings with President Paul Biya, Prime Minister Philemon Yang, and Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo.

She said that during those meetings she told the officials that the United States is committed to partnering with Cameroon to defeat the Boko Haram militant group, which operates mainly in the Lake Chad Basin where the borders of Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, and Chad meet.

Power said defeat of Boko Haram must be accomplished on multiple fronts, and not by military means alone. she said she urged all the officials with whom she met to consider that the grievances of the population in Boko Haram areas must be addressed; inclusive governance needs must be promoted; and human rights must be protected and respected. She said it is very important that the fight against Boko Haram be carried out in a way that does not alienate local populations on whom long-term success depends.

Power also noted that she attended on Tuesday a ceremony for burning illegally trafficked ivory and congratulated Cameroon for taking a stance against the illegal ivory trade.

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Indonesian Culinary Fair 2016 to be held in Japan

Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian Culinary Fair 2016, dubbed “The Taste of Indonesia,” will be organized at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel, Tokyo, from May 16 to June 16.

The organization of the culinary promotion event was in line with the governments policy to intensify culinary diplomacy, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya stated here, Friday.

The promotion event has been organized to achieve three targets. The short-term target is to introduce Indonesias diverse flavors and tastes, as well as to promote the countrys culinary delicacies.

The mid-term target is to encourage restaurants and hotels in Japan to offer Indonesian dishes as well as to attract more Japanese tourists to visit Indonesia.

The long-term target is to send Indonesian chefs to work in restaurants and hotels in Japan and to introduce halal food cooking techniques as well as Indonesian dishes in Japans culinary schools.

Japan ranks fifth in the list of major countries contributing tourists to Indonesia, according to Deputy Minister in charge of International Tourism Marketing Development of the Tourism Ministry I Gde Pitana.

During the culinary fair, various Indonesian traditional arts, such as Sasando, will be performed.

The Japanese government has promoted international cuisines, including halal food, to attract foreign tourists from Muslim majority countries, among others.

Japan has set a target to attract 30 million foreign tourists by 2020. Six to eight million, or 20 percent of the 30 million tourists, are expected to be Muslims.

“This is an opportunity for Indonesia to promote its various culinary delicacies and food products, including spices,” Pitana affirmed.

Last month, the “Wonderful Indonesia” Restaurant was opened in Anhui Province, China, to offer typical culinary delicacies from the archipelago as part of the efforts to promote the countrys tourism and culture.

Situated in the densely populated area of Hefei in Anhui Province, the Wonderful Indonesia Restaurant was inaugurated by Minister Yahya.

“There is a growing trend of using culinary diplomacy to support tourism, and almost all television stations are also highlighting this aspect as one of their flagship programs,” Yahya remarked.

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Indonesia promotes golf tourism in Thailand

Jakarta (ANTARA News) 13 May 2016 – The Ministry of Tourism is promoting Indonesias premier golfing destinations at the Thailand Golf Expo being held at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, Bangkok, on May 12 to 15.

“Indonesia is a paradise for golfers. The golfers can play all year round as the game is not affected by seasonal changes,” Tourism Minister Arief Yahya noted in a press statement received here on Friday.

The minister pointed out that the condition of golf courses in Indonesia was better than those in Thailand. The golf courses have a backdrop of mountains, active volcanoes, oceans, lakes, forests, and city skylines.

The minister said 114 courses in the country met international standards.

Assistant Deputy of the Southeast Asian Market Development of the Ministry of Tourism Rizki Handayani stated that the ministry had participated in the event in a bid to boost golf tourism in Indonesia.

The largest international exhibition has become a reference for golf enthusiasts from Thailand and other countries to find alternative golf tourism destinations abroad.

“The market is still very open,” Handayani remarked.

Golf tourism in Indonesia has grown in recent years.

Five years ago, golf tourism in Indonesia only attracted some 900 foreign tourists per year. Currently, that number has increased to some three thousand annually.

“For international travelers, the cost of playing golf in Indonesia is quite cheap. Therefore, we are promoting golf tourism in Indonesia,” Handayani noted.

At the 2016 Thailand Golf Expo, the ministry facilitated the tourism operators of top golf destinations in Medan, Batam, Bangka Belitung, Jakarta, Bogor, Surabaya, and Bali.

During the four-day event, the Indonesian pavilion has prepared attractive and interactive activities for the visitors, including a variety show of traditional dances.

Earlier, Minister Yahya had stated that the tourism sector was one of the main pillars of the local economy, and by 2019, it was expected to create 13 million jobs, attract 20 million foreign tourists and 275 million domestic tourists, and to raise Indonesias world tourism competitiveness index ranking to the 30th position.

By 2019, the tourism sector is expected to contribute eight percent to the national gross domestic product (GDP), with foreign exchange amounting to Rp240 trillion.

In 2016, the tourism sector is expected to attract 12 million foreign tourists, earning foreign exchange of Rp172 trillion and ensuring 260 million domestic tourist trips, with a collective spending of Rp223.6 trillion.

The contribution of tourism to the national GDP in 2016 is expected to increase by five percent, while creating 11.7 million jobs.

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Ambon’s slogan believed to revive spirit of city’s musicians

Ambon, Maluku, May 12 (Antara) – The slogan of Ambon, as the city of music in Maluku Province, is believed to revive the spirit of its musicians, according to local Culture and Tourism Office Chief Henry Sopacua.

Since Ambon was declared the city of music, efforts have been made to encourage musicians to create works of art.

“Various attempts were made in order to realize Ambon as a city of music and to create a slogan that reflects its true essence,” Sopacua stated here on Wednesday.

He said the efforts will inspire artists and communities to strive harder to create works of art that will draw public acclaim.

“The declaration of Ambon as a city of music has not been followed up by developing supporting facilities, but it is expected to have a positive impact on the artists,” he remarked.

Sopacua stated that in order to realize Ambon as a city of music, monthly music festivals will be organized to serve as a platform to channel the interests and talents of Ambonese in music, in addition to offering space to musicians through the city corner harmony program.

“The city corner harmony program will be held alternately in each sub-district every month in order to offer space to people to channel their talents,” he noted.

According to Sopacua, music is a medium that can transcend all barriers and unify the people.

He emphasized that music can play an important role in promoting brotherhood and peace in Ambon, in particular, and Maluku, in general.

“However, all this can be realized through hard work of all the components to maintain and promote peace as well as to improve the lifestyle of the people in Ambon,” Sopacua added. (*)

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Indonesia ready to host Islamic Economic Forum

Jakarta (ANTARA News) 10 May 2016 – The Finance Minister, Bambang Brodjonegoro, has said Indonesia is ready to host the 12th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) from August 2 to 4, 2016.

“This forum aims to enhance cooperation with various sides in the Islamic world in the economic field,” he said here on Tuesday.

Bambang explained that the forum will provide a platform for young people, especially those engaged in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, to exchange ideas and opinions with businesses from other countries.

“We can introduce young Indonesian businessmen to develop their business and tie up with business people from the Middle East and African countries. This will help in diversifying the export markets,” he said.

In addition, the minister stated that Indonesia will introduce its potential in the field of tourism, culture, fashion and creative industries to the Middle East markets and other Muslim countries.

Some key issues to be discussed in the 12th WIEF include the issuance of bonds to finance infrastructure, integration of halal products and Islamic finance, the development of halal food industry and Islamic fashion industry globally.

In addition, the WIEF will also discuss access to finance for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and their integration through digital platforms into the global economy, the development of crowd funding platform, encouraging innovation by connecting startup businesses with large enterprises, and the development of a culture of business design thinking.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the WIEF Foundation, Tun Musa Hitam, said the event has a theme of “Decentralization of Growth and Empowering the Future Business.”

According to him, Indonesia is a growing market with strong economic fundamentals and has a number of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that have a potential to expand globally.

Indonesia can also be a major player in the Sharia economy which continues to grow rapidly. This was because the country is a strong market in the ASEAN region, has the largest Muslim population in the world and is one of the important players in the global economic growth scenario.

A number of heads of state and delegates from 100 countries are expected to participate in the WIEF forum and provide innovative and sustainable solutions to many business challenges.

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214 cyclists from 23 countries participating in Tour de Barelang

Batam (ANTARA News) 13 May 2016 – At least 214 cyclists from 23 countries have confirmed their participation in the Tour de Barelang to be held in Batam on May 14 to 15, 2016.

