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2 Jan, 2017

New Cricket Stadiums Emerging in Afghanistan

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 02 January 2017 (04 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1438). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




The number of tourist arrivals in Malaysia is expected to increase by about 4.3 per cent to 31.8 million this year with the implementation of Visit Pahang, Perak and Terengganu Year 2017. Tourism and Culture Deputy Minister, Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said the initiative in line with the ‘Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Dekat Je’ campaign could draw more domestic and foreign tourists as these three states were interesting destinations with their own uniqueness. Visit Pahang Year, Visit Terengganu Year and Visit Perak Year are being heavily marketed in key source-markets worldwide, with help from Ministry of Tourism and Culture. The deputy minister said increased tourist arrivals in Pahang, Terengganu and Perak would not only have a positive impact on the tourism sector in the respective states and the local economy, but also on the national economy. She said tourism expenditure this year was expected to increase to RM118 billion and this would indirectly boost the country’s tourism industry. “Therefore, we hope more people of this country will spend their holidays visiting local tourist destinations, especially with the drop in value of the Malaysian currency as this will help the country’s economy,” she added.

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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





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Malaysia plans to make Kuala Lumpur a plastic-free city

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Dec 30 (NNN-Bernama) — Beginning Sept 1, traders who violate the ban on the use of plastics and polystyrene will face a compound of up to RM2,000, Deputy Federal Territories Minister Dr Loga Bala Mohan said.

This follows the implementation of the use of biodegradable products from this Sunday.

Loga Bala said the ministry was giving city folks nine months to get used to the idea before implementing it fully.

“We are targeting making Kuala Lumpur a plastic-free city. I am encouraging the people to stop using plastic, when shopping please bring your own bag,” he said in a press conference held on the implementation of the use of biodegradable products here today.

He said the ministry had informed the traders and night market associations of the ruling and obtained the cooperation of the biodegradable products suppliers to meet the needs of the traders and consumers.

“Biodegradable products are usually expensive…(but) from our talks with the suppliers, they have agreed to offer a fair wholesale price to the traders which is on par with the price of polystyrene and plastic,” he said.

Loga Bala said the pro-active move by the ministry was aimed at increasing the public’s awareness of the threat of polystyrene and plastic to health, while boosting the development of the biodegradable product industry.

Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor launched the use of biodegradable products on June 3 this year.

Commenting on the ban, co-owner of the Chat Masala Brickfields and Klang Restaurant, N.Palaniappan said it would replace polystyrene containers withbiodegradable ones in stages.

“We understand the disadvantages of the polystyrene container…it is cancerous, so we will replace them with environment-friendly containers for our customers.

“Even though the price of these containers are more than polystyrene ones, we do not mind using them…the price of food will remain the same, our profit margin may reduce, but we will not lose,” he told Bernama when contacted here today.

He said the restaurant had received a notice from the Kuala Lumpur City Hall to use the biodegradable products.

Meanwhile, a night market trader in Pantai Dalam who only wanted to be knownas Kadir said the ban on plastic use in night markets would be difficult to enforce as consumers were more ‘plastic-friendly’.

“They may have to bring their own paper or cloth bags to the night market,the implementation will definitely take a long time,” he said.

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Malaysia’s Smart Tunnel On CNN’s Top 10 World’s Greatest Tunnels

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 (NNN-THE STAR) — The SMART (stormwater management and road tunnel) Tunnel in Malaysia has been listed as one of the top 10 world’s greatest tunnels by CNN.

The article explains that the tunnel is expected to prevent billions of dollars of possible flood damage and costs from traffic congestion in Kuala Lumpur’s city centre.

Built in 2007, the SMART project serves as storm drainage and road structure. The stormwater tunnel length runs 9.7km while the motorway tunnel length is 4km.

The tunnel, the longest in Malaysia, was built to solve the problem of flash floods in Kuala Lumpur.

The article further elaborated on the tunnel’s operations, stating that it can be used in three ways. First, it acts as a road tunnel when there is no flood.

In situations where flood levels are moderate, rainwater will be diverted to the lower drainage chamber in the tunnel while the upper level of the tunnel remains open to motorists.

Finally, the tunnel will be closed to traffic during exceptionally heavy floods and is used fully for floodwaters to pass through with the use of watertight gates.

Since its opening, flood-prone areas such as Masjid Jamek, Dataran Merdeka, Leboh Ampang and Jalan Melaka have been spared from major floods.

The SMART tunnel is no stranger to international recognition. In April 2015, it was described by the United Nations as one of the most innovative projects in the world for an urban issue. (http://bit.ly/2hy69VG). In 2011, it received the UN Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for its innovative and unique management of stormwater and peak hour traffic.

Other tunnels named in the article are the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, the Channel Tunnel which links the UK and France, Eisenhower Tunnel in the USA, the Spiralen Tunnel and the Laerdal Tunnel, both in Norway, China’s Guoliang Tunnel in Henan Province and Bund Sightseeing Tunnel in Shanghai, Japan’s Seikan Tunnel and the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line. — NNN-THE STAR

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Malaysian Agrobank Records Highest Growth Of Financing

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 (Bernama) — Agrobank, the bank that is mandated to empowering agriculture community, recorded remarkable growth of 16.4% with total financing value reaching up to RM8.7 billion as at November this year. This impressive performance is also the best achievement for Agrobank in the last five years.

According to Dato’ Wan Mohd Fadzmi Wan Othman, President/ Chief Executive Officer of Agrobank, the achievement is in line with the Bank’s commitment to provide access to a range of quality financial services at competitive rates, that is relevant with client’s needs, particularly for the agricultural community. Dato’ Wan Mohd Fadzmi also added that Agrobank is committed to support the government’s commitment to reduce the country’s dependence on imported food worth nearly RM45.2 billion last year.

“As a bank that understand agricultural sector better, Agrobank offers comprehensive financing solutions – a full value chain financing for agriculture, including upstream activities such as agriculture production and downstream activities such as processing and selling agriculture products to customers. For 2016, the premier agricultural financing sector, Agrobank recorded the highest financing value of RM5.14 billion with a growth of 15.3% compared to the same period last year with a total value of RM4.5 billion. Under financing for primary agriculture sector, food crops segment contributed the highest financing value of RM2.91 billion with a growth of 14% compared to the same period last year. The growth shows great prospects in agriculture and agro-food sectors with continuous demand locally and overseas despite current economic condition.

In supporting the government’s initiative to increase the food production, Agrobank now offers competitive financing products with low profit rates, for instance Food Production Credit Scheme, ‘Fund For Food (3F), the financing to purchase agricultural land, Hartani-i, Trade Finance services and many more.

Dato’ Wan Mohd Fadzmi also added, the bank’s outstanding performance was also driven by the strengthening of the Malaysian economy which remained resilient with gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to grow 4.4% in 2016 and 4.5% in 2017.

Despite current global economic situation, Agrobank is satisfied with the performance this year. “Prospects for agriculture and agro-based industry in 2017 is expected to remain favourable, with rising demands for local and export market, especially for the agro-food sector. The focus now is to develop and strengthen the country’s food production capability and to drive export of halal/agri products. Agrobank will continue to support the government’s efforts to increase local food production and to balance the deficit of imported foods,” said Dato ‘Wan Mohd Fadzmi.

In addition, Dato’ Wan Mohd Fadzmi also said that Agrobank will continue to scale up risk management and best practices in lending, in line with responsible lending principles.

In 2016, Agrobank has launched new products, including financing programme designed for person with Disabilities (PWDs), known as Agro Bakti, and the launch of takaful protection scheme with haj by proxy benefits, Takaful Mabrur.

In addition, 2016 has been a very significant year for Agrobank with various international recognition and awards for its developmental and financial inclusion initiatives particularly for the ‘unserved’ and ‘underserved’ community. Among the awards received by Agrobank are:

a) Award by ADFIAP (Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia Pacific) received in Samoa for Agrobank outstanding efforts in financial inclusion particularly for the agricultural community and underserved communities.

b) The Karlsruhe Sustainable Finance Awards for Outstanding Sustainable Project Financing to recognize the success of the bank’s Paddy Credit Scheme. The award ceremony was held in Germany.

c) The Global Good Governance Awards 2016(3G) held in Istanbul Turkey for category ‘3G Financial Services Award’. The award was given for the bank’s continuous efforts in improving financial inclusion.

d) Agrobank’s Hartani-i is acknowledged as the Critics’ Choice for Best Islamic Product for Agriculture Finance at the Islamic Retail Banking Award held in Dubai.

To top it off, Dato’ Wan Mohd Fadzmi also received the ‘CEO of The Year’ Award at the Global Islamic Financial Award (GIFA) 2016 as recognition of his strong leadership in transforming Agrobank into a full-fledged Islamic bank within three years’ time.

Agrobank is one of Malaysia‟s leading banks providing a holistic array of financial services and banking facilities, with a focus on agricultural sector. The Bank is a Government-owned Bank under the purview of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated. The Bank‟s financing of the agricultural sector is driven by a policy set forth by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry (MOA).

As a DFI (Development Financial Institute) that focuses on strengthening the agriculture sector in Malaysia, Agrobank aims to balance its developmental and commercial roles to benefit the agriculture sector. Agrobank provides a comprehensive financing solution for agriculture; that includes upstream activities such as the supply of agricultural production inputs to downstream activities such as processing and selling of agricultural products to consumers.

With more than 46 years of experience, Agrobank is actively shaping the Country‟s agricultural development across the eight (8) regions in which it operates, via 188 branches; offering products and services in the areas of corporate, commercial and micro financing as well as trade finance, personal financing, electronic banking and deposit & services.

On 1st July 2015, Agrobank has officially become a full-fledged Islamic bank.

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Islamic civilization center planned in Indonesia

28 Dec 2016 – Jakarta, (IINA) – A number of Indonesian Muslim scholars are planning to build an international Islamic civilization center in Indonesia, National Police (Polri) Deputy Chief Commissioner General Syafruddin said on Tuesday.

“The development of an Islamic civilization center is not only taking place in the Middle East but also in Indonesia,” Comr. Gen. Syafruddin stated.

According to Antara News, intellectuals including Komarudin Hidayat, Azyumadi Azra, Syafrizal of the Religious Affairs Ministry, and Kharuddin of the Vice Presidential Secretariat, have visited Syafruddin’s official residence to discuss the plan to establish an Islamic civilization center and the prevention of radicalism in Indonesia.

Syafruddin noted that Islamic propagation is not a process that occurs only in the West, reaching out to the East; rather, Indonesia also propagates Islam to other countries.

