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6 Jun, 2016

Turkish News Agency Anadolu launches new service on Islamic world

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 06 June 2016 (01 Ramadan

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A WORD FROM MY SPONSORS: TOURISM MALAYSIA

TOURISM MALAYSIA INTRODUCES BEST OF LABUAN HOLIDAY PACKAGES 2016

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

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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

A WORD FROM MY SPONSORS – THE TOURISM AUTHORITY OF THAILAND

Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha has offered his best wishes to all Muslims marking the holy month of Ramadan, saying he hopes everyone will be able to make merit during the holy Islamic month. He wished that everyone could achieve what they set out to achieve and that they find peace and happiness in life. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) also sends Ramadan greetings to all Muslim readers of the Islamic Travel Newswire, and all Muslim visitors in Thailand. A Ramadan City Fair will be held between 25-27 June, 2016, at the Thai Islamic Center in Bangkok. Other events of potential interest to Muslim visitors planned for later this year include the Eid ul Adha Fair, 3-5 September, 2016, at the Thai Islamic Center and the Muslim Thai Fair, 29-31 October, 2016, at the Hua Mak Stadium, Bangkok. Thailand is a Muslim-friendly tourist destination, popular with thousands of Muslims from the ASEAN countries, Asia, the Middle East and the Central Asian Republics. A special app has been created by the TAT to help Muslim visitors find the appropriate facilities and services. It can be downloaded by clicking here: http://www.tourismthailand.org/muslimfriendly

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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

 

Makkah’s mosques to stay open all day during Ramadan

01 Jun 2016, Makkah, (IINA) – Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call, and Guidance Sheikh Saleh Al-Asheikh approved a plan to ensure that mosques in Makkah stay open all day during Ramadan, Arab News reported Tuesday.

Ali Al-Abdali, general manager of the ministry’s branch in Makkah, said the plan also includes ensuring that all mosques at the miqaats (the places where pilgrims put on the ihram clothes before entering Makkah to perform Umrah) are prepared to cope with the huge influx of pilgrims.

Al-Abdali said that the preparations include cleaning carpets, providing copies of the Holy Qur’an, and the maintenance of sound, light, ablution and air conditioning systems. The aim is to ensure pilgrims can carry out their rituals peacefully while fasting.

He pointed out that Makkah mosques would remain open all day long to allow the worshipers to stay and perform worship and prayer until the end of the optional night prayers. He urged cleaners to redouble their efforts and the muezzins to call people to prayer at the correct times.

Al-Abdali said the plan included an order for the imams of mosques to hold lessons for the people after Asr prayers. In addition, they should not raise the sound levels of their amplifiers beyond level four, to avoid disturbing prayers at other mosques.

He said that the imams of mosques must ensure that worshipers do not sleep inside mosques, and that everyone is on alert for any suspicious activities. In addition, those wishing to make donations must do so through approved charitable associations.

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210 doors open for worshippers in Grand Mosque in Makkah

03 Jun 2016, Makkah, (IINA) – Some 210 doors have been opened in the Grand Mosque in Makkah for the entry and exit of pilgrims, visitors, and worshippers during Ramadan, according to director of the department of doors at the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques Muhammad Bati.

He told Makkah Arabic daily that about 600 employees, wearing official uniforms and carrying IDs, will be guarding the doors, urging all pilgrims and visitors to cooperate with the guards to ensure smooth entry and exit.

He said the guards have been directed to treat pilgrims with hospitality and deal with them politely. He also asked the employees of the Presidency to prevent people from praying close to the doors and along the passages.

Bati urged visitors and pilgrims not to enter the Haram immediately after prayers. He said Al-Salam door would be dedicated for the entry of the dead bodies for funeral prayer.

Bati said the special needs people can enter the Haram through a number of doors including Al-Salam, Al-Marwa, Quraish, Al-Abbas, King Fahd and Abdullah gates in addition to the gates No. 64, 68, 69, 74, 84, 89, 90, 93 and 94. He said there are lifts and escalators for the disabled.

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Ramadan Tent Project to operate in 7 cities

02 Jun 2016, Istanbul, (IINA) – An international project led by young students is setting up open ‘iftars’ – fast-breaking meals – across several countries to foster interfaith dialogue during Ramadan, Anadolu Agency reported.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a time when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, with the practice forming one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam.

Ahead of the holy month, which will begin June 6 this year, the staff of a UK-based community-led initiative, called the ‘Ramadan Tent Projec’t, are making final preparations in seven cities across five countries.

Ahmed Ghoneim, the project’s head of communications, told Anadolu Agency that the scheme “was not only made for Muslims”.

The initiative has been organizing iftars to include non-Muslims in the holy month. The organizing committee has non-Muslim members who have participated since a group of students from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) first came up with the pioneering idea in 2011.

“It is our privilege to have people from all walks of life attend and share their stories, meals, and values with us”, Ghoneim said.

An open iftar is a common and historical event during the month of Ramadan in Turkey as well as other Muslim-populated countries.

People join the meals, which typically happen under a huge tent, and break their fast together after the evening prayer call.

Community leaders from various identities, including representatives of NGOs, academia, the literary world, even Christian bishops, will speak to guests in an open conversation.

“The project is vital in its peaceful and inclusive nature, as well as its representation of Islamic values and practices”, Ghoneim said.

“Many non-Muslims approached team members and asked many questions to fill gaps in their knowledge”, Ghoneim said, revealing how the atmosphere created by the project is demolishing negative stereotypes about Islam.

“We, for our part also, learn valuable lessons from non-Muslims and witness on a daily basis the positive communication, friendship and amicable gestures that transcend our respective backgrounds”, he added.

The initiative is also benefiting from social media opportunities, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with over 7,000 followers, to reach those people who may want to join the project.

They share photos and videos that reflect the project’s atmosphere and convey touching passages from the guests.

After the first iftar in London, volunteers have widened the project. In 2015, open spaces were set up in Manchester and Plymouth in England; Istanbul in Turkey; and Ndola, Zambia.

The project will also take place this year in Portland, U.S; and Toronto, Canada between June 6 and July 5 this year.

Anyone who wants to be a volunteer in the project can apply via social media. The project says it has an open-door policy and welcomes any help, including food and drink provided by interested guests.

Omar Salha, the founder and director of the initiative, told Anadolu Agency that the project was based on four main pillars; the first is catering to international students who are fasting abroad without the warmth of their families while the next is providing food for the homeless.

The others are combating Islamophobia as well as other negative stereotypes by highlighting the values of Islam; the final pillar is bridging communication between various faiths and creating a stronger sense of social cohesion.

Both committee members of the project, Salha and Ghoneim emphasized that similar initiatives and ideas should be developed in a world where religious differences and stereotypes have taken center-stage.

“This kind of project is an example of how a small number of young people can build a project together with important aims and carry it out on both a local and international level”, Ghoneim stated.

“Moreover, the project also underpins aspects such as interfaith dialogue and charity that can at times be neglected in the busy, high-tempo lives we all live today”, he added.

The Ramadan Tent Project won the Student-Led Volunteer Project of the Year award in 2014 during the Make a Difference Celebration organized by the SOAS Volunteering Unit.

According to the committee members, more than 30,000 people have been involved throughout the years, including guests and volunteers.

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Istanbul joins international ‘open iftar’ Ramadan event

ISTANBUL, An international project led by young students is setting up open ‘iftars’ – fast breaking meals – across several countries to foster interfaith dialogue during Ramadan.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a time when Muslims will fast from dawn to dusk, with the practice forming one of the five fundamentals – pillars – of Islam.

Ahead of the holy month, which will begin June 6 this year, the staff of a U.K.-based community-led initiative called the Ramadan Tent Project is making final preparations in seven cities across five countries, including Istanbul.

Ahmed Ghoneim, the project’s head of communications talked to Anadolu Agency. He says that the scheme “was not only made for Muslims”.

The initiative has been organizing fast-breaking meals to include non-Muslims in the holy month. The organizing committee has non-Muslim members who have participated since a group of students from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) first came up with the pioneering idea in 2011.

“It is our privilege to have people from all walks of life attend and share their stories, meals and values with us,” Ghoneim says.

An open iftar is common and historical event during the Ramadan month in Turkey as well as other Muslim-populated countries.

Needy people join the meals, which typically happen under a huge tent, and break their fast together after the evening ‘adhan’ – the Islamic call to worship.

The Ramadan Tent Project arranges hot meals on the ground, mostly on grassy university yards covered with colorful cloth; volunteers serve food and guests will help with all responsibilities.

Community leaders from various identities, including representatives of NGOs, academia, the literary world, even Christian bishops, will speak to guests in an open conversation.

“The project is vital in its peaceful and inclusive nature, as well as its representation of Islamic values and practices,” Ghoneim says.

Ghoneim says that misinformation, stereotyping and confrontation are overcome through the initiative in an engaging, youthful and sincere manner that allows one to step forward, ask, learn and appreciate his or her peers.

“Many non-Muslims approached team members and asked many questions to fill gaps in their knowledge,” Ghoneim says, revealing how the atmosphere created by the project is demolishing negative stereotypes about Islam.

“We, for our part also, learn valuable lessons from non-Muslims and witness on a daily basis the positive communication, friendship and amicable gestures that transcend our respective backgrounds,” he says.

Ghoneim gives an example of how the project fostered inter-faith dialogue. Rabbi Nathan Levy, a religious leader who sits on the Board of Deputies of British Jews, fasted with them and attended an iftar meal in 2014.

“This example illustrates the unique and innovative methods that the Ramadan Tent Project has and continues to take in bridging communities together in a fashion that focuses on common values, constructive dialogue and creating amicable ties within the community,” Ghoneim says.

Many non-Muslim guests, who fasted with them in an amazing display of solidarity, write about their feelings on the project’s website after the event.

Others “directly expressed their willingness and intent to befriend Muslims to discover more about a faith and culture that they did not have the opportunity to learn about prior to attending an iftar,” Ghoneim says.

One volunteer from the last year’s events, who defined herself as a “young Lebanese woman from a Christian background,” wrote her soulful thoughts on the project’s blog:

“In a world where we are told that religion is the source of division, the Ramadan Tent Project is an example and reminder that coming together under a universal cause, that is the pursuit of good, is what is uniting more and more people around the world.”

Shazma, a volunteer at an event in London’s Malet Street Gardens, stated on the blog: “You never know who you’ll end up next to, how their views will differ from yours, but you are all united by something stronger and the differences will promptly fade into the background.”

She also described the atmosphere, as saying, “Malet Street Gardens is such a beautiful setting, and honestly speaking when the sun is setting and the candles that line the banquet … are dancing along to conversation and laughter amongst strangers, now friends, it feels truly magical.”

The initiative is also benefiting from other social media opportunities, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with over 7,000 followers, to hit those people who may want to join the project.

They share powerful photos and videos that reflect the project’s atmosphere and convey touching passages from the guests.

It may be the most impressive point of the project that all the efforts behind it – creating a website, managing social media accounts and serving food – are by volunteers.

“The project is one very much dependent on volunteers and as such it was not a corporate strategy,” Ghoneim says, stressing that commitment to their ethos, plus a growth in the number of guests and volunteers have helped the project grow internationally.

“The project grew through our guests, volunteers and online awareness; many of our team members took the project to their own localities,” Ghoneim said.

After the first iftar in London, volunteers have widened the project. In 2015, open spaces were set up in Manchester and Plymouth in England; Istanbul; and Ndola, Zambia.

The project will also take place this year in Portland, United States and Toronto, Canada between 6th June and 5th July this year.

Anyone who wants to be a volunteer in the project can apply via social media. The project says it has an open-door policy and welcomes any help, including food and drink provided by interested guests.

Omar Salha, the founder and director of the initiative told Anadolu Agency: “We focus on quality rather than quantity.”

Salha said the project was based on four main pillars; the first is catering to international students who are fasting abroad without the warmth of their families while the next is providing food for the homeless.

The others are combating Islamophobia and other negative stereotypes by showcasing the values of Islam; the final pillar is bridging communication between various faiths and to create a stronger sense of social cohesion.

Both committee members of the project, Salha and Ghoneim emphasized that similar initiatives and ideas should be developed in a world where religious differences and stereotypes have taken center-stage.

“This kind of project is an example of how a small number of young people can build a project together with important aims and carry it out on both a local and international level,” Ghoneim states.

“Moreover, the project also underpins aspects such as interfaith dialogue and charity that can at times be neglected in the busy, high-tempo lives we all live today,” he adds.

The Ramadan Tent Project won the Student-Led Volunteer Project of the Year award in 2014 during the Make a Difference Celebration organized by the SOAS Volunteering Unit.

According to the committee members, more than 30,000 people have been involved throughout the years, including guests and volunteers.

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Istanbulites make ready for Ramadan resolutions

ISTANBUL, 04.06.2016 – With the approach of the holy month of Ramadan, millions of Muslims are weighing up possible resolutions to improve their mental, physical and spiritual well-being.

The month, which this year lasts from Monday to July 4, sees many of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims commit to a strict daytime fast, often taking the opportunity to make promises to improve their lives.

Among them are millions of Istanbulites weighing up resolutions as the month approaches.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a time when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The practice forms one of the five fundamentals, or pillars, of Islam.

The holy period creates a different atmosphere in Istanbul – changing millions of people’s eating habits, working practices and praying times.

Popular resolutions often include spiritual endeavors such as reading the Quran or praying daily in a mosque.

Others are more everyday – giving up listening to music, for example, or cutting out television or social media.

“I want to get rid of technology at least for a month,” 22-year-old Savas Taskin, a university student, told Anadolu Agency.

“What I want most to do during Ramadan is to quit social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – to focus on my prayers. I want to quit smoking and work out as well.”

In Islam, the meaning of Ramadan is not just about fasting from food or drink – it encourages people to scrutinize their behavior and refrain from bad habits for the purpose of gaining “taqwa”, the consciousness of Allah.

Ramadan is also a good time for Muslims to evaluate themselves spiritually and make resolutions in their lives.

But the challenge is to make these resolutions stick.

“We are always making promises every Ramadan but we cannot keep our word,” Gokhan Kartisoglu, 32, of Istanbul, said.

An accountant, Kartisoglu said he has previously promised to quit smoking and start going to a gym but failed to keep it up.

Helping others is often part of people’s resolutions.

Organizing fast-breaking meals during the Ramadan is a popular way of doing this for many Muslims.

“I want to serve people iftar in my home this Ramadan as I do each year,” Halit Ari, a 52-year-old tradesman from Istanbul, said.

He also said he would regularly observe Ramadan night prayers, known as “teraweeh”, during the month. “I am giving up scholarship for university students for the sake of this month and I planning continue to help them after Ramadan,” he added.

Most Muslims focus on their prayers during the holy month for the sake of Allah, without expecting any personal reward.

One tourist in Istanbul said that every Ramadan she promises to perform dawn prayers but often fails. “I want to make it real this Ramadan and continue to do it in my whole life,” Eritrean sightseer Hurriya, 22, said.

Hurriya, who now lives in Sweden, said she also wanted to read the Quran more.

Ramadan is an opportunity for all Muslims to realize their resolutions. The challenge begins on Monday.

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Ramadan 2016: Food baskets distribution operation launched from Medea

MEDEA, Thursday, 26 May 2016 1- The distribution of food baskets to needy families in all provinces of the country, as part of the solidarity operation ahead of the holy month of fasting Ramadan, has been officially launched Thursday in Medea by CEO of the national hydrocarbon company SONATRACH, Amine Maazouzi.

“SONATRACH has allocated DZD250 million for 2016 Ramadan Solidarity Operation,” Maazouzi told the press, adding that 42,300 food baskets would be distributed in all the provinces nationwide.

He said that one thousand of Ramadan food baskets will be given to national associations, which will distribute them to the needy.

Many trucks have been mobilized for the transportation of the quota of each province, he explained, adding that the operation will continue until the first week of the holy month of Ramadan.

Maazouzi reaffirmed his company’s commitment to perpetuating this tradition, launched in 1999, in solidarity with low-income families.

The first caravan of four trucks loaded with 2,400 baskets, each of them containing 35kg of foodstuffs, worth DZD6000, set off for the province of Tamanrasset (1970-km south of Algiers).

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Riyadh to allow non-Muslims to enter 4 mosques in Jeddah

RIYADH, May 31 (PNA/Xinhua) — Saudi Arabia will allow non-Muslims to enter four mosques in Jeddah, according to a report by Al Arabia news on Monday.

The main purpose of the move is to allow non-Muslims to get acquainted with the Islamic civilization, according to a report by Al Arabia news on Monday.

Saudi Arabia banned non-Muslims from entering Mecca city, which is a sacred land for Muslims around the world.

Although many Islamic countries have been allowing non-Muslims to visit mosques as tourist attractions for years, mosques in the Kingdom until now were off-limit to them.

The move could be part of Kingdom’s efforts to fight extremism and to improve the image of Islam in the world. (PNA/Xinhua)

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Malaysia Among Top Five Investors In Cambodia With Us$1 Bln Investment

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia June 3 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is among the top five investors in Cambodia with total investments of US$1 billion to-date, said Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed.

He said there are currently about 500 Malaysian companies comprising small and medium entreprises and large companies which had tapped into the Cambodian market.