The category race will be held on Saturday (May 14) and the Gran Fondo category on Sunday (May 15), Head of the Batam tourism office Yusfa Hendri stated here, Friday.

The race, covering a 130 kilometer-(km)-long route, will start from the Sekupang International Seaport and move toward the Barelang Bridges 1,2,3, and 4, and then to Sembulang Island through the Barelang Bridges 5 and 6.

“The organizing committee is using raceresult.com for timekeeping, and the results of the race will be visible online,” he revealed.

Of the 214 participants in the category race, 20 cyclists are from Indonesia; 36 from Australia; 46 from Britain; eight from the United States; seven from the Philippines; four from France; three each from the Netherlands and New Zealand; two each from Belgium and Ireland; and one each from Sweden, Norway, Spain, South Africa, Canada, India, and Switzerland.

The Gran Fondo category will cover a 90-km-long route, and 109 cyclists from 18 countries are expected to participate in it.

The participants include 42 cyclists from Singapore; 17 from Britain; eight from Australia; five each from Malaysia and Indonesia; four each from France, Canada, and India; three each from Japan, New Zealand, and Ireland; two each from Poland, Germany, the United States, and the Netherlands; and one each from Italy, the Philippines, and Switzerland.

In the meantime, some 99 cyclists from 21 countries are participating in the International Tour de Banyuwangi Ijen 2016 being held on May 11 to 14.

The participants hail from Spain, Italy, San Marino, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, China, Laos, and Indonesia.

The race started in Sidodadi Glenmore and will conclude at the Blambangan Park in Banyuwangi City.

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Future for Africa Is in Transforming Agriculture, Forum Hears

The importance of agriculture and agribusiness in unlocking shared prosperity in Africa was the subject of a high level panel of African leaders who addressed the Grow Africa Investment Forum held as part of the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF) in Kigali this week.

President Akinwumi Adesina of the African Development Bank emphasised that to achieve this, investments in agriculture and allied value chains were critical. “We have to sort out infrastructure- irrigation… ..only 3 percent of arable land in Africa is irrigated,” he said. Adesina stated the importance of increasing agricultural sector financing, citing Nigeria, where productivity grew following increased funding to the sector from 0.1 percent in 2011 to 5 percent five years later.

The issue of finding alternative approaches for financing was addressed. Claver Gatete, Rwanda’s Minister for Finance and Economic Planning underscored that partnerships with the private sector was critical. “Government financing alone will not be sufficient; agriculture has impact in industry, manufacturing, the service sector, and many others, and therefore the need for all to pull together,” he said.

The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), an inclusive, multi-stakeholder partnership aimed at rapidly developing the region’s agricultural potential, was cited as a successful public-private model that can effectively transform farming. SAGCOT is a partnership of farmers, agri-business, government and private companies. Tanzania’s Vice President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, told the Forum that SAGCOT, which was launched in 2010, had impacted over 50,000 small scale farmers. “The transformation is in productivity. They are realising increased yield of their produce, increasing food security and reducing rural poverty,” she noted.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta underscored the need for policies and regulations which guard against systems and processes that deny farmers the opportunity to reap maximum benefits for their produce. He gave an example of coffee farmers in the country who sell their produce through middlemen, in the end earning poorly for their crop. “We need to remove middle linkages to enable the farmer to access the final buyer and determine prices for their crops. This goes hand in hand with linking farmers to markets,” he said.

Support for small holder farmers should also be in skills building and finance access, without which, revamping the agricultural sector will not be sustainable, said Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister. He drew from his country’s floriculture industry, where he said farmers were in need of skills transfer and modern equipment such as cooling systems. “Without access to finances especially for women who play a critical role in agriculture production, it will be difficult to grow agriculture as a business,” he noted. Desalegn further reiterated the need for home grown solutions and country ownership in efforts to transform Africa’s agriculture and agribusiness.

President Adesina highlighted the Bank’s efforts to finance women under the new Affirmative Finance Action for Women initiative. The US$ 3 billion program seeks to support women in agriculture and agri-business. “Agriculture is not a way of life, it is a business that should work for large and small farmers,” remarked Adesina. He urged countries to adopt a value chain approach. “Africa must not be at the bottom of production. Africa should be processing and adding value to its products in order to be competitive in the global market,” he said.

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AfDB to Unveil Strategies for Africa’s Transformation At 2016 Annual Meetings in Lusaka

The African Development Bank Group will unveil its new agenda for the continent’s economic transformation at this year’s Annual Meetings scheduled to take place from May 23-27 in Lusaka, Zambia.

In an Annual Meetings preview video message, Akinwumi Adesina, who will be presiding over his first Annual Meetings since assuming office as the Bank’s 8th President on September 1, 2015, said that participants will examine a host of burning issues in Africa as well as focus on the Bank’s five new priority actions – the High 5s – designed to scale up its operations for the continent’s transformation.

These are: Light up and power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialise Africa, Integrate Africa, and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.

“Each of those is high on the agenda in Lusaka,” Adesina said, noting that three of them will take a quantum leap forward as the Bank unveils new strategies, and a programme to create 25 million jobs for young people over the next decade.

“All of them need to be debated and owned, as much by governments, as by business, as by civil society, as by the press, as by the people of Africa. The agenda is huge: We want to see nothing less than the social and economic transformation of Africa. We want to unleash massive potential – for Africa and for the world,” he emphasized.

A central theme of the discussion will be energy, considered to be the continent’s Achilles’ heel and the central theme of the Annual Meetings -‘Energy and Climate Change.’ This topmost priority of the High 5s speaks to the Bank’s determination to tackle the severe energy deficit in the continent where 650 million people don’t have access to electricity.

The African Development Bank Group will unveil its new agenda for the continent’s economic transformation at this year’s Annual Meetings scheduled to take place from May 23-27 in Lusaka, Zambia.

Governors, usually Finance or Economy Ministers, representing the 54 African and 26 non-Africa member countries of the Bank Group will review its 2015 operations report and approve its activities and budget for the coming year. In 2015, the Bank Group made loans and grants of USD 8.8 billion, a 25% increase on 2014.

During the high-level meetings and thematic forums, participants will make in-depth assessments of the performance of Africa countries in the past year and envision how the Bank can help them cope with the difficult economic situation they face due to the global economic downturn and the fall in commodity prices. Despite the prevailing “economic headwinds”, the continent has demonstrated extraordinary resilience, posting growth rates of 4%, a percentage point higher than the global average and even higher in some countries in 2015, President Adesina said.

Several heads of state are expected to attend the meetings, the Bank’s flagship event that is expected to bring together some 3,000 delegates. Other invitees include development partners, representatives of international organizations, academia, civil society and the media.

“The Annual Meetings are the Bank’s window on the world. They showcase its operational work; its knowledge work; its advocacy work; and its convening power,” Adesina said.

For more information on the meetings, visit www.afdb.org/am

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More than 1,000 attend Sarajevo Business Forum

Sarajevo, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 5 May 2016 – More than 1,000 participants from 30 countries attended the 7th Sarajevo Business Forum, which took place on 4-5 May 2016.

The Forum showcased investment opportunities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly in the agriculture, energy, education, finance, infrastructure, construction, service and tourism sectors. The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has supported the Forum every year since its inception in 2010.

The Forum was inaugurated by Bakir Izetbegovic, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who expressed his deep appreciation for the important role IDB plays in developing and supporting the economy of the Federation.

The 2016 Forum – One Region, One Economy – was organized by Bosna Bank International (BBI) in cooperation with IDB, Dubai Islamic Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and other international partners.

Each year, the Forum provides a unique opportunity for investors and business leaders from IDB member countries and around the world. Participants share experiences, success stories and best practices and have an opportunity to network and explore investment opportunities in Southeast Europe to foster the region’s economic development.

Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, President of the IDB Group, paid tribute to the remarkable economic progress made by Bosnia and Herzegovina. He noted that the government’s recent economic reforms and new facilities, along with the Sarajevo Business Forum, have encouraged investment in the Federation. Examples of successful investments include new real estate and agricultural development projects, the creation of investment companies, the construction of more hotels and efforts to increase in tourism rates.

“These successes have made Bosnia and Herzegovina a major center in Southeast Europe,” said Dr. Ali. “They will ensure the continuation of foreign investment flows to the country and pave the way for placing Bosnia and Herzegovina on the world investment map as a stimulator of successful investment.”