The three-star police general acknowledged that the Muslim figures had also discussed a plan to establish an international Islamic university in Indonesia.

He also added that, so far, radicalism prevention efforts in Indonesia have been made through National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) programs and the Polris curriculum taught in schools and universities. On his part, Komaruddin Hidayat said President Joko Widodo and Vice President M. Jusuf Kalla had set up a committee for the construction of an international Islamic university in Indonesia.

The school will be built in Indonesia because the country is known as a predominantly moderate Muslim-populated country. Komarudin suggested the provision of an education on international Islamic civilization in Indonesia could have a global impact, particularly in countries where radicalism is flourishing.

He noted that a number of countries have suggested that Indonesia should become the world’s Islamic civilization education center, inviting foreign professors to join the university’s faculty.

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1,500 cyclists expected to participate in Tour de Central Celebes

Tuesday, 27 Desember 2016 – Palu (ANTARA News) – The Central Sulawesi administration plans to invite 1,500 domestic and foreign cyclists to participate in Tour de Central Celebes (TdCC) to be held in September next year.

The number of participants may increase when its promotion is optimal, Siti Norma Mardjanu, head of the Central Sulawesi tourism and creative economic office, said here on Tuesday.

Invitations will be sent to 250 cyclists in Association of Southeast Nations, Australia, the United States, and Europe.

The remaining 1,250 participants are expected to come from various provinces of Indonesia.

TdCC is a tourism promotion event as participating cyclists will be taken to tourist sites within the province, and be introduced to local culture, traditions as well as culinary dishes of Central Sulawesi, she remarked.

The TdCC route stretches 300 km from Tojouna-una District to Palu City against the backdrop of a panorama of mountains, lakes, hills, rivers, waterfalls, and valleys.

The cyclists will also be entertained with traditional dances and songs of South Sulawesi.

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Over 91,000 tourists climb Mt Rinjani in 2016

1 Januari 2017, Mataram (ANTARA News) – As many as 91,412 people climbed Mount Rinjani on Lombok Island, West Nusa Tenggara Province, during 2016.

“The data was recorded from April 1 to December 29, 2016,” Head of the Mount Rinjani National Park Center (BTNGR) Agus Budi Santoso said here, Saturday (Dec. 31, 2016)

Of the over 91,000 climbers, 61,117 were Indonesians, and 32,905 were foreign tourists.

The number of climbers to Mt Rinjani, one of the highest volcanoes in Indonesia, has increased and the visits contributed Rp4.977 billion in non-taxable revenues to the province.

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Indonesian agricultural programs deemed successful in 2016

1 January 2017 – Jakarta (ANTARA News) – One of the aims of the Indonesian government’s programs in 2016 was to advance the agricultural sector, in order to regain the countrys self-sufficiency in rice, as in the past.

Due to its efforts to introduce mechanized agricultural technology, repair damaged agricultural infrastructure, and open new rice fields, the government has been able to change the countrys rice planting season from one to two, and even three times, per year.

With its success in carrying out these programs in 2016, the government increased unhusked rice production to 79 million tons, exceeding its target of 76 million tons of unhusked rice, and stop importing rice in 2016.

“Indonesia will not need to import rice, and it could even export the commodity to other countries, ” Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman said in the village of Bhakti Rasa, Sragi subdistrict, South Lampung, on Thursday (Dec 29, 2016).

National production of unhulled rice rose to 79 million tons in 2016, from 74 million tons of unhulled rice in 2015 and 70 million tons in 2014.

In order to maintain and advance the agricultural sector, the Ministry of Agriculture will continue to promote the use of agricultural technology.

Indonesian farmers should now become skillful in the use of technology and the use of hybrid seeds. Thus, they are expected to see harvest seasons two to three times per year.

Additionally, the use of technology will continue to be promoted by the Agriculture Ministry in order to improve the welfare of the farmers.

“Through the use of technology, including agricultural mechanization, rice production is expected to increase by 200 percent,” Minister Amran Sulaiman said, conducting a rice grand harvest in Margorejo Village, Metro Selatan Subdistrict, Metro City, Lampung on Friday (Dec 30).

According to the minister, his ministry will continue to make efforts to increase agricultural production through mechanization, such as providing machine tools for farmers.

Through measures, such as the provision of agricultural machinery (alsintan) to farmers, the ministry encourages mechanization of agriculture, a policy that will continue to further improve agricultural productivity.

The minister said the use of agricultural technology resulted into reductions in production costs by 50 percent. The production cost of one hectare, which usually reached Rp12 million, has now been reduced to Rp6 million. In addition, in one year a farmer can plant two to three times.

In order to regain the countrys former high levels of food production, the government has also overhauled various regulations in the food sector and repaired damaged rice growing infrastructure, which reached three million hectares. President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has asked the minister to finish the repairs within three years, but the Minister of Agriculture said his staff has been trying to complete this in one year.

The government is also improving the distribution of fertilizers and has taken action against those who distribute fake or mixed fertilizers, which harm farmers.

Self-sufficiency in food can be achieved through efforts to modernize agriculture, while new regulations and infrastructure are improved. The officials have worked hard to boost production and control exports and imports. Organic agriculture is very attractive and prices for this produce could increase ten times and improve the welfare of farmers.

The government has distributed some 160,000 agricultural machine tools in the regions. Also, in 2016 Indonesia tried to open up 200,000 hectares of new rice fields.

By increasing the acreage of the countrys rice fields by 200,000 hectares, rice farms in Indonesia now cover some 9.0 million hectares.

Chairman of the Peoples Deliberative Assembly (MPR) Zulkifli Hasan praised the efforts of the agriculture minister to increase agricultural production through various measures, including mechanization.

“We both know, at this time, to increase agricultural land was very difficult. But the population will surely continue to grow so that food production should be increased. Therefore, I appreciate the performance of the Minister of Agriculture and his efforts to increase production, especially through technology mechanization,” he said.

The assembly speaker also expressed his gratitude to Minister of Agriculture Andi Amran Sulaiman, whose efforts during the past two years, he said, had lifted agricultural production and ensured that the country did not have to import rice.

“It must be recognized that I am grateful for the performance of Amran, who has proven his ability to increase agricultural production. And, this is the reality this year, as the government did not import rice after 32 years of importing the commodity. It should be appreciated because, with our current condition, it is not easy to do,” he said.

According to Zulkifli, providing agricultural machinery to farmers is a very effective, helpful policy, and in accordance with current requirements.

“It is inevitable that mechanization is really required. Farmers used to set off into the fields while it was still dark, they are exposed to the sun and their skin became dark, and they returned home very late, again when it was dark. By using new tools, such as hand tractors, farmers can finish cultivating one hectare of land in three hours, where it used to take 11 days to cultivate,” said Zulkifli.

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Indonesia plans infrastructure projects worth $295 billion by 2019

02 Jan 2017 – Jakarta, (IINA) – The Indonesian government said the country is expected to build infrastructure projects with a total investment of Rp4,000 trillion ($295.8 billion) until 2019, Antara News reported.

Minister of National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) Bambang Permadi Soemantri Brodjonegoro said the private sector would account for two-thirds of the investment. Bambang said the government would put up the remaining 33 percent of the total investment. “The private sector including state companies are expected to provide two third of the total investment,” he said at a discussion on Evaluation of Year-end 2016 and Hope 2017 here on Saturday.

He said infrastructure projects are highly attractive for the private sector especially ones related directly to the public interest such as toll roads, airports, and seaports. He said as long as the investment and the selling price to the national power utility are reasonable, there would be purchasing power agreement.

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Indonesia Plans Eight Dams By 2019 to Ensure Water Supply

JAKARTA, Dec 29 (NNN-ANTARA) — Eight dams whose construction began in 2016, for flood control and water supply, will be completed in 2019, Minister of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR) Basuki Hadimuljono has said.

“For the next five years, the ministry already has a program to build 49 dams, which are scattered in various provinces,” Basuki told reporters in Manado, North Sulawesi.

He made the statement, while accompanying President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), at a dam construction site in the village of Kuwil Kawangkoan, District Kalawat, North Minahasa District, North Sulawesi.

Basuki said Kuwil Dam was one of eight dams contracted in 2016 and scheduled for completion by 2019.

The PUPR ministry, he said, began building 13 dams in 2015, and will start construction on nine more in 2017.

Dams contracted in 2015 are targeted for completion in 2018, while those contracted in 2017 will be completed in 2020.

The dams, he said, have multiple functions. They will function as irrigation canals to control floods, provide water supply for generation of electric power and for use by the surrounding community, and also serve as a tourist attraction.

Referring to the Kuwil Dam, Basuki said that it was 345 meters long, 70 meters high, and had a capacity of 23 million cubic meters of water. It main aim is to control floods in Manado city.

It can hold around 470 cubic meters of water per second, generate 1.4 megawatts of electricity, as well as provide 4.5 cubic meters of water per second to the city of Manado.

“The benefits of the Kuwil Dam will be huge for the Manado community,” the minister said.

The PUPR ministry is also currently looking for another location that has the potential for a dam so that no more areas will be flooded.

“If there is potential for building a dam, we will build it,” he said. — NNN-ANTARA

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Motorways, CPEC to open new opportunities for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Jan 1 (APP): Completion of under-construction motorways and highways including China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects would open new vistas of opportunities for the people of the adjacent areas and end sense of deprivation among the people of far flung areas of the country.

Talking to APP on Sunday, National Highway Authority (NHA) General Manager Design Asim Amin said that tens of thousands of job opportunities will be created directly and indirectly after the completion of new roads in the country and destiny of the poor people will be changed for ever.

Asim said that most of ongoing NHA projecects are being executed in comparatively less developed areas of the country, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Balochistan. He said that due to policies of the present government in coming few years road infrastructure in the country would be transformed and Pakistan would become hub of regional trade.

Asim Amin said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had given the task of early completion of these projects to NHA, which also included alignments of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

He informed that presently either these projects were being executed or in the planning stage. “Allah Almighty has bestowed Pakistan with such geography that about 40 percent of world population lives in its vicinity and it can act as a gateway between the most populous countries of the world, India and China,” he elaborated.

The NHA GM said that main objectives of the NHA are to develop high speed north-south economic corridor, provide linkages with the Gwadar port and enhance regional connectivity.

Asim Amin said that presently the NHA’s portfolio has crossed Rs 1,000 billion which used to be 50 to 60 billion a few years back.

To a question, he said that CPEC was the name of building roads from Khunjerab to Gwadar. “A number of sections of this mega project have been completed and the remaining are under construction,” he informed.

