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30 Jan, 2017

Pakistan is Home to World’s Largest Ice Glaciers

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 30 January 2017 (02 Jumada Al Awwal 1438). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Win FREE trips in Malaysia by entering this Photography And Short Video Competition

The Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia is organising a photography and short video competition on social media with the sub-theme #MyCuisine from 1 January 2017 to 28 February 2017. To enter, participants need to submit a creative photo or short video related to the uniqueness and diversity of the food and beverage of Malaysia’s multicultural society via Instagram or Facebook. For the short video competition, participants need to upload a 30- to 60-second short video on Instagram with the hashtags #SayangMalaysia and #MyCuisine. The competition offers various attractive prizes for the top three winners and five consolation prizes, which include domestic flight tickets, accommodation at popular domestic destinations, theme park tickets, shopping vouchers, and many more. In the #Sayang Malaysia Campaign, the public will get the chance to participate in six photography and short video competitions throughout 2017 under six sub-themes, which are as follows: i. #MyCuisine – January to February; iv.#MySports- July to August; vi.#MyFamilyFun – November to December.

The competition is to make Malaysia a premier tourist destination and to encourage both domestic and international tourists to use social media to share all their beautiful and unique holiday experiences in Malaysia. The #SayangMalaysia Campaign is an initiative under Malaysia’s National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) between Government Departments/Agencies and the private sector, including the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia, National Service Training Department, iM4U, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), and tourism industry players.

Further details: http://www.motac.gov.my/en/sayangmalaysia

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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Pakistan is Home to World’s Largest Ice Glaciers

GILGIT, Jan 29 (APP): For millenia, glaciers have formed life lines of cultures, food production, livelihoods and biodiversity.

In modern times, these rivers of ice also considered as the water reservoirs or water banks of the country provide cooling water for power stations and water supplies for industry and hence contributing immensely in boosting the economy of countries.

Spreading over an area of 16933 square kilometer, there are over 5000 glaciers in the Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral regions of Pakistan which include the famous Siachin Glacier, Biafo Glacier, Khoordhopin Glacier, Batura Glacier, Braldu Glacier, Snow Lake and many more these glaciers are the major source of Water feeding the major rivers in Pakistan.

In the wake of the alarming increase in the Global warming, these glaciers are facing a serious threat, resulting an existential threat not just to the over 2 million people of Gilgit-Baltistan but also the 200 million people of Pakistan.

Glacier depletion especially the melting were causing flash floods in many areas of Pakistan causing human displacement and lose of lives.

In future this can affect agriculture, drinking water supplies, hydroelectric power, and ecological habitats.

This can also affect Pakistan’s economy that depends mainly on water from glacier melt.

A group of mountaineers and researcher from Shimshal Valley – Hunza Gilgit, reached Askoli, a remote mountain village in Skardu, after walking across the Braldu Pass. They are on a mission to raise awareness about saving glaciers from depleting.

The expedition had started from Shimshal Village in Hunza-Gojal on January 1, this year.

The expedition members surveyed Mulungdi glacier and Khurdupin glacier before embarking on their journey to Askoli on January 6. Finally they have reached Askoli.

Glacier, Batura Glacier, Braldu Glacier, Snow Lake and many more these glaciers are the major source of Water feeding the major rivers in Pakistan.

Keeping in view this alarming situation, Pakistan Integrated Mountain Conservancy Program (PIMCP) -an initiative by young researchers and mountaineers is going to organize the 1st Winter Glacier Conservancy Awareness Expedition 2017.

The expedition members, originally, included Abdul Joshi, Niamat Karim, Daulat Muhammed, Bulbul Karim, Eid Muhammed, Ali Rehmat, Mansoor Karim, Syed Zaman, Jalaluddin and Hidayat Shah, all hailing from Shimshal valley.

Of these members, Abdul Joshi, Saeed Zaman, Niamat karim, Hameed ullah, Bulbul karim and Daulat Muhammad were able to cross the highly difficult terrain, including Braldu, Lupke La, Snow Lake, Biafo, Khoordhopin and Yazghail Glacier.

A research expedition had also been held already, in which young researchers and activists, Adnan Mirza (Gulmigt), Reena (Moorkhun), Reema Shimshal and Syed Ahmad Khan also took part.

The expedition was aimed at monitoring and collecting data to analyze the change in the glaciers due to global warming.

Samiullah, one of the researchers in the PIMCP, said that the data and information collected during the expedition would be shared with various University students and research organization in Pakistan who were conducting research work on glaciers.

“It will also work for raising awareness about the rapid and alarming rate of glaciers’ depletion due to human made Global Warming and inspiring people

at every level around the world in general and Pakistan in particular to stand up and take some substantial steps in addressing the issues of global warming and climate change,” he added.

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Malaysia Celebrates Arrival Of The Year Of The Fire Rooster

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 28 (NNN-Bernama) — The Chinese community across the country today celebrated the arrival of the Year of the Fire Rooster with the hope that it will bring about a brighter and prosperous future.

After enjoying the Chinese New Year (CNY) reunion dinner with their families last night, it is time to put on the traditional Chinese attire to celebrate the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar.

In the spirit of the festivities, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, also attended the CNY open houses organised by MCA and Gerakan at Wisma MCA and Menara PGRM, respectively.

Najib, who donned a red batik shirt (red being an auspicious color for the Chinese), and Rosmah in a Chinese traditional dress, arrived at the Wisma MCA at 10 am and were welcomed on arrival by MCA’s top brass led by its president to the beat of drums and a lion dance.

The leaders along with other leaders from Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties later tossed the must have ‘yee sang’ for good luck.

Najib and Rosmah then proceeded to the Gerakan CNY open house at Menara PGRM, in Jalan Pudu Ulu, Cheras.

They were welcomed on arrival by Gerakan top leadership line up led by its president Mah Siew Keong to the accompaniment of a lion dance performance.

The prime minister spent about half an hour minggling with other guests and signed a caligraphy painting specially made for the event.

Also present were MCA president Liow Tiong Lai, UMNO secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and former MIC president

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Malaysia Tour Agencies Enjoy Chinese Tourist Rush

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 27 (NNN-Bernama) — Local tour agencies are having their hands full with the increase in tourists from China arriving in the country this weekend for the Chinese New Year.

Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association president Albert Tan Sam Soon said many tourists from China were taking advantage of the long Chinese New Year holiday to come to Malaysia.

The drastic increase in the number of tourists from China coming to Malaysia has forced several tour agencies to obtain temporary tour guide pass to handle the visitors, he told Bernama.

He said Penang, Melaka, Langkawi, Johor Bahru, Sabah and Sarawak were the main destinations for tourists from China arriving in the country this week.

Tan attributed the increase in tourists from China coming to Malaysia to the introduction of more flight routes between Malaysia and major towns in China.

The implementation of e-visa and electronic travel registration and information (ENTRI) by the government since March last year also attracted more tourists from China to come to Malaysia, he added.

He said efforts by the Malaysian Tourism and Culture Ministry in promoting the country in China was also a factor.

Tam said the association, with 800 members in Penang, Perak, Johor Bahru and Sabah, was ready to receive the Chinese visitors.

He expected about four million tourists from China to come to Malaysia this year.

Prior to this, a media report stated that 2.2 million Chinese nationals applied to visit Malaysia between March and December last year, from only 1.2 million during the corresponding period in 2015.

In 2015, tourists from China spent about RM5.7 billion, or an average ofRM3,500 per person, during their stay in the country.–NNN-BERNAMA

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Website Designers Recognised At Awards Ceremony

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 23 (NNN-Bernama) — Thirty-six website designers gained recognition for their work at the Malaysia Website Awards 2016 (MWA) over the weekend in Penang island.

The Exabytes Group, a leading website and e-commerce hosting provider, hosted the ceremony to reward outstanding web developers on their talent and efforts.

In a statement, Chief Executive Officer Chan Kee Siak said the ceremony, in its second year, is not only aimed at recognising talent, but also encouraging creativity, the sharing, and improvement of overall web design quality in Malaysia.

“MVA is highly competitive, with the organisers receiving over 400 website submissions each month.

“To choose the best among numerous candidates, MWA required all website submissions to be approved, prior to becoming qualified to participate,” he added.

The ceremony featured three categories, namely commercial, personal and e-commerce, with each candidates falling into categories ranging from Site of the Month, Public’s Favourite Website Award and the grand prize, the Site of the Year Award.

The premier award went to Chin Kwan How of Maniqure Group Sdn Bhd, a company that specialises in women’s nail salons.

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Black Eagles And Other Planes To Soar At LIMA’17

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 27 (NNN-Bernama) — You have seen the Red Arrows of the British Royal Air Force. Now, you have a chance to watch South Korea’s pride, the Black Eagles, do their stuff at LIMA ’17.

Others which have confirmed their participation include India’s Sarang Helicopter display team and Jupiter of Indonesia.

The Black Eagles won the Boeing trophy for best display at the 17th Waddington International Air Show on July 1, 2012.

A week later, they were awarded the King Hussein Memorial Sword for the best overall flying demonstration at the Royal International Air Tattoo, the world’s largest military air show, held annually in Gloucestershire, England.

“They are making a name for themselves in aerobatics and will be an experience to watch,” said a spokesman of the the Defence Ministry strategic communication for LIMA (Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition).

The display team consists of eight KAI T-50 Golden Eagles, developed by Korean Aerospace Industries and Lockheed Martin, an American defence company.

EN Projects, the organiser of LIMA ’17, said the Red Arrows, which were at LIMA in 2007 and performed for Epsom College Malaysia last year, would not be coming for this year’s exhibition.