Dr. Ali said that there has been a significant increase in investments in Bosnia and Herzegovina recently and an increase in GDP growth rates, estimated at about 3.2 per cent this year.

He added that the outstanding performance of BBI and its successful investments in Bosnia and Herzegovina have prompted shareholders to increase the bank’s capital by more than 30 per cent, making it one of the strongest banks operating in the Federation. IDB established BBI and BBI Real Estate with other partners. The two institutions continue to perform well, contributing to the overall growth and progress Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economy. They have become a best-practice model for a steady financial and investment growth while achieving their social and corporate governance objectives in the service of society.

The Forum also hosted the 16+1 Summit (Central and Eastern Europe plus China). This summit, a platform for prospective projects, focuses on investments that will contribute to economic development in the region. It featured investment opportunities and projects from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania.

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UNDP’s Helen Clark to deliver keynote at IsDB Governors’ Forum

Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 08 May 2016 – UNDP Administrator Helen Clark will provide a keynote speech during the Islamic Development Bank’s (IsDB) Governors’ Forum. The Forum will take place on 18 May 2016, during the IsDB Annual Meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia (15-19 May 2016).

The IsDB Governors’ Forum is a discussion platform for finance ministers from IsDB member countries and other global experts. The aim of the Forum is to deliberate on topical development challenges facing member countries and to suggest practical solutions.

The theme for the Forum this year is “Leveraging Innovation for Sustainable Development in IsDB Member Countries.” After her keynote speech, Ms. Helen Clark will join the finance ministers of Egypt, Senegal, Turkey and Pakistan for a panel discussion on the theme of the Forum. Veteran journalist and Emerging Markets Editor of CNN International, Mr. John Defterios, will serve as the moderator.

“Ms. Helen Clark is an astute administrator and an advocate for development intervention in education, health and improving governance structures around the world. She has vigorously contributed in the global effort to eradicate poverty through the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, President of IsDB Group.

“Strengthening innovation in our member countries is a top priority for IsDB. I thank Ms. Clark for being part of the IsDB Annual Meeting in Jakarta,” Dr. Ahmad Ali stated.

“Innovation is about using the most up-to-date concepts and means available to get the best development results”, said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. “At UNDP we are seeing more and more governments embracing innovation as a way of accelerating development and making it more participatory.”

After the Governors’ Forum, the President of IsDB, Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, and Ms. Helen Clark will sign an MoU with a joint action plan in order to strengthen the collaboration between the two leading development institutions.

During the IsDB Annual Meeting in Jakarta, UNDP will participate in ten side events on various topics that seek to address the challenges of the 21st century. Some of the side events include: Workshop on Innovation Tools for Youth Entrepreneurship; Responding to Countries in Conflict and Fragility; Advancing Islamic Impact Investing for the Achievement of the SDGs, and the 11th Global Forum on Islamic Finance: Role of Islamic Finance in Achieving SDGs, among others.

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More 100,000 educational places available Algeria

Thursday, 12 May 2016 ALGIERS – Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Tahar Hadjar announced Thursday in Algiers that some 100,000 teaching places and 55,000 places at dormitories will be available for the next university year.

“At the material level, the sector is ready for the coming academic year,” said the minister during a Council of Nation’s plenary session on oral questions.

Some 100,000 teaching places will be delivered to bring the overall number of places to 1.5 million.

The minister pointed out that the coming academic year will start in the best conditions.

Concerning the university enrolments, the minister said that the form of choices will be reduced to six options instead of ten.

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Algeria-EU: EUR6 million for youth training, employment

12 May 2016 ALGIERS- New cooperation programme between Algeria and the European Union (EU) on the support of youth employment and training, with a financing budget of six million euros, will be launched by the end of 2016, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said Tuesday in Algiers.

The new programme, to stretch over a four-year period,” is aimed at “facilitating training for job-seeking young people,” said the European Commissioner, following its meeting with the minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security, Mohamed El Ghazi.

To support the young, in this respect, it is necessary to provide them with “incentives allowing them to create their own businesses as, in fact, only the private sector is creating real jobs.”

It is also “essential that foreign investors come to Algeria to set up their companies as they will find skilled workforce,” the European commissioner said.

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Humble tofu powering Indonesian homes with clean energy

KALISARI, Indonesia, May 13, 2016 (BSS/AFP) – In a dark and steamy room in Indonesia’s tofu heartland three men sweat over bubbling cauldrons, churning creamy beancurd with wooden paddles before draining it by hand and slicing it into silky cubes.

Tofu has been cooked this way for generations but today, innovative villagers on Java island are producing something extra from the simple soybean — cheap, renewable energy, piped directly into their homes.

Around 150 small tofu businesses in Kalisari village, many run from the family home, are benefiting from a pioneering green scheme that converts wastewater from their production floors into a clean-burning biogas.

Where families once relied on sporadic deliveries of tanked gas or wood for stoves, tofu producers like Waroh can access this cleaner fuel anytime with the flick of a switch.

“The advantages are huge, because we produce the gas with waste,” Waroh, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP as he boiled tea over a steady blue flame coming from his kitchen stove.

Experts say harnessing power from unconventional sources like tofu holds enormous potential in Indonesia, a vast energy-hungry nation heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

Renewable energy accounts for just a fraction of the power generated across Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of more than 17,000 islands with around 250 million people.

But the government has committed to curbing Indonesia’s greenhouse gases — it is one of the world’s top emitters — and wants a quarter of the country’s energy to be derived from renewables by 2025.

Small-scale projects alone won’t meet this target, but they are making a contribution.

While most renewable energy projects use traditional sources of power such as solar or wind, the Kalisari initiative is among a handful taking a more original approach. Other projects include generating energy from sorghum production, and also from pig waste.

Delays due to poor logistics and bad roads are common in Indonesia, especially on overcrowded Java.

“One month you had it, another one you didn’t. Thanks to this biogas, things are a lot easier for people here,” Waroh said, as he ground soybeans through an ancient, spluttering machine.

An enormous amount of water is required to make tofu — roughly 33 litres (eight gallons) for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of spongy beancurd. Sour-smelling acetic acid is added to make the tofu clump together and when drained, it’s this liquid wastewater that’s treated with bacteria in tanks to produce biogas.

The gas is piped directly to household stoves, which have been modified to handle the renewable fuel. Long term, the local government hopes the gas will power lights across the village.

It also cuts costs – it is three times cheaper for villagers to pay for unlimited biogas than to purchase refillable LPG tanks.

The government’s technology agency, which spearheaded the Kalisari pilot project, predicted that if rolled out across the country, more than 56,000 tonnes of fossil fuels could be substituted every year by biogas created from tofu waste water.

The optimism is shared by Dutch development organisation Hivos, which has set up around 20,000 “digesters” across Indonesia that convert waste products like animal manure into biogas.

“There are thousands and thousands of tofu producers throughout the country. There’s a lot of potential there,” Robert de Groot, Hivos’s program development manager, told AFP.

The Kalisari project has also helped to reduce damage caused to the local environment from tofu production.

Thousands of litres of waste water drained from raw tofu was once pumped daily from factories around the village into nearby rivers, befouling waterways and contaminating rice fields downstream.

“The environment here was very polluted,” Kalisari local government head Aziz Masruri told AFP, gesturing to a river fringed by wooden tofu workshops.

“It stank, and it was affecting our agriculture.”

Things have steadily improved since the cloudy, foul-smelling liquid was diverted from rivers to large blue tanks, where it’s transformed into biogas.

Farmers have reported better rice yields, while the river is clearer and less smelly, Masruri said.

As the benefits materialised, the project rapidly expanded. What started as one digester in Kalisari expanded to five, with later models boasting far greater capacity and producing enough gas to power nearly 100 homes.

This innovation hasn’t gone unnoticed. The small village hosts a steady stream of officials from nearby regions keen to imitate the model, and similar projects have already sprung up, Masruri said. Researchers are also considering other applications for the technology, including Indonesia’s tapioca sector.

Kalisari’s experiment with green energy has been so successful the scheme is operating at maximum capacity. Villagers wanting to sign up must wait for a new digester to be installed, something Masruri hopes will transform Kalisari into a 100 percent “green village”.

“We hope next year we can become an energy efficient village, free of pollution” he said.

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Bangladesh to launch metro rail in Dhaka

DHAKA, May 13, 2016 (BSS)-The long-cherished dream of the people of Dhaka city for metro rail is set to become true as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would formally open its construction work next month.