He said 335 km Khunjerb-Raikot section of the Karakoram Highway (N-35) has already been upgraded while for the upgradation of Raikot-Thakot section of the highway, damaged during 2010 floods, China had given $70 million grant and its 136 km portion had been rehabilitated while for the remaining 140 km section talks for another grant worth $80 million were in progress.

The NHA GM said that construction work of Havelian-Thakot Motorway section was in full swing and it was expected to be completed in three years. The stretch of motorway from Havelian passes through Abbottabad, Mansehra and Shinkiari, ending at Thakot.

Asim further said that work on 59 km Burhan-Havelian of Hazara Motorway was going on smoothly and would be completed next year. He told that the western corridor was divided into six sections including Hakla-Dera Ismail Khan (288km), Dera Ismail Khan-Zhob (205km), Zhob-Quetta (331 km), Quetta-Sohrab 211km, Sohrab-Hoshab 449 km and Hoshab-Gwadar 193km.

He said that western route passed through less developed areas of KP and Balochistan. “With development on this route, people living in these areas would get jobs,” he added.

About Hakla-Dera Ismail Khan Expressway, he said that construction of a 285km new road between Halka, an area near Islamabad, and Dera Ismail Khan had been divided into five parts to ensure that the work was completed in two years.

He said Halka-Dera Ismail Khan road was the biggest missing link in the proposed western route, and it would be completed by August 2018.

“One of the major projects of CPEC is the widening of 533km long two-lane Dera Ismail Khan-Quetta Highway,” he said, and added, “Under the project, the road will be turned into a four-lane carriageway. Its feasibility study has been carried out by the National Engineering Services of Pakistan.”

He said that groundbreaking of the upgradation of Zhob-Mughalkot section had been performed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in December 2015.

The NHA GM said that up-gradation of Zhob-Quetta highway had also been realised while Sorab-Hoshab section had recently been inaugurated.

He further said that 193 km Hoshab-Turbat-Gwadar portion had been completed.

Asim said rehabilitation of DI Khan-Mughalkot section of N-50 would be completed by 2018.

Moreover, he said that dualisation of 531 km DI Khan to Kuchlak section of N-50 would be operational by 2020.

About dualisation of 211 km Quetta-Kalat-Surab section, he said it was planned to be completed by 2020.

Asim said the NHA would also strengthen the east-west connectivity through Balochistan and extend across all provinces including Gilgit-Baltistan.

He said that during past three years the NHA had completed 58km Multan-Khanewal Motorway which cost Rs14 billion, 150 km Qila Saifullah-Zhob Highway which cost Rs8.3 billion, 68 km Sukkur-Jacababad which cost Rs8.5 billion.

Moreover he said that the NHA also completed Rs10.3 billion Faisalabad-Gojra section of Motorway which had the total length of 58 km, 384 km Raikot-Khunjerab which cost Rs490 million, 64 km Waighum Rud-Khjuri road at the cost of Rs13 billion, 7.6 km Peshawar Northern Bypass (package I) which cost Rs22 billion.

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Pakistan expediting work on new railway lines

January 2, 2017 – ISLAMABAD, Jan 2 (APP): Ministry of Railways is carrying out feasibility studies for upgradation of existing Main Line-II and upgradation and extension of Main Line-III.

Giving details, official sources said on Monday the projects including new lines from Gwadar to Besima and Besima to Jacobabad via Khuzdar would be part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The sources said approved cost of feasibility study of this project is Rs 135.5 million and added Request For Proposal (RFP) has been advertised to engage consultants for preparing and submitting feasibility study along with preliminary design.

The second line is from Bin Qasim Station to Port Qasim.

The approved cost of the project is Rs 1,568 million and physical progress is eight per cent.

The other line is Peshawar to Jalalabad. The approved cost of feasibility study of the project is Rs 67 million and feasibility study is in progress.

Similarly, another line is Chaman to Spinboldak. The approved cost of project is Rs 1262.95 million. The work is held up for commencement of work from Kandhar to Spinboldak by government of Afghanistan.

The sources said physical work on above mentioned projects has not yet been started being in planning phase.

The sources said PC-1 in connection with upgradation of Main Line-1 (ML-1 including laying new tracks) under China Pakistan Economic Corridor has been prepared and submitted for obtaining approval from ministry of planning and development.

The work for doubling/improvement of existing track from Port Qasim to Bin Qasim Station has been awarded to National Logistic Cell (NLC) and is under progress.

The position for upgradation of existing lines announced during last two financial years included: upgradation of ML-I (including new line between Karachi-Kotri, second line between Shahdara-Peshawar and new re-aligned track between Kaluwal-Pindora.

The PC-I of the project is under consideration with the planning commission.

Regarding upgradation of ML-2 (Attock to Kotri), the sources said feasibility study has been launched while procurement of consultants completed and work has been awarded to an Austrian consultant firm through an international competitive bidding process.

The other project is upgradation and extension of ML-3 (Rohri to Taftan via Quetta) and new line (Western Corridor) from Quetta to Kotlajam via Dera Ismail Khan). The feasibility study has been launched.

Feasibility study for upgradation of Wazirabad-Narowal Shahdara section has been launched. The procurement of consultants completed and work has been awarded.

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Pakistan launches Kabaddi academy

FAISALABAD, Jan 1 (APP): The Divisional Kabaddi Association will start a Kabaddi academy at Madina Town Hockey Stadium here on Monday.

A spokesman of the Kabaddi Association said here Sunday that the new Kabaddi players of age up to 20 years will be provided Kabaddi training.

International Kabaddi commentator Tayyab Gilani will deliver lectures whereas former Kabaddi players will impart training to the young players, he added.

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Pakistan PM for promotion of literature for greater tolerance

ISLAMABAD, Jan 2 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Monday said promotion of literature in the country can bring greater understanding and inculcate a culture of tolerance among the masses.

While talking to his Adviser on National History and Literary Heritage Irfan Siddique here at the PM House, the Prime Minister urged making the organisations dedicated to development of arts, culture and literature in the country more effective.

He also called for encouraging the habit of reading among the masses to help create a society that was more accommodating.

The Prime Minister assured provision of all resources to the writers, poets and intellectuals for promotion of their literary works.

The Adviser to the Prime Minister on National History and Literary Heritage Irfan Siddique also shared with the Prime Minister the objectives of the fourth international conference on “Language, Literature and Society” that would be held from January 5 to 8 in Islamabad.

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Iran embassy lauds Pakistani Persian experts, scholars

Islamabad, Jan 2, IRNA – Ambassador of Islamic Republic of Iran in Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost, hosting a cultural gathering, praised contributions of Pakistani researchers and professors for the promotion of the Persian language in Pakistan.

Iranian Cultural Counsellor, Shahaboddin Daraei, Head of National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Zia Uddin Najam and Chairman of National Language Promotion Department Iftikhar Arif were also present on the occasion.

Iranian envoy Mehdi Honardoost expressing his views said that people of Iran and Pakistan are closely linked with each other through the Persian language. He added that Persian and Urdu are related to each other and cannot be separated.

He stressed upon the need for more efforts to promote Persian and Urdu languages in Iran and Pakistan to bring people of both the countries closer to each other.

He said that cultural, literary and linguistic links between Iran and Pakistan are inevitable and Iranian embassy will not hesitate to take any step in this regards.

Head of NUML, Zia Uddin Najam expressed gratitude to the Iranian embassy efforts for appreciating the contributions of Pakistani experts and professors for the Persian language in Pakistan.

He said that NUML is providing tremendous facilities for the Persian language learning in Pakistan and for this the university maintains close ties with the Iranian Cultural Center in Pakistan.

Chairman of National Language Promotion Department Iftikhar Arif on the occasion said that Iran is a country with rich civilization and excels in all fields of literature and culture.

Former head of Persian department at NUML, Dr Mehar Noor Muhammad Khan said NUML is the only university mentioned in cultural agreement between Iran-Pakistan which shows how much importance Iran gives to the NUML for the promotion of the Persian language in Pakistan.

Director of Iran-Pakistan Persian Research Center Isa Karimi, Head of Urdu Department Tehran University Dr Ali Bayat and head of Persian Department NUML, Dr. Muhammad Safeer also attended the ceremony.

At the end of the ceremony, honorary shields were awarded to the personalities who have made big contributions to the promotion of the Persian language in Pakistan.

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Pakistani Film “Shor Sharaba” to be released in 2017

LAHORE, Dec 31 (APP): Film Producer Sohail Khan has said three new singers for his film “Shor Sharaba” have been engaed as music plays a vital role for a successful production.

Talking to APP here on Saturday, he said shooting of the film had been completed which would be released in the next year.

He said full attention had been focused on every aspect of the production to make the film a success at box office.

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Bangladesh university signs Taka 100 crore bank loan

RAJSHAHI, Jan 2, 2017 (BSS) – Rajshahi University (RU) signed a loan agreement worth Taka 100 crore with Agrani Bank Limited (ABL) here today.

Under the loan agreement, RU’s teachers, officers and employees can avail the opportunity of borrowing long term loan at simple interest rate from RU branch of ABL from now on, said a RU press release here.

RU Treasurer Prof Sayen Uddin Ahmed and ABL Branch Manager Bazlur Rashid signed the contract on behalf of their respective sides.

RU Vice-Chancellor Prof Md Mijanuddin and ABL General Manager exchanged the singed copies among themselves.

Pro-VC Prof Chowdhury Sarwar Jahan, Registrar Prof Entajul Haque and Director of Accounts Ashraf-ul-Huda were present there.

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Chittagong port handles 23.5 lakh TEUs containers in 2016

CHITTAGONG, Jan 02, 2017 (BSS) – Country’s premier seaport Chittagong has set a new record in its history by handling nearly 23.5 lakh Twenty Equivalent Units (TEUs) containers in 2016.

A total of 23 lakh 46 thousand TEUs containers were handled by the Chittagong Port till December 31, 2016, which is the highest since the port’s inception in 1977, port sources said.

According to the latest survey of Lloyd’s Register, an old shipping oriented media and UK-based maritime classification society, Chittagong Port authority (CPA) was ranked 76th position among 100 ports in the world by handling record 20 lakh 24 thousand 207 TEUs containers in 2015.

CPA official sources said, CPA faced problems in handling containers because of agitation programmes including work abstention and strike enforced by the owners of prime movers and lighter vessels from May to October last year.

“Despite the hurdles, CPA has recorded a milestone of handling more than 23 lakh TUEs of containers”, the sources said adding that the number of handled containers would reach 26 lakh TUEs if there were no agitation programmes.