Malaysia’s Krisakti aerobatic team would also not be taking part, a spokesman said.

The Sarang display team of the Indian Air Force flies four advanced light helicopters. Its first public performance was at the Singapore Air Show in 2004.

The organisers said 267 companies from 35 countries have confirmed participation in the three-day exhibition starting March 21.

Among the participants is Roketsan Missiles Industries, the leading Turkish weapon manufacturer and defence contractor.

The winner of the 2016 International Defence Industry Exhibition for Best International Stand Design Award is known for its missiles and rockets such as J-600T Yildirim, Mızrak-U and T-122 Sakarya, and its naval system.

The 104 Malaysian companies that have confirmed participation include Boustead Heavy Industries Corporation, which is making its debut at LIMA.

It is expected to showcase electronics and communication gadgets as well as weaponry.

There will be 51 aerial aircraft displays by the air forces of the US, France, Italy, Thailand and Malaysia, among others.

The organisers said they have thus far received confirmation for the display of some 80 fighter jets and 68 warships and boats.

They said there would be more than 550 international and local exhibitions which are expected to draw 40,000 people.

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Central Bank Says Stronger From Forex Losses 25 Years Ago

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 27 (NNN-Bernama) — Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) says it has moved forward, stronger, was more transparent and accountable from the point of foreign exchange losses which happened almost 25 years ago. (BNM is Malaysia’s central bank)

The central bank said this in a statement in response to a media report on the foreign exchange losses which had occurred in the early 1990s.

“Under the current challenging and uncertain global environment, it is important that we focus on ensuring our financial system and the economy remain resilient and stable,” it added.

A local daily quoted former BNM Assistant Governor Abdul Murad Khalid, as claiming that the central bank suffered foreign exchange losses of US$10 billion in the early 1990s. — NNN-BERNAMA

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Malaysia To Hit Record Outbound Travel Ratio By 2021

SINGAPORE, Jan 25 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is expected to record the highest ratio in outbound travel in relation to the total number of households with 198.7 per cent by 2021 from 178.4 per cent in 2016.

A recent Future of Outbound Travel in Asia-Pacific (2016 to 2021) report by Mastercard revealed that Malaysia is the highest among emerging markets and fourth highest after Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

International outbound travel trips by Malaysians were 11.9 million in 2016 and are expected to grow by an average of 3.5 per cent per year to reach 14.2 million trips by 2021.

“About 46.1 per cent of outbound trips are by Malaysian households earning above US$30,000 (US$1 = RM4.43) per annum in 2016, an income range that accounts for 24.4 per cent of all households.

“This put the concentration ratio at 1.9, second lowest among higher income households of emerging markets after Thailand at 1.8,” the report said.

Meanwhile, outbound travellers from emerging Asia-Pacific countries currently outnumbered those from developed Asia-Pacific countries by one-and-a-half times.

The figure is poised to grow more than twice over the next five years, 7.6 per cent versus 3.3 per cent of Cumulative Annual Growth Rate.

The report said Asia-Pacific markets are expected to grow by six per cent annually from 2016 to 2021.

“Not surprisingly, the largest outbound travel market in 2021 is expected to be China with 103.4 million trips, constituting 40 per cent of all Asia-Pacific outbound travel.

“It is nearly four times that of South Korea with 25.6 million and India with 21.5 million,” the report said.

Forecast international outbound trips from the top 10 Asia-Pacific markets by 2021, include Japan 19.4 million (fourth), Taiwan 16.3 million (fifth) and Malaysia 14.2 million (sixth).–NNN-BERNAMA

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Tourism Malaysia Offices Nationwide Closed, Avoid Job Duplication

ALOR GAJAH, Malaysia Jan 23 (NNN-Bernama) — Tourism Malaysia offices throughout the country will be closed with immediate effect to avoid job duplication with the state agencies in promoting tourist attractions.

Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the closure of the 14 tourism offices, however, did not involve the termination of services of the staff because they would be absorbed into the ministry’s headquarters and other departments.

He said the move was expected to be able to save about RM6 million in cost annually and it could be utilised for other expenses.

“Every state has its own Executive Councillor for Tourism and the State Economic Unit (UPEN), so we don’t want a duplication of the tasks between the agencies and the tourism authorities in every state.

“Although all the Tourism Malaysia offices will be closed, we will create five information offices, namely in Penang for the northern region, Terengganu for the eastern region, Johor for southern region, Sabah at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, and Sarawak at the Kuching International Airport,” he said.

He disclosed this to reporters after officiating the Chinese New Year and the First Anniversary Celebration for the Freeport A’Famosa Outlet here.

The event was also attended by his Deputy Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsuddin and Secretary-General of the ministry Ab Ghaffar A Tambi as well as A’Famosa Group Managing Director Alex Lau.

On Jan 14, the ministry announced that at least four Tourism Malaysia offices abroad, namely in New York, the United States; Perth in Australia; Stockholm in Sweden; and Johannesburg in South Africa would be closed with immediate effect following the termination of Malaysia Airlines Bhd services there.

Meanwhile, Mohd Nazri projected that 30.5 million tourists would visit Malaysia throughout this year compared with 27 million last year.

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15 countries expected in West Java martial arts festival

Bandung, W Java (ANTARA News, 16 Jan 2017 – A total of 15 countries have registered to participate in the martial arts (Pencak Silat) festival to be held here in the third quarter of 2017, an official stated.

“We will organize the Pencak Silat festival, and 15 countries have already registered for it,” Ida Hernida, head of the provincial tourism and cultural affairs office, noted here on Monday.

The West Java provincial administration has chalked out a plan to increase the number of foreign tourist arrivals by organizing international-level tourism and cultural events, among others, she revealed.

“During 2017, we plan to hold two international events, such as the Pencak Silat festival (in Bandung) and the Surfing festival to be held on Cimaja Beach, Sukabumi District. We will focus on these two international events,” Hernida revealed, adding that the Surfing festival is expected to be held in the fourth quarter of this year.

She further noted that Cimaja Beach has, so far, been popular among national and international surfers as a “paradise” for extreme sports.

“The Cimaja Beach has a special attraction for surfers, with its long and high waves that are challenging,” she explained.

According to Hernida, the provincial tourism and cultural affairs office has set a target to attract 1.3 million foreign visitors in 2017, or more than 1.1 million targeted last year.(*)

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Indonesia to spend Rp20 trillion in 2017 for high-speed internet

Kendari, SE Sulawesi (ANTARA News) 26 Jan 2017 – The government will spend Rp20 trillion (US$1.5 billion) in 2017 to develop a high-speed internet network in districts that have yet to get access to the service, Communication and Information Minister Rudiantara stated.

“The government has targeted that all districts and cities in Indonesia would have a network using undersea cables to power the internet by the end of 2019,” Rudiantara remarked at a seminar here on Wednesday.

The minister revealed that the districts of Buton, Central Buton, South Buton, Muna, West Muna, and North Buton in Southeast Sulawesi will be able to enjoy high-speed internet services.

The minister noted that development of the network can be accelerated through support of the local government to facilitate land release.

“I have ordered the contractors who won the tender to prioritize utilizing local workforce in the project except for the expert staff that would be the authority of the respective company,” he stated.

The nationwide high-speed internet access initiative is being implemented for the period between 2014 and 2019. The program aims to boost economic competitiveness throughout the archipelago. The 2014-2019 Indonesia Broadband Plan requires a total funding of Rp278 trillion ($23.2 billion), 10 percent of which will be covered by the state budget.

The seminar was attended by Southeast Sulawesi Governor Nur Alam, communication expert of the Padjajaran University Prof. Dr Engkus Kuswarno, and Head of the Communication Science Association Dr Heri Budianto.

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Indonesia urges Pacific countries to support Palestinian independence

Jakarta (ANTARA News) 26 Jan 2017 – The Indonesian government will continue to encourage the countries of the Pacific Islands to support the cause of Palestinian independence and to recognize Palestine as a state.

“We always discuss the independence of Palestine in each bilateral meeting with Pacific countries and with those who have yet to recognize Palestine as a state. I call on them to immediately recognize Palestine,” Foreign Affairs Minister Retno LP Marsudi said here on Thursday.

As for countries that have already recognized Palestine as a state, the Indonesian government will work towards a trilateral cooperation to take concrete steps to support Palestine.

“In case of countries that have recognized Palestine, such as Sweden, we have established trilateral cooperation to help the Palestinians. As for those who are yet to recognize (Palestine), we asked that they support the Palestinians,” Retno stated.

The foreign minister had earlier reiterated that the Indonesian Government was committed to support Palestinian independence.

“Indonesia continues to support the independence of Palestine. Indonesia will not backtrack from its stance of supporting Palestine,” the minister remarked.

The minister stressed that Indonesia fully supported the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. The resolution urged that Israel immediately halt the construction of illegal settlements.

“Indonesia will continue to mobilize international pressure for the achievement of the two-state solution,” she stressed, adding that the country would raise support globally to realize this objective.

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Indonesia accounts for 58 percent of sustainable palm oil production

Jakarta (ANTARA News) 26 Jan 2017 – Indonesia accounts for 58 percent of the worlds sustainable production of palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) said.

“Indonesia contributes 58 percent to the worlds palm oil production with RSPO certificate,” RSPO Indonesia Director Tiur Rumondang said here on Thursday.

The contribution is expected to increase in the coming years, Tiur said in a written statement.

She said currently, the worlds sustainable production of palm oil with RSPO certificate totaled 12.15 million tons or 17 percent of the worlds production of palm oil.