“They are involved in sectors such as agriculture, financial, hospitality,

telecommunications, infrastructure, construction and so on,” he said when delivering his opening remarks at the Malaysia-Cambodia Business Dialogue here, today.

Mustapa also urged more Malaysian companies to venture into the Cambodian market although the ASEAN country only had a population of around 15 million people.

“The country’s gross domestic product has grown by 7.7 per cent annually for the past two years, and this is a good economic growth, hence the potential is good,” he said.

Last year, the two-way trade between Malaysia and Cambodia rose by 8.3 per cent year-on-year to US$385.8 million, with exports to Cambodia totalling US$234.5 million while imports amounted to US$151.3 million.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General of the Council for Development of Cambodia Sok Chenda Sophea said the country welcomed Malaysian investors to venture into high technology component for bicycles as it was one of the biggest bicycle exporters to the European Union.

“We hope Malaysian investors could invest in high-tech spare parts for bicycles to help us to flourish the industry,” he said.

It was reported earlier that the Cambodian President Hun Sen had suggested that Malaysian companies invest in the agriculture sector such as paddy and rice segments.

Today’s event is co-organised by Malaysia External Trade DevelopmentCorporation and Cambodia Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with Hun Sen’s official visit to Malaysia from June 1-4, 2016.

The dialogue aims at creating a platform for entrepreneurs to exchange views and deliberate issues relating to bilateral trade and investment of both countries.

The event was attended by 200 participants from Malaysian companies as well as government agencies.

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Kazakhstan, Malaysia strengthen investment cooperation

Astana 05.11.2015 kazakh-tv.kz/ Kazakh-Malaysian business forum was held in Kuala Lumpur. Foreign investors did not hide great interest in Kazakhstan. Businessmen talked about “Astana – new city” special economic zone intended to accelerate the development of the capital, as well as the opening of new facilities in the industrial park.

Foreign companies consider this project successful and financially attractive in view of the forthcoming world exhibition “EXPO-2017″. Today, Kazakhstan and Malaysia implement over 65 joint projects. It is possible that a partnership will expand in trade, transport, logistics and agriculture.

Tan Sri Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak, Secretary General, World Islamic Economic Forum, said: We should put across on the table for other potential investment from Malaysia to go to Kazakhstan. And we hope that special the business forum that was organized is the beginning of that process to get more and more people to know more about Kazakhstan that beautiful country where you are, the largest countries in Central Asia. I think there are a lot of opportunities and we should try to promote this in a bigger way. Over the past 10 years, Malaysia has invested more than U.S. $4 million into the economy of Kazakhstan.

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Malaysia To Have First High-Speed Ferry Service By July 2017

KLANG, Malaysia June 4 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is set to have its first high-speed ferry when the service starts operating from Kuala Kedah ferry terminal to Langkawi by July 2017.

The double-decker ferry service to be operated by Sani United Bhd (SUB) through its subsidiary, Sani Ferry Sdn Bhd, is expected to cut travel time to almost 50 per cent.

“It now takes about two hours one-way for a conventional ferry to reach Langkawi from Kuala Kedah terminal, but the high-speed ferry is expected to cut travel time to almost an hour one-way,” said SUB founder Wan Mohd Sani Salleh at a press conference after receiving a RM3.58 million facilitation fund (FF) from Unit Peneraju Agenda Bumiputera (TERAJU) at SUB’s bus terminal here today.

Also present was Khazanah Nasional Bhd Deputy Chairman Nor Mohamed Yakcop.

He said for a start, the company will operate two high-speed ferries with an investment of RM50 million between Kuala Kedah ferry terminal and Langkawi and vice versa by July next year.

Wan Mohd Sani said the double-decker ferry will have 450 passenger seats including 50 in business class on the upper deck.

“We saw the need to have a high-speed ferry service from Kuala Kedah terminal to Langkawi as the conventional ferry service plying the route uses an old concept.

“We have already received approval from te Marine Department to operate this ferry,” he said.

Wan Mohd Sani said the facilitation fund from TERAJU is to expand the company’s current bus routes by adding 25 additional double-decker buses, as part of efforts to improve public transport capacity and connectivity.

Meanwhile, Nor Mohamed, who is also a member of the Bumiputera Economic Council (MEB), said in his speech SUB is one of the 323 Bumiputera companies selected by TERAJU to receive the facilitation fund.

Currently, he said, RM1.261 billion has been approved for 363 projects to support Bumiputera private investments valued at RM10.47 billion.–NNN-BERNAMA

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Malaysia Airlines Keen To Develop Chartered Business Segment

KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia Airlines Bhd is keen to develop its chartered business segment and grow revenue contribution to the group by utilising its Airbus A380 aircraft.

Chief Commercial Officer Paul Andrew Simmons said the segment’s current contribution to the group was significant albeit still in the single-digit percentage.

“The great thing about using an A380 for chartered business is that our cost per seat is very effective as it provides 500 seats that will be fully taken up,” he told a press conference after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Andalusia Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd and Rayhar Travels Sdn Bhd here yesterday.

Simmons said there was stronger demand for chartered aircraft from the China-Malaysia route segment, primarily the China-Sabah route.

On the MoU yesterday he said the collaboration would present an opportunity for the airline to continue developing its chartered business for the religious market segment.

“We are not projected to make a profit until 2018 but we are off to a good start because the charter business will help (with improving the company’s financial performance),” he added.

Meanwhile, Andalusia Managing Director Ibrahim Mat Sin said the chartering of the A380 aircraft was crucial considering the growing number of umrah pilgrims year-on-year.

“We have scheduled 53 charter flights with Malaysia Airlines, which provides 24,150 seats, to fly to Madinah and Jeddah from Nov 10, 2016 to July 6, 2017,” he added. — NNN-BERNAMA

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Malaysia Intensifies Initiatives To Promote Luxury Tours – PM Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 (NNN-BERNAMA) — Malaysia must intensify further plans, preparations and implementation of various initiatives to attract more mass tourists and luxury travellers, said Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. He said this was in line with the latest trend in the tourism sector which focused on elite tourism.

Quoting the report from ‘The World Travel Monitor’, in 2014, the world population undertook 46 million international luxury trips.

“I am certain that by adopting this measure, we can derive much benefits for the local entrepreneurs and population by creating various job opportunities besides generating the local economy which promises good returns.

“They include hire-car, handicrafts, food and drinks, textile and clothing entrepreneurs who will enjoy the spillover benefits from the considerable expenditure by the luxury and mass tourists,” he said in his blog, NajibRazak.com. In 2015, Malaysia received 25.7 million tourists who generated RM69.1 billion in income for the country.

On the average, Malaysia succeeded in raising the expenditure by each tourist to about RM2,600 which also benefited the local community.

Touching on the St Regis Langkawi hotel which was officially opened by the Malaysian King on Sunday, Najib said it was part of the strategy to upgrade Langkawi into a destination of choice for the tourists worldwide.

“It also signifies investors’ confidence on the Malaysian economy and government,” said Najib who hoped that there will be more Indonesian investments in Malaysia which would lead to integration and strengthening of the economy of both countries.

The Prime Minister pointed out that St Regis Langkawi was a success story in terms of joint-planning by the government agencies on tourism. — NNN-BERNAMA

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Malaysia’s Galeri Petronas Pays Homage To Local Art Master

KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 (Bernama) — GALERI PETRONAS yesterday launched its latest exhibition, “Al-Kesah: Homage to Ismail Zain”, as a tribute to the late Ismail Zain for his contribution and active role as an artist, thinker and a notable trendsetter in Malaysia’s contemporary art movement.

The exhibition, launched by PETRONAS Chairman Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, features the work of 22 established, mid-career and young artists invited from various art fraternities to infuse their wealth of ideas to express and reinterpret the artistic practices of the late Ismail Zain.

Speaking at the launch, Tan Sri Mohd Sidek said, “Al-Kesah: Homage to Ismail Zain derives from one of Ismail Zain’s significant works Al-Kesah that was featured in his solo exhibition “Digital Collage” in 1998. The masterpiece expressed his critical response to the penetration of global mass media into our local culture. I am pleased that GALERI PETRONAS has played a vital role to reposition Ismail Zain and his works.

“The objective of this exhibition is to create an ideal ecosystem for Malaysian artists to flourish while producing ground-breaking art, and at the same time enhance the public’s appreciation of Malaysian contemporary art. PETRONAS’ long-standing commitment in promoting local talents through the cultivation of creativity, innovative ideas and critical thinking is evident in this collection, an impressive artistic reinterpretation of Ismail Zain’s work.”

Present at the launch was former chairman of the National Art Gallery Tan Sri Kamarul Ariffin Mohamed Yassin, PETRONAS Senior General Manager Group Strategic Communications Zahariah Abd Rahman and wife of the late Ismail Zain, Puan Wairah Marzuki.

Ismail Zain has been described as a visionary of Malaysian digital art. His artistic theories, ideas and practices using digital technology as an art medium had opened the Malaysian art scene to a different perspective and method in contemporary art.

His critical and aesthetic approach was ahead of his contemporaries, as evidenced in his series of digital collages, images and text. Some of Ismail Zain’s notable artworks include his reinterpretation of Rembrandt’s “A Woman Bathing in a Stream”, Al-Kesah, The Pavilion and Vincent.

Visitors can expect to enjoy a multitude of artworks ranging from digital print, 3D installations, assemblage, paintings, photography installations, sculptures and video mapping production. Also on display are artworks from the collections of the National Art Gallery, Museum and Gallery of Tuanku Fauziah and PETRONAS.

The exhibition is open for public viewing at GALERI PETRONAS, Level 3, Suria KLCC from 2 June until 22 August 2016. Admission is free.

About GALERI PETRONAS

GALERI PETRONAS is located at Level 3, Suria KLCC. It was established by PETRONAS with the aim to promote, develop and preserve contemporary art in Malaysia by providing a versatile, world-class platform for Malaysian and international artists to display their works and inspire industry thought leadership.

GALERI PETRONAS has received almost two million visitors since it opened its doors to the public in 1992 hosting numerous local and international exhibitions. GALERI PETRONAS aims to make art accessible, enjoyable and engaging to the public and will continue to enthral audiences with exciting exhibitions and public programmes.

GALERI PETRONAS is open from Tuesday – Sunday, from 10:00am – 8:00pm.

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HDC Links Malaysian Halal Companies With Business Partners From Iran

KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 (Bernama) — Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) in collaboration with Iran-Asean Business Council (IABC) organised a sharing and networking session with the objective to enhance Halal trade with Iran at Menara MITI, today.

The event, officiated by the Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Y.B. Datuk Haji Ahmad Haji Maslan is part of HDC’s continuous efforts to promote and facilitate Malaysian halal companies to enhance halal market reach and strengthen networking with potential business partners internationally.

According to MITI Deputy Minister (Industry), “There is huge potential for Malaysian Halal companies to offer their products particularly in Halal Cosmetics & Personal Care, and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Sectors. The lifting of trade sanction by the U.S. on Iran paves the way for local companies to increase market presence and foster business collaboration. Leveraging on this, we would be able to create a stronger foundation to reinforce the economic relationship between the two countries.”

At the networking session, Ahmad Maslan urged Iranian entrepreneurs and corporations to work with Malaysia as their partner to broaden geographic footprint with in the extensive Halal markets.

As at December 2015, there are 128 Halal Certified companies in Malaysia producing halal-compliant cosmetics and personal-care products, including SimplySiti, Johnson & Johnson Sdn Bhd, Wipro Unza (M) Sdn Bhd and Southern Lion Sdn Bhd. “Local companies in the FMCG sector should venture into the overseas markets as this segment has high growth potential,” said Datuk Ahmad Maslan.

The export value for halal cosmetics and personal care products has increased significantly from RM 1.3 billion in 2010 to RM 2.18 billion in 2015. Among Malaysia’s strengths in this sector is the governance system that has been put in place, with the industry being well-regulated by the National Pharmaceuticals Control Bureau and JAKIM.

“Local companies cannot depend on the domestic market alone as the Muslim population in the country is only around 16 million while the Halal global market present a ready demand for 1.8 billion Muslim worldwide,” added Ahmad Maslan.

Ahmad Maslan further advised local companies to consider market in other countries such as Iran. It is a country with almost 80 million population where more than 60% of the population is under 30 years old while over 70% of the population is living in urban areas. Over 70% of the new generation speaks English with 43% of the population holding tertiary qualifications (the highest rate in the Middle East) who are the target market group for this segment.

Exports of Malaysian Halal products to Iran in 2015 were worth RM 0.32 billion. Among the major halal items exported included food and beverages valued at RM 107.3 million, followed by palm oil derivatives valued at RM 101.3 million, halal ingredients valued at RM 90.5 million and cosmetics and personal care valued at RM 17.5 million. Exports to Iran is expected to rise in line with the increase in halal awareness and growth in market demand for halal products.

In an effort to enhance bilateral relations between Malaysia and Iran, HDC will continue to organize sharing and networking sessions such as this as a platform to introduce Malaysian Halal companies to potential foreign buyers while exploring new investment and trade ventures.

ABOUT HALAL INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION SDN BHD (HDC)

The Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) was established on 18 September 2006 with the express objective of coordinating the overall development of the Halal industry in Malaysia for both the domestic and international markets. HDC is an agency under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).

HDC is Malaysia’s holistic response to the worldwide demand for better quality products and services as consumers gain confidence in the Halal process. Its key thrusts are to grow and advance the development of Halal standards; facilitate capacity- building for halal products and services; and promote growth and participation of Malaysian companies in the multi-trillion dollar global halal market and industry. Today, there is an estimated population of 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. The global halal market is currently estimated at USD2.3 trillion covering both food and non-food sectors.

In its effort to serve as an international hub for the halal industry, HDC provides manufacturers, distributors, retailers, entrepreneurs, researchers and investors with comprehensive assistance to penetrate and serve a growing global halal market through the adoption of the Malaysian experience and expertise in food and non-food sectors. For more information, please visit HDC at – www.hdcglobal.com.

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LEAD STORY: Turkish News Agency Anadolu launches new service on Islamic world

WASHINGTON, 27.05.2016 – Anadolu Agency is set to launch a new package focused solely on the Islamic world. The Anadolu World Report News Package that will be introduced Saturday will deliver political, economic, cultural and social news to its subscribers in English, Arabic and Turkish.

Subscribers will be able to easily follow important and breaking news in the Islamic world, watch live broadcasts, track an events calendar and have access to exclusive interviews with Muslim leaders conducted by Anadolu Agency’s extensive regional and global network of journalists.

In addition to analytical reports, a constantly updated searchable and indexed photography catalogue and collections will also be available in which subscribers can view images related to important programs and dates in the Islamic world and watch edited videos.

Anadolu Agency’s Deputy Director General and Editor-in-Chief Metin Mutanoglu, Sales Marketing and Business Development Director Nedim Kaya, News Academy Coordinator Umit Sonmez and representatives from the company’s New York and Washington DC offices will attend the launch of the news service during the 41st annual convention of the Islamic Circle of North America – Muslim American Society (ICNA-MAS) in Baltimore, Maryland.

The convention runs May 28 – 30 and will bring together American and Canadian Muslim organizations.

Some of the topics to be addressed include the challenges of Muslims living in North America, Islamophobia and discrimination and how to deal with problems Muslims face on a daily basis.

The Islamic Circle of North America was established in 1968 in response to a growing need for a supportive Muslim community.

Founded in 1993, the Muslim American Society has more than 50 offices in the U.S. that organize charitable, religious, social, cultural, and educational events.

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US Muslims welcome Anadolu Agency’s initiative

BALTIMORE, United States, 30.05.2016 – U.S. Muslims on Sunday welcomed the launch of Anadolu Agency’s World Report News Package as a vital weapon against Islamophobia.

Speaking at the annual convention of the Islamic Circle of North America-Muslim American Society in Baltimore, Maryland, Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America, said: “I believe when we have Anadolu Agency talking about the accomplishments and achievements of American Muslims, it’s really going to help us to share our story with our fellow Americans.”

Mohammad Siddiqi, a retired journalism professor and a member of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations, said the initiative would help correct the negative portrayal of Islam in the media.

“You are starting a very noble cause, something that is needed not only for Turkey but for all the Muslim world, so that the entire world can know what good things are going on,” he told Anadolu Agency. “There is not only a need, there is an urgent need.”

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “The news coverage worldwide has been framed in negative, isolated incidents. This is unfair to Muslims and Islam itself.”

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Anadolu Agency renews deal with Vietnam News Agency

HANOI, 02.06.2016 – Anadolu Agency and the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) renewed their cooperation agreement Thursday, in a move the Turkish outlet’s Deputy Director General Mustafa Ozkaya underlined would “truly contribute to the relations of both countries”.

“With this agreement both agencies will exchange news, photos and videos from their respective countries,” he said after inking the deal with his VNA counterpart Le Duy Truyen in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.

“The media outlets, subscribers, private and public sector companies and representatives, shortly the ‘people’ of these countries will now have a chance to have a faster and better way to know about each other’s culture, history, art and economy,” Ozkaya added.

The signing ceremony was also attended by Turkish Ambassador to Vietnam Akif Ayhan and Anadolu Agency’s International News Editor-in-Chief Faruk Tokat.

Truyen expressed optimism about the deal contributing to enhanced news exchange that “can help the two agencies diversify stories and objectively report on regional and international issues, along with their countries’ domestic affairs.”