According to the records of CPA, the port handled record two lakh 17 thousand 526 TEUs of containers in November while it handled two lakh seven thousand 515 TEUs of containers in December last year.

The Chittagong Port, which started its journey by handling only six TEUs of containers in 1977, is now handling 92 percent of the total export-import goods of the country.

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New Cricket Stadiums Emerging in Afghanistan

January 01, 2017 – Khost City (BNA) A cricket stadium worth 62 million Afghanis was inaugurated in the capital of southeastern Khost province Friday.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony, attended by thousands of people, the provincial governor said the stadium was built over 12.5 acres of land in a year and a half.

Hukam Khan said the German government funded the stadium, with capacity of 5,000 people. He called for expanding the facility and construction of a mosque and a car park.

The participation of a large number of people in Friday’s ceremony was reflective of stable security environment in Khost city, he said, adding the war-weary people wanted prosperity.

Addressing the event, Dr. Kamal Sadat acting Minister of Information and Culture and deputy minister on youth affairs asked the youth to keep unity and develop their country.

Pointing to mass participation of the people in the inauguration of the new cricket stadium, Dr. Kamal Sadat asked the people to take firm steps in fight against corruption and other social challenges. He also asked ACB chairman to consider extending of the stadium so that to accommodate large number of people at a single time.

Atif Mashal, the Afghanistan Cricket Board chairman, promised all possible efforts to expand the stadium and ensure elemental facilities for players.

Following the inaugural event, the Afghan national squad played a friendly match against the U-19 team. The encounter was watched by unprecedented thousands of spectators.

In another development, the governor for Logar province laid the foundation stone of cricket playground on Dec 31.

Mohammad Alim Fedayee Logar governor told BNA, the stadium will be constructed in over 15 acres of land in Pul-e-Alam City by India with the cost of 400,000 US dollars.

Source added, currently 45 cricket teams formally and informally plays in the province.

He added, most of the national cricket team players are from Logar province. The ceremony was attended by a large number of cricket fans.

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Afghanistan Anticipates More Successes In 2017

January 02, 2017 – Kabul (BNA) 2016 had been a year full of ups and downs to Afghanistan and the entire world countries, but officials of the Afghan government said, ‘2017 will be a year full of achievements and successes.’

They believe that 2017 will be a year of defeating terrorism and attraction of investments. Dawa Khan Minapal, presidential deputy spokesperson said that 2017 would be a successful year to Afghanistan and we would succeed against enemies. He added that however, 2016 was a year full of challenges to Afghan security forces, but they had obtained considerable successes.

At the same time, a number of political experts and lawmakers hope this year be a good year in all sections, particularly in ensuring security. A lawmaker, Hashimi said, ‘the government and people of Afghanistan have seen the international community’s firm decision toward the country and failures of the National Unity Government in 2016 that resulted in collapse of Kunduz.’

In fact, the government had many achievements in 2016 as well, such as, signing peace accord with Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan, efforts made on Pakistan isolation and signing many other economic agreements with regional countries, Hashimi further said. He stressed that the people of Afghanistan expect 2017 to be a year full of successes and attainments and the last year problems to be solved this year.

Another lawmaker, Gul Ahmad Azami believes that the Afghan people have experienced many problems and challenges in 2016 and unfortunately Afghanistan is still making sacrifices in war on terror. Therefore, the world countries should take firm and practical steps in uprooting terrorism so the Afghans are not victimized in this regard any longer, he added.

Likewise, hoping 2017 to be a good year, a number of experts stressed that the world countries should cooperate with Afghanistan in fighting terrorism, improvement of economic situation, prevention of illegal immigrations and provide the way for job opportunities. Qaderi, an expert said, ‘inauguration of recent transit railway from China and Turkmenistan has increased Afghanistan’s chance to become a regional trade center.’

Above all, the government of Afghanistan could play more successful than Pakistan in 2016, as it could prove to the world that it is a terrorism supporting country, he Qaderi went on to say. This is while that 2016 had ended with all its challenges, but now it is expected that in 2017, no country of the world witnesses insecurity, but face improvements and achievements.

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Afghanistan NPC Approves 20 Contracts Worth 12.5bln Afs

January 02, 2017, Kabul (BNA) Chaired by President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the National Procurements Commission (NPC) held meeting, in which 20 contracts costing 12.5 billion Afghanis have been approved, his office said in a statement the other day.

The endorsed contracts included design, transmitting, installation and activation of power substation in Surubi district, project on transmitting of power from Aqina to Andkhoy and Sheberghan and activation of distributive power network in Logar province, said the statement quoting a gathering of the commission members on Sunday evening.

Road building projects have also been among the contracts approved by the meeting including construction of third phase of Eshkamish district of Takhar province, construction of first part of Mehtarlam road in eastern Laghman province and other similar projects in Logar, Nimroz, as well as creation of information center for Shaheed Ustad Rabbani University, provision of 360 equipment needed by the general directorate of the Presidential Administrative Affairs etc., said the statement.

The commission returned the technical studies projects related to the Water Dams in Panjshir province, Chal district of Takhar province and Badghis in the southwestern for further investigation, according to the statement. The meeting also discussed some related issues like technical problems related to the budget and social affairs of some projects, particularly related to the hospitals and blood banks, the statement added.

The meeting tasked the Breshna Shirkat (the main power supply company in Kabul) and the ministry of public works to make sure about the accuracy of the documents of the key companies won the contracts in the next meeting.

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Afghanistan Hotels Enterprise Gets new CEO

Kabul (BNA) Under a decree from the presidential office, new head of the MoIC Hotels Enterprise, Shamsul Haq Mubariz has been introduced during a ceremony held at the ministry’s international conference hall the other day, the state ran agency BNA reported.

In the meeting, Acting Minister of Information and Culture and Deputy to the Youth Affairs, Dr. Kamal Sadat briefed and called the works shouldered by the head of the MoIC related hotels a tough task. He hoped Mubariz could go ahead successfully with the related affairs and asked the ministry’s related personnel not to spare effort to extend cooperation with him in this field, said the agency. The acting minister called for cooperation to promote the culture of hospitality within the said hotels, the agency added.

Deputy Minister to Finance and Tourism of the Ministry, Zardasht Shams also spoke at the meeting and said works for improvement of the hotels was very challenging and that there was a need for effort to well execute them. According to the agency, Zardasht hoped the new chief could successfully perform his duty related to the hotels affairs.

Meanwhile, Shamsul Haq Mubariz promised to do more to bring positive changes in the hotels affairs, the agency said.

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Afghanistan Economic Projects Helping to Create Jobs

January 02, 2017 – Kabul (BNA) Economic projects play effective role in removing unemployment a challenge that has faced the Afghan people, particularly the youth with many difficulties.

A number of youth and families are concerned over such a situation and ask the government to address their problems. Likewise, calling the role of economic projects vital in curbing joblessness, a number of economic experts told that if the government wants to step up in regard with utilizing projects and reconstruction of factories in the country, there is no doubt that the move will decrease the rate of unemployment.

And economic expert, Massoud said, ‘there is no doubt that the economic projects is the only option that can tackle the unemployment problem.’ He believes that this problem will not be completely solved in many years, but it can be decreased somehow. He added that by establishing legal economic centers, we can rescue the country’s economy.

Furthermore, through a five-year-plan on the fields of generating energy and water, gas, chemical industries, irrigation and agricultural centers, transport and telecommunication networks, the country’s economic problems will be decreased, he went on to say.

Azrakhsh Hafezi, another expert said, ‘principally, the economic projects will not only lead the country toward development, but will also tackle the unemployment challenge in a country.’ He also believes that proper extraction of mines estimated to have been worth three trillion dollars can considerably decrease the unemployment rate in the country.

He added that if factories are established, and high quality domestic productions with low prices are supplied to bazaar, there is no doubt that the country will face economic growth and the unemployment challenge will be figured out. The unemployment rate has recently reached its peak, resulting a huge number of people to leave the country for abroad.

According to Central Statistic Organization (CSO), the unemployment figure for 2015 was only 25 percent. Insecurity, lack of job opportunities and a downturn of industries are the main factors behind growing unemployment in the country.

In many cases, those who had jobs are now unemployed and at the same time no new job were created. Recent scientific research findings suggest that unemployment can affect as individual’s psychological well-being and it can leave tremendously powerful scars on a person’s psyche.

Unemployment can leave some individuals with feelings of worthlessness, lack of motivation, feelings of embarrassment, greater level of anxiety, hopelessness and increased levels of stress. Therefore, the government of Afghanistan should pay serious heed in this regard and provide the youth with job opportunities.

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Mashad 2017 cultural event to be held Jan 24

Mashad, Jan 2, IRNA – More than 250 foreign guests and ambassadors from 40 countries will attend ‘Mashad 2017’ cultural event on January 24, 2017.

Director General of Khorasan Razavi Province Department of Culture and the Islamic Guidance Saeed Sarabi said that 14 ministers from Islamic countries as well as 20 dignitaries including former ministers and officials in addition to mayors of big cities have been invited to the ceremony.

He said around 150 cultural figures, media managers and directors from different ministries are among domestic participants.

The official predicted that some 120 Islamic characters will take part in the cultural event.

Mashad has been elected as Asian cultural capital of the Islamic World in 2017 by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO).

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How Indian fashion was influenced by Persian culture

Tehran, Dec 31, IRNA – Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT) reported that over the course of thousands of years Indians have been influenced by the Iranian culture in naming different types of clothing, the style of clothing and their diverse forms and this is obvious in their way of dressing and decorations of their outfits.

According to a report recently released by RICHT, the idea was put forward by Nassim Kompany, a researcher on India, at a gathering held to introduce Indian clothes.

The Indian researcher dealt with introducing different clothing, dresses, and their decorations in different parts of India and the influence of the Iranian and Persian cultures on the Indian outfit, said the report.

She said that the Indian people have used different words for naming their clothing during thousands of years, which have not been devoid of the influence of the Iranian culture.

She referred to the crucial role clothing has played in the Indian culture from the past up to the present time and said the way of dressing of the people along with the type of fabric, type of decoration, form of decoration and the amount of gold are all indicative of the classification of races and classes.

Stressing adherence of the Indian people to their traditions and religion, she attributed genuineness of the Indian clothing to the effects of traditions, customs and religion in the life of the people, which has safeguarded it against the influence of the West.

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Iran Self-Sufficient In Wheat Production

QAZVIN, Jan 2, (NNN-IRNA) – Operator of Wheat Self-Sufficiency Project Esmaiel Esfandiaripour says Iran has become self-sufficient in production of wheat this year (started on March 20).