However, consumption of sustainable production of palm oil in the country is small with low from domestic consumers, she noted.

RSPO has also launched a program called “Youth Leader in Sustainability”, which is a program to look for futures leaders expected to increase the consumers awareness backed up with increase in demand for sustainable palm oil based products.

The program is launched in collaboration with WWF-Indonesia, The Body Shop and Sinar Meadow, to last from January until May, 2017 with a series of activities including roadshow to a number of universities, seminar and process of selection.

Meanwhile, Conservation Director of WWF-Indonesia Arnold Sitompul warned about the alarming condition varieties of global biological resources including in Indonesia.

One factor reducing the varieties of biological resources is unsustainable exploitation of natural resources such as in the expansion of palm oil industry, Arnold said.

A new breakthrough is needed in promoting sustainable palm oil industry to ensure preservation of the varieties of biological resources, he said.

The country’s exports of crude palm oil (CPO) and its derivatives totaled 25.7 million tons in 2016 or down two percent from 26.2 million tons in 2015 on weather phenomenon El Nino toward the end of 2015.

“By the end of 2015, the country’s production of oil palm fruits shrank as a result of widespread drought brought about by El Nino that year. Exports dropped 2 percent on shrinking production by up to 30 percent,” Chief Executive of the Oil Palm Plantation Fund Management Body (BPDP) Bayu Krisnamurthi said here earlier this month.

Bayu said despite the decline in the export volume of CPO, palm oil kernel (PKO) and derivatives , the commodity export value in 2016 rose 8 percent to US$17.8 billion or around Rp240 trillion from US$16.5 billion in 2015.

The increase in the export value followed a 41.4 percent surge on the average in the price of CPO in the global market in 2016 compared to US$535 per ton in June 2015, US$558 per tons in January 2016 and US$789 per ton in December 2016.

However, BPDP warned that exporters must not be carried away by the surge in price, which was considered too high as it could weaken competitiveness of the country’s commodity in world vegetable oil market.

“We know the country’s palm oil is competing sharply with soybean oil in the world market. If the price of palm oil comes closer to the same level of the soybean oil price, the competitive edge of palm oil would fall,” he said .

The RSPO certificate will have greater access for Indonesian CPO to international market especially Europe.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of CPO. (*)

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Yogyakarta International Airport to serve Hajj pilgrims

Kulon Progo (ANTARA News) 27 January 2017 – The planned Yogyakarta International Airport can serve Hajj pilgrims leaving for Saudi once it is completed in 2019, according to Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi.

“Currently, flights to the farthest destination from Yogyakarta are to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. According to a plan, the farthest destination to be served will be Jiddah, so Yogyakarta’s inhabitants can go for Hajj from Yogyakarta,” the minister stated during a groundbreaking ceremony of the Yogyakarta international airport in Kulon Progo, here, Friday.

The panned airport will have a 10-folds higher capacity than that of the existing Adi Sutjipto Airport in Yogyakarta.

“The airport will become operational in March 2019,” he added.

The Adi Sutjipto Airport will be shifted, as its capacity is limited and cannot accommodate more passengers and aircraft, he explained.

The Adi Sutjipto Airport terminal currently measures only 15 thousand square meters and has a capacity to serve 1.2 million passengers per year.

Its runway is only 2,250 meters in length and has an apron that can accommodate a maximum of eight aircraft.

Meanwhile, in its first stage between 2020 and 2031, the new airport will have a 130 thousand-square-meter terminal that can accommodate up to 15 million passengers per year. It will also have a 3,250-meter-long runway and an apron for parking 35 aircraft.

In the second stage between 2031 and 2041, the airport terminal will be expanded to 195 thousand square meters and will have an annual capacity to accommodate up to 20 million passengers. Its runway will stretch 3,600 meters long, and its apron will have room to park 45 aircraft.

Indonesia’s airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I has allocated Rp9.3 trillion for the construction of the new airport.

The planned airport will be built on 587 hectares of land.

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Indonesia intensifies participation for creating world peace

Jakarta (ANTARA News) 28 January 2017 – Indonesia has decided that its foreign policy in 2017 will focus on intensifying interactions with other countries to protect the nations interests, security, ideological objectives, and economic prosperity.

To this end, the country continues to participate in implementing world order based on freedom, lasting peace, and social justice.

Creating a peaceful world is also one of the national goals outlined in the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia. It demonstrates that Indonesia prioritizes the importance of its active participation in international associations through multilateral cooperation, friendship, and partnership.

As creating world peace gains greater attention of the Indonesian government, the country remains committed to fighting for Palestinian independence. It has also become one of the priorities of Indonesia’s foreign policy in 2017.

Indonesia will seek greater support for Palestinian independence through a two-state solution, Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi stated.

“Indonesia will never waver from its commitment to supporting the Palestinian struggle for independence,” she noted in the 2017 Annual Press Statement of the Foreign Affairs Minister in early January.

With regard to the efforts, Indonesia supports the International Conference initiated by France and has attended the Paris meeting in June 2016 and will attend the next meeting in January 2017.

In demonstrating strong support for the Palestinian people, the Indonesian government has achieved a diplomatic breakthrough by establishing an honorary consulate in Ramallah and is planning to open a House of Indonesia in Palestine.

Indonesia also initiated the Extraordinary Summit of Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Sharif in Jakarta in March 2016 and endorsed the Jakarta Declaration that supports Palestinian independence through various concrete measures and breakthroughs.

Besides emphasizing unwavering support for Palestinian independence, Minister Marsudi highlighted other priority areas in the foreign policy for 2017: strengthening the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) unity and centrality as well as its contribution in the region, fostering peace and stability in the East Asian region by accelerating negotiations on the Code of Conduct, building Indian Ocean’s regional architecture, and optimizing support for Indonesia’s candidacy as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for 2019-2020.

Speaking in connection with candidacy in the UNSC, Minister Marsudi affirmed that Indonesia is determined to delivering concrete contribution towards global peace in accordance with the nations constitutional mandate.

Furthermore, Indonesia should establish a proactive foreign policy with Islamic countries to promote peace and justice, Executive Director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Philips J. Vermonte urged.

“We have agreed in our Constitution that we would uphold moderate Islam, in which we live in harmony with other religions,” he stated during a public lecture “Indonesia Foreign Policy: Review and Outlook 2017” held on Tuesday (Jan 24).

In promoting peace across Islamic nations, Indonesia must continue to uphold the constitutional principle as a country that is not solely based on one religion although majority of the Indonesian population embraces Islam.

“It must be reflected in our foreign policy too,” he affirmed.

Meanwhile, founder of the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia Dino Patti Djalal has urged Indonesia to act prudently while responding to changes in global geopolitics.

“Due to major geopolitical changes in the world, the relationships and partnerships among major powers will also change. This will have an impact on Indonesia, such as hurdles in relations between the US and Russia, Russia and China, the ASEAN and China, and the US and EU. Hence, we must reposition ourselves cleverly, so that we are not affected badly,” he stated.

Another challenge looming large over Indonesia is the political changes in the ASEAN resulting from the dispute in the South China Sea.

“Indonesia continues to promote regional unity among ASEAN countries,” he added.

It is important for the ASEAN to work at the grassroots level to reinforce regional unity and economic growth.

As the biggest country in the ASEAN region, Indonesia can promote closer unity and integrity among member countries to avoid regional turmoil.

Djalal also pointed out that protection of Indonesian citizens abroad and diaspora issues remain a priority for the Indonesian government in 2017.

He stated that the Indonesian government was paying greater attention to international and critical issues and domestic and global developments, such as political issues, climate change, geopolitical changes, democracy, drug executions, terrorism eradication, humanitarian issues, maritime collaboration, and peacekeeping issues.

In addition, the nation will continue its approach of quiet diplomacy to address various sensitive issues in the regional and global arena, Deputy for Government Policy Support, Secretariat of the Vice President of Indonesia Dewi Fortuna Anwar noted.

“We will witness more quiet diplomacy, but it will get the job done, as we do not want to fail by engaging in excessive discourse,” she emphasized.

The practice of quiet diplomacy, aimed at mainly strengthening people-to-people relations and preventing conflicts, is in line with the governance style of President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) who prefers to work without making much noise.

Indonesian diplomatic measures are mostly undertaken in a constructive manner as was witnessed during Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi’s recent visit to Myanmar to provide humanitarian aid and to conduct several meetings, one of them being with the UN in an attempt to help resolve the conflict that has affected the Rohingya people in Rakhine State.

The approach of quiet diplomacy is also apparent from President Jokowis preference to conduct bilateral meetings instead of speaking at international forums, as was followed by his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

During his presidential campaign back in 2014, Jokowi had asserted that his foreign policy would be more “Indonesia first,” meaning the relations with other countries should offer benefits to the Indonesian people.

On the other hand, Anwar believes there are times when Indonesia should have a clear articulation in responding to issues that threaten both regional and global stability, especially addressing interminable conflicts between Muslims in the Middle East and the use of force as a solution to the conflict in the South China Sea.

“To respond to such issues, Indonesia must signify its willingness to stand up and speak more loudly,” Anwar, who is also a political observer of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, emphasized.(*)

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Earthwire: Indonesia to achieve 23% energy mix by 2025

26 January 2017, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia is determined to reduce its use of conventional fossil fuels and continues to promote new and renewable sources of energy and increase share of renewables in its energy mix to 23 percent by 2025.

According to Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) Ignasius Jonan, the government is poised to achieve its target of increasing the share of renewables in its energy mix use by 23 percent for electricity and transportation in 2025.