Ozkaya underlined that Anadolu Agency gained an important partner “in its global and especially in its Asia-Pacific news network” through the agreement.

“Anadolu Agency will be able to broadcast the news and images from Vietnam to the world in 11 languages,” he added.

The new agreement expands on that signed in 2007, paving the way for increasing the sharing of photos and images in addition to English-language news stories.

The Anadolu Agency is a well-established global news agency offering newswires in 11 languages, with operations in most major regions around the globe, including the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Asia-Pacific, serving business customers in more than 100 countries.

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Anadolu Agency signs MOU with Taiwanese news agency

TAIPEI, 31.05.2016, Anadolu Agency signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday with Taiwan’s official Central News Agency (CNA), paving the way for enhanced cooperation.

The signing ceremony in Taipei was attended by Anadolu Agency’s Deputy Director General Mustafa Ozkaya and International News Editor-in-Chief Faruk Tokat, as well as CNA President Fan Hsiang-lin and Vice President Neil Lu.

“Today is an important day for AA and CNA. The memorandum of understanding signed between the two agencies will allow access to each other’s news, photos and videos,” Ozkaya said.

“Agencies will now have faster and better access to news from Turkey and Taiwan,” he added. “AA is a news agency with the capability to publish news content in 11 different languages. It is believed that this MOU will produce quick results in terms of culture, arts, history, economy and tourism.”

Meanwhile, Fan underlined that the services provided by CNA for 92 years have made it Taiwan’s most productive news outlet, with its mission to grow and strengthen relations with international news agencies.

Expressing his understanding that Turkey is a bridge between Asia and Europe due to its rooted historic and cultural ties, Fan described Anadolu Agency as an important platform for reaching developments across the world.

Fan expressed optimism about the MOU and how it will allow the two sides to “share each other’s news, photos and images.”

Ozkaya also expressed hope that the deal would contribute to relations between Turkey and Taiwan, describing it as an opportunity to gain better access to news in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We thank the CNA board of executives and offer our respect because of the hospitality,” he said at the ceremony, which was also attended by Turkish Trade Office in Taipei representative Ismet Erikan and other officials.

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Anadolu Agency launches Islamic news service in Jakarta

JAKARTA, 27.05.2016 – Two top Anadolu Agency officials have presented the agency’s new Islamic World News Package in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

Deputy Director General Mustafa Ozkaya and International News Editor-in-Chief Faruk Tokat met with Aat Surga Safaat, the editor-in-chief of Indonesia’s official news agency Antara, on Friday to discuss the package along with an agreement signed last year allowing the two agencies to exchange reporters and training.

Under the agreement, Antara reporters will be able to work in Anadolu Agency’s Istanbul and Ankara bureaus, Ozkaya said, adding that Anadolu is ready for cooperation to strengthen the agreement.

“Ozkaya invited Antara news agency reporters to Anadolu Agency’s Turkey bureaus. We believe that our reporters’ knowledge and experience will progress through the exchange program,” Safaat said.

Both Ozkaya and Tokat represented Turkey at this week’s International Conference of Islamic Media (ICIM) in Jakarta, during which they met with leading NGO representatives to discuss Anadolu Agency’s soon-to-be-launched Islamic World News Package.

The meeting, attended by representatives from Indonesia’s largest Islamic organizations, including Nahdlatul Ulama, Muhammadiyah, and Dakwah, saw Indonesian-Turkish relations discussed along with Anadolu Agency’s role in reporting news from the Islamic world.

Nahdlatul Ulama is a traditionalist Sunni Islam movement in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah is the second largest Islamic organization in the country with 29 million members, while Dakwah is an independent social organization for study and research.

The two-day ICIM saw the editor in chief of Palestinian News & Info Agency WAFA, Jamil Dababat, highlight the plight of members of the Palestinian press detained in Israeli prisons.

Dababat claimed that almost all media is dominated by people who have an interest in destroying Muslims and creating a bad image of Islam.

*Anadolu Agency correspondent Ilgin Karlidag contributed to this story from Istanbul.

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International arts festival ‘Astana Keshterі’ to be held in Astana from June 1-7

Astana, 30.05.2016 kazakh-tv.kz/ Residents and guests of Astana will be able to enjoy the best performances of classical, organ, opera and even jazz music. From June 1-7, the International Festival of Arts ‘Astana Keshterі’ will be held in Astana.

During the week, 5 free concerts with performances of local and foreign musicians will be held at Astana concert halls. A worldwide known pianist Boris Berezovsky and the famous organist of Germany Christian von Blohn will brighten the festival with their performances. In addition, Russian soloists and Kazakh singer Medet Chotabaev will perform their best operatic arias. Ethno-jazz evening will close the festival of arts on June 7. As the organizers say, this concert will be a real surprise for the audience.

Timur Urmancheyev, Pianist, said: There is a great Kazakh tradition of playing music: when several artists are competing. And so we tried to unite the two collectives at the scene, the Kazakh group ‘The magic of Nomads’ and the Azerbaijani group ‘Jangi’, which we specifically went to listen to in Baku. We enjoyed it very much, and invited them to participate in our festival. We want to see who will be the winner among them. It is a kind of song contest. Music fans can get free tickets for the festival at cash offices of the concert halls.

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International expedition ‘Zhaiyk – Ural – 2016’ kicks off

Astana, 03.06.2016 kazakh-tv.kz/ – Defenders of ecology in Russia and Kazakhstan intend to save ecosystem of transboundary Ural River. On Friday, the international historical-cultural expedition ‘Zhaiyk – Ural – 2016’ launched in Astana. This year the expedition is dedicated to the Day of the state symbols of Kazakhstan.

The expedition to the Ural River basin is being held annually since 1997. Among its members there are prominent scientists, ecologists, historians, MPs and politicians of the two countries. Organizers note that the mission of the project is not only to preserve the environment, but also to instill patriotic education, to promote sports and a healthy lifestyle. For twenty years, members of the expedition have passed several thousands of kilometers in the Urals, as well as Sakmara and Ilek Rivers.

Viktor Fomin, Expedition Co-Organizer, said: Urals is the breeding ground of salmon. It has its own biological system and ecosystem, which is now on the verge of destruction. Therefore, the value of this expedition is great. We take a cutting of willow and plant it at the water’s edge, where the ground is always wet. It is not necessary to water it. Five years later, we will come here, and will see there is already a small tree growing.

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Afghan Chinese Language Learners Compete In Proficiency Contest

Kabul, May 31, 2016 (BNA) The Chinese Bridge, the worldwide contest of Chinese proficiency for foreign college student, was held in Kabul on Sunday, the first of its kind in the country.

Eight students from the Confucius Institute at Kabul University took part in the contest and the best two will present Afghanistan for the final competitions in China this year.

Addressing the contest, Zhang Zhixin, Charge de affairs A.I. of the Chinese embassy to Afghanistan, said the Chinese Bridge Contest aims at boosting the Chinese language and culture among Afghan learners and, in extent, further promoting the cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between the two neighboring nations.

He stressed that China will further enhance the support of Chinese language education in Afghanistan.

Habibullah Habib, chancellor of the Kabul University, said the Chinese language education bridges the communication and cultural exchanges among Afghanistan and China. With the fast-paced economic development in China, more and more Afghan youths have shown their interest in learning Chinese.

He hoped the Afghan students will enhance their command of the Chinese language and also take lessons from the Chinese experience of socio-economic development to benefit Afghanistan.

Jan Ali Yousufi and Negina Sana won the top two after three rounds of competition, namely Chinese Proficiency, knowledge about China and Chinese culture, Chinese culture-related talent show.

Sana told Chinese Xinhua news agency that she felt excited to win the competition and wants to serve the communication and exchanges between the two peoples in the future by further enhancing her Chinese proficiency.

Zhao Jingwu, Chinese director of the Confucius Institute, saw a bright future of Chinese education in war-plagued Afghanistan.

He believes that there will be more and more Afghan Chinese learners in the future as the Belt and Road Initiative has entered into the implementation stage.

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Protection Of Cultural Heritage an Afghan Obligation

Kabul, May 31, 2016 (BNA) Since Afghanistan has been the passage of different civilizations in the course of history and at the same time cradle of certain native civilizations too. All these civilizations have advanced, grown and developed in different parts of the country and have left behind numerous cultural heritages in form of historical monuments and works.

Afghanistan is a rich country of historical relics most of them had been unearthed as a result of archaeological excavations that have beside national attractions caused touristic sites and have always been attracting the attention of the world tourists. These relics have provoked admiration and amusement of the world people across the global and been a source of pride of our people and their ancestors who had been the creators of those works. These relics have caused development of the tourism industry, and provided a lot of employment opportunities for large number of countrymen who support their families through this sector.

Unfortunately some countrymen make unsympathetic approach with these works which are our priceless moral and national prides, may be due to this reason that they think that these works belong to pre-Islamic religions and today they would mislead our people. Some others make unprofessional and illegal excavation to smuggle these relics and make money as during these illegal excavations a number of these work destroy or damaged.

The MoIC had already reported on posing with destruction of over 1200 historical monuments throughout Afghanistan. The previous and ongoing wars and insecurities have caused damaging and destruction of these relics and paved the way for destruction or smuggling of these works. But the Afghan government is well-aware on importance of these relics and has undertaken certain programs for protection of these monuments including establishment of ancient sites protection units and their deployment in archeological areas, rebuilding or repairing of these sites.

A trust cultural initiative artistic fund was realty established by the Afghan government and the UNESCO and the Afghan government is expected to invest hundred million dollars in this fund to be used for protection, rebuilding and repairing of these sites.

An agreement has been signed between the Afghan government and the UNESCO as the latter would help the government in protection of historical relics. The UNESCO director who visited Kabul promised efforts to add other ancient parts of Afghanistan including Herat, Bagh-e-Babur, Balkh and Band-e-Amir to the list of the world heritages.

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Afghanistan’s Salma Dam – A Step Toward Self-Sufficiency

Kabul, June 3, 2016 (BNA) The Salma Dam project, which is expected to be inaugurated next week had been elevated a scheme could lead to self-sufficiency in the poverty-suffered nation. The project, after getting operational would help produce the needed power of up to 42 megawatt supplied to the Herat provincial capital city and some nearby districts and control the waters to talk over, with some neighboring about how much would be their/our portions, deputy power and water minister, Amanullah Ghaleb said evaluating the economic importance of the project at the national level.

The dam, the work project of which had reached to $300 million and financed by India has the capacity of some 642 m3 water and production of over 42 megawatt power could irrigate over 80,000 hectares of lands, Ghaleb said. The dam, with its new name of Afghan-India Friendship Dam, is expected to be inaugurated, next five days after the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Afghanistan, said the deputy minister.

The Salma Dam project could lay positive impact on the country’s economic expansion in long-term, a University professor and economist, Saifuddin Saihoon believed. “The Salma Dam, with decade long construction project, would help improve the country’s economy, reduce the need to the imported power and develop agriculture in the landlocked country,” Saihoon added.

The dam, located in Chusht-e-Sharif district of the western province of Herat, is expected to be inaugurated next week as the construction work had been completed, the presidential office said the other day. The Kabul based Indian embassy announced the work had been completed on the decade-long project and would be inaugurated by the Indian Prime Minister.

The water had been said to have difficult to be controlled, but by the Indian government’s financial cooperation, Afghanistan could control the waters and reserved in the newly constructed dame with the capacity of up to 20km length and width of 3.7km, according to the Afghan official. The primary construction project of the dam had been started in 2002, with the official infrastructural work kicking off in 2006. The Salma Dam’s scheme had been laid down at the era of King Amanullah Khan at the Harirood River area, 170 km northeastern of Herat province, where the Indian authorities are expected to open it next week.

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25 Development Projects Completed In Laghman Province

Mahtarlam (BNA) June 3, 2016 – At a cost of AFN 38,642,000 funded by the National Solidarity Program of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD/NSP) number of infrastructure projects have been completed in Alishing, Alingar, Badpakh and Qarghaee districts of Laghman province.

According to information of relation and publication department of (MRRD) to BNA, these development projects encompass the construction of protection walls, irrigation canals, retaining walls, culverts, community center, sidewalks, gravelling of rural road and digging of drinking water wells equipped with hand pumps.

A number of families in various communities have been able to get access to basic human needs upon completion of these projects.

Since its inception in Laghman province, the NSP has covered 819 villages in the province and has been able to execute 2644 development projects in different sectors across the province.

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70 Development Projects Executed In Maidan-Wardak Province

Maidan Shahr (BNA) At a cost of AFN 47,558,000 funded by the National Solidarity Program of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD/NSP) 70 public utility projects have recently been completed in a number of districts of Maidan Wardak province.

According to information of relation and publication department of (MRRD) to BNA, these projects include the construction of health clinics, community centers, protection walls, culverts, excavation of wells equipped with hand pumps, extension of a water supply network, agricultural water canals and gravelling rural roads.

A number of families in different communities had an opportunity to gain access to basic human needs upon completion of these projects.

Since its inception in Maidan Wardak province, the NSP has covered 1612 villages throughout the province and has been able to execute 2187 welfare projects in different sectors.

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Humor festival held in İzmir

İZMİR, Hurriyet Daily News – The second İzmir Humor Festival will start May 26 with a host of talks, workshops and film screenings.

The festival’s honorary guest this year is Muzaffer İzgü, while there will also be an exhibition curated by humor historian Turgut Çeviker of cartoons in Soyut magazine.

Events during the festival will be held at the İzmir Arts Center, Historical Gas Factory Culture Center and the City Library, according to İzmir Metropolitan Municipality.

Following the opening, Ali Poyrazoğlu will stage “Ödünç Yaşamlar” (Borrowed Lives) at İzmir Sanat.

The festival will also host the world premiere of a documentary on the history of Turkish animation. Participants of the festival will also have chance to see films by Meral and Cemal Erez and speak with the directors.

Yüksel Aksu’s film “İftarlık Gazoz” (The Soda Seller) and Ömer Uğur’s “Guruldayan Kalpler” (Grumbling Hearts) will be shown at the festival with the participation of the directors.

Vedat Özdemiroğlu, who is known for his humorous articles and stand-up shows, and musician Şirin Soysal will share the same stage at the Gas Factory Culture Center, during which works by Timur Selçuk and Bertolt Brecht will be performed.

Also, a panel on “Woman and Humor” will be held at İzmir Sanat. Female cartoonists Menekşe Çam, İltem Dilek, Meral Onat and Betül Yılmaz will meet with the audience at the panel.

The festival will end on May 29.

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Tunisia: Largest French unionist delegation to visit

Tunis, by AfricanManager – Jun 3, 2016 – A French union delegation composed of 120 representatives of the CGT, CFDT and FO arrived on Thursday, June 2, 2016 in Tunisia.

The visit comes as part of the promotion of tourism in Tunisia, the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) announced in a statement.

According to the trade union, meetings with tourism officials are scheduled; visits to the Bardo Museum and the city of Sousse are also planned.

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Tunisia, Palestine sign cooperation agreement in tourism sector

Tunis, by AfricanManager – Jun 3, 2016 – A cooperation agreement was signed Thursday morning by Minister of Tourism and Handicraft Salma Elloumi Rekik and Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Rula Ma’ayah to promote partnership in the tourism sector between Tunisia and the Palestine.

This agreement provides for strengthening tourism between the two destinations, sharing experts and information on training programs in tourism and hospitality and organizing training sessions for Tunisian and Palestinian officials, stressed Rekik.

It also provides for the exchange of expertise in the fields of marketing and communication and developing programs to promote the two destinations internationally.

It was also agreed to strengthen partnership in the areas of tourism investment and encouraging partnership between the private sector and professional organizations of the two countries.

Speaking on this occasion, Rula Ma’ayah said Palestine has major attractions that deserve to be visited by the Tunisians, indicating that over the past five years, Palestine has attracted, annually, more than 2 million tourists from Russia, Italy and other countries.

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Tunisia to ban single-use plastic bags

Tunis, by AfricanManager – Jun 2, 2016 The law banning single-use plastic bags will soon be enacted, Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development Nejib Derouich said Tuesday in a statement reported by Shems FM.

“We stick to this ban and we are in consultation with industrial producers of this type of containers,” said Nejib Derouich, adding that the Department of the Environment has already identified solutions for the financial and technical support to bring to these producers.

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Tunisair passenger traffic increases 6% in Jan-May

Tunis, by AfricanManager – Jun 3, 2016 – Passenger traffic of National carrier Tunisair has increased by 6% over the first 5 months of 2016, confirming a recovery, already underway since the first quarter compared to the same period in 2015.

In a statement released Thursday, Tunisair said that the traffic of all activities combined, rose from 1,082,706 to 1,147,528 passengers. Regular traffic grew 8.1% (1,094,869 passengers against 1,013,252) and the additional traffic increased by 86.1%, from 1,357 to 2, 525 passengers.

Because of the steep decline in tourist traffic, charter activity posted a decline of 26.4% from 68,097 to 50,134 passengers, said the same source.

Regarding the major markets of Tunisair, according to geographical division and in regular traffic, it should be noted that 12 European countries with a share of 71.1% saw their traffic increase by 3.1%.

8 African countries accumulating a share of 15.3%, recorded, on their part, a rise of 29.3%.

For the remaining countries (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt), whose share is 13.6%, the increase was 15.6%.