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would formally inaugurate the construction work of the 21-km metro rail next month,” Road Transport and Bridges Minister Oabidul Quader told reporters while visiting the development work of metro rail depot adjacent to Diabari Bazar area of Uttara Third Phase Project in the capital today.

The minister hoped that the commercial operation of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line- 6 would commence in 2019 as the implementation time of the project has been advanced at the consent of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which is funding the scheme.

Quader said the depot development work of the MRT-6 has begun after its preparatory work. Taka 567 crore would be spent for the land development and construction of establishments in the depot area, he said.

The minister said the project authority signed an agreement with Tokyo Construction Company, a Japanese firm selected through international tender, for setting up the depot in the last week of March this year.

Replying to a query, he said there is no scope for changing the existing alignment or route of the MRT-6 as it has already been approved.

Quader further said soundproof machine with most modern technologies would be installed in constructing the alignment that would go beside important establishments like Dhaka University Library Building, TSC and National Museum.

The MRT-6 Project is being executed at a cost of about Taka 22,000 crore. Of the amount, the JICA is providing Taka 16,500 crore to the project, while the rest of the fund would come from the Government of Bangladesh (GoB),official sources said.

The fast moving metro rail will run to and from Uttara and Motijheel via Mirpur and Farmgate, carrying 60,000 passengers in an hour touching every station once in every four minutes.

There will be 16 stations – Uttara North, Central and South, Pallabi, Mirpur-11, Mirpur-10, Kaziparha, Taltala, Agargaon, Bijoy Sarani, Farmgate, Sonargaon, National Museum, Doyel Chattar, Bangabandhu National Stadium and Bangladesh Bank.

Once MRT-6 Project is in operation, the city’s commuters would enjoy their much-awaited ease in the traffic movement, getting rid of the perennial congestion of the transportations on the roads of the gradually expanding city.

Besides, the pedestrians would feel further free in their movement on the city’s footpaths while walking down to respective destinations as the newest mode of transport would carry the main load of the travelers every day.

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Bangladesh expects Tk 342cr budget for aviation, tourism sector

DHAKA, May 12, 2016 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon today said he is expecting Taka 342 crore budget allocation for further development of aviation and tourism sector.

“It’s a good news that finance ministry today gave consent to allocate Taka 100 crore more as previously they planned to allocate Taka 242 for civil aviation and tourism,” he said.

He was speaking as the chief guest at a pre-budget discussion on civil aviation and tourism, organized by Aviation and Tourism Journalist’s Forum of Bangladesh (ATJFB) at Jatiya Press Club here.

The minister said they have proposed to finance minister to reduce duties on tourist vehicles and vessels in the upcoming annual budget.

Mentioning that Australia has relaxed its ban on air cargo from Dhaka considering the Bangladesh government’s recent progress in airport security, the minister hoped that the UK will withdraw its ban on cargo from Dhaka soon.

He said the UK validator has already visited here and he will submit a report on ACC3 (Air Carrier Carrying Cargo or Mail from Third Country Airport) to the UK Department for Transport (DfT). “If the report will be good, the UK will withdraw its ban on direct cargo flight from Dhaka,” he said. The minister said the US Federation Aviaion Administration (FAA) has expressed its satisfaction over the Bangladesh imitative in upgrading its airports. “I am hopeful that we will be able to resume Dhaka-New York flight soon,” he said.

State Minister for Finance M A Manna spoke as the special guest while ATJFB President Nadira Kiron moderated the discussion. Chairman of Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Air Vice Marshal Ihsanul Ghani and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bangladesh Tourism Board Akhtaruz Zaman Khan Kabir spoke as the Guest of Honour.

First Vice President of Tour Operator Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) Raffeuzzaman and Secretary General of Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) Aslam Khan spoke as the designated speakers.

Additional director (research) of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Training and Research Director of TOAB Masud Hossain and Finance Secretary of ATAB M Abdul Hamid presented separate key notepapers while ATJFB Vice President Muzib Masud gave vote of thanks.

State Minister for Finance assured the tour operators that he will consider the demand of tour operators to give duty free facilities in importing tourist vehicles.

Moazzem recommended for allocating more budget to conduct more promotional activities to attract foreign tourist to make visit Bangladesh programme centring the tourism year as a success.

He recommended for splitting the civil aviation and tourism ministry considering the recent rapid growth in the country’s tourism industry. Masud Hossain suggested allocating fund for carrying out extensive research on various aspects of Bangladesh tourism industry to make a holistic approach for development of this immensely potential sector.

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Malaysian foreign workers hiring freeze ends for 4 sectors

DHAKA, May 12, 2016 (BSS) – Kuala Lumpur is set to lift an existing freeze on hiring foreign workers for four sectors in view of acute manpower shortage, required for its economic growth, a leading Malaysian newspaper reported today.

“The (Malaysian) cabinet will exempt four industries from its moratorium on foreign labour recruitment due to insufficient manpower,” Malaysia’s The Star newspaper quoted transport minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong as saying.

The sectors are manufacturing, construction, plantations and furniture making.

“In view of the acute shortage, we have to lift the suspension to allow these sectors to bring in foreign workers,” the Malaysian minister said.

He also said the Malaysian cabinet was currently evaluating a new system on foreign workers recruitment to be introduced after the complete lift of the existing moratorium, imposed in February this year.

The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Furniture Entrepreneur Association said the move brought the RM20 billion sector back from the brink, while Master Builders Association Malaysia president Matthew Tee said “common sense prevailed”.

Malaysian manufacturers reportedly complained that the moratorium caused labour shortages, with over 80 percent of them saying they were affected by the decision.

Malaysia is prioritising the rehiring of illegal foreign workers who were staying in the country during the imposition of the freeze, but only 55,000 out of estimated 1.4 million such illegal have been rehired to date.

Bangladesh and Malaysia signed a MoU on February 19 under which Kuala Lumpur agreed to recruit 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers in the next three years but in days later the country enforced the moratorium.

Under the deal Malaysia was set to recruit Bangladeshi workers in construction, service, manufacturing and agriculture sectors, according to officials.

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Dhaka, Thimphu to strengthen cooperation

DHAKA, May 12, 2016 (BSS) – Bangladesh and Bhutan today vowed to work together for further strengthening cooperation in various sectors including hydro-power, connectivity and trade and business between the two countries.

The countries made the pledge during bilateral talks between Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and his Bhutanese counterpart Damcho Dorji in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.

Mahmood Ali is now in Bhutan on a two-day official visit at the invitation of his Bhutanese counterpart, according to a message received here this evening.

The two foreign ministers expressed satisfaction at the current state of bilateral ties between the two countries when they discussed various issues of mutual interest.

The discussion mainly focused on cooperation in hydro-power, connectivity, air services, renewable energy, trade and commerce, peacekeeping, human resource development, science and technology sectors between the two countries.

The Bhutanese Foreign Minister lauded Bangladesh’s tremendous socio-economic developments under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister deeply appreciated the impressive all round progress that Bhutan has achieved over the years.

In the evening, the Foreign Minister attended a dinner hosted in his honour by the Bhutanese foreign minister.

Mahmood Ali is scheduled to pay courtesy calls on the King of Bhutan and the Fourth King tomorrow, the message added.

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Bangladesh urged to lower obstacles to investment

DHAKA, May 12, 2016 (BSS) – Terming Bangladesh as a land of opportunities for the foreign companies, European Union (EU) Ambassador and Head of the Delegation Pierre Mayaudon today said the country has not been witnessing expected investment from EU due to shortage of energy and infrastructure as well as political uncertainties.

The EU Ambassador came up with the observations at the first “EU-Bangladesh Business Climate Dialogue” of EU Bangladesh Business Council (EUBCB) held at the ministry of commerce.

Senior Commerce Secretary Hedayetullah Al Mamoon led the Bangladeshi delegation.

Mentioning different obstacles and difficulties being faced by the EU private sectors, Mayaudon said: “We are confident that this first session will allow us to showcase a shared European and Bangladeshi determination to overcome these difficulties.”

“We will possibly identify some “low hanging fruits” where solution can be quickly implemented while for others, the “higher hanging fruits”, we could agree to put in place dedicated working groups with a sense of delivery to continue working on these matters,” he said.

In the first sitting, different issues in Bangladesh Pharmaceutical sector, import duty/customs/trade facilitation, licenses and investment in the services sector, financial flows and tax regime were discussed.