“Indonesia is resolved to increasing its energy mix to 23 percent in 2025 in line with its commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions it had made during the COP 21 conference in Paris in 2015,” Jonan stated on Wednesday (Jan 25).

Indonesia has planned to reduce its emissions by 26 percent by 2020 and 29 percent by 2030.

To achieve this target, Research, Technology and High Education Ministry (Kemristekdikti) has been urged to encourage research and development on new and renewable forms of energy in a bid to support the governments efforts to achieve the 23 percent energy mix target by 2025.

“The government is also doing its best to achieve its target of developing 35 thousand megawatts (MW) of electricity. In this case, the Kemristekdikti is tasked with encouraging research and development in the field of new energy technology, so that the 23 percent target would be achieved,” Research, Technology and High Education Minister M. Nasir noted in Jakarta on Monday (Jan 9).

Moreover, the governments energy mix target has, so far, not been achieved, as in 2015, it had reached only five percent, and in 2016, it was seven percent. Hence, the Kemristekdikti has been entrusted the responsibility of encouraging its research and development center to conduct further studies on Geothermal Electricity Generator technology.

Besides this, the second new energy technology to be developed to support the 23 percent energy mix target is to encourage the development of solar power plants. The problem is not only about how to produce solar cells but also how to store its energy.

The ministry will develop ways to source electricity produced by energy cells in residential areas through an on-grid system of the state-owned electricity company PLN, so that houses can buy it again during night time.

This system is used to avoid the expensive off-grid storage system, where solar cells require a battery to store energy.

Nasir further shed light on the development of power generators that harness the energy of sea waves. This will be developed in Adonara, East Nusa Tenggara, in cooperation with the Netherlands and in Maluku in cooperation with Germany.

“We will conduct joint studies with them there. If we can already develop the technology, then the cooperation will be carried out with the Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT). We will try to produce turbines,” Minister Nasir noted.

The main goal of encouraging research on renewable energy technology is to increase the local components used in producing geothermal power generators. So far, the local components have reached 64.5 percent. This percentage will continue to be increased through research and development activities. Thus, more renewable energy will be produced, and the 23 percent energy mix target can be achieved.

ESDM Minister Jonan believed that the use of diverse sources of energy should continue to be promoted to support the development of electricity and transportation, though the prices should be within the purchasing power of the people.

The purchasing power of the people will remain the main focus of the government in the electricity sector. The minister lauded PLNs efforts to offer electricity at economical rates. However, one needs to understand that not all forms of basic energy can be used or produced efficiently in all locations.

Solar or wind energy can be used by steam power plants in South Sumatra, for instance, as long as they are able to generate electricity at competitive costs.

Hence, Minister Jonan emphasized that it was not necessary to offer incentives to businesses engaged in the development and use of new and renewable energy.

“I think friends doing business in the new and renewable energy sector do not need incentives. What they need is support, which will, in the end, make them efficient,” he affirmed.

In the meantime, the Indonesian government plans to apply a new scheme to set the tariffs of electrical power generated by new and renewable energy power plants.

The government is making every effort to make the tariffs transparent, accountable, and measurable, member of the National Energy Council Tumiran stated at a press conference in Jakarta on Monday (Jan 23).

The government is offering room to ensure that the tariffs on electricity generated by new and renewable energy power plants in all regions will not be the same but will instead be adjusted to the existing potential, so that they will help supply energy in the regions.

Through the new scheme, the prices of electrical power generated by new and renewable energy power plants will differ across regions, as a maximum of 85 percent of the prices must be the regional production cost.

Citing an example, he explained that if the production cost of electrical power in the eastern part of Indonesia is Rp2.5 thousand per kilowatt-hour (kWh), then the price of electrical power from new and renewable energy power plants will be 85 percent of Rp2.5 thousand, or Rp2.1 thousand per kWh.

This should especially be applicable in Java, which has low production cost. The national production cost, which stood at Rp980 per kWh last year, will be applied in the island, he stated.

The move is intended to enable investors in the renewable energy sector to keep down the prices and to make the investment cost cheaper,” he added

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President distributes smart cards for students

26 January 2017 – Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) symbolically distributed 2,709 Smart Indonesian Cards (KIP) to students of vocational, elementary, and high schools, as well as those from schools for disabled, here, Thursday.

This year, the government has planned to give a total of 19 million KIPs, the president stated at the Jakarta International Expo in Kemayoran where a national meeting on education and culture was held.

Among recipients of the smart cards will be 760 thousand orphans, Jokowi remarked, adding that 16.4 million KIPs were earlier distributed.

The money provided through the KIP program must be used for educational purposes, he emphasized.

“Hence, children, be careful (in spending the money). Students of elementary schools will receive Rp450 thousand, junior high school students will get Rp750 thousand, and senior high school students will be given Rp1 million. Be careful, this should be spent on things related to school,” the president pointed out.

The government will revoke the cards of students spending the money for non-educational purposes, for instance, for buying phone vouchers.

The beneficiaries could spend the money to buy books, shoes, stationary, and school uniforms.

The KIP money can be disbursed by state-owned banks, BRI, and BNI.

Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture Puan Maharani noted that according to the 2016 data, there were 896,781 orphans.

“Of the total, 155,933 orphans have received smart cards, while the remaining 767,484 have not received KIPs, and they will get the funds from the program in 2017,” Maharani added.

The meeting on education and culture is being held on Jan 25-27 and was attended by 1,045 people, including teachers.

The KIP guarantees and ensures that all school-aged children from disadvantaged families receive financial assistance for education until the completion of high school or vocational school.

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Cultural Exhibition To Promote New Indonesian Tour Destinations

JAKARTA, Indonesia Jan. 26 (NNN-Xinhua) — A unique cultural event that chronicles series of cultural festivals in regions designated as Indonesia’s ten new tour destinations is being held in the Tourism Ministry Thursday to attract foreign tourists.

The four-day event, named 2017 Festsinfest (Festival of Indonesian Festivals), highlights the arts and cultural performances from the ten new tour destinations now developed by the ministry and related agencies.

Those new tour destinations are highly expected to par with Bali in attracting foreign tourists as well as generating revenues for locals involved in tourism industry and regional governments as well.

Deputy Minister Esthy Reko Astuti said the event would be featured by cultural and art performances from the new ten tour destinations.

“The cultural and art performances, entitled 10DEST.I.Nation, would give audiences the experiences to explore the soul of the nation,” Esthy said in a statement on Thursday.

She added that each of the new ten destinations would present performance, themed from the region’s most prominent feature.

Caldera of Kings would be the theme of Lake Toba. Meanwhile, Tanjung Kalayang in Beluitung would take a theme of Wave Under the Stone, Sun and Serendipity.

Country Below the Wind is a pick of Banten province’s Tanjung Lesung for its upcoming performance. Jakarta’s Old City destination would stage a performance under a theme of Queen of The East.

World’s largest Buddhist temple of Borobudur was scheduled to show Pearl of Buana Samudra performance. Meanwhile performances with a theme of Wonder in Wonderland would represent Bromo Tengger Semeru volcano.

The East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province’s Labuan Bajo, which is popular for its Jurassic animal of Komodo dragon would stage performance with a theme of Zoo Quest of The Dragon.

West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province’s Mandalika would present In Search of Desire Prince. The MOROTAI mon Amor! and Wanderlust Triangle of The Sea themes would represent the eastern provinces’ destinations of Morotai Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi.

Indonesia has declared tourism sector as the nation’s core business, expecting to welcome 20 million foreign visitors and earn more than 24 billion U.S. dollars from the sector by 2019. — NNN-XINHUA

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Bali Garners 2016 Best Honeymoon Destination Awards

JAKARTA, Indonesia Jan 25 (NNN-Bernama) — Indonesia’s resort island of Bali garnered awards as 2016 best and most exciting honeymoon destination from influential travel media, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

“Commencing 2017, Bali obtained awards from Youku Travel and Sina Double Platform Big Data as 2016 Best Honeymoon Destination. It improves our confidence. We are very proud of earning that title,” Deputy Minister for Foreign Marketing Development at Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry I Gde Pitana said in a statement released Wednesday.

Pitana was referring to the award delivered by China’s travel reviewer website in Powers of Travel Ceremony event held recently in Beijing, China.

Prior to that, world’s influential travel magazine Travel Leisure awarded Bali as among world’s most exciting honeymoon places, puts Bali among 2016 Best 5 Honeymoon Place in the world in various categories.

Pitana’s assistant overseeing tourism marketing in Asia-Pacific region, Vincensius Jemadu, said Bali witnessed the wedding of at least 100 Chinese couples throughout last year, Jemadu said.

In Bali, honeymooners can pick any kind of activities they preferred, from having romantic dinner by the sea after sunset, surfing, snorkeling and diving with their spouses together, playing with dolphins, spending more time in cultural serene place like Ubud, or having very private moments in secluded villas in Jimbaran, Jemadu added.–NNN-BERNAMA

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Revival of language, arts, culture instrumental to bring peace

ISLAMABAD, Jan 26 (APP): President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan Thursday said revival of language, art and culture can play instrumental role for maintaining peace in the society and promoting soft image of the country.

He was addressing at the concluding ceremony of three-day National Calligraphy Exhibition arranged by National History and Literary Heritage (NHLH) Division in collaboration with its attached department, National Book Foundation (NBF).

Sardar Masood said Calligraphy is a complete form of art which carrying variety of meaningful themes connects the calligrapher as well as the viewer of this art to the religion and the Holy Quran.

He said when someone starts calligraphy; he creates his connection with the religion with a renewed pledge and becomes a source of promoting religion through his artistic endeavours.