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COMSTECH Targets 50 OIC Universities to be Ranked in Top 500

Date: 02/06/2016 – The 15th session of the general assembly of the OIC Standing Committee on Science and Technology (COMSTECH) decided to facilitate enhancement of education and skills in the member states, with the target of 50 universities of member states to be included in the rank of the top 500 universities.

The session concluded in Islamabad on June 1, 2016 with the adoption of resolutions that included a document on “Science and Technology in the OIC Countries: Goals, Priorities and Actions”, which identified specific goals and objectives. In addition to the ranking of universities, the document also identified alleviating the effects of the looming crisis in water and food security in OIC member states as a goal, establishing an OIC task force on climate change, and facilitating programs and resources to manage the unfolding crisis in human health.

This document will be further enriched by incorporating recommendations of the member states for consideration of the OIC Summit on Science and Technology to be held in Kazakhstan in 2017. COMSTECH will also submit to the Summit the finalized OIC Green Technology Blue Print for OIC member states.

Another important document endorsed by the Conference is COMSTECH’s Ten-Year Plan for the Development of Science and Technology in Member States and its implementation.

Minister of Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization, Mr. Mohammad Ishaq Dar, presided over the closing session. In his speech he stressed on increasing funding, cooperation and networking to support and advance science, technology and innovation in the member states. He announced that Pakistan will award 100 scholarships under the aegis of OIC Education Exchange Program for university students. Pakistan is also awarding 30 scholarships to students of OIC member states to study at National University of Sciences and technology through OIC Education Exchange Program.

The two-day conference was attended by 20 ministers, several deputy ministers and high-level officials from 39 OIC member states, OIC institutions, and international organizations. The conference had elected Pakistan as chair of its bureau; Palestine, Azerbaijan and Morocco as vice chair; and Gambia as rapporteur.

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Emirates Airline rejoins ILA Berlin Airshow 2016

Dubai, May 31 (BNA): Emirates, the world’s largest international airline, will return with its Airbus A380 to ILA Berlin Air Show 2016.

The Emirates A380 will be the largest aircraft to be showcased and the only A380 displayed at Berlin ExpoCentre Airport in Schoenefeld. It will be on display and open for visitor viewing on the first two show days -1st and 2nd June.

At ILA Berlin Air Show 2014, the flagship aircraft was toured by more than 13,000 aviation enthusiasts and this year the iconic aircraft is expected be popular with visitors again, according to UAE News Agency (WAM).

The aircraft on static display in Berlin will be the airline’s 79th A380 aircraft, a brand new delivery directly from Airbus in Hamburg-Finkenwerder. The flight deck crew bringing the brand new aircraft from Hamburg to Berlin will be New Zealand-born Captain Thomas Ziarno and UAE-national First Officer Abdulrahman Mohamed Al Busaeedi.

The Emirates Airbus A380 has been part of ILA Berlin Air Show since 2010, underlining the airline’s steadfast commitment to the German market and to the Airbus flagship. All Emirates A380s are being fitted at Airbus in Hamburg including significant cabin interior work and final livery. One in every three A380s in the sky today belongs to Emirates and wherever the Emirates A380 is deployed, the experience continues to generate excitement and fascination amongst passengers and those who come to airports just to catch a glimpse of the aircraft, according to WAM.

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Boost to Bahraini business ties with Sri Lanka

Manama, June 1 (BNA): Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI)’s Bahrain Asian Traders Committee (BATC) headed by the Chamber’s Deputy Treasurer Mohammed Sajid has met the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, Dr. A. Saj.U. Mendis.

Citing the committee’s recent business visit to Sri Lanka and the impact of the visit on bilateral business ties, the committee said it will step up Bahraini-Asian business cooperation to invigorate trade, investment and partnership.

The committee extended invitation to the ambassador to attend the “Business Networking Forum” scheduled after Ramadan month.

Dr. Mendis commended the committee on its steps to strengthen business ties between Bahraini businesspeople and their Asian counterparts, and asserted the readiness of the Sri Lankan Embassy to cooperate with the Chamber by encouraging and facilitating the exchange of business delegations.

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Gulf Air inaugurates Dhaka flights

Manama, June 2 (BNA): Gulf Air, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, celebrated the airline’s inaugural 5 weekly service to and from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh Republic.

Gulf Air flight GF248 was welcomed into Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, the biggest airport in Bangladesh, with a water cannon salute and, upon arrival, a celebratory event was held in the airport that saw the attendance of various dignitaries, Gulf Air flight’s captain and crew, Gulf Air’s Country Manager to Bangladesh, Hussain Ghuloom, and a number of local media and travel industry representatives, alongside official Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport officials.

Serving 7 destinations in Pakistan and 6 in India, Gulf Air’s Dhaka service enhances the airline’s existing Indian Subcontinent operations providing strong connectivity to destinations across Gulf Air’s Middle East network and beyond via the airline’s hub, Bahrain International Airport. Gulf Air 5 weekly flights to Dhaka are operated by an Airbus A320 aircraft with a total of 16 Falcon Gold business class seats and 120 economy class seats.

Flights can be booked online at gulfair.com, by calling the airline’s 24 hour Worldwide Contact Centre on (+973) 17373737, or through any Gulf Air sales offices and approved travel agencies.

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In Cairo, Egyptians try Laughter Yoga before Ramadan

Cairo, AlAhram Online, 31 May 2016 – As the holy month of Ramadan approaches, people are seeking different methods of purifying their souls in preparation. One of these could be laughter yoga, a new type of yoga that involves laughter exercises followed by meditation to help relieve symptoms of stress and uncover the spirituality that can be buried by daily routine.

“All the negative emotions in our hearts can be released through laughter yoga. Feelings of anger, anxiety and grudges can disappear. These negative emotions can keep people away from their spiritual sides,” said holistic consultant Mariam Emara. She is in charge of the laughter yoga sessions at the Blue Lotus well-being centre in Heliopolis.

“The more the soul is cleansed through a purification process such as laughter yoga, the higher the spirituality will be. It is a way of taking down the barrier between us and our souls.”

Emara was the first to introduce laughter yoga to Egypt as before it was only practiced abroad. Its aims include eliminating stress from people’s minds and souls, as well as helping participants achieve a better quality of life. It also helps people find happiness and enhance their intelligence, she said.

“It’s very important to have this type of yoga here in Egypt, as many people are subjected to stress. It is a combination of traditional yoga, breathing exercises and laughter exercises which replaces negative energy with positive and stress with happiness and inner peace,” said Emara. It also claims to build the immune system and thus can help prevent diseases linked to stress.

For Emara, meditation is a way of separating the body from the soul. Such techniques, when used with laughter yoga, can help with bodily problems like obesity because they can help free the soul from the body.

“People with problems like addiction may find a cure in such exercises. They help reorder the brain and help people focus on their original spiritual essence,” she said. Both meditation and laughter yoga aim at purifying the soul.

She describes a typical session of laughter yoga. “There are laughter exercises to train people in laughter, then there is laughter meditation, and then guided relaxation. Each session is divided into three,” Emara explained.

At the first section, participants do warm-up exercises like stretching, moving their bodies, and even singing. The aim is to develop a feeling of childlike playfulness and break down restraints. Between each part there are breathing exercises to prepare the lungs for laughter.

Once the breathing exercises and laughter exercises are combined with playful gestures, participants often start to laugh. This part ends with what is called “laughter meditation,” and by then laughter should be flowing like water from a fountain.

“The deeper the laughter, the deeper the meditation at the end of the session,” said Emara, adding that the body does not by this stage differentiate between voluntary laughter and spontaneous laughter.

Laughter yoga was first developed in Mumbai, India, by Madan Kataria, a doctor with an interest in traditional therapies. In 1983. Kataria studied psychosomatic diseases, or disorders that can be caused by mental conditions and that may include hypertension or even some forms of cancer.

He believed that some such diseases were caused by psychiatric problems and found that laughter could benefit those suffering from them. Kataria started to experiment with laughter exercises, looking at ways to induce the feelings of well-being that laughter can provide.

“As soon as someone starts laughter exercises, he takes out the stress that is within his body through laughter. After a while people will not be able to stop laughing. People feel relaxed after they finish the exercises. Some people might have a back or neck condition, for example, but the exercises can help such symptoms because in many cases they are due to psychological stress,” Emara said.

The breathing exercises that are part of laughter yoga help expel negative energy from the body and replace it with positive energy, renewing the blood circulation. This results in a state of internal peace that is no longer clouded by stress.

The sessions can be tailored to the particular needs of the participants and their daily activities or backgrounds. If the exercises are for factory workers, for example, they may be different from those used with people with emotional problems. There are also general sessions.

Laughter yoga can be used in stress-management programmes, specially tailored to treat the kind of stress the target participants suffer from. If workers suffer from stress because of repetitive physical movements, for example, Emara will design exercises that help to rid them of such stress and ensure that it does not return.

“It is the first time I have joined a yoga class. From the moment I started I felt the friendly atmosphere,” said one participant, a housewife who chose to remain unnamed. “Everyone was excited, but I did not feel much at first. However, by the end of the session I had started to feel a change.”

She continued, “I think one session is not enough for me to explore this new type of yoga. I am looking forward to attending the spiritual meditation session Emara will be organising as I think you can’t get all the positive energy you need from just a single session.”

“If people practice laughter yoga on a weekly basis, they will feel the benefits. If they can do the exercises whenever they feel stress or even on a daily basis, it will be even better. The best thing about laughter yoga is that it is done in groups as laughter is contagious. The more the merrier, as they say.” Said Emara

She added, “On 30 April, I organised a session in Al-Azhar Park in Cairo. Some 500 people participated and they were very responsive to what was happening. Every Friday morning I intend to organise free laughter yoga sessions in Al-Azhar Park. I aim to encourage everyone to practice laughter yoga, and this is an open invitation to do so.”

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11th Century Muslim Scholar Ibn Sina’s Supernova Observations Unearthed

Cairo, 7 Sya’ban 1437/04 June 22016 (MINA) – A group of German scientists have discovered the Supernova observations carried out by Muslim scholar Ibn Sina, one of the most significant thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age that lived between 980 and 1037.

According to the story published on technology blog Gizmodo, an ancient supernova coded the SN 1006 was observed by Ibn Sina.

According to the story, German researchers R. Neuhauser, C. Ehrig-Eggert, and P. Kunitzsch translated a part of Ibn-Sina’s Kitab al-shifa (The Book of Healing), one of the major philosophical works of the scholar supposedly written between 1013 and 1023.

In the discovered portion of the book, Ibn Sina describes the widely documented SN 1006 supernova. Even though the SN 1006 is well known in many parts of the world, the Islamic scholar’s observation provides a new crucial observational point that the supernova was brighter than Venus over a three month period, so bright that it could be seen even during daylight.

In the description, the scholar says;

“It therefore happens that the burning and flaming stays for a (long) while, either in form of a lock of hair or with a tail (i.e. in form of a comet), mostly in the north, but sometimes also in the south, or in form of a star among the stars (kawkab min al-kawakib) – like the one which appeared in the year 397(h).”

After the initial description, Ibn Sina details his observation, adding the length of its appearance. “It remained for close to three months (qariban min thalathat ashhur) getting fainter and fainter until it disappeared; at the beginning it was towards a darkness and greenness, then it began to throw out sparks (yarmi bi-l-sharar) all the time, and then it became more and more white and then became fainter and disappeared. It can also have the form of a beard or of an animal with horns or of other figures,” he states.

SN 1006 was a supernova, widely observed from Earth beginning in the year 1006; at the time, the Earth was about 7,200 light-years away from the supernova. It was the brightest apparent magnitude stellar event in recorded history, reaching an estimated -7.5 visual magnitude. First appearing in the constellation of Lupus between April 30 and May 1, 1006, this “guest star” was described by observers in China, Japan, Iraq, Egypt, and Europe.

Ibn Sina, also known as Avicenna in the West, was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age.

Of the 450 works he is known to have written, around 240 have survived, including 150 on philosophy and 40 on medicine, islamicnewsdaily.com was quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

His most famous works are The Book of Healing – a philosophical and scientific encyclopedia, and The Canon of Medicine – a medical encyclopedia which became a standard medical text at many medieval universities and remained in use as late as 1650. In 1973, Ibn Sina’s Canon Of Medicine was reprinted in New York.

Besides philosophy and medicine, Avicenna’s corpus includes writings on astronomy, alchemy, geography and geology, psychology, Islamic theology, logic, mathematics, physics and poetry.

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Bangladesh Biman gets new MD

Dhaka, 31/05/2016 (MENAFN – Bangladesh Monitor) Bangladesh Biman Airlines appointed Mosaddek Ahmed, recently retired officer of the organization, as its managing director (MD).

The board of directors of Biman, the highest policy making body of the national flag carrier, took the decision on Tuesday night at its meeting.

Earlier, the board sub-committee interviewed Mosaddek Ahmed and two oher foreign applicants for the post of managing director.

Finally, the board of directors of Biman decided to appoint Mosaddek Ahmed as the fully-fledged managing director of the national carrier.

Earlier, on a number of occasions, Mosaddek Ahmed carried out the duties of acting managing director of Biman.

He retired from Biman last year as customer service director.

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Albania’s tourism sector lifts economy

31/05/2016 (MENAFN) Albanian government is preparing a policy package to develop the tourism division, according to government officials.

The new measures would also provide businesses that want to invest to improve infrastructure with soft loans, thus addressing the key issue of Albanian tourism.

The government alsoseeks to attract foreign investors to build resorts and five star hotels in the Albanian Riviera by giving them a wide range of incentives.

Tourism is one of the leading industries in Albania. It creates new jobs throughout the country; therefore the new policy’s goal is to considerably boost the tourism sector.

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Qatar-Turkey visa waiver takes effect

31/05/2016, (MENAFN – The Peninsula) Doha: An agreement on the abolition of visa requirements for holders of Qatari passports took effect on May 28, said an official source at the Department of Consular Affairs at the Foreign Ministr.

The deal was signed between Qatar and Turkey on December 2 last year.

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Grand Fukuoka Prize awarded to Indian music maestro AR Rahman

MENAFN – Asia Times – 31/05/2016 – Music maestro and Oscar-winner AR Rahman will be honored with Japan’s Grand Fukuoka Prize 2016 for his contribution to Asian culture, alongside Philippines’ historian Ameth R Ocampo and Pakistan’s Yasmeen Lari.

It is to recognize AR Rahman’s contribution to Asian culture through music, PTI reported. Ocampo has been chosen for the Academic Prize, while Lari for the award in the Arts and Culture section. Japan started conferring the annual award in 1990 to honor individuals, groups and organizations, whose work has had a significant influence in the preservation and promotion of the Asian culture.

The Fukuoka Prize is an award established by the city of Fukuoka and the Yokatopia Foundation.

Last year, noted Indian historian Ramchandra Guha was conferred with Fukuoka Prize in academic category.

In 2009, for his score in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, Rahman won the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music and two Academy Awards (Best Original Score and Best Original Song, the latter shared with Gulzar) at the 81st Academy Awards.

NDTV listed out the previous Indian recipients of the Fukuoka award: sitarist Ravi Shankar, dancer Padma Subrahmanyam, historian Romila Thapar, sarod player Amjad Ali Khan and historian Ramachandra Guha.

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Iran advances to become Asia’s top oil provider

Teheran, 01/06/2016 (MENAFN) Asian imports of Iranian oil in April rose by more than 13 percent from a year ago as Tehran vies to regain market share lost under international sanctions, based on reports.

Consequently, the figures are in line with loading data obtained earlier by Reuters and confirm that Iran is regaining market share faster than expected after sanctions were lifted in Janry.

Moreover, April imports by Iran’s biggest buyers would have been higher had Japan not halted loadings in March over shipping insurance concerns that have since been resolved.

Keeping the upward momentum on exports may be challenging for the Islamic Republic as Middle Eastern rivals are also vying for market share as crude prices have surged in recent weeks.

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Turkey, Iran team up to build multibillion energy facility

Ankara – 01/06/2016 (MENAFN) Turkish private companies are expected to sign a 3 billion investment deal with Tehran to construct a 5,000 MW power plant in Iran, based on recent reports.

In April, the Islamic Republic and Turkey sealed a total of eight memorandums of understanding (MoUs) to strengthen bilateral cooperation in various areas and fields.

In accordnce, the inked documents covered a wide range of grounds, including higher education, social security, plant maintenance services and standardization, among others.

All in all, The Persian Gulf Republic and Turkey have ramped up efforts in recent months to boost trade following the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

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Kuwait signs $4.4-bn airport project with Turkish firm

02/06/2016 (MENAFN – The Peninsula), Kuwait City: Kuwait’s Public Works Minister Ali al-Omair Monday signed a 4.4-billion (3.9-billion-euro) contract with Turkish firm Limak Construction for a new airport terminal that will more than triple passenger capacity.

The new terminal, due to be completed in six years, will raise capacity at Kuwait’s only airport to 25 million passengers annually from around seven million now, the minister said.

It will accommodate all aircraft types at 51 gates, an addition of 30 new gates, and will be able to serve 21 Airbus 380 superjumbos simultaneously, Omair said.

The project has been repeatedly delayed because of claims of highly inflated costs and after technical and financial objections by state accounting watchdog the Audit Bureau.