‘This year, we have produced wheat more than needed,’ Esfandiaripour told IRNA on Sunday.

He said domestic need wheat had been estimated to be 13,500,000 tons but in this farming year, 14,590,000 tons such product was produced in the country.

He added that 11,500,000 tons out of the total wheat output were purchased from farmers.

He said self-sufficiency in production of essential agro products like wheat is emphasized by the Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

He added that the EU states, Canada, the US, Australia, and Argentine hold a share of 80 percent or 150 million tons of world wheat market and it will not be logical for the country to remain dependent on the country in terms of wheat.

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Iranian film ‘Kech’ shines at India Third Eye Film Festival

Tehran, Jan 2, IRNA – Iranian short film ‘Kech’ (Daughter) grabbed an award at the 15th edition of Third Eye Asian Film festival in Mumbai.

Directed by Mehrdad Hasani, ‘Kech’ snatched the award for the best short film at the event.

‘Kech’ narrates the story of a nurse who sacrifices herself to save a child from a war zone.

The festival holds various sections including best short and feature film sections, Spectrum Asia, Films By Women Film-makers, European Connection and Asian Film Culture Award.

Three Iranian short films reached to the competition section of the Third Eye Asian Film festival that awards filmmakers who make efforts to popularize Asian cinema in the world.

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Iran 3rd trade exhibit planned in Baghdad, February 12

Baghdad, Dec 31, IRNA – Iran’s exclusive trade exhibit will open in Baghdad on February 12 for the third consecutive year, offcials said on Saturday.

Iran 3rd exclusive trade exhibit to open in Baghdad in February

It was supposed to open on January 15, but, organizers said that the exhibit will be held in February.

Iran’s commercial attaché in Iraq Ibrahim Rezazadeh confirmed the new schedule.

The exhibit aims to get Iraqi companies and investors acquainted with Iranian industrial capabilities.

In new era, after getting rid of Daesh terrorism, the Iraq government gave priority to implement development projects in industry and the producing sector.

Iraqi trade officials said that Iraqi government has allocated more than 1.5 billion dollars for the first phase of industrial development.

Iraqi government planned to go ahead with economic development by cutting import and dependence on oil and create jobs, opting for industrial development as a means of remedies for national economy.

Iranian industrialists are to present their capabilities in technical machinery and setting up production lines in the fair.

Rezazadeh said that Iranian industrialists are interested in joint venture investment in Iraq.

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Safavid era pavement discovered in Chahar Bagh Abbasi, Isfahan

Tehran, Jan 2, IRNA – The discovery of the arrangement for building pavements in the Safavid era in Chahar Bagh Abbasi in Isfahan, with stone foundation and brick decoration around, is part of the archeological explorations in this area, the Relations Office of the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT) reported.

RICHT quoted head of the speculation team, Saeed Shahbaz, as saying Chahar Bagh is one of the main and historical streets in Isfahan which is located between Darvazeh Dolat and Sio-Se Pol and is divided into two sections of Upper Chahar Bagh and Chahar Bagh Abbasi.

He cited the construction date of Chahar Bagh, based on Tarikh-e Alamara-Ye Abbasi (History of Shah Abbas), the lunar year 1006, saying that each of the gardens surrounding Chahar Bagh had a specific name.

Shahbaz stated that the most famous of these gardens, according to the French traveler Chardin, are Baghe Takht, Baghe Chehelsoton, Baghe Kaaj, Baghe Ba Amir, Baghe Toupkhaneh, Baghe Nastaran, Baghe Fathabad, Baghe Pahlavan Hossein, Baghe Bolbol, Baghe Morghdaran, Baghe Khaneh Shiran, Baghe Hezar Jarib, Baghe Daravish Heydari and Baghe Daravish Nematollahi.

The archaeologist further remarked that by taking advantage of the descriptive-historic method and comparing ancient illustrated documents all the questions about the gardens and palaces of the Safavid era will be answered.

He referred to the protection of the architecture and urban planning of the old part of the city as the historical-cultural documents of the country, creation of attractive conditions for the development of tourism industry, prevention of motor traffic inside the street, traditional designing and use of construction materials which are coordinated with the present architecture and elimination of negative aspects as the primary goals of the comprehensive plan of the city.

The archeologist, pointing to the discoveries in Chahar Bagh Abbasi, said in the archeological surveys of the area remains of the flooring with 20×25 cm bricks dating back to the Qajar period were discovered which had been put together in a regular shape.

He also referred to the discovery of flooring with rubbles in a unified pattern dating back to the Pahlavi period as another finding of the explorations but said so far no sign had been found of the fountain network which has been mentioned in travelogues hoping that it would be found in the continuation of the excavations.

As for the continuation of the excavations, Shahbaz said continued research in Chahar Bagh Abbasi on the basis of historical documents and Chahar Bagh Abbasi travelogue will identify indicators of the tourism ecosystem and the missing Safavid architecture.

He said that continued exploration will help identification of the layers and architectural remains and also structure of the pavement and the fountain network and their connection with the gardens and Jahan Nama building.

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Tehran University among UI GreenMetric 500 top universities

Tehran, Jan 1, IRNA – Based on Indonesia University’s latest reports, Tehran University ranking 431st in the world was among 500 top universities of UI GreenMetric World University Ranking in 2016.

UI GreenMetric World University Ranking presents a comprehensive perspective of the current environmental and sustainable development policies in various countries’ institutions to attract managers and policy makers’ attention to environmental and energy consuming issues.

UI GreenMetric uses 6 key indicators of environment and infrastructure, energy and climate change, waste management, water, transportation and education for ranking institutions.

Over 10,000 institutions are assessed by UI GreenMetric system annually.

Based on the UI GreenMetric results, Tehran University had 3,108 scores including 196 scores in environment and infrastructure, 386 scores in energy and climate change, 1,152 scores in waste management, 200 scores in water, 751 scores in transportation and 423 scores in education indicators.

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Iran’s exports of agricultural products grow 25%

MENAFN – 02/01/2017 – During the first eight months of Iranian calendar year, IRIB reported that Iran had exported 3,805 million tons of agriculture products, a 25.22% increase year on year.

According to the Iranian Deputy agriculture minister for planning and economic affairs, the agricultural exports experienced a 4.15% rise in valuand stood at USD3,532b.

Abdolmahdi Bakhshandeh said: “Agricultural products accounted for 4.65% of the country”s total non-oil exports in terms of weight and also 12.58% of the exports in terms of value.”

Also, agricultural imports decreased by 4.98% and 3.18% in terms of weight and value respectively.

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Turkey donates 1.8 Million dollars to the OIC General Secretariat

02/01/2017 – In line with the pledge made by the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) received with much gratitude and appreciation a donation of 1.8 million US Dollars from the Republic of Turkey, a founding member of the OIC.

The Secretary General of the OIC, Dr. Yousef A. Al Othaimeen, expressed utmost gratitude and most sincere thanks to His Excellency President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish Government for so generous a donation, pointing out to the full commitment of Turkey to the objectives and principles of the OIC. Turkey, chairs the current session of the Islamic Summit Conference, and actively involved in the various OIC programmes and activites.

Turkey concurrently also made 100.000 USD donation to the Islamic Solidarity Fund and another 100.000 USD to the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission.

For the record, the Turkish President had announced a donation pledge to the General Secretariat of the OIC, during the 13th Islamic Summit Conference in Istanbul in April 2016.

The Government of the Republic of Turkey had made a voluntary contribution of USD 1.5 million to the budget of the OIC General Secretariat in 2007, and a 1 million USD voluntary contribution in 2005.

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Investors seek USD4.34b for Turkish development projects

MENAFN – 02/01/2017 – The Turkish development minister said that government received initial applications for USD4.34b of regional projects, which worth 15.4 billion Turkish liras.

L’tfi Elvan had tweeted: ‘Although I have not announced it yet, pre-requests for our Attraction Centers Program reached 15.4 billion liras as of today (Dec. 28).’

He also forecasted that demand for such projects would create an estimated 93.000 jobs in the eastern provinces in the country.

Furthermore, the program will help prevent migration from eastern Turkey to bigger provinces, such as Istanbul and Ankara.

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Turkmenistan spends $5 billion on infrastructure projects in 2016

29 Dec 2016, Ashgabat, (IINA) – Turkmenistan commissioned 202 facilities that cost a total of over $5 billion in 2016, Trend News Agency reported Thursday.

The facilities include the Ashgabat International Airport, the first phase of the Asian International Railway Corridor (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan), a high-capacity power plant in the country’s Lebap region, a building complex of the University of Engineering Technologies Of Turkmenistan named after Oguz Khan as well as other facilities.

In addition, residential buildings with a total area of over 1,700,000 square meters, numerous schools and pre-school institutions, healthcare facilities as well as hotels in the Avaza National Tourist Zone were built in 2016.

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Emirates: A Year Of Growth With Fleet And Product Milestones

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Dec 30 (NNN-WAM) – Emirates, the world’s largest international airline, rounded off another year of growth in 2016, underlined by fleet and network expansion, as well as, customer focused product investments.

Commenting on 2016, Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, said, “Consumer appetite for travel has remained resilient, despite socioeconomic and political headwinds around the globe, and that is reflected in our operational growth. Emirates will continue on our strategy of organic growth, leveraging on the geo-centricity of the UAE, and Dubai’s dynamic developments in tourism and commerce. We will also continue to invest in our product and services, so as to offer our customers an outstanding experience and value proposition, while they discover the world.”

Emirates scaled up its fleet in 2016, with the addition of 36 new aircraft, consisting of 20 A380’s, 16 Boeing 777-300ER’s, while retiring 29 older aircraft. The airline concluded the year with 255 aircraft in service, with an average age of 5.0 years, significantly below the industry average of over 11 years.

Keeping its fleet young not only minimises Emirates’ overall carbon footprint, but it also enables the airline to put the latest products and services on board its aircraft.

Emirates unlocked seven new passenger points and one cargo destination in 2016, rounding off the year with 154 destinations in its global network. The airline’s new passenger services in 2016 were: Cebu and Clark in the Philippines, Yinchuan and Zhengzhou in China, Yangon in Myanmar, Hanoi in Vietnam, Fort Lauderdale in the US and cargo-only destination, Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

Emirates also expanded its A380 network to 44 destinations, with the addition of eight new points. Today it operates the longest A380 service in the world, from Dubai to Auckland, and also the world’s shortest A380 service to Doha. During the year, Emirates also led one-off A380 services to two destinations – Chicago in the US, and Amman in Jordan.