The EU is the largest trading partner for Bangladesh. In fiscal 2014-15, Bangladesh’s export to the EU stood at $17.04 billion, of which 60 per cent were garment items.

In fiscal 2013-14, export to the EU was to the tune of $16.40 billion, according to data from the commerce ministry.

Beside garments, Bangladesh also exports leather goods, jute goods and bicycle to the EU.

Earlier, in the inaugural session in the morning, speaking as chief guest, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said an investment and business friendly environment is now prevailing in Bangladesh and the government would provide all necessary cooperation and facilities to EU if they come up with investment in special economic zones.

Highlighting Bangladesh’s ongoing development measures for power, infrastructure and communication, he said, “Private sectors of EU countries would benefit if they avail the investment opportunities in Bangladesh, as the government has taken initiative to protect the investment of foreigners.”

A total of 36 members of delegation of EU including ambassadors of France, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, UK and representatives of five joint chambers took part in the dialogue.

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Bangladesh soon to emerge as a middle-income country

MYMENSINGH, May 12, 2016 (BSS) – Minister for Public Administration Syed Ashraful Islam said here today that Bangladesh would emerge as a middle-income country in the world under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, if the present pace of development could be continued.

“Bangladesh is progressing fast by applying ICT (Information & Communication Technology) services in different sectors. That’s why significant development could be achieved, particularly in Agriculture, Education, Health and ICT sectors,” he said.

Syed Ashraful Islam said this while addressing as the chief guest at Mymensingh Divisional Innovation Fair-2016 that began at the local gymnasium today with a view to implementing the Vision-2021 through applying the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and to transform Bangladesh into a digital country.

Divisional Commissioner GM Saleh Uddin chaired the function, also addressed, among others, by acting Cabinet Secretary (Coordination) NM Ziaul Alam, DIG of Police, Mymensingh Range Abdullah Al Mamun, Administrator of Zila Parisad (District Council) Advocate Zahirul Haque, Principal of Ananda Mohan College Zakir Hossain and ICT expert of Prime Minister’s office Mamun Mahmud. Deputy Commissioner of Mymensingh district Mustakim Billah Faruqui delivered the welcome speech at the function.

Referring to the advancement of the ICT sector, Syed Ashraful Islam said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina created a revolution in digitalising the country. He called upon all, especially the young forces, to come forward for building a digital Bangladesh.

Earlier, the minister visited some stalls at the fair and thanked the stall-keepers for their participation.

Deputy Commissioner of Netrokona Mushfequr Rahman, Deputy Commissioner of Jamalpur Md Shakhawat Hossain and Deputy Commissioner of Sherpur Dr M Parvez Rahim were present.

Besides, heads of different educational institutions and senior government officers, teachers, students and IT club members and It experts attended the fair.

At the outset of the function, one-minute silence was observed as a mark of respect to state minister for Social Welfare Advocate Promode Mankin and former state minister for health Mujibur Rahman Fakir, who breathed their last recently.

The fair will be concluded tomorrow (Friday). Cabinet Secretary Shafiul Alam will be present as the chief guest at the concluding ceremony and distribute prizes, sources said.

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Kyrgyz performers impress judges of Britain’s Got Talent

Bishkek, May 10 / Kabar /. The group from Kyrgyzstan Tumar KR impressed the judges on Saturday with a stomach churning body popping routine.

The four-piece group from Kyrgyzstan gave a performance featuring robotic-like moves that were a signature of the act and got four yeses.

As Tumar KR showed off their moves, one member gave an eye-popping display and showed just how far he could contort his body.

The 56-year-old music mogul Simon Cowell covered his mouth in horror during an audition by body contortionists Tumar KR, which proved to be too much for him.

But it wasn’t just their demonstration that caused Simon to gasp with surprise, the sound effects that accompanied the routine left the head judge squirming in discomfort. He was quick to cover his mouth as the routine left him astonished, while the audience could be heard shrieking and feeling uncomfortable.

Fellow judge David Walliams was left equally disquieted by what he witnessed and grimaced. Hosts Ant and Dec also yelped audibly as they watched the performance.

“I don’t believe that you’re humans,” exclaimed Amanda Holden, express.co.uk reports.

The group from Kyrgyzstan previously won Czechoslavakia’s Got Talent in 2013 and finished third in Ukraine’s Got Talent in 2012.

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Kyrgyzstan launches official tourism website

Bishkek, May 12 / Kabar /. The official tourism website of the country is launched in Kyrgyzstan for the first time, director of the Department of Tourism of the Kyrgyz Republic Azamat Zhamankulov told Kabar Agency.

According to him, now the main tourist information site of the country is created, where it is planned to collect and consolidate all the information about tourism in Kyrgyzstan.

“Tourists who wishes to receive information about the tourism of the country, can easily visit this website. There will be information about tourist, cultural and historic sites, as well as all the events that occur in the country. The site will be in six languages: Kyrgyz, Russian, English, Turkish, Arabic and Chinese. And probably other languages will be added,” said Zhamankulov.

He also said that the site will be post photos, video presentations, hiking trails, maybe some research. In addition, there will be information about the approximate cost of restaurants, hotels, resorts.

In conclusion, director of the Department said that such a site is created in the country for the first time.

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Kyrgyz PM invites his Afghan counterpart to World Nomad Games

Bishkek, May 12 / Kabar /. Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Zheenbekov yesterday in the framework of his working visit to Tajikistan met in Dushanbe with the Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah, the Kyrgyz Government’s press office reports.

During the meeting, topical issues of Kyrgyz-Afghan cooperation were discussed and the sides stressed the importance of CASA-1000 project and other projects in the sphere of transport communication.

Zheenbekov told that Kyrgyzstan is interested in development of bilateral trade and economic cooperation, as well as emphasized Afghanistan’s role in maintaining peace and security in the region.

During the meeting, the Prime Minister expressed his gratitude to the Government of Afghanistan for the support of ethnic Kyrgyz living in Afghanistan.

Zheenbekov invited the Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah to take part in the opening ceremony of the Second World Nomad Games scheduled in September 2016 in the Kyrgyz Republic.

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75 international hotels to enter KSA in next four years

RIYADH, 15 May 2016, Arab News: Global hotel companies will enter the Saudi market over the next four years to build and operate about 75 hotels, a top official from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) disclosed.

The entry of hotel firms in the Kingdom will raise the quality of the market, enrich variety and expand available choices that will cater to the needs of tourists and visitors.

“Several global hotel companies are entering the Saudi market to operate 75 hotels over the next four years, with the support of the SCTNH, as a result of commission’s organization and development efforts to create a sustainable business environment for the hotel industry in the Kingdom,” said Salah Al-Bakheet Al-Talib, vice president of the SCTNH.

Al-Talib made this remarks after signing an investment agreement with Choice Hotels International, one of the largest hotel companies in the world, at the Saudi pavilion at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM-2016), recently held in Dubai, said the SCTNH media department.

Hotel operators have expressed satisfaction with the new regulations for hotel classifications in the Kingdom.

According to the media department, negotiations are underway with other international hotel companies to enter the Saudi market.

Al-Talib, in his comments, added that the Saudi market is now in dire need of three- and four-star hotels especially since the tourism market for these hotels is steadily expanding and has a large customer base.

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US media, political leaders called Sadiq Khan’s election as “historic”

Washington, (IINA) – American print and electronic media as well as political figures have called Sadiq Khan’s election as mayor of London as “significant” and “historic”, while highlighting that he is a Muslim of Pakistani origin, Pakistan’s The Nation newspaper reported.

Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee for the US presidency, led international congratulations, tweeting: “Son of a Pakistani bus driver, champion of workers’ rights and human rights, and now Mayor of London. Congrats, @SadiqKhan.

“Sadiq Khan’s victory likely will resonate far beyond his city, challenging anti-Islam rhetoric in the West and giving another strong voice to Britain’s large Pakistani community,” The Washington Post said in a dispatch from London.

“At a time when Islam is seen by many in the West as politically toxic, Khan embraced it to winning effect,” the Post said.

Eleven years ago, it pointed out, Pakistanis in Britain faced suspicions and huge public backlash after coordinated terrorist bombings of the London transit system killed 52 people and wounded more than 700.