The oil-rich Gulf state’s cabinet intervened in the row between the public works ministry and the Audit Bureau two weeks ago and gave the go-ahead for the project to proceed.

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West Bank hotels post sharp decline in occupancy rate

01 Jun 2016, Ramallah, (IINA) – The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) estimated that 80,228 guests stayed in West Bank hotels in the first quarter of 2016, marking a drop of 32% from the previous quarter and 20% lower than in the first quarter of 2015, WAFA reported.

The PCBS said that 33% of the hotel patrons were from European Union countries, and 13% were Palestinian.

The bureau also revealed that the room occupancy rate was 16.5% in the first quarter, which is 25% lower than in the previous quarter and 17% lower than in the first quarter of 2015.

Late last year, tension ran high throughout the West Bank, including Jerusalem, against the backdrop of Israel’s repeated assaults on Al-Aqsa, including its unilateral enforcement of a temporal division between Muslims and Jews. The violence claimed the lives of more than 200 Palestinians and caused the injury of over 16,000 others.

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UAE tops intra-OIC trade in 2014

29 May 2016, Riyadh, (IINA) – Secretary General of the Federation of UAE Chamber of Commerce and Industry Humaid bin Salim announced that the UAE was the top member of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in terms of intra-OIC trade in 2014 with $121.7 billion, accounting for 15.2 percent of the total intra-OIC trade, WAM reported Saturday.

Turkey came second with $77.8 billion (9.7 percent of total intra-OIC trade) and Saudi Arabia with $74.3 billion (9.3 percent).

Bin Salim was commenting on the federation’s participation in the 15th Trade Fair of OIC member states, which was held from May 22 to 26 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Some 30 OIC members took part in the trade fair.

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World Bank approves $400 million loan to Indonesia

02 Jun 2016, Jakarta, (IINA) – The World Bank approved a $400 million loan on Wednesday to boost Indonesia’s revenue collection and improve the quality of government spending, Jakarta Globe reported.

The loan, dubbed the Fiscal Reform Development Policy Loan, would support government policy and institutional reforms to improve revenue collection and spending, which are deemed as key elements in accelerating growth, reducing poverty, and distributing prosperity more widely.

“Fiscal reforms will allow the government to allocate more funds to programs that will directly benefit the poor”, said Rodrigo Chaves, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia.

“It is the country’s citizens that benefit most from collecting more and spending better, as they are the direct beneficiaries of more roads and electrification in rural areas, of clean water and better healthcare services in inner cities”.

Relative to its regional and emerging market peers, Indonesia has one of the lowest revenue and tax ratios compared to its gross domestic product (GDP). The country’s revenue-to-GDP ratio was 13.1 percent, and the tax-to-GDP ratio was 10.8 percent in 2015. It is estimated that Indonesia collects less than half of its potential tax revenue, the World Bank said.

As a result, public spending has been insufficient to support Indonesia’s development plans, with expenditure accounting for only 16.9 percent of GDP in 2014, compared to an average of 28 percent for middle-income countries in Asia.

Inadequate budgeting for critical investments has led to a massive infrastructure deficit, which impedes growth potential, and to underspending on healthcare and social assistance programs, which increases vulnerability to poverty.

“Collecting more funds requires intensified, coherent, and sustained efforts in both revenue policy and administration. It is not easy, but it is critical due to the impact of low commodity prices on government revenues”, said Ndiame Diop, World Bank Lead Economist for Indonesia.

The Fiscal Reform Development Policy Loan is the first of a proposed series in budget financing to support reforms related to improving spending composition and efficiency, budget execution, strengthening tax administration, reducing the costs of paying taxes and increasing revenue potential through broadening the tax base.

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GCC states provide 17 million jobs for expats

03 Jun 2016, Geneva, (IINA) – The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries announced their contribution to reducing poverty by creating 17 million job opportunities for expat workers across the member states, the Joint GCC Cabinet told the International Labor Conference in Geneva on Wednesday.

Speaking at the 105th session of the conference, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Labour and Social Development Mofrej Al-Haqbani said that expat workers send around $80 billion to their home countries from the GCC countries, which in turn, he explained, helped fight poverty in their own countries and reduce unemployment in those countries.

According to WAM, he said that the 17 million workers were making the economy of the GCC countries more active by contributing to big projects that develop these countries as well.

He said GCC countries are ready to participate in the UN 2030 program to combat poverty and are doing their part to help the UN reach its 2030 target.

The GCC also plans to provide more opportunities for women in the market so there can be more proportionate participation, especially in small- and medium-size businesses.

The Joint Cabinet also expressed concern over Israel’s treatment of Arab workers in occupied Palestinian areas.

They highlighted that there were limited opportunities for Arabs in the occupied areas with few rights, which has led to poverty spreading among Arab workers, and the occupied authorities are not doing anything to solve the problem.

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Iran civilization should not be limited to Persian language

Tehran, May 31, IRNA – A member of Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution (SCCR) said rich Iranian civilization should not be limited to Persian language.

Although Persian language is one of important characteristics of Iranian history, civilization of Islamic Iran should not be restricted to that language, Ali Akbar Velayati said during a meeting attended by SCCR members.

Iranian culture is among important features of Islamic culture that should be promulgated without creating any tension and sowing any discord, Velayati said.

Most of personalities and outstanding figures of the Islamic civilization have also attached great significance to the Persian language in the past, he added.

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Omani airline begins Mashad-Muscat shuttle flights

Mashad, June 1, IRNA – Omani airlines, Oman Air, set up shuttle flights between Mashad and Muscat. The first direct flight from Muscat to Mashad landed on Wednesday at Hasheminejad International Airport

Iran Ambassador to Oman Ali Akbar Sibouyeh told reporters at the airport that political relations between the two countries have always been on growing trend and progressive.

He said that the flight is a big step aiming to develop bilateral relations in the field of economy and culture.

Director General for provincial airports Mohammad Baqer Qassemzadeh said the flight will be on shuttle base and it will land at Mashad airport at 4:30 a.m. and depart Mashad for Muscat at 5:30 a.m. every day.

He said that a 150-seat Boeing-737 airliner has been assigned to the every day flights.

By establishment of the flight, number of foreign flights from Mashad go up to 19.

Qassemzadeh said that in next week another flight will be established between Mashad and Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan.

Hasheminejad International Airport has between 160 to 180 flights a day in average, but, in peak period they stood to 220 or 240.

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170 Swedish companies in business talks with Iran

Stockholm, June 1, IRNA – A total of 170 Swedish companies are involved in business talks with a 60-member delegation of Iranian economic activists at Stockholm’s Sheraton Hotel.

The companies are active in industries, mines, energy, agriculture, IT, banking, investment, tourism and health.

The talks are underway at 60 tables and the Swedish economic activists are in talks with Iranian counterparts.

The Iranian economic activists introduce themselves and try to know their partners and economic counterparts in Sweden and identify areas for mutual economic cooperation.

Already, Iran-Sweden trade meeting was held in presence of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif and Minister for EU Affairs and Trade of Sweden Ann Linde as economic activists started talks in the break session and prior to the face-to-face talks.

The Iranian delegation led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif embarked on a European tour taking them to Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Lithuania respectively.

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Yonhap welcomes opening IRNA office in Seoul

Beijing, June 3, IRNA – Director of South Korean Yonhap News Agency Park No-hwang said on Friday that Yonhap welcomes the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) to open up office in Seoul.

Park No-hwang made the remarks in a meeting with Iran’s Ambassador to South Korea Hassan Taherian in Seoul.

Referring to his recent visit to Iran and the meeting with IRNA Chief Mohammad Khoddadi, he described the visit as positive and as very promising.

Opening of IRNA bureau in Seoul helps broaden professional cooperation between IRNA and Yonhap, he said adding that he hopes IRNA would do such a thing to broaden ties and cooperation between the two news agencies.

He said that in his meeting with IRNA managing director and Iranian cultural officials which were very positive, the two sides reached two conclusion that they should jointly set up exhibitions on news and media in both capitals and arrange exchange of media delegations.

He said that Yonhap transferred its Dubai-based office to Tehran in line with the expansion of mutual relations and cooperation.

A ten-member delegation will visit Iran in the near future to closely get acquainted with the activities of the Iranian media, he said.

The Iranian ambassador, for his part highlighted the significant role of media to broaden friendship and cooperation.

Media, radio and TV can play leading role in forming public opinions at regional and international levels, the Iranian ambassador said.

Taherian expressed the hope that the two news agencies will be able to play key role in broadening and deepening relations and cooperation.

He called on the two news agencies to seize the opportunity and benefit from each other’s capabilities in various fields.

The recent visit of South Korean president to Tehran has been a turning point in broadening ties and cooperation between the two sides, he said.

He expressed the hope that implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and removal of unjust economic sanctions would lead to expansion of all-out economic and cultural cooperation.

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Iran attends 21st Int’l Lebanon Project Exhibition

Beirut, June 1, IRNA – The 21st International Exhibition ‘Lebanon Project’ opened in Beirut on Wednesday with the participation of 20 countries including Iran.

Concurrent with the commercial exhibition presenting construction materials, equipment and technologies in Lebanon and the Middle East, the Sixth Exhibition of Energy Production and Distribution, Electricity and Heating and Cooling Systems and Sustainable Energy is also underway in Beirut.

Some 450 companies from 20 countries are displaying their achievements in the two ongoing exhibition which will continue until Friday.

Participating countries at the event include Iran, Belgium, Belarus, Cyprus, China, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Italy, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and UAE.

Iranian companies of Siman-e Fars, Siman-e Orumiyeh, Siman Soufian and Azma, producer of digital counters are present in the exhibition.

Lebanese Minister of Energy and Water Arthur Nazarian, Deputy Minister of Economy and Trade Alia Abbas and Iran’s Ambassador to Lebanon visited pavilions of the Iranian firms.

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Iran’s food sector ready for exports: Italian manager

Tehran, June 3, IRNA – Iranian food industries companies should be prepared to export their products in the near future, said sales manager of the Italian International Company Cama Group.

Speaking to IRNA on the sidelines of the 23rd International Iran Agro Food Exhibition 2016, Fabio Melli hailed quality of the Iranian food products.

Given the high quality of the Iranian products, observing global production standards and promoting the packing quality should not be difficult for the Iranian companies, Melli said.

He noted that Iranian firms should use the opportunities in the field of trade and get prepared for exports by upgrading production and transfer of advanced technologies of packaging.

Despite hardships and restrictions faced by the Iranian companies in the recent years, they are on the right track and they must get ready for greater foreign markets, he said.

Melli added that he participated in the exhibition for the first time and was impressed by the diversity and quality of Iranian foodstuff.

Expressing optimism over future of Iran’s market, he added that his company does not intend to sell machinery to the country alone; rather it is ready for joint venture investment.

Melli described Iran-Italy ties as very friendly, hoping that Iranian and Italian companies have had long-term cooperation with each other.

The 23rd International Agricultural, Foodstuff, Machinery and Relevant Industries known as Iran Agro Food Exhibition 2016 ended on June 2.

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Air Kyrgyzstan to shift Moscow ops to Ramenskoye from July

Air Kyrgyzstan (QH, Bishkek) will permanently shift its Moscow operations from Moscow Domodedovo to the newly inaugurated Moscow Ramenskoye with effect from July, ch-aviation reports citing airline CEO, Joldoshbek Bekturganov as saying.

“We’re going to move all of our flights from Moscow’s Domodedovo to Zhukovsky,” he was quoted by Central Asian Aero News. “Airfares will be lowered by about 20%. The first test flight is scheduled for June 20 and we will begin flying from there, on a regular basis, from July 1, 2016.”

The Kyrgyz national carrier currently runs a 3x weekly Bishkek-Domodedovo service alongside a 5x weekly Osh-Domodedovo service all of which use B737-300s.

As such, Air Kyrgyzstan is one of four airlines to have announced plans to use Ramenskoye (also known as Zhukovsky) as their new point of Moscow operations. The others include Aviastar-TU (4B, Moscow Ramenskoye) and start-up Sky Gates Airlines (Moscow Ramenskoye) both of which specialize in cargo operations. Kazakhstan’s SCAT Airlines (DV, Shimkent) is also looking to shift its Aktau, Aktyubinsk, and Shimkent operations away from Domodedovo to Ramenskoye.

Russian passenger carrier Alrosa Aviakompania (6R, Mirnyj) has also expressed an interest in using the airfield as its Moscow base over its current Domodedovo facility.

Located 40km from downtown Moscow, Moscow Ramenskoye was to have opened back in March. However, delays in securing its final certification from the Russian authorities delayed the event until May 30.

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Bishkek hosts international exhibition EXPO “Made in Kyrgyzstan”

Bishkek, June 3 / Kabar /. For the first time Bishkek hosts the international exhibition EXPO “Made in Kyrgyzstan”. Minister of Economy of the Kyrgyz Republic Arzybek Kozhoshev said that, the goal of the exhibition is to present the productive capacity of domestic enterprises and the promotion of domestic products and services at the local and international levels.

“We plan to attract partners and investors for cooperation with local manufacturers. About 55 companies are taking part in the exhibition, which produce products and offer a variety of services in Kyrgyzstan, we hope that this exhibition will be an excellent platform for the further development of business partnerships,” he said.

The first international exhibition EXPO “Made in Kyrgyzstan” was supported by: Council for Business Development and Investment under the Government, the Trade and Industry Chamber of the Kyrgyz Republic, the National Alliance of Business Associations, Kumtor Gold Company.

“We organize EXPO at a high level, with the support of the Ministry of Economy of the Kyrgyz Republic. The exhibition is unique in its content and format – it will be attended by companies that manufacture products in Kyrgyzstan and plan to expand their business abroad. We are promoting the exhibition at the international level and we are planning to invite representatives of the business community, both near and far abroad to attract partners and investors,” said executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Kyrgyzstan Zarina Chekirbaeva.

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Morocco, Niger Vow To Boost Tourism Cooperation

RABAT, June 1 (NNN-Xinhua) — Morocco and Niger agreed here on Tuesday to bolster tourism cooperation. The agreement came during talks between Moroccan Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad and his visiting counterpart of Niger Sani Maigochi.

The talks were an opportunity to “share experiences and exchange ideas on bilateral cooperation between Niger and Morocco, particularly the kingdom’s support to Niger for students training,” Maigochi said.

The two sides also agreed the future of their cooperation should be strengthened, particularly in terms of capacity building, he added.

Haddad said that the visit highlighted the important historic relations between the two countries, as well as the strategic vision of Moroccan government to make Africa a key strategic ally. — NNN-XINHUA

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Tourism Minister Launches “Travel Lebanon” In Garden Show

BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 30 (NNN-NNA) – Lebanon’s Tourism Minister, Michel Pheraon, inaugurated “Travel Lebanon” in its third edition, in the Garden Show & Spring Festival in Beirut, in the presence of U.S. Chargé d’Affaires and interim Ambassador, Richard H. Jones, Executive Director of Hospitality Services, Joumana Salameh, and other official figures.

Travel Lebanon brings together exhibitors from all Lebanese regions, to offer excursions, as well as, weekend and tourist activities in Lebanon.

Minister Pheraon expressed his optimism, about the presidential elections issue, stressing the importance of developing rural tourism, to increase the income of rural communities, by attracting more visitors to the villages.– NNN-NNA

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G.C.C. Officials Discuss Boosting Regional Tourism

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, June 2 (NNN-SPA) – The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) officials, on Wednesday, discussed plans for boosting tourism in and among the Council’s member states.

The meeting, which grouped tourism under-secretaries, addressed a proposed comprehensive strategy for boosting joint tourism, said a statement, released by the GCC General Secretariat.

The talks also dealt with common realms for joint tourist and cultural activities, the official statement said.

The under-secretaries also touched on reviving inter-GCC tourism, namely with special and lucrative offers by tourism and travel agencies.

A number of issues, due to be referred to the ministerial meeting due in Oct, were also examined.

Tourism Assistant Under-secretary, at Kuwait Information Ministry, Jassem Al-Habib, also took part in the meeting.– NNN-SPA

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Turkish Investors To Build Tourism Township In Sareyn

ARDEBIL, June 2, (NNN-IRNA) – A Turkish investor plans to invest over 1,520 billion Rials for the establishment of a tourism township at Bileh Daraq village in Sareyn, Ardebil province.

Sareyn Governor Atef Naseri said on Wednesday that the city has unique attractions and grounds for domestic and foreign investment are prepared and for the same reason a Turkish investor said he is willing to create a tourism township in the village.

Bileh Daraq village is among the sites which are attended by the tourists. The village boasts of a hot water which can be used for both drinking and treatment purposes, Naseri said.

Sareyn is one the most visited sites by domestic and foreign tourists for the therapeutic virtues of the springs which are rich in different minerals. The most important springs of this area include Qarah Soo Thermal Spring, Sari Soo Thermal Spring, Gavmish Goly Thermal Spring, General Thermal Spring, and Asad Spring.

The city is located 27 kilometers west of Ardebil.

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Connectivity Key To Unleashing ASEAN’s Economic Potential

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia June 1 (NNN-Bernama) – Connectivity plays a vital part inunleashing the economic potential of ASEAN, said Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai.

He said, recognising this, ASEAN members had come up with the ASEAN Transport Strategic Plan 2016-2025 which was concluded last year in Kuala Lumpur to transform the region into a high growth centre through infrastructure development.