Emirates was named World’s Best Airline 2016, at the Skytrax World Airline Awards, and in the past year, the airline continued to work hard to deliver memorable experiences for its customers. The airline invested in a series of product developments and service enhancements, both in the air and on the ground.

Emirates continued to strengthen its in-flight entertainment (IFE) offering. With the airline now operating an all-Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 fleet, this means customers on all Emirates flights can access on-demand entertainment with up to 2,600 channels of movies, music, TV shows, games and more, to choose from.

In Oct, Emirates signed an agreement with Thales to equip its Boeing 777X fleet with the Thales AVANT in-flight entertainment system, debuting in mid-2020.

Reflecting the increasingly connected digital lifestyle, over 8.8 million Emirates passengers connected to Wi-Fi on board in 2016. In addition, more than 400,000 phone calls were made in-flight, and 1.7 million sms messages were transmitted by passengers.

Emirates topped The Brand Finance Global 500 report, as the world’s most valuable airline brand in 2016, with the airline’s brand value growing more than 17 percent to US$ 7.7 billion. Throughout 2016, Emirates continued to use sports, musical and cultural events as a platform to engage with its customers and fans.

In a joint effort to promote reading and literacy, Emirates partnered with Google, in an initiative called ‘Celebrating Arabic Reading.’ This initiative aimed to reach millions of smartphone users and make Arabic books more accessible with unprecedented discounts of up to 90 percent on online books, at the Google Play Books store in nine countries in the Middle East, and support the UAE’s Year of Reading. So far, the initiative has reached over 120 million people in the region.

In Nov, Emirates teamed up with Dubai Miracle Garden, to construct the world’s largest floral installation through a life-size version of the Emirates A380, covered in more than 500,000 fresh flowers and living plants. Over 200 people worked for 180 days to build, layer and mount the foliage on the 30 tonne steel structure. The aircraft structure even includes moving engine fans and other key design features that capture the essence of the original aircraft design.– NNN-WAM

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“Kuwait For Peace, Egypt For Love” Tourism Festival inaugurated

SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt, Dec 30 (NNN-MENA) – Kuwait’s Ambassador to Egypt, Mohammad Saleh Al-Thuwaikh, and a plethora of Egyptian senior officials, including Tourism Minister, Yahia Rashid, inaugurated late Thursday, “Kuwait for Peace, Egypt for Love” tourism festival, to back Egypt’s economy and boost bilateral ties.

This event reflects the strength and the depth of Kuwaiti-Egyptian relations, at the official and people-to-people levels, Al-Thuwaikh said, in his inaugural speech.

He added that, the festival’s organisation materialises the Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s initiative, to support Egyptian economy.

He wished the festival would help revive the Egyptian tourism sector, which has been facing serious challenges in the past years.

He thanked the Governor of South Sinai Governorate, Khaled Fouda, and Kuwait’s Future Group, for facilitating the organisation of the event.

For his part, Fouda expressed gratitude for the Kuwaiti initiative, and lauded the Egyptian-Kuwaiti relations, describing it as a role model for Arab relations.– NNN-MENA

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UAE launches awareness campaign to conserve wildlife

28 Dec 2016, Abu Dhabi, (IINA) – UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment launched the ‘Beautiful in the Wild’ campaign for the third consecutive year in partnership with the United for Wildlife Organization, WAM reported.

The initiative aims to raise awareness among UAE visitors and residents about the significance of protection of endangered species to ensure biodiversity at local and international levels. Dr. Thani Al-Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, unveiled an interactive stand promoting the campaign at Terminal 1 of Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The promotional stand allows passengers to enter a virtual wildlife world via the HoloLens technology. With the help of a cutting-edge holographic computer, visitors can experience simulated interaction with wild animals in their natural environment. The presentation also includes a virtual brochure with information on wildlife species.

Among other related initiatives is the UAE National Biodiversity Strategy that develops and implements programs to increase the conservation status of highly endangered species to 70 percent.

In addition, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment collaborates with the competent local authorities such as the Emirates Wildlife Society and International Fund for Animal Welfare, to step-up awareness of endangered species, legislation regulating wildlife trafficking, and the dangers of illegal wildlife trade.

The illegal trade in wildlife is estimated around $15-20 billion annually, and it is also one of the most prevalent commercial activities in the world besides trading in drugs, weapons, and human trafficking. Most of the world’s wildlife has become endangered due to illegal trade and the failure to regulate it and monitor the wildlife species. This scenario ultimately leads to their extinction.

The number of species included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is around 35,000 species of both animals and plants; they are divided into three appendices according to their protection level to protect them from the negative impact of international trade.

Nearly 100,000 African elephants have been killed between 2010 and 2012 for their ivory, poaching of rhinos has led to the disappearance of more than 90 percent of its population during the last century. The numbers of falcons have continued to decline for many reasons including capturing of live birds for falconry practices, human population expansion, pollution, nest disturbance and climate change.

As for tigers, three subspecies are entirely extinct out of the eight original subspecies of tigers: Bali tiger, the Caspian tiger, and Javan tiger. Currently, no more than 3,200 tigers exist in the wild.

Sharks are also not spared from overfishing with more than 70 million sharks killed every year for their fins for preparing shark fin soup. Turtles are also caught illegally for meat, eggs and using their shells in crafting jewelry for tourists.

The UAE joined CITES in 1990 and issued the Federal Law No. 11 of 2002 to implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in order to develop strict measures to regulate the illegal wildlife trade by issuing permits for the entry and exit of these species, and to tighten control over transit goods.

Moreover, the Ministry organizes training workshops on a regular basis for the national employers in collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, such as the workshop on the illegal trade in sharks and the training workshop for customs employees on the implementation of CITES which explains how to identify the endangered species listed on the CITES appendix.

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King presides at Bahrain First Festival 2016

MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec 29 (NNN-BNA) – Education contributes to the development of human beings and the evolution of the homeland, said King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa. He reiterated firm keenness on promoting education which, he said, plays an influential role in consolidating authentic Bahraini identity.

Patronising the 10th edition of the Bahrain First 2016 Festival, the King congratulated students on the good scores they achieved, in scientific competitions and international tests. “You have proved, through your achievements, Bahrainis’ ability to compete, obtain pioneering achievements, and carry the national banner for a better future, which we all aspire to attain,” he said.

The King was met at the Bahrain National Stadium, with cheering welcome, as 34,000 government and private school students rallied to hail the royal patronage. Education Minister, Dr. Majid bin Ali Al-Nuaimi, and other senior officials were also present.

The King expressed delight at attending the decade-old festival which, he said, epitomises the spirit of patriotism at its best, and offers students a floor to voice their good feelings and show their love for Bahrain.

He directed the Ministry of Education to revamp the iconic Al-Hedaya Al-Khalifia School, and turn it into a new national university, in the City of Muharraq, so as to contribute fully, through its developed academic programmes and scientific specialities, to national development and progress.

The aim, the King said, is to enrich the national march and preserve Bahrain’s pioneering standing in the educational sector, which dates back to the early 20th century, with the establishment of the iconic Al-Hedaya Al-Khalifia School in 1919.

In a statement on this occasion, the minister hailed the royal directives to turn the iconic Al-Hedaya Al-Khalifia School into a modern national university. Dr. Al-Nuaimi lauded the royal initiative which, he said, reflects keenness on investing in human resources, being the cornerstone of development and progress.

He thanked the King for patronising the 10th edition of Bahrain First Festival that reflects the strength of the national unity and pride in the Islamic identity that the King constantly instils in every Bahraini. The minister noted the great progress made in the educational field, thanks to the support of the King for the ministry’s development projects, including the Digital Empowerment in Education, which is an extension of King Hamad Schools of the Future project and Schools Enhancing Citizenship and Human Rights project, aimed at boosting citizenship, tolerance and coexistence, the respect for other people’s opinions, national unity.

He pointed out the King’s interest in fostering students of special needs and integrating them in schools to improve their aptitudes, as they are national assets. He congratulated the King on the honourable results accomplished by the Bahraini students in the 2015 international tests for mathematics and science. The minister then presented the King with a commemorative gift marking the 10th anniversary of the Bahrain First Festival.– NNN-BNA

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Qatar’s major family business to go public

MENAFN – The Peninsula – 02/01/2017 – Qatar’s major family business Investment Holding Group (IHG) is going public.

The Group, which is one of the leading contracting and trading firms in the Qatari construction sector, yesterday announced that it has received approval from the Qatar Financial Markets Authority (QFMA) to list 60 percent of the Group’s paid-up share capital through an Initial Public Offering (IP0), making it the first Qatari family business to receive approval to list its shares on the Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) through an IPO.

The total value offer will be around QR490.8m representing 60 percent of the Group’s capital, which is QR830m. The number of shares included in the offer is 49.8 million shares at a pricing of QR10.1 per share.

The offer period will be open for two weeks starting January, 8 and ending on January 22. This will be open for direct subscription by individual Qatari citizens, Qatari companies registered in Qatar or companies incorporated in Qatar and listed on the Qatari stock exchange. The IPO will be offered through The Commercial Bank.

The minimum application by an individual investor or an institutional investor is set at 500 shares; any application exceeding the Minimum Application shall be in groups of 100 Offer Shares.

The minimum application by a Cornerstone Investor is set at 1 million shares; with the option of acquiring additional tranches of 100,000 shares over the minimum level.

In the event of oversubscription, shares included within this offer will be distributed on a proportional basis to investors, both individuals and entities.

IHG’s decision to be listed on the QSE is in line with its vision to continue contributing to the development of the local Qatari economy, and increase its shareholder base.

‘The Qatar private sector is increasingly playing an integral role in further developing the economy, proving to be a real partner in supporting the government’s efforts towards achieving a sustainable economy and society. Our proposed listing is also a clear achievement in line with the objectives of Qatar’s National Vision 2030 to facilitate collaboration between the public and private sectors, said Ghanim Sultan Al Hodaifi, Chairman of IHG’s Board of Directors.

Al Hodaifi praised the high level of support that the Qatari Government is providing to the private sector, which is in line with the continuous development and ease of processes for companies; especially family businesses, allowing them to become public shareholding companies.

‘Family businesses must work to improve the fficient management of their share capital by means of expanding their shareholder base by listing on the stock exchange. Our IPO is an opportunity to show how a family owned business has managed to grow to become one of the most comprehensive solution contracting businesses in Qatar’s construction sector, he added.