Eulogizing the efforts of Adviser to Prime Minister on NHLH and NBF for arranging this innovative exhibition and said, “This exhibition would prove as a milestone toward reviving and promoting this diminishing Islamic art”.

On the occasion, Adviser to Prime Minister on NHLH, Irfan Siddiqui said this calligraphic exhibition has provided an opportunity to the calligraphers from across the country to gather at a single platform and get benefit from each others’ valuable experiences, showing a spirit of solidarity.

He said “this is the only art which has its strong link with Islam and Holy Quran and companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) have taken part in the nourishment of this art”.

Modern technologies cannot lessen the importance of spiritual art of calligraphic and it is continuously progressing with absorption of modern designing and embellishments, he added.

He said arrangement of such exhibition reflects the government seriousness toward promotion of art and culture in the country.

Irfan Siddiqui announced to hold International Calligraphy Exhibition this year to further project the calligraphic art and the artists.

He said his division is working on a mechanism to promote various kinds of art and taking initiatives for welfare of artist community.

Managing Director, NBF Dr. Inam ul Haq Javed presented the introductory remarks and explained the objective of the exhibition.

The three-day exhibition featured over 100 calligraphic art pieces of around 50 professional as well as young calligraphers belonging to different provinces.

Sardar Masood Khan distributed certificates among the calligraphers whose work was displayed at the exhibition.

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Lok Virsa programme to promote ‘Kashmiri folk crafts’

ISLAMABAD, Jan 28 (APP): The National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan is holding a week long special programme on ‘Kashmiri Folk Crafts: Engagement with Artisans’ from February 1 in connection with the Kashmir Solidarity Day.

Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Muhammad Barjees Tahir is likely to be chief guest at the opening ceremony to be held at Heritage Museum, Garden Avenue, Shakarparian on Wednesday.

A number of folk musical and dance performances based on popular Kashmiri folk and patriotic songs would be held at the opening ceremony, a Lok Virsa official said here Saturday.

He said the purpose of the programme was to highlight sacrifices of the Kashmiri people struggling for their right of self determination in the Indian occupied Kashmir through purely a cultural perspective.

It is a part of Lok Virsa’s ongoing popular programme series “Craft of the Month” with the objective to promote traditional skills and inculcate knowledge about various crafts among the younger generation, he said.

The official said master artisans in various indigenous Kashmiri folk crafts such as papier mache, namda, gabba, weaving, jewellery, embroidery, etc. will demonstrate their skills at Lok Virsa Heritage

Museum for a week and teach children about their respective craft areas in an interactive and meaningful manner.

He said registration of children (age: 6 14 years) was in process. Interested parents, he added, could enroll their children for training programme in Kashmiri folk crafts by contacting Lok Virsa Museum Section on phone # 9249200 or 0300 5204755, email: ddmuseumlokvirsa@gmail.com.

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Urdu Turkish song to be released soon

ISLAMABAD, Jan 28 (APP): Mixed Urdu Turkish song ‘Tu Kuja Man Kuja’ by renowned Turkish singer Ersin Faikzade will be released soon.

Talking to APP on Saturday, Ersin Faikzade, who is also International Goodwill Ambassador, expressed the optimism that the song would be popular across Pakistan.

He said the Urdu lyrics were composed by Muzaffar Warsi and the Turkish by Orhan Ozel. The song would also be released in Iran.

Faikzade said he was planning to organize a charity show in Islamabad in the month of April for schoolchildren.

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Wonder of the world status for Kanishka’s stupa at Peshawar suggested

PESHAWAR, January 27 (APP): Renowned historian and scholar, Dr. Sayed Amjad Hussain has suggested for declaring historic Kanishka’s stupa in Peshawar as the ‘8th wonder of world’.

Delivering a lecture titled as ‘Kaniskhka Vihara, An Ancient Peepal Tree and A Sacred Begging Bowl here at Victoria Hall of Peshawar Museum, Dr. Amjad said the imposing Kanishka stupa which once existed in Peshawar deserves to be declared as 8th wonder because of its remarkable construction structure, because of testament to the creativity of hard work of human being and finally its mention in the historic books.

Dr. Sayed Amjad Hussain, a cardio-thoracic professor at USA, hails from Peshawar and has published 16 books on subjects as varied as history, culture, religion and the linguistic and cultural legacy of Peshawar city.

Located a few furlongs outside Peshawar city at Ganj Gate known as Shah Jee Ki Dheri, there is a site where an imposing stupa had once stood which was built during the reign of Kushan Kanishka in the 1st century AD,” says Dr. Hussain in his lecture.

It was described in detail by Chinese pilgrims in their memoir and Hiuen Tsang (Xuan Zang) in particular visited it during his travels in 620AD-645AD and called it the “tallest architectural building” in this part of Asia, he added.

It is estimated, he continued, that the stupa was equivalent to a present day 13 storeys tall building and the adjoining monastery was associated with Buddhist divines of Vasubandhu and Parva. With the decline of Buddhism in the region the traces of the stupa and monastery faded away.

About the religious importance and background of Kanishka stupa, Dr. Amjad apprised participants of the lecture that in March 1909, when digging had reached the centre of the base of stupa, D. B Spooner, an American archaeologist first Curator of Peshawar Museum, made a sensational discovery that stirred the archeological world.

A relic casket in guilt bronze was recovered containing Buddha’s bone fragments and ashes, claims Dr. Amjad.

The casket was inscribed with Emperor Kanishka’s name and figure. The British government later gifted the Buddha’s relics to Burma where they are enshrined in the main pagoda at Mandalay while the bronze casket is on display in Peshawar Museum.

The replica of the casket is kept in the British Museum.

“It is awesome that the bone fragments and ashes of Buddha are found from Peshawar at Kanishka stupa,” remarks Dr. Amjad.

He said Buddha’s influence is spread over entire world and his bone fragments were found from Peshawar at Kanishka stupa and therefore it should be declared as 8th wonder of the world.

During the lecture, Dr. Amjad also displayed a special conjectural painting of Peshawar which is commissioned by the author and created by a renowned American painter.

The painting shows the cityscape with the Peepal tree, the top of Kanishka Stupa and the hilltop monastery (present day Gorkhatri).

Dr. Amjad also highlighted historical importance of Peepal tree where Buddha used to deliver preaching lectures to people and Gorkhatri where Kanishka kept the Begging Bowl of Buddha.

Dr. Amjad suggested for raising awareness among public and government about archeological importance of Kanishka stupa. He said UNESCO should be engaged to declare it as ‘World Heritage Site’ besides seeking help from Japan and China to acquire the site.

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Artifacts to be digitised to prevent illicit export, aid research

ISLAMABAD, Jan 29 (APP): National History and Literary Heritage Division (NHLH) is all set to initiate work on the project of digital documentation of archaeological artifacts to provide database for scholars to conduct research and prevent illicit trafficking of archaeological objects.

According to the official source, this project titled `Establishment of digitalization center for documentation of the artifacts and archival material at Department of Archeology and Museums’ was approved in the budget of fiscal year 2016-17.

The project, costing to Rs. 2.929 million, has been approved from Departmental Development Working Party (DDWP). The process of opening of assignment account and the release of funds is under process and the work will hopefully start by the mid January.

“Preservation and documentation has always been a matter of concern for the academic research of the moveable and immoveable cultural wealth of the country”, Joint Secretary, NHLH, Mashhood Mirza said.

Talking to APP, he said the fragility of archeological material and lack of documentation of the archeological artifacts in the national repository limits academic study and verification of record so it is imperative to preserve and document the archeological material.

The digital archiving of the whole record of the archaeological artifacts in the custody of DoAM was direly needed for posterity and providing data to the scholars for interpretive information, he said.

Mashhood Mirza said, this step will also prove as a deterrent for pilfered objects from the archaeological sites and monuments and its selling on the black market as this data is shared internationally with Interpol and other databases for deterring illicit trafficking of archaeological objects.

“It will enable us to comply with the UNESCO convention of 1970 – “Prohibiting and Preventing the illicit Import/Export and Transfer of ownership of cultural property”, he said.

The high resolution pictures and maintenance of electronic database is the only way to overcome the issues of illicit import and export of precious relics.

This project will provide an additional platform for access and exhibition of documents and artifacts for providing research facilities for scholars, researchers from Pakistan and abroad in the field of archaeology, Mashhood Mirza said.

He said NHLH has revitalized the Department of Archeology and Museums (DOAM) which was lying dormant after devolution under 18th Amendment of the constitution.

Advisor to Prime Minister on NHLH, Irfan Siddiqui who is taking keen interest in preservation and safeguard of the cultural heritage, has issued special directions to implement this project without any delay for saving country’s precious heritage, he said.

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World Bank to provide technical support to Pakistan Central Bank

ISLAMABAD, Jan 29 (APP): State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the World Bank (WB) have inked an agreement on technical cooperation for achieving the strategic goals under SBP’s Vision 2020.

This is the first such agreement signed by the World Bank on Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS) with any country in South Asia Region.

The signing ceremony was held after a meeting between Governor SBP Ashraf Mahmood Wathra and CEO World Bank Ms. Kristalina Georgieva in Karachi Saturday, an SBP press statement said.

SBP Strategic Plan (2016-2020) has been framed and built around to focus on the resolution of strategically important issues facing Pakistan’s economy and financial sector.

While Pakistan has made significant improvements in its economic fundamentals in recent years, the SBP Strategic Plan has been developed against a backdrop of continuing challenges and a need to foster a greater intermediation role for the financial sector.