The minister said the plan complements the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) initiative which is aimed at uniting the region’s economy and increase intra-trade.

“ASEAN intra-trade is only 24 per cent (as compared to) the European Union at about 60 per cent. This is our challenge and the AEC is a way good policy for ASEAN to increase intra-trade,” he said at the World Economic Forum on ASEAN 2016 here today.

He was a panelist at the forum.

Liow said given the initiative undertaken by ASEAN members, he is confident that the transportation landscape in the region would improve significantly in the next decade, and spur economic growth in the region.

The two-day forum, from today, attracted about 600 participants including leaders of countries and captains of industry, particularly fromMalaysia and the region to discuss ideas and new policies that can help spureconomic development within it. — NNN-BERNAMA

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Omani Society For Writers And Literati Honours Its Members

MUSCAT, Oman, May 31 (NNN-ONA) – The Omani Society for Writers and Literati, organised a celebration at its premises, in the Wilayat of A’Seeb, under the auspices of Dr. Abdul Munim bin Mansour al-Hasni, Minister of Information, to honour some of its members, who won the cultural and literary competitions that were held outside the Sultanate.

The ceremony included a panel discussion on the winners’ participations at these competitions.

At the end of the event, the chief guest honoured Ahmed al-Kalbani, Sulaiman al-Shraiqi and Yousef al-Kamali for their performances at the Fasaha programme, which were concluded in the Qatari capital,Doha.

He also honoured Abdullah al-Ulayan and Faisal al-Alawi for their achievements in the field of Arab media.– NNN-ONA

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Saudi Arabia Approves Governing Framework For Vision 2030

JEDDAH, June 3 (NNN-ALARABIYA) — Saudi Arabia’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) has approved the governing framework for implementing the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

The CEDA’s session was chaired by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The framework specifically explains the roles and responsibilities of the concerned government agencies in realizing the Vision and the mechanism to be adopted to remove the hurdles that stand in the way of achieving its goals. In this respect, a strategic committee, headed the deputy crown prince, who is also chairman of CEDA, has been constituted.

The committee will follow up materializing the Vision and translating it into detailed strategies and executive programs associated with its targets within the designated period of time.

CEDA also approved setting up of an office, affiliated to the committee, in order to manage the strategy. Necessary human resources will be supplied to the office so that it can follow up implementing the Vision, as well as to pinpoint the gaps, propose launching of executive programs, and present periodic reports on how far the executive programs are being realized in line with its set goals.

This framework has been designed in a way applying the best global practices in implementing strategies.

It also strengthens the principles of transparency and accountability through launching electronic signboards to follow up performance appraisal indexes to ensure the best possible implementation of the Vision.

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Kuwait Signs Kd 22 Mln Loan Deal With Tunisia

TUNIS, June 3 (NNN-KUNA) — The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) has signed a loan deal, worth KD 22 million, with Tunisia’s Ministry of Development, Investment, and International Cooperation to boost water supply networks in the country.

This loan would be allocated for a number of vital projects that aim to improve drinking water systems and enhance the capacity of water purification stations in Djerba, Medenine, Ben Gardane, and Tataouine areas in central and southern the country, Kuwait Ambassador to Tunisia Ali Al-Thafiri told KUNA Thursday.

Tunisia’s central and southern regions are in desperate need for integrated development projects, Al-Thafiri said, adding that such water projects are important for providing these areas with drinking water needs until 2030.

He reiterated Kuwait’s desire to support Tunisian economic projects to help speed up the development march in the North African country.

Meanwhile, Kuwait is to attend the investment conference in Tunis, scheduled to be held later this year, the Kuwaiti diplomat said, adding that Kuwait is eager to contribute to different development projects in the country.

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Ras Al Khaimah eyes Chinese markets

RAS AL KHAIMAH, 3rd June, 2016 (WAM)–Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAK TDA) is keenly eyeing potential of the Chinese market as ‘One Belt, One Road’ signals a major opportunity to welcome Chinese business and leisure travellers as well as tourism investment to the emirate.

RAK TDA therefore hosted a handful of the UAE’s top destination management companies that target the Chinese market for a two-day immersive tour of the emirate.

This initiative, forming one of many, comes as the Authority reveals that it is firmly focused on leveraging the China National Tourism Administration’s plans to send 150 million travellers to countries along the ‘One Belt, One Road’ in the next five years.

CEO, RAK TDA, Haitham Mattar commented, “Following our recent announcement of a strategic partnership with Ctrip, China’s largest online travel agency, we are positioning Ras Al Khaimah as a tourism investment and travel destination of choice, contributing significantly towards our goal of attracting one million visitors by the end of 2018.”

Designed to stimulate Chinese visitor numbers, the initiative offered industry decision-makers insight into the emirate’s tourism product, including its mid-scale to luxury hotel proposition, attractions and cultural sites.

DMCs acquired a strong understanding of Ras Al Khaimah’s tourist offering for cultural explorers, wellness seekers and active adventures.

Mattar said, “As Ras Al Khaimah witnesses continued indications of positive growth from China, we are constantly looking at ways to capitalise on partnerships and investment opportunities. We recently visited China to meet with top tour operators and travel agencies and have also commissioned a study on the preferences and needs of Chinese travellers. This helped us identify that our authentic culture and heritage offering is a perfect fit, given our archaeological sites, heritage, stunning natural landscapes and Arabian hospitality.”

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Algeria gets US$15 million from China to back cultural projects

Thursday, 02 June 2016, ALGIERS-Algeria and China inked Thursday in Algiers an economic and technical cooperation agreement on a donation of 15 USD million to implement cultural projects in Algeria, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced.

“Secretary General of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Hassane Rabehi and ambassador of the Republic of China to Algiers Wang Guangyu inked Thursday at the headquarters of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, an economic and technical cooperation agreement between the two countries,” the ministry said in a communiqué, adding that the signing of this agreement is part of the visit to Algeria of Chinese State Councillor in charge of the management and development of the public sector Wang Yong between 26 and 29 May 2016.

Both parties inked an agreement on a 100 million Yuan (nearly USD 15 million) donation made by the Chinese government to its Algerian counterpart, allocated for the implementation of the Cultural and Leisure Palace for youth in Algeria and other projects to be decided part of a common agreement, the same source added.

This donation “is part of old friendship and cooperation relations between Algeria and China, which witnessed a qualitative leap following the decision taken by both Heads of State Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Xi Jinping to engage in a strategic comprehensive partnership between the two countries,” the communiqué stated.

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Algerian-Polish heritage preservation pact advocated in Oran

Wednesday, 01 June 2016, ORAN- Algerian-Polish partnership in restoration of old buildings can be beneficial to the city of Oran, said Wednesday the governor Abdelghani Zaalane, on the occasion of the economic forum between the two countries’ operators.

Poland enjoys a recognized experience in the art of restoration,” he said while encouraging Algerian and Polish specialized companies to establish partnership.

The governor’s recommendation comes in a context marked by the implementation of an important programme on the rehabilitation of Oran’s old buildings.

In this regard, he called to put in touch the Polish delegation and the directorate of the Office of Property Promotion and Management of Oran (OPGI), a public body in charge of implementing restoration programmes.

Zaalane welcomed the holding of this forum focusing on several other sectors such as renewable energies, drilling services and equipment, building and public works, in addition to the renovation of monuments and historic buildings.

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New growth model to cut Algerian dependence on oil & gas

ALGIERS, 04 June 2016 (Algeria Press Service) -The detailed content of the economic growth model, announced by the government many months ago, will be unveiled during the tripartite meeting (government, employers and unions) scheduled on Sunday in Algiers.

The model, as perceived by the National Economic and Social Council (CNES), is based on six fundamentals: re-industrialization, budgetary rigour, progressive elimination of informal incomes and activities, review of the subsidies system, business environment improvement and emergence of a productive national private sector.

According to Mekideche, these fundamentals have been taken into consideration by the Committee in charge of writing the economic growth model approved by public authorities.

“We clearly see that Algeria’s resilient economy under the old economic model can no more be maintained. We must speed up the effective implementation of this new model because of the time factor,” he affirmed.

Actually, the challenges posed to the next tripartite are “vital” for the country and “any under-estimation of the crisis would be irresponsible,” especially as forecasts of a rise in oil price to USD 70-80 by the end of 2016 remain “unfounded speculations.”

For his part, economist Cherif Belmihoub suggests to focus the new economic model on two main goals.

“Algeria is witnessing a financial crisis and in such a situation, an economic model, or rather an economic policy, must target two goals: A financial stabilization through rationalizing expenditures and keeping under control the decrease in exchange rate, as well as boosting national production,” he told APS.

Belmihoum advocated suggestions that set up the broad lines of an economic policy meant to steer out the country of the crisis.

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IMPACT Program for Islamic finance launched in Bogor, Indonesia

Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 31 May 2016 – The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and IsDB Group launched the Islamic Microfinance for Poverty Alleviation and Capacity Transfer (IMPACT) Program in Bogor, Indonesia, on 16 May 2016.

The program provides a platform for experts to share and deepen their understanding of the Islamic Microfinance models and to create tools and infrastructure to disseminate best practices.

The program was launched during the “Seminar on Islamic Microfinance for Poverty Alleviation in OIC Member Countries,” hosted by Bogor Agricultural University.

The seminar was organized by the Islamic Research Training Institute (IRTI), IsDB and OIC. It brought together more than 40 experts and practitioners from 12 OIC member countries: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Seminar participants discussed the development of the Islamic Microfinance sector and shared innovative best practices. Experts offered ideas and solutions to develop the Islamic Microfinance sector in five key areas: technology; advocacy; operations; monitoring and evaluation; and policy and standards.

Islamic Microfinance Institutions (IMIs) differ from conventional microfinance institutions. IMIs do not charge interest and work on profit- and risk-sharing basis. Their relationship with the client is not based on creditor-debtor relationship.

The central premise of IMIs is that social networks among partners have value. The social capital resources inherent in social relations help facilitate collective action for a common purpose.

IMIs engage and treat their clients as business partners. As a business partner, they add value in the relationship and provide ‘smart finance’. This allows IMIs to create sustainable jobs even in the most difficult and fragile situations.

“Islamic microfinance is about economic empowerment of the poor,” said Mr. Anas El Hasnaoui, CEO of IBF International Consulting, a Brussels-based organization that works on development aid projects financed by international organizations.

Mr. Hasnaoui explained how the Bank of Khartoum in Sudan invested USD 4 million in venture capital in the Abu Halima Greenhouses Project. The initiative provided low-income graduates and their families, 600 people in all, with smart finance products to enable them to work in the modern agricultural sector.

“Islamic Microfinance Institutions treat their clients as business partners, not as debtors,” said Mr. Nasser Faqih, Team Leader of the Deprived Families Economic Empowerment Program (DEEP) in Palestine.

He compared how two women with similar small sewing businesses were treated. One borrowed under the Islamic microfinance window while the other borrowed from the conventional window of the same MFI. When the woman who borrowed from the Islamic microfinance window was hospitalized, the MFI hired a replacement and ensured her business continued to run while she recuperated. Her payment schedule to the bank was frozen until she returned to work.

The woman who borrowed from the conventional window however, was required to continue making her payments, and interest compounded as the payments were delayed. After some time, when it was clear that she would not be able to make her payments, the MFI took her to court.

The innovations in Islamic microfinance and its ability to generate employment and alleviate poverty through trading and investing with their clients makes it possible for microfinance institution to do business with poor people. However, such good practices are not well known and expertise and experience gained from innovative pilots are scattered in various countries.

The IMPACT program was created in response to a call from the President of IsDB for experts in Islamic finance to take advantage of existing technologies and business approaches and develop ‘Smart Islamic Microfinance’. His comments were in line with the recommendations by the leadership of both OIC and IsDB Group.

The IMPACT program will promote Islamic microfinance in a way that puts poor client’s needs at the centre, providing an enabling environment and tools for microfinance institutions to do business with and help them thrive. Financing provided will therefore help poor clients find their way out of poverty, instead of perpetuating the cycle of poverty through debt.

The five pillars of the IMPACT Program

Technology: To develop a one-stop portal on Islamic microfinance that provides all the necessary knowledge and tools needed for a microfinance institution to understand and implement Islamic microfinance. Knowledge generated from various pillars will be disseminated through the portal. The information portal will also include key applications that will be useful for Islamic Microfinance Institutions.

Operations: To develop an operational toolkit that includes standard operating procedures, policies, contractual document templates, feasibility study templates and other operational documents. The toolkit will be developed for MFIs that are already operating but are interested in implementing Islamic Microfinance, highlighting what they need to do to be Shariah compliant as well as layout an incremental approach that will develop their capacity to engage in the value chain through practical methods.

Monitoring and Evaluation: To develop a monitoring and evaluation framework, including a rating system combining areas of financial sustainability, governance, social performance. In addition, the framework will highlight approaches on how to determine the impact of the MFI on its beneficiaries through measuring its value add to its client through its engagement in the value-chain. The framework will be summarized in a logical framework with key indicators for each project stakeholder.

Policies and Standards: To identify and promote key policies and standards (including accounting and governance standards) that facilitate the growth of Islamic Microfinance. This will include a framework for Islamic Microfinance Law highlighting key policy requirements needed to facilitate the industry, simplified accounting standards for MFIs as well as governance structures for various organization structures such as cooperatives, companies, funds and NGOs.

Advocacy: To develop and promote Islamic Microfinance in IsDB member countries and beyond by building awareness, exchanging experiences and reverse linkages through collaboration among different stakeholders, including governments, regulators, private sector, practitioners, networks, developmental organizations and financial institutions.

Implementation Arrangements: The program will be implemented by stakeholder teams identified under each pillar. OIC General Secretariat and IsDB Group will identify key experts to participate in each team. Additional experts may be engaged when required. Experts/stakeholders may be engaged through partnership or consultancy agreements. All five pillar teams will constitute the Program Management Team (PMT) that will be led by Senior Specialists from IsDB Group and OIC General Secretariat who will report to the Leadership Committee on the progress of the IMPACT program.

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Oman Library in Washington Hosts Annual Book Fair

Washington DC, Jun 2 (ONA) – Oman Library in the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC, hosted the annual exhibition fair organized by the Institute.

The library has the largest collection of books in English in Washington – with the exception of the Library of Congress – on all Middle Eastern countries issues, its holdings go beyond 21,000 books and periodicals in several languages ​​besides English, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Persian, and French.

The collection includes works of great writers, experts and specialists on the Middle East, in the fields of politics, economics, literature, languages and teaching of languages, and other topics related to the Middle East cultures, including a number of rare books and manuscripts.

The library also includes a special section of Omani books that includes a number of reference books in jurisprudence, history, philosophy, and literature for many Omani writers, or other owners of expertise in the history and culture of Oman.

Oman Library is considered a unique source and knowledge reference indispensable for science students, professionals and academics who come throughout the year for the purposes of academic research and to read books, references and the latest releases for the countries of the Middle East and its issues, all are concerned with the affairs of the Middle and Near East from the far Maghreb to Pakistan and Afghanistan and the countries of central Asia.

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OSQ Launches e-magazine “Omani in Queensland”

eensland, June 2 (ONA) – The Omani Society in Queensland (OSQ) in Australia launched its e-magazine “Omani in Queensland,” which is considered the first e-magazine for the Omani students abroad.

The e-magazine aims at familiarizing the Omani students in Queensland and their surrounding community with the OSQ’s activities and highlighting the major tourist landmarks in Queensland, as well as presenting the honourable models of the Omani student in the Australian Continent.

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Bangladesh to establish aviation university

DHAKA, June 4, 2016 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon today said the government has taken initiative to establish an aviation university in the country considering huge employment potential centering the aviation sector.

“There is huge scarcity of skill human resources for our aviation industry. We have taken an initiative to set up an aviation university to mitigate the shortage of competent manpower of the sector,” he said while speaking at a seminar at a city hotel.

In the current world, the minister said the aviation sector is expanding in a fast pace and it’s spectrum is getting bigger day by day. “But we are yet to expand our aviation sector by keeping parity of the international velocity,” he said.

As the country needs more skilled manpower for accelerating the growth of its aviation industry, the government has decided to strengthen the aviation related academic and training facilities, the minister said.

Noting that a vibrant aviation industry is a must to flourish country’s tourism sector, Menon urged the local airlines to provide more hospitality and discounted fare on their tourist routes.

Other speakers in the seminar urged the government to bring all domestic airports of the country under operation to give a boost to the local tourism industry.

Presently, seven domestic airports – Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, Barishal, Jessore, Rajshahi and Syedpur – out of 15 airports are under operation. The non-operative airports are in Khulna, Ishwardi, Sirajganj, Rangpur, Thakugaon, Shamsernagar, Sandip and Comilla.

Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) and Travel Magazine Vromon jointly organized the seminar `Role and Impact of Aviation Sector on Visit Bangladesh campaign. BTB’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Akhtaruzzaman Khan Kabir also spoke among others while Managing Director of Novoair M Mofizur Rahman presented the keynote paper.

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Brunei-China JVs to create win-win situation

Bandar Seri, Begawan, Borneo Bulletin – June 04, 2016, Setting up joint venture projects in the Sultanate will ensure a win-win situation for Brunei Darussalam and China.