Qatar Stock Exchange is strongly positioned for growth as a result of the resilience of the Qatari economy which enjoys strong investor confidence. This is also attributed to the strength of companies already listed on the stock exchange, which have achieved positive growth during the past year.

‘The private sector should contribute to the financial market performance through further listings, as this will widen the diversity and breadth of the listed sectors and increases investor confidence (both for individuals and institutions) for investing in the long-term plans of the listed companies, said Wael Shtayyeh, CEO of IHG.

‘The Company’s board of directors is proud to offer the Qatari financial markets its first case of listing a family business through an IPO as a first public shareholding company. Shtayyeh added,

‘Given the Group’s long expertise in the Qatari construction sector; consistent growth and strong performance of its subsidiary companies, in addition to the wide positive economic indicators, we are confident that there will be a strong investor response to the subscription.

IHG obtained permission from the Minister of Economy and Commerce for its conversion into a Qatari Public Company on December 12, 2016, having proven its strong presence in the Qatari construction sector for over 40 years.

Today the company has become a leading player in diverse commercial activities across various segments of the contracting sector. This includes contracts for construction projects; specialised contracting (mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP); engineering construction and projects (ECP)). The company is also a supplier of building materials, safety equipment, tools, timber, security systems, firefighting systems and other related materials.

The Company is the direct or indirect legal owner of: Construction Development Contracting & Trading W.L.L (51%); Debbas Enterprise Qatar W.L.L (51%); Electro Mechanical Engineering Company W.L.L (68.5%); Consolidated Engineering Systems Company W.L.L. (60.4%); Watermaster (Qatar) W.L.L. (63.3%); Trelco Limited Company W.L.L (100%); Consolidated Supplies Company W.L.L. (75.5%); and Trelco Building Materials Company W.L.L. (85%)

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Qatar Red Crescent, FAO pact to boost agriculture in Niger

Monday 02 Jan 2017, Doha (IINA) – Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have recently signed a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) to continue their joint humanitarian efforts ongoing since 2012 in Niger.

Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported that the MoU seeks to enhance agricultural activities in the West African country during the 2016-2017 season, by providing farmers in deprived areas with improved seeds, guidance, and technical support.

A QRCS specialist group would supervise and advise the beneficiaries, in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture and local authorities.

A total of 4,100 kg of vegetable seeds would be distributed in 193 towns of 14 municipalities. The species covered include cabbage, lettuce, carrot, tomato and corn. In preparation, a course was held for agricultural technicians and volunteers on the project’s action plan and beneficiary selection criteria.

Niger hosts thousands of Malian refugees, who fled the violence in their home country to settle in the Tillaberi and Tahoua border regions.

Working there since 2011, QRCS operates primary health care centers at refugee camps, in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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Al-Ayam Cultural Festival Inaugurated In Bahrain

MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec 30 (NNN-BNA) – Bahrain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, inaugurated today, the 23rd edition of Al-Ayam Cultural Festival, which is organised by Al-Ayam Publishing institution, at Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Representatives Council Speaker, Ahmed bin Ibrahim Al Mulla, Shura Council Chairman, Ali bin Saleh Al Saleh, ministers, senior officials, members of the diplomatic corps, people interested in the cultural and literary movement and invitees also attended.

The Deputy Premier toured the exhibition’s pavilions, and got informed about the cultural and literary publications on display.

He praised the role of Al-Ayam Press and Publishing, in enabling people to get informed about the latest publications of Arab and international publishing companies and enriching the cultural movement in Bahrain.

A total of 225 publishing companies are taking part in the 10-day festival, with more than 600,000 books, covering various areas.

More than 40 new publishing institutions are participating in this year’s event, compared to last year. Moreover, 100 new pavilions have been added in this year’s exhibition.

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Dubai aims 64 initiatives for taxi service

Dubai – 02/01/2017 – (MENAFN) Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has confirmed a plan for boosting services of the Dubai Taxi Corp. (DTC), covering 64 initiatives to be undertaken to 2021.

Accordingly, the authority also set a plan for improving attitudes of cabdrivers of DTC encompassing 22 initiatives to be instlled up to 2019.

In addition, it will also upgrade the taxi service in Dubai Emirate offered through DTC or franchise firms.

Moreover, the projects improvement plan of DTC services spans 5 key aspects, such as the introduction of smart & innovative transports solution systems.

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Chinese to Research Al-Sirrayen Archaeological Site, Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, Rabi’II 3, 1438, Jan 1, 2017, SPA — Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage co-signed the Convention for joint action, in the field of land and offshore exploration with the Chinese National Heritage Dept., represented by the Marine Archaeological Center to carry out exploration, at Al-Sirrayen archaeological site, in Laith province, west of Saudi Arabia.

The Co-signing ceremony has taken place, during the second opening day of the exhibition, under the motto: “Trade Routes in the Arabian Peninsula – the wonder masterpieces of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through the ages”, which has been opened on 21st of March 2016, at the National Museum of China, in Beijing.

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Egypt To Focus On African Exports Market

CAIRO, Jan 2 (NNN-AGENCIES)–The Egyptian Commercial Service Office (ECS) has designed an ambitious plan to enhance Egypt’s presence in Africa, said its head Ahmed Antar.

it is currently studying the possibility of taking part in international exhibitions in the African continent, as well as beginning negotiations on the establishment of a permanent exhibition in Djibouti, along with other talks to set up an Egyptian-African free trade zone.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry prepared a plan to restructure its commercial representation abroad, out of the belief that the coming period requires rapid actions to restore the competitiveness of Egyptian products.

“We opened offices across Africa last year in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Tanzania. We plan on opening an office in Djibouti in 2017.

“Meanwhile we restructured other offices, and closed nine offices in Portugal, Chicago, Denmark, Australia, Ukraine, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Basra.”–NNN-AGENCIES

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Tunisia: Date exports rise 42 %

by AfricanManager – Dec 30, 2016

Tunisia’s date exports increased by 42% from the beginning of the season, i.e. October1 until December 27, 2016, to 140 million Tunisian dinars (MTD), against 98.7 MTD the same period last year, the Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement Thursday.

The exported quantities grew by 22.5% to 28.3 thousand tons, from 23.1 thousand tons in the same period of the previous season. The quantities of organic dates exported reached 2.8 thousand tons.

The first destination of Tunisian dates are Western European countries (16.2 thousand tons), followed by countries of North Africa (6.9 thousand tons).

Morocco is in the first place with 5.5 thousand tons followed by Italy 4.8 thousand tons and France (3rd place) with 3.1 thousand tons.

Date exports registered record quantities of 110 thousand tons during the last season 2015/2016, generating revenues estimated at 473.3 MTD.

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Tunisia: hotel bookings in Tozeur exceed 80% for New Year’s Eve

by AfricanManager – Dec 29, 2016

Bookings in hotels and guesthouses for the evening of the New Year 2017 exceeded 80% in the governorate of Tozeur, said local tourism commissioner Anouar Chtioui.

Inspection and control campaigns on cleanliness and hygiene, as well as the quality of services provided in hotel units and tourist circuits, were carried out recently, he added.

According to the commissioner’s estimates, bookings will continue on an upward curve in January next year for the International Festival of Oases (17-20 January 2017).

During the first ten days of December, 9,232 tourists visited the Tozeur region and spent nearly 5,899 overnight stays there.

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Tunisia seeks to stimulate foreign investment

January 2, 2017, Tunis Daily News, TUNIS: In 2016, Tunisia sought to stimulate foreign investment in order to revive the country’s economy, which has been stagnating for about 15 years. From 2005 to 2015, the country lost not less than 2,500 jobs per year due to the closure of about 400 companies each year. According to the Tunisian Agency for the Promotion of Industry and Innovation (APII), small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) are the most affected by this stagnation because of their lack of competitiveness, liquidity and financial market access. This has an immediate impact on the foreign investors, who try to avoid high-risk markets.

At the end of last November, Tunisia mobilized 34 billion dinars (about 14.5 billion dollars) on the occasion of Tunisia 2020, an international conference aimed at promoting investments in Tunisia. This consists of 15 billion dinars from agreements already signed, during the two-day event, and 19 billion dinars in the form of investment promises. There will be also a question of how to modernize the foreign investment infrastructures, especially since the various industrial zones are relatively isolated; and how to promote export, as deterioration of costs and competitiveness has direct consequences on the foreign investors’ perception towards the country.

As as a major partner of aeronautical manufacturers such as Airbus, the French company Corse Composites Aeronautiques (CCA) has been based in Tunisia since 2010. CCA Tunisia produces the landing gear hatches for Airbus and Dassault Aviation Falcon and proceeds to the fairing of the reactors. According to Patrick De Lattre, general manager of CCA Tunisia, Tunisia experienced between 2011 and 2015 a “great period of floating” due to the “deadly and regrettable” terrorist attacks. “Many French companies have left Tunisia due to the factors linked essentially to a state of troubled society during the last five years.”

Aeronautic remains one of the promising sectors of the Tunisia’s future. However, some neighboring countries are constantly competing with Tunisia in this regard. “Apart from the administrative slowness, the common denominator of all the countries of the region, Tunisia distinguishes itself from its main competitors, such as Morocco, by the fact that the Tunisian government interferes less than other countries in the foreign business activities,” said the director of CCA Tunisia. “Tunisia remains the most attractive business and investment site in the region because of its proximity and cultural rapprochement,” he concluded.

The Iberchem group, one of the largest Spanish fragrance manufacturers of fine perfumery, has been present in Tunisia since 1989. “We have doubled our turnover in Tunisia, exceeding 4.5 million euros in 2015, thanks to a solid position on the market,” said Benigno Calvo, director of Iberchem Tunisia.

“The overall performance of our company is influenced not only by the current situation in Tunisia, but also by the general situation in our two other direct markets, namely Algeria and especially Libya,” he said in an interview to Xinhua.

According to the director of Iberchem Tunisia, there are some structural problems in the country, in particular the worrying situation of the port of Rades, one of the main commercial ports of Tunisia, located in the suburbs of the capital Tunis, “which could affect our delivery plans and is accompanied by some legal and social uncertainty, although it is improving.”

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‘Tunisia sings Africa’, cultural event at Habib Bourguiba Avenue

January 2, 2017, Tunis Daily News, — “Tunisia sings Africa”, a festive cultural event held on Saturday at Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Association of African Students and Trainees in Tunisia (AESAT) to express Tunisia’s solidarity with the African students residing in Tunis especially after the aggression perpetrated last December 24 against three Congolese students.