The six strategic goals of SBP are aimed to enhance monetary policy; strengthen the financial system stability regime; improve the efficiency, effectiveness & fairness of the banking system; increase financial inclusion; develop robust payments systems; & strengthen SBP’s organizational efficiency and effectiveness.

The World Bank’s engagement in the financial sector is a combination of financial, advisory, knowledge, and convening services, and is complemented by investments and private sector engagement by International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Under the agreement, SBP and the World Bank have agreed on a well-defined work program, including specific outputs.

The technical cooperation program is anticipated to have several components such as Development and implementation of a Risk Based Supervision framework; implementation of an Enterprise Risk Management framework; strengthening of cybersecurity.

The programme will have an initial duration of three years, with yearly reviews to discuss overall effectiveness of the program, monitor deliverables and the achievement of results.

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Pakistan push to revive entertainment industry

ISLAMABAD, Jan 29 (APP): Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Marriyum Aurangzeb said the government has decided to maintain the present policy regarding the import of Indian cinematograph films.

The minister, in a statement here, said the decision has been taken after reviewing the benefits Pakistani cinema trade can derive from the exhibition of Indian films and in order to develop, strengthen and enhance the indigenous productions.

She said Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had, however, constituted a committee to review the challenges and issues being confronted by the local Pakistani film industry.

The committee invited the stakeholders including leading and prominent artists, producers, exhibitors and the distributors to get a broader view of the situation, she added.

The close examination of historical and empirical data including the trends of the industry since 1965 till date, it is evident that the inclusion of all foreign content, including Indian film content in local cinemas, have a multiplier impact on the commerce and development of the Pakistani film trade and industry as a whole, the minister emphasised.

Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the investment plans of the local film industry, especially of the cinema owners and film exhibitors for producing local films, were also reviewed.

She said the insight gained from an exhaustive review concluded that the Pakistani film industry has been revived and strengthened after the resumption of import of Indian cinematographic films into the country in 2007.

To support the local film industry by including other foreign content into the pool of Pakistani cinema, a policy is being reviewed to promote the soft image of the country as the local film trade is at the verge of take-off after witnessing strides in the last 6 years before the resumption of import of Indian films in 2007, she said.

She said that the Committee also reviewed the SoPs of the Central Board of Film Censors and decided that the present censorship mechanism should further be reviewed to have overseeing on the foreign films to be exhibited in the local cinema houses.

The committee also discussed the of sale and purchase of the uncensored and pirated CDs, DVDs of Foreign films in the local market.

The Minister said that the Prime Minister has also given approval to introduce policies that would incentivise the local production and broadcast industry in Pakistan.

A complete review of the regional and global best practices and models of the production and broadcast industry is being conducted to replicate them in Pakistan, she added.

For the purpose, the Ministry of IB&NH has planned a consultative meeting/sessions of the stakeholders with the production and broadcast industry in the month of February 2017, Marriyum Aurangzeb said.

The committee, headed by the Minister of State, comprises Advisor to the Prime Minister Irfan Siddiqui, Secretary Commerce, Chairman CBFC, represenative from ISI and President Pakistan Films Exhibitors Association.

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Pakistani PM Hails Pakistan-China Friendship, CPEC

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan 29 (NNN-PPI) – Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, said that, China and Pakistan are now bonded through ever strong friendship, according to a statement from the Chinese embassy in Islamabad, on Saturday.

On behalf of the people and government of Pakistan, the prime minister expressed his good wishes for the people, leadership and the Chinese government, on the advent of the new Lunar year, being celebrated in China.

He also said that, the bilateral partnership in the form of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, will prove to be a historical milestone, in the Pak-China bilateral relations.– NNN-PPI

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Bangladeshi inward remittances soar

DHAKA, Jan 27, 2017 (BSS) – Expatriate Bangladeshis have sent US $701.62 million remittance during the first 20 days of the current month.

In the first six days, the country has received $219.80 million, but the inflow of remittance has been increased between 7 and 13 January, reaching $271.37 million, according to the latest data of Bangladesh Bank.

The data also showed that the expatriate Bangladeshis have used more private banking channels for sending $488.49 million remittance during the period.

Six state-owned commercial banks – Agrani, Janata, Rupali, Sonali, Basic and BDBL – received $198.80 million while one state-owned specialized bank – Bangladesh Krishi Bank – $7.23 million.

On the other hand, they have sent only $7.10 million through foreign commercial banks.

Among the private commercial banks, Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL) received the highest amount of remittance of $158.53 million while Dutch-Bangla Bank $27.85 million.

The other top six private banks are National Bank Limited ($26.70m), Pubali Bank ($25.65m), South East Bank ($23.89m), Uttara ($23.54m), Bank Asia ($18.64m) and Prime Bank ($17.13m).

Of the state-owned banks, Agrani Bank received $78.62 million, Janata Bank $52.80 million, Rupali Bank $10.72 million, Sonali Bank $56.60 million and Basic Bank $0.06 million.

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Training Course on ‘Gender Statistics’ in Bangladesh

Date: 29-31 January 2017 Venue: Dhaka, Bangladesh

In accordance with its 2017 Annual Work Plan and within the framework of Statistical Capacity Building (StatCaB) Programme, SESRIC will organise the Training Course on ‘Gender Statistics’ at the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) on 29-31 January 2017.

The Training Course will be conducted by Ms. Hasnani Rangkuti, Head of Section Evaluation and Report of Household Statistics of BPS-Statistics Indonesia, with the participation of relevant officials of the BBS.

As defined in the Classification of Statistical Activities (CSA Rev. 1 – October 2009; http://goo.gl/olg3Tz); Gender and Special Population Groups – cover the living conditions and role in the society: comparison men/women and situation of special population groups such as children, youth, women, elderly, disabled, minority groups, etc.

The Training Course on ‘Gender Statistics’ will include discussion activities with a focus on the following topics:

(+) Basic Gender Statistics

(+) Importance of Demographic Indicators for Gender Analysis

(+) Gender and Economy Activity

(+) Gender Concerns in Education

(+) Gender and Health

(+) Gender and Decision-making

(+) Sustainable Development Goal 5 and other Related Gender

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Asia-Pacific business forum in Dhaka

DHAKA, Jan 26, 2017 (BSS) – Asia-Pacific Business Forum (APBF) will be held for the first time in Bangladesh on February 8-9 to provide the best platform for regional public-private dialogue on the role and needs of business in achieving inclusive, resilient and sustainable development.

President Abdul Hamid is expected to inaugurate the two-day flagship regional business event on February 8 at the Sonargaon Hotel in the city, said International Chamber of Commerce-Bangladesh (ICCB) President Mahbubur Rahman at a press conference at Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) here.

ICCB and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in Dhaka are jointly organising the forum. The forum will be held under the patronage of the Commerce Ministry.

The theme of the 2017 forum is “Regional Integration to Achieve Sustainable Development”.

The APBF will hold its substantive sessions liked to the theme of “Promoting Trade and Investment for the Successful Implementation of SDGs” on the following topics: Resilience: Role of Business in Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaption; New Energy Realities: Building a Resilient and Low-carbon Future and Supporting Trade and Transport Facilities for Regional Integration.

The APBF consists of 53 member states, nine associate members, ESCAP secretariat, ESCAP Business Advisory Council (EBAC) and Sustainable Business Network (ESBN).

Its mission is to provide the best platform for regional public-private sector dialogue on the role and needs of business in achieving inclusive, resilient and sustainable development.

Established in 2004 in Shanghai, the APBF has helped form a pan-Asian multi-stakeholder network, with hosting business forum in various locations, such as Almaty, Bangkok, Colombo, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Kunming.

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Awards for 2 female Dhaka University students

DHAKA, Jan 29, 2017 (BSS) – Two female students of Dhaka University Mathematics Department were awarded “Shahid Ronoda Prasad Roy Award of Academic Excellence” for their outstanding academic results in BS Honors examinations of 2016.

The awardees are Shikha Saha and Jyoti Das.

Vice-Chancellor Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique presented the award to the students as chief guest at a function today at the VC’s lounge of the university.

Mathematics Department Chairman Prof Amulya Chandra Mandal, Applied Mathematics Department Chairman Prof M Abdus Samad, UGC Prof M Anwar Hossain, Provost of the Jagannath Hall Prof Dr Asim Sarkar and Acting Registrar M Enamuzzaman were present on the occasion.

Speaking on the occasion, Arefin urged the students to equip themselves with non communal values. He also called upon the students to work hard for establishment of social harmony in the country.

Shahid Ronoda Prasad Roy was a student of DU Mathematics Department. He was killed during the war for independence on the black night of March 25, 1971.

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Govt, business, need to assume new roles in global changes

DHAKA, Jan 30, 2017 (BSS)- As Bangladesh will emerge as a middle income country by 2021, the government, business and industry will have to assume new roles and responsibilities considering the nature of global changes to reap benefits for the country, said foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali.

“Bangladesh economy needs to look much beyond Bangladesh and position ourselves in relation to the transformations around the region and the world,” said the foreign minister while speaking at a seminar “Bangladesh in Davos: Some Reflections” at a city hotel here yesterday.

He said as an export-oriented economy, Bangladesh apparel, leather, ICT, pharma, shipbuilding industries are already much exposed to and integrated with global supply and value chains.

“We also did see in Davos how global business is looking at the new sustainable development blueprint-that is Agenda 2030-and talking in practical terms about harnessing opportunities out of the global development architecture,” he added.

And, this was not just about manufacturing, it was also about the world of finance, investment, service sectors, he said, adding, “In Bangladesh we need to consider the nature of the changes underway and how we adapt to those or how we can benefit from those”.