“Yet Khan has never tried to hide his faith. He memorably tweeted to his main rival, the Conservative’s Party’s Zac Goldsmith, at one point: “Hey @ZacGoldsmith. There’s no need to keep pointing at me & shouting ‘he’s a Muslim.’ I put it on my own leaflets,” the dispatch said.

Sadiq Khan told The Washington Post on the campaign trail this week: “I want to be the British Muslim that defeats the extremists, defeats the radicals. I’ve got a plan of how we can keep London safe.”

In a front page dispatch from London, The New York Times underscored the fact that Khan’s resounding victory took place at a time Europe is struggling with a rise in Islamophobia, riven by debates about the flood of Syrian migrants and on edge over religious, ethnic and cultural disputes.

Khan defended his work as a human rights lawyer, and said he hoped Donald Trump the presumptive Republican presidential candidate who has called for barring Muslims from entering the United States – “loses badly.”

He argued that, as an observant Muslim, he was well placed to tackle extremism. “I’m a Londoner, I’m European, I’m British, I’m English, I’m of Islamic faith, of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, a dad, a husband,” he said in an interview with The New York Times.

The Wall Street Journal said the conservatives’ campaign to project Khan as close to extremists “appeared to backfire, with some Londoners saying they were turned off by the personal attacks on Khan.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sent his congratulations to Khan on Friday in a statement from his Twitter account, saying he looked forward to working together.

Goldsmith’s sister, Gemima, a journalist who was married to Pakistani politician and former cricketer Imran Khan, congratulated the new mayor, describing him as a “great example to young Muslims.”

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China firmly supports creation of full sovereign Palestinian state

Friday 13 May 2016 Doha (IINA) – Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has affirmed that China will not allow marginalizing the Palestinian cause, and will not permit the continuation of oppressing and humiliating the Palestinian people.

This came in his speech to the Seventh Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF), held in the Qatari capital of Doha on Thursday.

The minister reiterated China’s firm support to the establishment of Palestinian state with full sovereignty based on the 1967 borders. He also renewed support to the call for the UN Security Council to provide international protection for the Palestinian people.

“This meeting will send a clear message to the world that we stand with the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people,” Wang Yi said.

The meeting is set to issue the Doha Declaration after the Arab and Chinese sides conduct in-depth consultations on key international and regional political issues of mutual interest.

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Deputy PM Simsek: Turkey to create regional Islamic ‘megabank’

11 May 2016 Ankara (IINA) – Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said Wednesday that Turkey will partner with the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to create a regional Islamic finance “megabank”, as part of Turkey’s push to become a powerhouse in Islamic finance, Reuters reported.

Simsek, who was speaking at an Islamic finance conference in Istanbul, said the new lender would provide liquidity and investment banking services. He said Indonesia would be looking to create a similar regional megabank with a $300 million investment. Turkey was looking to invest more, he added.

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USAID launches ‘Envision Gaza 2020 USAID program’ worth $50m

10 May 2016, Gaza (IINA) – US Consul General in Jerusalem Donald Blome announced the launch of a program to provide urgent humanitarian aid worth $50 million to the residents of the Gaza Strip.

David Harden, director at US Agency for International Development (USAID) West Bank and Gaza Mission, said in a press statement that the agency will launch “Envision Gaza 2020 USAID program”, which provides urgent humanitarian aid and expands activities within the reconstruction efforts in Gaza

He explained that the program will last for five years and implemented in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which will provide basic humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations in Gaza, increase employment opportunities through the provision of short-term and paid training jobs, small investment and vocational training, in addition to working with local civil society organizations and private sector.

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First pan-African TV news channel launched

Saturday 07 May 2016, Congo-Brazzaville (IINA) – The world’s first pan-African multilingual TV news channel, Africanews, was launched in Pointe-Noire, Congo-Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo recently. The channel is a subsidiary of the popular Europe news network Euronews, Saudi Gazette reported.

Currently, it airs in English and French and hopes to air in other languages in the future. Michael Peters, CEO of Africanews, said in a press conference, “In five years, Africanews aims to broadcast in Swahili, Hausa and many other African languages. It will be different from others because we hold a pan-African perspective than others who have regional and continental.” The mission of Africanews is to “empower people through independent and reliable news.” Africanews is formed of a strong team of 85 professional journalists and technicians, coming and working together from 15 different African countries and covering sub-Saharan news with correspondents across the continent.

It includes flagship programs such as The Morning Call, Business Africa, Football Planet and The Network to maintain its African identity. “Another strong asset is Story Hunters, an exclusive program that allows viewers and users to be part of the story. Story Hunters is based on user generated content, aiming to make ‘All African’ voices heard,” said Peters. The channel is editorially independent from Euronews, free from political or ideological bias and represents the voice of Africa globally. “Africa has many faces; the idea is to deliver all faces about politics, economy, sports and culture, first to the Africans and then equally to the rest of the world, which will be made by the African people,” said Peters. “Africa is a land of opportunities. It is a continent that is rising…The demand for unbiased news is unmet. There is a gap to fill. This is why we are launching Africanews to pioneer independent news from the African perspective,” added Peters.

Hannane Ferdjani, a journalist/anchor at Africanews said that Africanews was designed and set up to bring the continent’s matters into the limelight for Africans to feel represented and as though their stories are being told. It was also about changing the current narrative and go beyond the “dark continent’s” discourse. Our added value is that we give an independent insider’s perspective through our All-African newsroom – something that has never been done before. We strongly believe that with time, our channel will impose itself as the reference outlet for news about Africa.”

Africanews is free to pick and amend international productions from Euronews. Simultaneously Euronews can use productions from Africanews thus helping the channel to expose the image of Africa throughout the globe. According to Peters, Africanews based its station in Congo, because Congo was the only country that met the three important criteria: guarantees of editorial independence, easy access to fast Internet and geographical access to everywhere in Africa. Currently, Africanews is broadcasted to 7.3 million homes via pay TV networks in nearly 35 African countries and is live on social media at africanews.com.

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Turkey, Iran vow to boost cooperation in tourism

Friday 13 May 2016 Tehran, (IINA) – Top officials from Turkey and Iran said Thursday that the two countries are committed to strengthening cooperation in the tourism sector, Anadolu Agency reported.

Speaking at a joint tourism workshop in the Iranian capital city of Tehran, Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mahir Unal said it was among his ministry’s primary goals to boost cooperation between Turkey and Iran in tourism, and bring it to the same high level of collaboration found in the energy and banking sectors.

Unal said that increasing the number of charter flights between the two countries is a top priority in this regard.

“Charter flights, in addition to scheduled flights, are one of the main factors that have a direct impact on seasonal tourist numbers. In this regard, it is one of our priorities to increase both the number of chartered flights as well as their destinations”, he said.

On his part, Masoud Soltanifar, Iran’s vice-president and head of the Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts, and Tourism Organization, praised Turkey’s successful terrorism sector, adding that Iran is committed to further cooperation in this field.

Soltanifar also invited Turks to visit Iran. “Just like Turkey is a good tourist destination for Iranians, we expect Turkish tourists to visit Iran”, he said. “Turkish businessmen who are thinking of investing in hotel construction in Iran are meeting with their Iranian counterparts today”.

Unal and Soltanifar later attended a joint technical committee meeting, after which they signed a memorandum of understanding towards promoting cooperation in the field of tourism.

The document contains agreements on informing potential Turkish investors on the opportunities in Iran, and Turkey sharing its experience in the areas of planning, promotion, training, and classification. It also aims to encourage mutual visits by nationals of both countries.

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Iran, Turkey keen to cultural cooperation

Shiraz, May 13, IRNA – Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mahir Unal called for further cultural cooperation between Ankara and Tehran.

“Iran and Turkey have many cultural and artistic commonalities which show the closeness of the two nations’ cultures,” Unal said in a meeting with Deputy Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization in Shiraz on Friday.

He said that Tehran and Ankara have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to boost cultural and tourism cooperation.

In a relevant development earlier on Friday, Iranian Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi announced that Tehran and Ankara have agreed to further broaden their bilateral ties, particularly in tourism sector.

‘Iran and Turkey signed several documents to expand their tourism relations,’ Vaezi told reporters after his meeting with Unal.

He reiterated that Tehran and Ankara have agreed to prepare the grounds for the two countries’ private sectors to engage in enhancing cultural and tourism ties.

In mid-April, Iran and Turkey signed 8 cooperation agreements in a bid to broaden bilateral ties.

The agreements were signed in the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.