This event, held in the presence of Minister of Culture Mohamed Zine el Abidine and representatives of associations and forums of African students and young people, is an opportunity to show the strong ties between Tunisia and the African countries.

The minister stressed in a statement to the media the importance of solidarity between Tunisians and Africans and denounced any form of racism or mistreatment against Africans in Tunisia.

President of AASAT called on the Tunisian government to ensure the improvement of conditions for African students and trainees in Tunisia and to strengthen the bonds of friendship between Africans and Tunisians.

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Libyan Wings airliner launches new Misurata-Carthage flights

Tunis, December 26, 2016, Tunis Daily News, – The Libyan Tripoli-based Libyan Wings airliner said Sunday it had launched a new flights route from Misurata Airport to Carthage Airport in Tunisia.

The route will see two flights a week; on Mondays and Thursdays starting January 05, 2017.

An official at the airliner told Libyan Express that adding to the number of flights between Libya and Tunisia would be very helpful given the growing demand on this destination from both countries.

“Adding more flights to Tunisia on the company’s schedule is a plus for Libyan Wings’ share in the international routes to and from Tunisia.”

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Algeria Plans 4,000 Mw Of Renewable Energy Projects

ALGIERS, Dec 30 (NNN-APS) — Algeria will soon issue a national and international invitation to tender for the production of 4,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity from renewable energy sources as part of the implementation of the National Renewable Energy Development Programme, says Energy Minister Boutarfa Nourredine.

The programme aims at eventually achieving a target of producing 22,000 MW of power from renewable sources by 2030, increasing the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy sources by 27 per cent, Boutarfa said here Thursday in reply to a question in the People’s National Assembly on renewable energy development in Algeria.

To that end, a national and international invitation to tender would be launched soon for the production of 4,000MW, he said, adding that the investors should manufacture locally some of the equipment to be used in converting renewable sources of energy into electricity, such as solar panels.

The minister recalled that the different investment projects, worth some 120 billion dinars (about 1.08 billion US dollars), launched nationwide so far had led to the production of 400 MW from renewable energy sources.

Among them are the hybrid power plant in Hassi R’mel, which has a production capacity of more than 100 MW, and the pilot solar power plant in Ghardaia (1.1 MW), in addition to 22 solar power plants in 14 provinces with a total capacity or 343 MW.

The National Renewable Energy Development Programme when fully implemented will enable Algeria to save up to 240 billion cubic metres of natural gas, worth 63 billion USD at current prices, over 20 years. — NNN-APS

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Gazans Make Joy Out Of Bitter In Bracing For New Year

A feature by NNN-XINHUA – GAZA, Dec. 31 (NNN-Xinhua) — Gifts, trees and lights for the celebration of Christmas and the New Year were heavily decorating the storefronts of Gaza city’s main street in the hope of attracting customers and increasing sales to flourish the sluggish economy in the impoverished Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Storekeepers along Omer al-Mukhtar avenue in Gaza city center displayed their goods and gifts to exploit the occasion in a bid to compensate a sharp economic recession that the coastal enclave has been experiencing since Hamas took control of the territory in 2007.

Storefronts had been topped with gifts that focused on a variety of forms such as Santa Claus and his famous wagon, as well as sponge-made big red hearts that read “Happy New Year.” Such a scene is rare in a conservative society like Gaza, dominated by Islamic thoughts that see such a phenomena a taboo.

Mohamed Ajour, a Gaza storekeeper, told Xinhua that the New Year occasion is considered for him and other vendors “as a very important event that attract customers to buy gifts and consequently this may help flourish the weak trade movement in the entire Gaza Strip.”

The gifts that are mostly sold to customers are those related to the holiday season such as Santa Claus costumes and red hats as well as the sculptures used for congratulating the new year.

A large lighted Christmas tree has been placed outside Ajour’s store, where customers stop for taking pictures.

Ibrahim Farajj, a local Gaza photographer, told Xinhua that pilling the storefronts with such beautiful gifts and lights “is not only helping attract customers to buy, but also it allows them to document this annual event, which is receiving the new year with hope that it will be better next year.”

“Taking photos of individuals or families in the market and in the main street of Gaza City, mainly near the Christmas tree, or wearing the red hats of Santa Claus and his costumes, was quite popular among the customers,” said Farajj.

Other stores in Gaza, which sell garments, perfumes, accessories and cosmetics, take advantage of the holiday season to show their goods and products.

The red color is the color that dominates most of the stores in the Gaza Strip.

Restaurants and hotels in Gaza city, most of them are located along the seaside, declared a variety of activities for their customers, such as parties before midnight of the New Year.

In the previous years, Hamas security forces and police used to ban any celebratory events.

However, the thing which is odd and strange is that the Hamas-run Ministry of Interior told those who are planning New Year celebrations in their restaurants, cafés and hotels that they can celebrate only on Dec. 30, instead of Dec. 31, according to Gaza restaurants owners.

“The Interior Ministry told us that it decided to allow us to celebrate on Dec. 30 because celebrating the New Year on Dec. 31 is a western phenomena that completely contradicts with Islamic rules and Islamic philosophy,” Salah Abu Hassira, chairman of Restaurants Union in Gaza city, told Xinhua.

He went on saying that “the restaurants and hotels in the Gaza Strip will abide by the decision of the Interior Ministry and will do the New Year celebration on Dec. 30 instead of Dec. 31.”

Abu Hassira also said that hotels and restaurants are using the season to help flourish the economy, which has deteriorated and been broken due to around 10 years of an Israeli tight blockade, which was imposed on the Gaza Strip right after Hamas seized control of it.

“Preventing parties and celebrations on the New Year’s Eve is certainly damaging our business,” he said, adding “the whole world is celebrating the New Year’s Eve, and the ban in Gaza would double our suffering and keep our business deteriorating.”

In the Gaza Strip, there are 109 touristic establishments, including restaurants, hotels, resorts and cafes. Abu Hassira said that the annual loss in the sector of tourism in the Gaza Strip climbed to 6 million U.S. dollars, due to the Israeli blockade and due to Hamas restrictions.

Various rights groups in the Gaza Strip usually slam Hamas policy for preventing people in the enclave to celebrate joyful occasions.

The groups said in various statements that such a policy would increase despair and depression among the population. — NNN-XINHUA

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China’s Urumqi Airport Sees Record Number Of Travelers

URUMQI, China Dec. 30 (NNN-Xinhua) — In 2016, 20 million people traveled through the airport in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, according to local airport authorities.

The Urumqi Diwobao International airport saw 10 million tourists in 2011, and has been growing by two million each year since, the airport said in a statement.

Currently, 33 Chinese and foreign airlines have operations at the Urumqi airport, which is connected to 100 cities in China and overseas.

Urumqi will become an international hub, connecting East Asia with Central Asia, Western Asia and Europe, the statement said.

By the end of 2020, the number of tourists will reach 30 million, it said. — NNN-XINHUA

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IsDB provides US$5 million for solar energy project in Jordan

Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 28 December, 2016 – The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), based in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is providing a US $5 million financing support for construction of a solar power plant which is expected to contribute to the sustainability and financial resource optimization of the “King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC) Expansion Project” in Jordan.

The approval came during the 316th meeting of the members of the board of directors of IsDB, in Jeddah. The loan is expected to be repaid within a period of 20 years inclusive of a five year grace period.

IsDB Group President, H.E. Dr. Bandar Hajjar, underlined, on the occasion, that the Bank started cooperation with the KHCC since the center was established in 1991. “At the IsDB Group, we take pride in the high quality of services rendered by the KHCC and are committed to supporting the outstanding initiatives by the Center,” President Bandar Hajjar stated.

Also commenting on the board’s decision, IsDB Vice President for Sector Operations, Dr. Mansur Muhtar, reiterated that the Islamic Development Bank remains steadfast in its bid to provide special support for the socio-economic development of the member countries and the funding for the solar power plant in Jordan renders parallel support to both the energy and health sectors in Jordan.

Feasibility studies of the project suggest that the 14 MW “Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant”, once operational, shall save the KHCC more than US $7 million in annual electricity expenses and the relevant amounts can be redirected towards other high impact activities such as Research and Development (R&D), acquiring state-of-the-art medical equipment, providing treatment to the less privileged patients, etc. The funding support for construction of the power plant comes exactly at a time when the

KHCC is embarking on providing services to a greater number of patients seeking diagnosis and medication both from within Jordan and neighboring countries which is tantamount to a hike in expenses.

The energy sector in Jordan is drawing in foreign investments meant to develop the renewable energy projects in the country and according to Dr. Waleed Abdelwahab, Director, IsDB Infrastructure Department, the Bank’s contribution to the construction of this solar power plant at this stage is of pivotal significance to support Jordan’s renewable energy program.

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Islamic Bank injects US$863 million into new development projects

Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 27.12.2016 – The Board of Executive Directors of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), in its 316th meeting on Sunday, gave the final go ahead for injecting US $863 million in to new financing development projects in a number of member countries namely; Guinea, U.A.E, Bahrain, Morocco, Senegal, Togo, Djibouti, Chad, Jordan, and Mali.

The meeting also approved to a number of important programs including the proposed three year action plan (2017-2019) totaling US $16 billion. It further approved US $5.2 billion budget for the new fiscal year 2017 and reviewed the major components of the IsDB President’s program for the next five years.

The financing approvals included:

  • US $208 million for construction of two regional integration roads: “the 151 kilometer Dabola-Kouroussa” and “the 116 kilometer Guekedou-Kissoudougou-Kondembradou” roads projects in Guinea
  • US $170 million for the “non-sovereign project financing participation in the Dewa 800 MW Photo-voltaic Solar Power Plant – Phase III” in Dubai, U.A.E
  • US $105 million for “Aluminum Bahrain B.S.C (Alba) 1350 MW Power Plant (PS5) under Line 6 Expansion Project” in Bahrain
  • US $94 million for the “Inclusive Rural Growth Project” in Morocco
  • US $92.3 million for two projects in Senegal namely: “US $60.3 million for Development of National Islamic Microfinance Project- PROMISE” and “US $32 million for support to the Malaria Control and Elimination Project”
  • US $91.5 million for “Rehabilitation of Avepozo-Aneho Road & Coastal Erosion Protection” in Togo
  • US $60 million for contribution to establishment of the “General Hospital for the National Fund for Social Security Project” in Djibouti
  • US $8 million for the “Solar Energy for Rural Development Project”, in Chad
  • US $5 million for the “Solar Power Plant – King Hussein Cancer Center Expansion Project” in Jordan
  • US $4 million for the “Solar Energy for Rural Development Project under Reverse Linkage” in Mali

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