“In this, we all are together. This is indeed about collectively ‘branding’, or ‘positioning’ Bangladesh in an era of unprecedented uncertainty,” he added.

In Davos Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid down about Bangladesh’s vision for future, Mahmud said and added that Bangladesh industry and business would also profit by focusing at the ongoing global conversation, norms, and order shaping technology, entrepreneurship and innovation agenda.

Mentioning Bangladesh Prime Minister’s participation in 47the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) In Davos, Mahmud Ali said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was invited in six sessions related to water, climate change, sustainable development, digital economy where she shared the progress made in Bangladesh.

He said the Prime Minister also shared her perspectives of future growth-the opportunities as well as challenges she envisaged.

“In fact, on a number of occasions, speaking as a voice of the wider developing world, her (Prime Minister) perspectives helped other panelists appreciate the complexities of the kind of challenges we face and challenges and limitations in articulating possible solutions or pathways,” he added.

MCCI organized the seminar in collaboration with the foreign affairs ministry. State minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak, senior secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office Suraiya Begum, foreign secretary Shahidul Haque, former MCCI president Syed Nasim Manzur, Bangladesh High Commissioner to Sri Lanka M Riaz Hamidullah, executive director of CPD Dr Mustafizur Rahman and Farooq Sobhan of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, among others, took part in the discussion.

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Thousands of families in Afghanistan to get electricity

28.01.2017, KABUL, Afghanistan, Anadolu Agency – The Afghan government has inked a multi-million dollar electricity supply deal with an Indian firm that aims to connect more than 45 thousand families to the national grid in the energy-starved nation.

The project is funded by the Asian Development Bank, and it would cost $55.8 million dollars.

The deal was signed by representatives from the Indian firm Angelique International Limited (AIL) and the Afghanistan’s public sector power utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Shirkat (DABS).

The Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and ADB Country Director Thomas Panella were also present on the occasion at the Arg (Presidential palace).

As per the deal, the Indian firm would supply equipment, design, prepare and test electricity distribution networks for three provinces: Logar, Paktia and Khost in the southeast of the country.

Afghan officials estimate more than 45,000 families in these provinces would benefit from the project.

Qudratullah Delawari, the chief executive of Afghan power utility De Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, said that the project will be completed by the end of 2018 simultaneously with the completion of 500kv power line from Turkmenistan.

Despite having immense potential for power generation, only 23 percent of electricity in Afghanistan is generated locally while 77 percent is imported from regional countries.

The Ministry of Water and Power (MoWP) in Afghanistan has announced plans to produce up to 2000 megawatts of electricity in the country with the cost of $5 billion by the year 2020.

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MoIC Committed To Revive Folk Music, Dr. Sadat

Saturday, January 28, 2017 – Kabul (BNA) Acting Minister of Information and Culture and deputy minister of youth affairs Dr. Kamal Sadat met a delegation of Khost provincial art union here on Wednesday, BNA reported, adding the acting minister listened to their problems and demands.

According to agency, Gul Raouf Shawqi, representing the union spoke related to their activities and challenges ahead of their cultural activities in the province, asking acting minister of information and culture to address their problems, in particular to pave the way for improvement of local music in the province.

Hinting to important role of artists, in particular the musicians, Dr. Kamal Sadat thanked the country’s musicians who have tried their best to keep alive the traditional music, BNA said.

Assuring MoIC’s full support of art and culture in the country, Dr. Sadat said the ministry has plans to revive the local and old music of the country, the agency added.

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Dr. Sadat Emphasizes on Reconstruction of Ghazni’s Historical Monuments

Kabul (BNA) 30 Jan 2017 – Acting minister of information and culture and deputy minister on youth affairs Dr. Kamal Sadat met senator Anarkali Honaryar here yesterday in his office and emphasized on reconstruction of historical and old temples and Daramsals of Ghazni province, BNA reported.

According to the agency, at the outset, Anarkali Honaryar, representative of the Hindu minority in Upper House asked Ministry of Information and Culture to reconstruct Ghazni’s old temples and Daramsals which has over one thousands of historical background and are now at the verge of collapse.

According to her, Afghanistan is consisting of different ethnics and tribes, adding Hindu people are also among them. She added that many proposals made during the last three years for reconstruction of Hindu temples in Ghazni, but no tangible measures have been taken yet.

Calling Hindu and Sikh community as one of the important part of the Afghan community, Dr. Sadat said that rehabilitation of the historical monuments is the main responsibility of the MoIC, adding necessary steps would be taken to reconstruct the Hindu temples in Ghazni province.

According to another report, acting minister of information and culture held videoconference with Balkh director of information and culture and emphasized on principle of reward and punishment.

Provincial director of information and cultural enumerated a series of their problems, including the human resources, asking the acting minister to address their challenges.

Dr. Sadat asked the provincial directorate to prepare a draft on their problems, and send it to the Ministry at the earliest, so that steps to be taken to solve them.

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Iran produces 90% of medicines needed in country: Minister

Karaj, Alborz prov., Jan 28, IRNA – Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi said on Saturday that over 90 percent of the medicines consumed in Iran are produced inside the country.

Qazizadeh Hashemi made the remarks in the unveiling ceremony of a type of herbal medicine called ‘Melitropic’ which can be used in treating Alzheimer’s disease in Alborz province in west of Tehran.

He added traditional medicine dates back to more than 200 years in Iran, expressing hope that the country pays due attention to herbal medicine in future.

Using the country’s ancient and indigenous knowledge in treating brain disorders, the Iranian researchers of Jihad University have succeeded in producing Melitropic herbal medicine.

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Iran unveils herbal medicine for treating Alzheimer’s

Karaj, Alborz prov., Jan 28, IRNA – The unveiling ceremony of a type of herbal medicine called ‘Melitropic’ which can be used in treating Alzheimer’s disease held in Alborz province in west of Tehran on Saturday.

The Melitropic which is considered as the first medicine for treating Alzheimer’s disease in Iran and across the globe was unveiled in a ceremony attended by Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi.

Using the country’s ancient and indigenous knowledge in treating brain disorders, the Iranian researchers of Jihad University have succeeded in producing Melitropic herbal medicine.

Talking to IRNA, head of Iranian Institute of Medicinal Plants at Jihad University Shams Ali Rezazadeh underscored that a series of experiments were conducted on 42 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s in the age range of 65-80 for studies on the production of this medicine.

Rezazadeh said the patients in the experiment group were given dracocephalum extract and the control group was given placebos.

After four months of studies, the result showed significantly that the mild to moderate Alzheimer’s was well controlled in those patients who used dracocephalum extract and the anxiety disorder and irritability symptoms were considerably reduced in the experiment group.

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35th edition of Fajr Film Festival opens in Tehran

Tehran, Jan 29, IRNA – The 35th edition of Fajr Film Festival opened in the presence of Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Reza Salehi-Amiri at Tehran’s Milad Tower on Saturday evening.

Addressing the gathering, head of Cinema Organization and deputy culture minister Hojatollah Ayoubi appreciated Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti who boycotted this year’s Oscar Academy Awards ceremony in a show of protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to impose visa bans on Iranians.

Last week, Alidoosti took to Twitter and Instagram to slam Trump’s planned visa bans, which she described as “racist” and “unacceptable.”

The participates of the prestigious event also paid respect to the hero Iranian firefighters who lost their lives in the Plasco tragic incident on January 26, 2017.

Meanwhile, four veteran Iranians active in film industry including Mohammad Kasebi, Gholamreza Mousavi, Touraj Mansouri and Farhad Touhidi also received lifetime achievement awards at the 35th Fajr Film Festival.

The festival will be running in Tehran and several other Iranian cities from Jan. 29 to Feb. 9.

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Discovery of landmark building in center of Iran

Tehran, Jan 29, IRNA – Archeological excavations in the central part of the historical Fardeqan Castle resulted in identification of a landmark building gaining access to architectural and historical characteristics which demands wider explorations.

The Public Relations Office of the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT) quoted head of the exploration team for the identification of the limits of Fardeqan historical castle Mohsen Karimi as saying prior to the first season of Fardeqan speculation no exploration had been conducted on this historical monument.

He further remarked that in the summer of 1394 (2015) in the first season of speculation operations of the area about one fourth of a historical building, especially the eastern, southern and western walls of a four-sided column were unearthed.

Meanwhile, the archaeologist added, during the explorations two entrance doorways with an opening of 90×180 cm were identified in the southern wall of the building.

According to Karimi, the second season of Fardeqan explorations was accompanied by the study, analysis of aerial photos, drilling of experimental speculations, determination of the main area and limits of the historical Fardeqan Castle and privacy boundary of the main building in which its plan was prepared.

He said the main building is a square of 17 meters on each side in the eastern and western sides of which there is a 1.80×2.20 m doorway and in the western side three 90 cm, 1.80 m, and 1.40 m doorways. Karimi said that a four-sided column has so far been discovered in the southeastern side of the main building.

The head of the exploration team of Fardeqan historical Castle noted that according to studies and explorations conducted so far, there is a landmark building in the central part of Fardeqan Castle gaining access to architectural and historical characteristics of which demand further explorations.

He said so far and during two exploration seasons the area and boundary of Fardeqan Castle has been identified and the plan of the main building (fire temple) has become readable.

The historical Fardeqan village in located 50 km northwest of Farmahin and is a district of Khanjin in the city of Farahan, Markazi Province.

Saying that in this village there are remains of a historical castle in the center of which there is the main building known as Fardeqan Fire Temple, Karimi added that the span of the castle is over one hectare.