Under the deals, Iran and Turkey agreed to cooperate in social security matters, fight against goods smuggling, including antiquities, food and agriculture, legal and academic affairs, industrial standard and technical research, standardization, justice and judicial training.

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Int’l cycling tour of Azerbaijan opens

Tabriz, East Azerbaijan, May 13, IRNA – The 31st International Tour of Azarbaijan UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), Asia 2.1 Road Race opened in this northwestern province on Friday.

Four domestic and 17 foreign teams are participating in the six-day competition.

The foreign teams come from Austria, Germany, Hong Kong, China, Kuwait, Mongolia, Malaysia, The Netherlands, China, Syria, Japan, USA, Kyrgyzstan and Australia.

In a message to the tour two days ago, Esmaeil Jabbarzadeh, Governor General of East Azarbaijan, said the International Tour of Azarbaijan carries message of peace and friendship.

Jabbarzadeh said the tour plays an effective role in strengthening of cultural relations between world nations.

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Tunisia: ARJIL & Associates picked to promote Five-Year Development Plan

by AfricanManager – May 11, 2016 – An international consortium, led by investment bank ARJIL & Associates, was officially assigned the task of the “Promotion of the Development Plan 2016 – 2020 and assistance in the organization of an international conference” on behalf the Ministry of Development, Investment and International Cooperation.

The contract was signed by Minister Yassine Brahim on Tuesday, thus signaling the start of work. The international conference will be held on November 22 and 23, 2016 in Tunisia, the Department said in a press release.

Following a tender, the consortium made up of the French investment bank ARJIL & Associates, the Tunisian design office COMETE Engineering and media and event group “Jeune Afrique” was selected by the Republic of Tunisia (High Authority for Public Procurement) to lead the development operations of the 2016-2020 Development Plan, the same source added.

The contract was officially signed at the seat of the Ministry of Development, Investment and International Cooperation by Minister Yassine Brahim and Radhi Meddeb CEO of COMET Engineering on behalf of the consortium.

The Development Plan is a key strategic priority of the Tunisian government in view of strengthening the country’s economic attractiveness.

The preliminary operations of promotion, which will take place in the coming months, will culminate in the holding of an international conference in Tunisia on November 22 and 23, 2016.

The project team includes world renowned experts and incorporates Tunisian and international skills.

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Tunisia: 48,000 tons of organic products exported in 2015

by AfricanManager – May 6, 2016 – 48,000 tons of Tunisian organic products were exported, with export revenue estimated to 345 million Tunisian dinars (MTD), according to official data provided by the Department of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries to African Manager on Thursday, May 5, 2016.

Similarly, 100 organic products were exported to 30 countries on five continents. According to the same source, about 3,200 operators work in the organic farming sector in Tunisia

Note that Tunisia was ranked first African country to set up regulations for organic farming.

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Tunisia: Launch of a strategy to develop of organic farming

by AfricanManager – May 6, 2016 – A strategy for the development of the organic sector has been set up for the five-year plan 2015/2020, according to official data provided by the Department of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries to African Manager on Thursday, May 5, 2016.

The strategy aims to increase the contribution of the professionals of the organic farming sector and work on major axes such as the added value of the sector, the protection of environment and health.

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Afghan Wushu Athletes Returns with Victory

May 11, 2016, Kabul (BNA) Afghan Wushu athletes with achieving 11 medals returned home with victory from Wushu competitions held in Lahore-Pakistan.

The competitions held between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran Wushu players and Afghanistan national Wushu team could to obtain second position in the tournaments.

Mujeeb Qarizada member of publication of sport department said BNA correspondent, 15 Afghan Wushu athletes were participated in the competitions which with three gold medals, five silvers medals and three bronze medals returned home.

Amir Khan, Mohammad Shafiq and Mustafa are the three athletes which gained gold medals of the tournaments.

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Congregational Mosque to be Built in Badakhshan

May 11, 2016, Kabul (BNA) The construction work of a congregational mosque has been started in outskirt of Badakhshan province from the budget of Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs in area of 4 plots of land.

Ahmad Faisal Begzad Badakhshan Governor told BNA, in Islamic culture behind of praying, some social problems will be resolved in the mosque and we hope with foundation of the mosque peace and stability prevail in the region.

Abdul Wali Arshad chief of Hajj and Religious Affairs of the province says, the mosque will be constructed in one floor which has the capacity of more than 300 worshipers in a time.

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After years, school reopened in Zabul

April 27, 2016, Qalat (BNA) After long years a school was reopened by efforts of tribal elders in Nawbahar district, southern Zabul province.

The schools since years were closed due to presence and threats of Taliban militants in Nawbahar district of the province.

According to unconfirmed figures, with closing of these schools dozen thousands girls and boys students were deprived of further education.

An in-charge of education department in the province said BNA, after reopen of the school 150 students continuing their education.

Trying to provide books, tables, chairs and other education facilities for the school, the source added.

Tribal elders stated that they are attempting to reopen other close schools in Nawbahar district of the province as well.

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Restraining Roaring Rivers Helps Build Afgahanistan

May 11, 2016, Kabul (BNA) Having vast virgin deserts and roaring rivers, rich underground resources and fertile fields, Afghanistan is susceptible for agriculture and livestock breeding. While our roaring rivers pour into the neighboring countries free of charge.

Every year huge amounts of money of this poor people who earn it with thousands hardships and pains, are spent for purchase and supply of wheat and other grains to foreign countries and into the pockets of their traders. But we slightly use all those available God-sent gifts. According to available assessments made on richness of our underground resources like mines, oil, gas, iron, copper, coal, precious stones etc, in case of exploitation, development of agriculture, mine extraction construction of hydropower plants and dams, our country will soon stand among the most developed countries.

But unfortunately, the enemies of this land launched imposed wars, created disunity and deprived our people of progress and development and don’t let them to take steps in the direction of progress. These enemies every day make tricks to keep the fire of wars inflaming and jeopardize our people daily life. If our rulers in the last over fifteen years, had made sincere efforts and properly used generous foreign assistance, not only today our country would have been built but our toiling people would have also got rid of the burden of devastating imposed conflicts.

Current assessments of Afghanistan socio, economic, political situation show that with heavy powerful human power, plenty of water, rich mines, lovely climate, monsoonal rains, and our people would have not been in need of purchase of wheat and grains from other countries and even we would have been among the grain exporting countries.

But due to lack of attention to pave the way for better living conditions for the people, lack of initiative in rebuilding process, ensuring security and attraction of the people cooperation to defend their territory, today our people and the imposed wars have destroyed their assets.

Socio- political experts believe that the leaders of the NUG should make efforts to attract people cooperation for promotion of their economic living conditions, rebuilding of the country, improvement of agricultural products etc. They should use the strong arm of this nation, pave the way of education for offspring of this nation establish good governance and prevent corruption, reduce unemployment, expend defensive process with recruitment of youth to ANSF ranks.

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Silk Route 2500Km Distance To Europe, Experts

May 11, 2016 – Kabul (BNA) Silk Route is a historical road among China, India and Europe. Recently, the Afghan government has once again intensified efforts to reconstruct the road, because, it plays significant role in political and economy arenas of Afghanistan and other regional countries as well.

Meanwhile, officials of the ministry of commerce said that they were making efforts to reconstruct this historical route, because it can be effective in developing of various sectors in Afghanistan. Ministry of commerce spokesperson, Mosafer Quqandi said, ‘With reconstruction of Silk Route, the Afghan and international traders can do their business in a better way. I am sure that it is the shortest and safest way, through which we can easily access to European markets, Quqandi further said.’

However, the involved countries in Silk Route project have not yet interested to transfer their commercial goods through Afghanistan, but the government calls implementation of the project important to both Afghanistan and the region.

At the same time, deputy to chamber of commerce, Khan Jan Alokozai said, ‘Silk Route enjoys special importance in transit and business aspects and the Afghan government should pave the way to its reconstruction.’ Crossing of the Silk Route through Afghanistan is the best way to link the country with Europe, Alokozai further said, adding I hope the government pays serious attention in this respect.

Experts believe Silk Route not only plays imperative role in economy sector, but in political affairs as well, we hope necessary measures to be taken to its reconstruction. An expert on economy affairs, Ghulam Habibi said, ‘Silk Route is an infrastructural way to Afghanistan and plays important role in economy and political affairs’.