The spin-offs created by these projects will benefit the local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in construction, catering, logistics etc, create employment opportunities in management and semi-skilled levels, and encourage companies to engage in welfare and charitable activities as part of their corporate social responsibility drive.

This was highlighted by Dr Haji Kamaruddin bin Dato Seri Paduka Haji Talib, President of Brunei Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DPPMB) and Chairman of National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), at the Asean Cooperation on Construction Industry and China Nantong-Asean Enterprises Outbound Investment Conference recently.

Infrastructure and construction industry is at the forefront of Brunei’s drive to strengthen its economy and the country is constantly exploring mutually beneficial partnerships as a means to broaden knowledge and facilitate skills transfer through information sharing, capacity building, exhibition, tours, conferences and seminars, he noted.

Brunei is also currently looking inwards to improve its Ease of Doing Business and looking outwards to attract foreign direct investment. With the current drive to diversify its economy away from oil and gas industry, there is no better time to invest in Brunei’s development, Dr Haji Kamaruddin added.

In line with this new vision of development, many opportunities have opened up in the engineering and construction industry in the Sultanate.

“It is our hope that with initiatives like these, we can further enhance our economic integration efforts particularly through connectivity, trade and investment such as upgrading the Asean-China free trade agreement, and supporting of initiatives by China to finance infrastructure projects in the Sultanate.”

Nantong is a satellite town of Shanghai and famous for its education facilities, especially vocational and technical institutions, as well as a good role model in capacity building in construction industry.

At the conference, Dr Haji Kamaruddin was given the honour to present the joint statement on ‘Strengthening China-Asean Construction Win-Win Cooperation’, which among others stressed on the establishment of the China-Asean Construction Industry Cooperation Committee to leverage the China-Asean free trade zone policies, strengthen communication and cooperation between construction industries, achieve mutual cooperation and ensure win-win situation.

In addition, the joint statement also added, the Committee Secretariat is set in Nantong Construction Industry Association, undertake the daily work and its work shall be carried out under the leadership of the chair and co-chair of the Chinese side. The association shall designate a secretary-general for the Chinese side of the committee.

The committee will be set up with 50 member companies as the first batch with 20 from China and 30 from Asean (three from each country), the statement said, adding that the Committee Secretariat will be set up in Nantong Construction Industry Association.

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Sisi urges establishing sports, cultural complexes in new cities

Friday, 3 June 2016 – President Abdel Fattah El Sisi held a meeting on Thursday with Youth Minister Khaled Abdel Aziz at which he asserted the importance of establishing sports and cultural complexes in new cities nationwide.

In statements on Thursday, Presidency Spokesman Alaa Youssef said they discussed a proposal to build sports, cultural and social compounds in the new administrative capital to develop community members especially youths in the cultural and social fields.

During the meeting, Sisi pointed out that such complexes will help youths discover their skills in order to participate in regional and international sports competitions.

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Azhar TV channel planned in Arabic, English, French

Sunday, 29 May 2016 – An Al Azhar TV channel in Arabic, English and French will be launched within a year, Grand Imam Ahmed el Tayyeb has said.

The move is part of efforts to fight extremism and correct wrong concepts about Islam, especially in Western countries, Tayyeb said at a meeting at the Egyptian embassy in Paris on Saturday 28/5/2016.

He added that the Egyptian communities abroad can help improve relations between the East and the West.

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Egyptian minister meets developers of Golden Triangle project

Cairo Friday, 3 June 2016 – Trade and Industry Minister Tareq Qabil held a meeting on Thursday 02/06/2016 with a delegation from Italian D’Appolonia engineering company, which will lead the development of a master plan for Egypt’s mineral and energy-rich Golden Triangle, led by its Business Development Manager Cristina Migliaro.

The Golden Triangle, extending between Safaga, Quseir and Qena, comprises industrial and mining projects in addition to agricultural, tourism and commercial activities, he said in a statement.

It will develop 9,000 square kilometers in the triangle located between the Red Sea and the Nile at Qena governorate, Upper Egypt, he said.

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail will hold a meeting with D’Appolonia officials to review the final vision of the master plan, he added.

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Suel Canal Zone bids to attract investment from Singapore

Cairo, 3 June 2016 — Head of the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) Ahmed Darwish reviewed investment opportunities available in the zone with Singaporean companies and financial institutions.

The talks were held during Darwish’s visit to Singapore where he met with Singapore Business Federation Vice President Shabbir Hassanbhai.

In a press release on Thursday 02/06/2016, the SCZone said Darwish met with representatives of Singaporean companies and reviewed the zone’s regulating and legal climate.

The meeting grouped representatives of a number of companies working in logistic services, shipping, infrastructure, consulting, energy and water desalination.

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Strategic cooperation between Canadian, Egyptian ports

Cairo, Friday, 3 June 2016 – Egyptian Ambassador to Canada Moataz Zahran said the Suez Canal Authority and Canada’s Port of Sydney reached a memorandum of understanding to be signed soon in the training, marketing and technology transfer fields.

The Egyptian envoy visited the port in Nova Scotia at the eastern coast in Canada on Thursday 02/06/2016, accompanied by an Egyptian media delegation.

Speaking at a press conference, Zahran reviewed the positive outcome of the New Suez Canal project and plans to develop the canal corridor and turn it into an international ship-serving center and an industrial and agricultural investment-attractive zone.

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Mamish: East Port Said harbor to be finalized in 2018

Cairo, 3 June 2016 – Suez Canal Authority Chairman Mohab Mamish said the East Port Said harbor will be finalized in 2018.

In press statements, Mamish noted that the authority is implementing short, medium and long term projects for developing the ports of Ain Sokhna and East Port Said. He said all countries, especially Arab and Gulf ones, can invest in the Suez Canal zone, noting that efforts are underway to amend investment laws to further attract investors.

Mamish noted that the authority’s projects will secure one million jobs for Egyptian youths by 2030.

Meanwhile, Mamish noted that the Suez Canal revenues rose in the first quarter of 2016 in comparison with the corresponding period of 2015 despite international trade stagnation and a drop in oil prices.

Mamish made the remarks during a visit to Kuwait to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation to allow Kuwaiti oil tankers to cross the international waterway.

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India opens Eid visa camp in Bangladesh

DHAKA, June 4, 2016 (BSS) – India today opened a 13-day ‘Eid Visa Camp’ for visa seekers who intend to travel to India during the coming Eid-ul-Fitr.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan inaugurated the camp at the high commission’s chancery complex in the city’s Baridhara area.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mohammad Shahriar Alam joined the function as the guest of honour when Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla was present.

During the inauguration, a lucky draw was carried out and three lucky winners won couple tickets sponsored by Jet Airways.

The winners were- Himangshu Chandra (Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka), Ms. Rina Afsar (Dhaka-Mumbai-Dhaka) and Rajib Khan (Dhaka-Delhi-Dhaka).

Jet Airways is also offering exclusive discounts for travelers who book their tickets at the Visa Camp.

At the Visa Camp, applicants can submit their Tourist Visa applications on a walk-in basis without prior appointment date.

Special counters have been set up inside the Camp by the Indian Visa Application Center which is run and operated by the State Bank of India to accept visa application forms.

The applicants with appointment dates must submit their visa applications at any of the IVAC–Indian Visa Application Centre–in Gulshan, Dhanmondi, Uttara and Motijheel in Dhaka and Barisal, Mymensingh and Khulna outside Dhaka.

However, medical, business and other visa categories will continue to be accepted in the respective IVAC Centers.

The ‘Eid Visa Camp’ will remain open from 0800 hours to 1400 hours from today to June 16 (except Friday).

Regarding eligibility in submitting visa application, the camp is open only for Bangladesh nationals presently residing in Dhaka, Khulna, Barisal and Mymensingh divisions, a press statement of Indian High Commission said here recently.

Applicants must submit applications in person. However, family members (Parents/ Children/ spouses) traveling together can submit applications on behalf of immediate family, it said.

A visa processing fee of Taka 600 will be charged by the Indian Visa Application Center, the outsourcing agency of the High Commission of India to accept visa applications.

No visa fee will be charged apart from the visa processing fee, the statement added.

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Jordanian Christian creates Dome of Rock Mosque replica

AMMAN, Jordan – Nezam Neema, a Christian artist from Jordan, has designed a replica of Jerusalem’s iconic Dome of the Rock Mosque to “honor Palestine’s martyrs”.

The mosque is one of the Islamic icons in Palestine. It was first built by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan and was opened toward the end of the 7th century.

“I started working on the replica in 2012 and it took me 18 months of constant work (to finish it),” Neema said. “It weighs six tons and it is 3.8 meters high.”

The replica’s dome is made of 1,280 pieces of pure copper.

Neema said it is not strange that he made a replica of a mosque, even though he is a Christian.

“I see no difference between the two religions at all,” Neema said. “It is an honor for me to be a Muslim and I’m proud to be Christian, because I was raised as one.”

“There should be values of tolerance, mercy, affection and respect among us and I do not differentiate between a Jordanian, a Palestinian or a Syrian,” he added.

Neema said he is waiting for a response from the Jordanian government on where the replica – which cost around $33,000 to make – will be showcased.

“I wanted to give Amman a present and to send greetings from Amman to Jerusalem for the souls of the martyrs who have struggled for Palestinians and their rights,” he said.

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Madame Tussauds wax museum to open in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Turkey’s first Madame Tussauds wax museum will open in December this year. The museum will boast 60 local and international wax figures from the worlds of politics, sports and culture, said the organizer on Tuesday.

Speaking at a news conference in Istanbul, Sarper Hilmi Suner, general manager of Madame Tussauds Istanbul, said that the wax figures will include the likes of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, Mazhar Fuat Ozkan, one of Turkey’s oldest pop bands, Turkey’s legendary music idol Zeki Muren and American information technology entrepreneur Steve Jobs.

The world’s 21st Madame Tussauds museum in the world will also feature a wax figure of Mevlana Rumi, a 13th-century poet-philosopher.

A direct 22nd generation descendant of the mystic was used as a model, Suner said.

Mimar Sinan, the Ottoman Empire’s most renowned architect, will also have his own wax figure.

The museum will be located on Istanbul’s teeming Istiklal Street in the newly renovated Grand Pera building’s 2,000-square-meter area, encompassing two floors.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Marcel Kloos, director of New Openings Europe and Emerging Markets of British company Merlin Entertainments, the owner of the Madame Tusseauds brand, did not want to give an exact amount of the investment.

“We spent some millions like we do with every attraction,” he said. “It is below 10 million pounds ($14,62 million).”

“We think it (Istanbul) is a perfect fit because it is an uprising city. It is young, it is vibrant,” he said.

Kloos said that his favorite wax figure was Ataturk’s:

“Probably for Istanbul, I think Ataturk is relevant, we are in a process to have a great figure of him and I think that’s why he is becoming one of my favorites,” he said.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi and pop idol Madonna figures were displayed before the press on today’s event.

Merlin Entertainments already operate Sea Life and LEGOLAND in Istanbul. The company runs 110 attractions in 23 countries across four continents, according to its official website.

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55,000 tonnes summer vegetables to be produced in Netrakona

NETRAKONA, June 4, 2016 (BSS)- Harvesting of summer vegetables are going on in full swing in ten upazilas of the district with an excellent rate of yield.

Farmers and officials of Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) are expecting over 55,000 tonnes of summer vegetables to be produced in the district during the current season where the target of the vegetables cultivation has already exceeded.

DAE office sources said a total of 3,000 hectares of land were brought under vegetable cultivation with a production target of 45,000 tonnes in the district this season.

But the farmers brought 3,250 hectares of land under vegetable cultivation exceeding its cultivation target

Many farmers of the district have shown keen interest to cultivate summer vegetables in the fallow lands around their house premises as it is very easy to produce huge vegetables at lower production costs and to earn cash money.

Deputy Director of the DAE Bilash Chandra Paul said over 55,000 tonnes of vegetables are expected to be produced in the district this season if the weather condition remains favorable till end of the harvesting period.

The farmers have started harvesting different varieties of summer vegetables including ladies finger, bottle gourd, sweet guard, arum, brinjal, cucumber, white gourd, jhinga, karola, borboti,puishak, lalshak and potol.

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Singra Pourasabha to become role model for development: Palak

Natore, June 4, 2016 (BSS)- Singra, a municipality of Natore, would become a development role model for other local government bodies in the country, State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak announced here today.

“Bangladesh would soon be considered as a role model for development internationally, while Singra be the role model for development locally,” the state minister said while speaking as the chief guest at the budget session for 2016-17 of the pourasabha.

Palak said Bangladesh would become middle-income country within 2021 and one of the developed nations by 2041 under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sehikh Hasina. The proposed national budget would accelerate the process, he added.

The state minister said Singra was a long neglected municipality in the country, but things have started reversing after people gave their mandate to Awami League candidate Jannatul Ferdous as its mayor. Now the entire area, he said, was united on the question of becoming a role model for others.

Singra Pourasabha announced an annual budget of Taka 48.79 crore in presence of the state minister, upazila chairman and other stakeholders.

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CIS young intellectuals to gather in Kyrgyzstan

Minsk, May 31, AZERTAC – According to the CIS official website, the Fifth CIS Intellectuals Youth Forum will take place in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan. Entitled “Creation of the general information space in the sphere of the international youth cooperation in the Commonwealth of Independent States”, dedicated to the year of establishment of CIS.

Preliminary date of action is on June 22-26 current year, the organizers report.

Holding a forum of young intellectuals in Kyrgyzstan on the bank of the Issyk Kul Lake became already traditional. This year Kyrgyzstan will accept participants of the forum for the fifth time.

The first forum devoted to Chingiz Aitmatov’s memory has taken place in 2009.

The V Forum of CIS Young Intellectuals will bring together about 100 participants – representatives of the youth organizations from the Commonwealth member states, Georgia, Baltic which are actively involved in implementation of the international youth projects.

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Baku to host Save The Children’s World art festival

Baku, June 4, AZERTAC – Baku will host Save The Children`s World art festival dedicated to the International Children’s Day on June 4-11.

The Festival organized by the Union of Youth of Azerbaijan and Association of Dance of Azerbaijan, will feature nine international ensembles. Opening of the festival will take place on June 4 and feature dance and vocal and instrumental ensembles from Baku and abroad. Participants of the festival will enjoy city tours, social events, workshops and recitals. The festival will end on June 11 with a gala concert at the State Song Theatre named after Rashid Behbudov.

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Pakistan seeks to revive most popular folk art

ISLAMABAD, June 3 (APP): Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA), National Puppet Theatre (NPT) is making efforts to revive the most popular folk art, which was dying because of the negligence.

An official of PNCA told APP that NPT is carrying on its services to entertain/educate the children and norms through puppetry at home by conducting free puppet shows.

The Puppet Theatre is also holds shows every year to highlight important international events like Earthquake Victims Day, Kashmir Solidarity Day, Pakistan Day Celebrations, Independence Day Celebrations, World Tourism Day, Universal Children Day and Quaid-e-Azam Day celebrations.

The National Puppet Theatre has numerous puppets, which are hand made by the apprentices of NPT and this section has trained many groups.

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Indonesian govt launches Sail Karimata 2016

Jakarta 01 June 2016, (ANTARA News) – Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli launched the international maritime event of Sail Karimata Strait 2016 on Wednesday.

The Sail Karimata Strait 2016 event will be held in four provinces located on Kalimantan and Sumatra Island: West Kalimantan, Jambi, Bangka Belitung and Riau Islands.

“We expect this event would contribute to infrastructure development in the regions,” Minister Ramli stated during the launch at the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology Building.

The main activities of the sailing event will include a national seminar on maritime affairs to be organized in Jambi on August 25, 2016; Belitung Festival on October 22; and Riau Islands Maritime Festival on October 28.

A series of activities to welcome the Sail Karimata Strait, however, will begin on June 1, while the peak event will be held in North Kayong District, West Kalimantan, on October 15.

The Sail Karimata Strait will be held for the eighth time since Sail Indonesia was first organized in 2009.

The previous sail events were Sail Bunaken held in North Sulawesi in 2009, Sail Banda in Maluku in 2010, Sail Wakatobi-Belitung in Southeast Sulawesi and Bangka Balitung in 2011, Sail Morotai in North Maluku in 2012, Sail Komodo in East Nusa Tenggara in 2013, Sail Raja Ampat in West Papua in 2014, and Sail Tomini held in the provinces of Central Sulawesi and Gorontalo in 2015.

The launch of the Sail Karimata Strait 2016 was also attended by Minister of Tourism Arief Yahya, Expert Staff of Minister of Maritime and Fishery Suseno Sukoyono, and Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Navy Admiral Ade Supandi.

Similar to the other sail events, the current edition is aimed at promoting tourism and boosting regional development.

Some 70 yachts will participate in the sail, in addition to warships and traditional boats.

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Togolese President Inaugurates New Airport Terminal Revamped By Chinese Companies

Lome, 5 May 2016 — Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe on Monday inaugurated a new airport terminal modernized with the help of Chinese funds and companies.

The new terminal of Gnassingbe Eyadema International Airport (AIGE) of Lome has been modernized with an investment of 150 million U.S. dollars from Exim Bank of China, and redesigned and rebuilt by two Chinese companies WIETEC and China Airport Construction Group Corporation (CACC).

AIGE is now capable of handling 1.6 million passengers a year while its annual freight handling capacity has been increased from 15,000 tons to 35,000 tons.