Reconstruction of the project is not as easy as it seems through mountainous ways of Wakhan, Badakhshan province to other parts of Afghanistan. Insecurity and weather conditions are the main challenges before the project in Afghanistan. Currently, technology has got improved worldwide and there are many advanced excavation machineries that can easily dig the ground, experts added.

Afghan and Chinese officials said, ‘If Silk Route is not reconstructed, insecurity and economic instability in the region will continue.’ Officials for the ministry of public works said, ‘Reconstruction of Silk Route is being continued and many improvements have made in this regard.’

The Silk Route is an ancient network of trade routes that are central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East from China to the Mediterranean Sea. Trade on the Silk Road is a significant factor in the development of the civilizations of China, the Indian subcontinent, Persia, Europe, the Horn of Africa and Arabia, opening long-distance, political and economic relations between the civilizations. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road served as a means of carrying out cultural trade among the civilizations along its network.

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OIC Attends UNGA High-Level Meeting on Religions for Peace

08/05/2016 – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) participated in the High-Level Conversation on the important theme of Religions for Peace, convened by the President of the General Assembly on 6 May 2016 in New York. Amb Abdul Moiz Bokhari, adviser to the Secretary General and the Head of OIC Peace, Security and Conflict Resolution Unit (PSCU) represented the Secretary General in the Meeting.

In his statement delivered on behalf of the Secretary General at the inaugural session, Amb Bokhari highlighted OIC Member States’ commitment to promoting international peace and security, understanding and dialogue among civilizations, cultures and religions and fostering noble Islamic values concerning moderation, tolerance and respect for diversity as reflected in the OIC Charter. He also underlined that the objectives and principles of the OIC aspire for an inter-state relationship based on justice, mutual respect and good neighbourliness to ensure global peace, security and harmony.

Bokhari pointed out that terrorism and violent extremism were threats of grave nature to international peace and often timesreligion was used as well as misused by their perpetrators to justify their such heinous acts of terror. He said that combating International terrorism and preventing violent extremism was a very critical area where the international community could succeed through enhancing cooperation among all the stakeholders.

He underlined that according to the OIC the best way to confront challenges to peace, whatever they are, is to provide hope for the Youth. In order to do so effectively, the international community needs to have common understanding of the roots and ideas that germinate terrorism and extreme violence into the young minds. And on the basis of that understanding, they need to work together supporting and complementing each other.

To this end, he expressed the OIC’s desire to work with the United Nations and contribute in promoting global partnership and intensive global engagement, bringing together all stakeholders for the success of the collective efforts to maintain international peace and security and establishing a world of hope, dignity and justice.

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Director of First OIC Office in Palestine Receives Mandate

09/05/2016 – Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Iyad Ameen Madani, received at the General Secretariat in Jeddah yesterday, 9 May 2016, Mr. Ahmad Ruwaidhi, and handed him the decision mandating him to commence work as director of the first OIC Representative Office to the State of Palestine.

The Secretary General underscored what is expected of the OIC Office in Ramallah in enhancing the role of the OIC and its organs in supporting the Palestinian people, helping to build their national institutions and responding to their needs, in accordance with the adopted resolutions on the cause of Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

For his part, Mr. Ruwaidhi expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the high confidence reposed in him by the Secretary General in appointing him as director of the Office. He hinted that he would start off by arranging the Secretary General’s visit to the State of Palestine to sign the headquarter agreement and officially open the Office.

It should be mentioned that the Council of Foreign Ministers at its 42nd session held in Kuwait from 27-28 May 2015 had adopted a resolution for the establishment of the OIC Representative Office in Ramallah, State of Palestine, with the aim of enhancing the role of the OIC and its organs to serve the cause of Palestine in all fields.

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Railway, Port Cooperation To Label China-Arab Relations

DOHA, May 13 (NNN-Xinhua) — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that railways and ports are key symbols of the China-Arab relations during his attendance at the seventh ministerial conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF).

“Camels and sailing boats marked the ancient Silk Road,” Wang said, adding that “nowadays, the China-Arab cooperative relations can be labeled by railway and port under the Belt and Road Initiative framework.”

The Chinese official expressed the points of view in his speech on the opening ceremony of the CASCF ministerial meeting, which was held in Doha on Thursday.

Since its establishment in 2004, the CASCF has made great achievements in the past 12 years.

In 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping highlighted a “1 2 3″ cooperation pattern under the Belt and Road Initiative for China-Arab relations in his keynote speech during the sixth CASCF ministerial conference.

In January, Chinese government issued its first policy document to the Arab states before Xi’s visit to the region, providing a plan of future for the cooperation between the two sides.

To further explain China’s policy on the China-Arab relations, Wang also stressed the key points in building the Belt and Road Initiative, including making full use of the complementarities in productivity and resources between the two sides, grasping cooperative opportunities in industrialization and culture exchanges, and refreshing the China-Arab historical friendship.

Firstly, communications through both land and sea will be promoted, Wang said.

“China supports its companies to join the construction on railway networks and ports in this region, and integrate the ports with industrial zones to build several comprehensive zones for economic development, trade cooperation and industry,” he explained.

Secondly, the Chinese minister underlined the cooperation in productivity as a booster of the industrialization of Arab world.

Supported by China’s cost-benefit equipment, advanced technologies, personnel training and financing, the Arab states will make a fast, economical and green way of industrialization for the interests of their peoples, Wang stressed.

“Last but not least, the two sides will continue the cultural exchanges to get more public support to our friendship,” he said.

The Chinese foreign minister concluded his speech by saying that China would like to help the Arab nations to maintain stability. — NNN-XINHUA

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Sufi music enthrals Moroccans

ISLAMABAD, May 12 (APP): Pakistan was in the limelight throughout Morocco Wednesday night after one of its bands put up an outstanding performance of sufi music at the world famous Fez Sacred Music Festival here.

The ‘Raga Boyz’ mesmerized an audience of more than fifteen thousand people at the Boujloud arena with superb renditions of sufi music and Pakistani classics such as ‘jugni’ and ‘mast qalandar’, said a press release on Thursday.

Their presence at this prestigious festival was made possible by the efforts of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who took personal interest in promoting Pakistani goodwill in Morocco at the request of Pakistan’s Ambassador Nadir Chaudhri.

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Pakistan’s Trade Caravan opens at Almaty Kazakhstan

ISLAMABAD, May 13 (APP):Pakistan’s Trade Caravan opened at Almaty Kazakhstan on Friday aimed at fostering trade and investment relations between Pakistan and Kazakhistan.

According to a message received here from Almaty Kazakhstan,some 45 companies in textile, agro foods, herbal, pharmaceutical and handicrafts displayed their products to a large audience of members of Kazakh Chambers and businessmen.

The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) also developed a large composite stall with highest quality home textile, garments and sportsware that had been provided by brands such as Chen One, Gul Ahmed, Sapphire and Al Karam.

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

ISLAMABAD, May 13 (APP): Suchart Leingsaengthong, Ambassador of Thailand in Pakistan on Friday said that the two countries were making efforts to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and hoped that the FTA would be finalized by the end of 2016.

Addressing the delegation of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) here, the Ambassador said that conclusion of FTA would not only boost trade but it would also help in strengthening ties between the two countries.

The ICCI delegation led by its President Atif Ikram Sheikh called on the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand and discussed with him various options for further enhancing trade relations between Pakistan and Thailand.

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Pakistan to emerge as most important country in region after CPEC completion: President

MULTAN, May 5 (APP): President Mamnoon Hussain said on Thursday that Pakistan would emerge as the most important country in the region following completion of landmark project of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

While addressing delegations of parliamentarians of South Punjab, farmers and Multan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) at the circuit house, the President said that the CPEC would not only benefit China and Pakistan but also other countries of the region.

Governor Punjab Malik Muhammad Rafiq Rajwana, and federal minister for national food security and research Sikandar Hayat Bosan were also present.

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Chilimjust festival kicks off in scenic Kalash valley of Chitral

PESHAWAR, May 12 (APP): The Chilimjusht or Joshi festival kicked off on Thursday to welcome the spring season in the scenic Kalash valley in Chitral.

The festival was organised by the Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (TCKP) and district administration Chitral, Saramat Khan, the religious leader of Kalash tribe and elder of Sharakat family, formally inaugurated the festival by beating the drum and performing traditional dances by the Kalash people.

The four-day Chilimjusht festival, which heralds the arrival of spring, is usually celebrated in the three Kalash valleys of Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur every year.

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