Ninsao Gnofam, an official from the Togolese Ministry of Transport, said that all the conditions are now met to make the new terminal a genuine modern air transport facility.

The official said the new terminal is a tool for economic and social development that is likely to create wealth and employment, at a time when the Togolese government plans to position the country as an air transport hub in the West African sub-region.

The new terminal conforms to international standards and is an “excellent example of cooperation between China and Togo,” Liu Yuxi, Chinese ambassador to Togo, said in his speech on the occasion.

“Gnassingbe Eyadema International Airport has become not only a landmark of Togo but also an excellent advert of Togo in the outside world,” the diplomat said.

Liu also said that AIGE will be one of the most modern international airports in West Africa.

“It will give the capital Lome the opportunity to become an airport hub in the West African sub-region, even in the whole Africa, and will establish a solid foundation for the economic development of Togo,” he added.

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Algeria: Many Algerian Cinematographic Works Restored, Digitized

Algiers, 1 June 2016, Algerie Presse Service — Fifteen Algerian cinematographic works between 1970 and 1980, restored and digitized, have been presented Tuesday at al Mouggar movie theatre (Algiers), part of the screening of the digitized version of Merzak Allouache’s “Omar Gatlato” (Omar killed by his virility-1976).

Launched by the National Center of Cinema and Broadcasting (Cnca), this restoration and digitalization operation from 35mm films to Digital cinema package (DCP) format, enabled the exploitation of these films in the best conditions.

Besides “Omar Gatlato,” movies like Mohamed Lakhdar Hamina’s “Hassan terrot”, Mohamed Chouikh’s “La citadelle”, Ammar Laskri’s “Patrouille à l’est”, Lamine Merbah’s “Beni Handel”, Ahmed Rachedi’s “L’aube des damnés” and Moussa Haddad’s “Les vacances de l’insepcteur Tahar” have also been restored and digitized.

Culture Minister Azzedine Mihoubi, who attended this ceremony, hailed “the work of his predecessors” in this project that enabled “giving a second life” to these works and “paying tribute” to filmmakers, artists and technicians, who designed the golden age of the Algerian cinema.

Mihoubi also encouraged the Cnca “to pursue” this restoration operation, stating that his department will work “to restore archives of the Algerian cinema” held by laboratories in many European countries.

He also paid homage to the main actors in “Omar Gatlato” movie, Boualem Bennai and Aziz Degga.

For his part, Director of Cnca Mourad Chouihi affirmed “fifteen other movies are being restored” out of a total of 120 works to be affected by this operation.

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Algeria Receives U.S. 15 Million Donation From China to Implement Cultural Projects

Algiers, 2 June 2016, Algerie Presse Service — Algeria and China inked Thursday in Algiers an economic and technical cooperation agreement on a donation of 15 USD million to implement cultural projects in Algeria, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced.

“Secretary General of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Hassane Rabehi and ambassador of the Republic of China to Algiers Wang Guangyu inked Thursday at the headquarters of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, an economic and technical cooperation agreement between the two countries,” the ministry said in a communiqué, adding that the signing of this agreement is part of the visit to Algeria of Chinese State Councillor in charge of the management and development of the public sector Wang Yong between 26 and 29 May 2016.

Both parties inked an agreement on a 100 million Yuan (nearly USD 15 million) donation made by the Chinese government to its Algerian counterpart, allocated for the implementation of the Cultural and Leisure Palace for youth in Algeria and other projects to be decided part of a common agreement, the same source added.

This donation “is part of old friendship and cooperation relations between Algeria and China, which witnessed a qualitative leap following the decision taken by both Heads of State Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Xi Jinping to engage in a strategic comprehensive partnership between the two countries,” the communiqué stated.

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China, Tunisia Pledge to Boost Cooperation in Trade, Infrastructure

24 May 2016, Tunis — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday China is ready to strengthen cooperation with Tunisia in such areas as infrastructure and industrial capacity, as well as expand two-way trade and investment.

Wang said this during his official visit to Tunisia, which comes after the 7th ministerial conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) held in Doha, Qatar.

The China-Tunisia relations have been developing smoothly since the two countries established diplomatic ties over 50 years ago, Wang said while meeting with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Wang said China, which follows the principle of no intervention in the domestic affairs of other nations, and has always insisted that all nations, big or small, should be equal, is willing to see and support that Tunisia follows a development path that conforms to its actual situation and is supported by its people.

Tunisia is a member of the Arab League and a major country in North Africa, its cooperation with China has great potential, and China is ready to work with it to explore new cooperation areas and approaches, Wang said.

Essebsi said he hoped the two countries could reinforce cooperation at various levels and discuss ways to expand cooperation.

He also welcomed more Chinese companies to invest in Tunisia, hoping they could play a key role in his country’s infrastructure construction.

During his meeting with Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid on Friday, Wang said that the CASCF and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation are platforms through which China and Tunisia could turn their traditional friendship into pragmatic cooperation.

The prime minister expressed the willingness to expand Tunisia-China cooperation especially in such areas as trade, investment, tourism and infrastructure.

He said Tunisia, which is now faced with many challenges including security threats and terrorism, hoped to get China’s support during the process of its socio-economic reform, and ride on the growth opportunities brought by China.

Wang also met with his Tunisian counterpart Khemais Jhinaoui on Friday.

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Tunisia Mountaineer Tahar Manai Conquers Mt Everest

Tunis, 16 May 2016, Tunis Afrique Presse — Following the feat of Tahar Manai, who managed, last Friday, to climb the Mount Everest, in the Himalayas mountain range (between Nepal and China), where he hoisted the Tunisian flag at the top, Prime Minister Habib Essid extended a message of congratulations and encouragement to the young climber.

The Prime Minister paid tribute to the courage and perseverance of Tahar Manai who wrote down in golden letters his name and Tunisia’s at the top of Mount Everest (8,848 mt of height), a first for Tunisia, that has become the 102nd nation represented on the “top of the world.”

Tahar Manai, 27, was stopped in his climb last year by the earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015 but he never considered abandoning his dream and his goal to plant the national flag at the top of the world.

The young mountaineer will return to Tunisia next May 25 to share his joy with all the Tunisians.

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Cameroon: Yaounde International Book Fair Gets Underway

Yaoundé, 2 June 2016, Cameroon Tribune – The event running from June 2-6, 2016 aims at boosting creative writing and reading among Cameroonians.

The esplanade of the National Museum in Yaounde is the venue of the second Yaounde International Book Fair, which kicked off yesterday, June 2, 2016, on the theme: “The Book as Instrument of Integration and Development.”

Organised by the Ministry of Arts and Culture, this year’s edition brings together Cameroonian writers in the Diaspora, authors from the continent and about 20 other countries to enrich the book fair. The second edition comes after the first that was organised three years ago. Cameroonians of all walks of life thronged the venue yesterday to discover the books on display and even meet the writers.

The Technical Director in the Ministry of Arts and Culture, Dr. Asheri Kilo, said the book fair was an opportunity for young writers to sharpen their skills as there are workshops where older writers engage younger colleagues, offering tips on writing. Dr. Asheri Kilo said the wish of the Minister of Arts and Culture, Prof. Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, was to get Cameroonians read more. She said with books from all the 10 regions of Cameroon, visitors were enriched with a totality of the cultural values that the nation offers.

This year, special honour is given to five Cameroonian pioneer writers. Yesterday June 2, 2016, was dedicated to Mongo Beti. This explains why stands had the late writer’s books on exhibition and for sale. It was an opportunity for Cameroonians to buy books by the author they could not find earlier. Today, June 3, 2016, will be the day for Sultan Mbombo Njoya, the author of the Bamoun language. Cameroonians will have the opportunity to discover the Bamoun language, which is one of the earliest Cameroonian writings to be orthographed and is today standardised. Artefacts and books from the Bamoun Palace will also be exhibited to honour Sultan Mbombo Njoya.

Saturday, June 4, 2016, is the day to honour Professor Bernard Nsokika Fonlon. It will be an opportunity to see him in picture and some of his writings like the “Genuine Intellectual,” one of the most significant journals that Cameroon ever had, starting as early as the 1960s. This will be followed by the Ferdinand Oyono Day. Oyono’s pictures will be displayed and his books such as “The old Man and the Medal” and others will be on the stands.

The last day will be the Francis Bebey Day. He is one of the authors that many Cameroonians do not know. Pictures and books written by Francis Bebey will be displayed for young Cameroonians to discover him and also buy his works.

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Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Others Sign Basketball Pact

Abuja, 5 May 2016, Daily Trust – The Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) said it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Benin Republic, Togo, Niger and Burkina Faso on a regional development of basketball.

The President of NBBF, Umar Tijjani told journalists in Abuja that the agreement was signed in Cotonou on April 9 and will result in the exchange of technical officials, coaches and referees.

He said it will also allow players in those countries to participate in prospect camps, clinics and tournaments across the region with ease of movement made possible by the West Africa road network.

“We will give them invitation to attend camps and clinics. We are going to give them leadership and assist with sports kits, we will also exchange coaches and share experiences,” Tijani said.

He stressed that the MoU allows for their referees to attend league matches in Nigeria while also giving NBBF the right to send its own referees to the countries to attend league matches.

“By so doing, we will expand our horizon and create jobs for our coaches,” he noted.

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Over 3 billion people to benefit from CPEC

QUETTA, June 1 (APP): China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will boost economic activity in the region and benefit more than three billion people, said spokesman of Government of Balochistan Anwar ul Haq Kakar.

Talking to APP after his return from international conference on CPEC, he said this corridor would be a game changer in the region and a new era of economic and industrial revolution would start in Balochistan.

He said that international airport and port would be established in Gwadar ensuring uplift of trade in Balochistan.

The spokesman said that 30,000 megawatt electricity would be included in the system through CPEC. He said that Sino-Pak cooperation is underway in fields of education, culture, economy and politics which would guarantee progress in the region.

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Highlights of Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16

ISLAMABAD, Jun 2 (APP): Following are highlights of Pakistan

Economic Survey for the outgoing fiscal year 2015-16, launched by Finance Minister Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar here on Thursday:-

• Major achievements of outgoing fiscal year includes: picking up economic growth, price stability, improvement in tax collection, reduction in fiscal deficit, worker remittances torch new height, and foreign exchange reserves remained high

• GDP growth accelerates to 4.71 Percent in 2015-16 against 4.04 percent in the last year

• Agriculture sector accounts of 19.82 percent of GDP and 42.3 percent of employment with strong backward and forward linkages

• Agriculture sector recorded negative growth of -0.19 percent against growth of 2.53 percent last year

• Livestock contributes 58.55 percent of agriculture value addition

• The manufacturing growth registers 5.00 percent as compared to 4.81 percent last year

• Large Scale Manufacturing with the share of 80.11 percent, Small Scale Manufacturing with share of 13.12 percent and Slaughtering have share of 6.77 percent

• Small scale manufacturing witnessed growth at 8.21 percent against growth of 8.22 percent last year

• LSM registers improved growth of 4.61 percent as compared to 3.29 percent last year

• Share of construction in industrial sector is 12.29 percent

• Mining and quarrying sub-sector contains 14.19 percent share of industrial sector

• Electricity generation and distribution and gas distribution register growth at 12.18 percent

• Share of services sector in GDP has reached to 59.16 percent

• Services sector witnesses growth of 5.71 percent as compared to 4.31 percent last year

• Per capita income in dollar terms has reached to 1560.7

• Total investment records growth of 5.78 percent in 12016

• Total investment which was recorded at Rs.4256 billion in FY 2015 increased to Rs.4502 billion in FY 2016

• National Savings are 14.6 percent of GDP in YF 2016

• During July April FY 2016 net foreign direct investment crossed US$ 1 billion with growth of 5.4 percent

• Cotton production stood at 10.074 millions of bales

• Wheat production increased to 25,482 thousand tonnes in

FY 2016

• Rice production has decreased to 6,811 thousand tonnes

• Sugarcane production increased to 65,475 thousand tonnes

• Maize production decreased to 4,920 thousand tonnes

• In automobile sector such as buses, LCVs, trucks and jeeps and cars register growth of 81.95 percent, 68.53 percent, 41.68 percent and 29.73 percent respectively

• Mining and Quarrying sector grew by 6.8 percent in

FY2016

• Total expenditure of Rs.5,962.9 billion was estimated for the current fiscal year

• Total revenues stood at Rs.2,961.9 billion in July-March

FY 2016

• FBR tax collection increased to RS.2,346.1 billion during July-April FY 2016

• During current fiscal year, SBP decrease policy rate to low level of 5.75 percent

• Government sector borrowing (net) reached at Rs.567.5 billion during July-06th May FY 2016

• During the period July 2015-11th May 2016, Pakistan Stock Exchange bench mark-100 Index increased by 1,867 points and closed at 36,266.23 points level on 11th

May, 2016

• Inflation rate measured by the changes in CPI, averaged at 2.8 percent during July-April, FY2016 against 4.8 percent in the comparable period last year

• During July-March FY 2016, exports reached to US$15.6 billion dollars

• Public debt recorded at Rs.19.168 billion as at end

March 2016

• Literary rate of population is 60 percent as compared to 58 last year

• Total number of institute stood at 252.56 thousands during FY 2015

• Total number of teachers was recorded at 1.59 million in FY 2015

• Currently there are 1,167 hospitals, 5,695 dispensaries, 5,464 basic health units and 733 maternity and child heath centres in Pakistan

• Pakistan’s estimated population is 195.4 million in 2016 however, population was 191.71 million in 2015

• Life expectancy for female has improved from 67.3 year to 67.7 years in 2016

• Life expectancy for male has increased from 65.2 years to 65.5 years in 2016

• Total labour force increased from 60.10 million to 61.04 million in FY 2015

• Govt distributed 100,000 laptops in Phase-I among students studying in public sector universities

• Govt placing 50,000 internees in different public, private organisation in 2016

• Pakistan total road network is around 263,356 Kms which carries over 96 percent of inland freight and 92 percent of passenger traffic

• Length of NHA road network is around 12,131 Kms

• Pak Railway network comprises of 7,791 route Kms, 455 Locomotives, 1,732 passengers coaches, and 15,164 freight wagons

• During year 2015, the aviation industry experienced a growth of 5.5 percent in passenger business

• Almost 12 percent growth has been observed in real value addition of electricity generation and distribution and gas distribution during 2015-16

• Foreign Direct Investment in oil and gas exploration remained US$ 234.8 million in FY 2016

• BISP budgetary allocations has been enhanced to Rs.102 billion in FY 2016

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Pakistan’s Annual art, design exhibition inaugurated

PESHAWAR, June 02 (APP): Annual art and design show 2016 arranged by the Department of Art and Design, University of Peshawar was inaugurated here.

The students of textile design mainly focused on the splendor of the indigenous and global arts and culture of Swati woodworks, Turkish Art, Morroccan ceramics and rose window of gothic architecture.

The communication designers focused on emotional responses and conveyed their earnest message to the public.

Vice Chancellor UoP Prof. Dr. Muhammad Rasul Jan inaugurated the exhibition at the community centre of the University of Peshawar. He was accompanied by Dean Faculty of Arts and Humanities Prof. Dr. Minhaj ul Hassan and Registrar Dr. Syed Fazl I Hadi. He visited the stalls and appreciated the creative work displayed by the students.

Student Somiyya Bashir worked on the architectural landmarks of Peshawar city. She said that the designs of buildings like Islamia College, Chowk Yaad gar etc gives a view of about our enduring history and the real identity of the inbuilt culture.

Student Sadaf Huma who worked on the woodwork and carving of Swat said that they were the stand out charismatic of our history and that’s why she has converted them into textile designs.

The exhibition provides an opportunity for sharing and calibration which

ultimately improve the confidence of the students, said Vice Chancellor UoP Prof. Dr. Muhammad Rasul Jan in his address to the students on the occasion. He added that students are our precious assets and we need to groom them in a manner to meet their future professional needs in a befitting manner.

Dr. Rasul Jan said that after seeing the students creative work it has become evident that our youth were second to none in the world and provided adequate opportunities offered to them, can make good quality and economic products in the field of Arts and Design.

He announced the establishment of a display centre for the students of the department of art and design to enhance the academia industry linkages and better marketing of the students’ creativity.

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UNWTO supports restoring tourist sites in Syria

Damascus, SANA, 30 May، 2016 – Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb al-Rifai said the organization is interested in supporting all that is aimed at helping in the restoration of terrorism-affected tourist sites.

In a phone call with Minister of Tourism Bishr Yazigi, al-Rifai condemned the criminal acts which the terrorists committed in Palmyra city, including the destruction of archeological monuments and stealing of artifacts, as acts against human civilization.

He expressed the UNWTO’s deep interest and hope for the recovery of Palmyra-a UNESCO world heritage site-and its return back to its position on the world cultural tourism map in the near future.

The ancient site of Palmyra, located in central Syria, sustained severe damage due to the deliberate acts of demolition inflicted in the period between May, 2015 when ISIS took over the city and March, 2016 when the Syrian army restored security to it.

Ministry of Tourism has recently made contacts with the UNWTO and informed it of the scale of damage caused to the archeological and tourist sites stricken by terrorism and requested assistance in efforts aimed at stopping theft and trade of archeological artifacts by the terrorist groups.

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