According to the archaeologist the architectural texture of inside the castle in different eras has undergone many changes and the present Fardeqan village has been shaped over the architectural texture of the past.

Speculations for the identification and determination of the limits of the area of Fardeqan historical castle in the city of Farahan in Markazi Province have been conducted upon permission of the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism.

It should be noted that based on the studies conducted on historical texts, from third Hegira century reference has been made to Fardeqan and some historical events related to it. These references include Ibn Faqih Hamedani, writer of Mukhtasar al-Baldan and Mohammad ibn Qomi in Qom History (3rd Hegira century), Ibn Athir (6th and 7th Hegira century) in al-Kamil fil Tarikh and also Ahmad Tatwi (11th Hegira century) in Alfi History. In those texts reference has been made to Fardeqan Castle, the fire temple within it, its capture and destruction by the ruler of Qom in the year 288 Hegira, transfer of the golden door of the fire temple to Kaaba at the time of Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, defeat of Ala Ud Dowla Kakuya from Masoud bin Mahmoud bin Saboktakin and his asylum in the Fardeqan Castle as well as imprisonment of Avicenna in Fardeqan Castle. From among the texts related to geographical history Yaqut Hamawi has referred to Fardeqan in Al-Mo’jam al-Buldane.

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Car Industry Plays Key Role In Iranian Economic Growth

BAKU, Jan 27 (NNN-Bernama) — Iran’s economic policymakers consider the automotive industry as a major engine of economic growth as it is a main industrial and economic force worldwide, reports Azerbaijan’s Trend news agency.

Iranian automotive industry is projected to form at least four per cent of the country’s economic growth by 2025.

The country’s carmakers accounted for 2.2 per cent of Iran’s economic growth over the last fiscal year (ended March 20, 2016) with a contribution of about US$9.1 billion (294 trillion rials).

According to World Bank estimations, Iran’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015 stood at US$$393.7 billion.

This is while Iran’s car industry witnessed a downward trend in 2015 as the industry’s share in the country’s GDP was 0.5 per cent lower than in preceding year.

However, the latest statistics on the output of the country’s automotive industry suggest a huge surge. The industry made more than 946,000 vehicles over the first nine months of the current fiscal year, indicating a 38.7 per cent growth year-on-year.

Due to the removal of sanctions following the implementation of the nuclear deal, Iranian car manufacturers reestablished cooperation with European companies, including Peugeot, Citroen and Renault.

This resulted in a strong growth of nearly 151 per cent for automotive sector, which ended 2016 as the top performing sector on the Tehran Stock Exchange.

In the meantime, at least two European carmakers have earlier announced that they experienced a considerable surge in their sales in Iran over 2016.

On the other hand, multinational companies have demonstrated a surge in interest in investment in Iran’s car sector following the implementation of the nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and the world major powers in January 2016.

As for the shortcomings, Iran Standard and Quality Inspection Company has highlighted the vulnerability of the industry, namely substandard products.

According to Iran Standard and Quality Inspection Company, at least 11 car brands produced by domestic carmakers in a period of one month between Nov 21 and Dec 21, 2016 did not meet the required standards.

Economic experts suggest that the automotive industry is capable of boosting the country’s depressed economy and creating new job opportunities as each direct auto job supports more indirect jobs.

Meanwhile, a number of sub-sectors of economy, including industries such as steel, iron, aluminum, glass, plastics, glass, carpeting, textiles, computer chips, rubber and more are linked to the automotive industry.

Observers and economic experts believe that increasing the automotive industry’s share in the country’s economic growth to about 5 per cent is realistic, if the policymakers and industry officials come up with a well-laid plan for the coming years.–NNN-BERNAMA

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Iran, Europe Seek Further Economic Engagement

TEHRAN, Jan. 26 (NNN-XINHUA) — One year after the nuclear-related sanctions against Iran were lifted, several European companies have started negotiations to establish businesses in Iran’s diversified market.

According to a report by local Fars news agency on Wednesday, an Iranian oil exploration and production company signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with an Austrian oil and gas company for cooperation in upstream oil projects in Iran.

The Austrian OMV, an integrated oil and gas company based in Vienna, and Dana Energy company, a leading Iranian company active in oil and gas upstream field development activities, signed the MoU and agreed to evaluate possible upcoming development and re-development projects in the Iranian oil and gas industry.

The document was signed in Vienna by Mostafa Khoee, Dana Energy board member, and Johann Pleininger, OMV executive board member responsible for upstream.

Reportedly, OMV entered Iran’s energy market in 2001. In 2016, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and OMV signed an agreement concerning the evaluation of various fields in Zagros area in the west of Iran, for potential future development, and to carry out a joint study for the explorations in the southern Fars area.

Also, Tasnim news agency reported on Tuesday that German major oil and petrochemical companies have offered to invest in the Iranian oil and petrochemical sectors.

A total of 12 billion U.S. dollars in finance have been offered by the German companies, including the chemicals manufacturing corporation BASF.

BASF, whose managing director paid an official visit to Iran last year as a member of a delegation accompanying German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, has offered to invest 6 billion dollars in a petrochemical project in the south of Iran.

Wintershall Holding GmbH, Germany’s largest crude oil and natural gas producer, is another company that has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to make studies on four oil fields in the west of Iran.

Besides, Aa French delegation, comprised of representatives from six French companies, will arrive in Tehran on Saturday for talks on trading opportunities, Tehran Times daily reported Tuesday.

The French traders are scheduled to meet with their Iranian counterparts at Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture on Jan. 28.

French enterprises in fields including energy, transportation, mining machinery, forestry, baking industry, home appliances, and healthcare products are seeking to explore avenues for further cooperation with Iranians, the report said.

Iran is planning to establish three trade offices in Europe and launch them before October 2017, said Abolfazl Koudeie, director general for trade with Europe and the U.S. from Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization.

“We also plan to set up three other trade offices in Ukraine, Armenia and Tajikistan,” Koudeie was quoted by the report as saying.

Moreover, the downturn on the Norwegian continental shelf has sent Norway’s risk-taking oil companies to Iran to engage in business with the Islamic republic.

“During the past year, we have had around 40 assignments from Norwegian companies wishing to do business in Iran,” said Erik Arvnes, director of the investigation department of the KPMG company which helps Norwegian companies conduct surveys of potential Iranian business partners.

“The companies we have worked with come mainly from the oil and gas industry, but there are also those that deal with shipping, seafood, and renewable energy,” Arvnes was quoted as saying by the daily Aftenposten on Monday.

“Companies must be more creative and look at new markets where opportunities for growth are bigger. They are forced to think differently, both regarding which markets to enter, and which companies to partner with,” Arvnes said.

Oil supply company IKM also saw great opportunities in Iran. Chief executive officer of IKM, Stale Kyllingstad, confirmed to Aftenposten that the company has had a team of 14 people working in Iran since last spring.

“They perform services in sub-sea technology field. This is a first long-term mission, which will generate between 6 and 12 million dollars annually in the coming future,” Kyllingstad said.

Iran owns one of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves.–NNN-XINHUA

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Iranian, French universities sign cooperation pact

Sabzevar, Razavi Khorasan, IRNA – Hakim Sabzevari University of Iran and Paris 13 University in Villetaneuse, France inked a cooperation document on educational and research affairs, the chancellor of Hakim Sabzevari University said.

Javad Haddadnia made the remarks while talking to reporters on Saturday night.

“Both sides stressed on establishing and developing bilateral activities in educational and research fields,” he said.

Hakim Sabzevari University is the first Iranian university which has officially sealed an MoU with Paris 13 University.

“In order to make the MoU operational, two Iranian students from Hakim Sabzevari University will be accepted in Paris University’s training courses for 6 months,” he said.

“Two faculty members from Paris 13 University will also be sent to hold training courses in Hakim Sabzevari University within months.

“To develop scientific level of Hakim Sabzevari University, MoUs were signed with University of Turin in Italy and University of Lyon in France last year,” he added.

Paris 13 University having 24,000 students and 200 faculty members is in the North of Paris.

Hakim Sabzevari University has 10,000 students, 2,300 of whom are studying in master’s and PhD levels.

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Turkey’s Nasreddin Hodja enthralls Greek audiences

Tales of the Hodja — a beloved Turkish folklore character — are being retold in Greece by a unique husband and wife team

By Magda Panoutsopoulou

ATHENS, 29.01.2017 – Anadolu Agency – Turkey’s Nasreddin Hodja — a unique and entertaining character from Turkish folklore — has found a new home in an unlikely setting: Greece.

At a special storytelling event in Athens recently, stories of the Hodja — a kind of a mixture of fool and wise man — were read out by husband and wife team Panagiotis Kokkoris and Turkey-born Gozde Atalay-Kokkoris.

The duo share their Turkish and Greek heritage to bring Nasreddin Hodja to new audiences and delve into the shared language, stories and traditions which stretch from Anatolia into the Balkans.

Gozde and Panagiotis’s combined narration of folk tales in both Turkish and Greek captivated the audience at the Gallery Dimiourgon in Athens.

Gozde, a theater actress, studied at Istanbul University and in London. When she met her future husband at a performance project in northern Greece it marked the beginning of a unique cultural partnership.

The two of them got married and together they spread their passion for art performance and their love for their two countries through folk story telling.

“I feel like home when I’m in Greece,” Gozde told Anadolu Agency. “I never felt I’m a foreigner here. I am almost a year and half here and I never felt different, I feel like I’m home.”

Kokkoris has the same feelings for Turkey: “You know, when I first visited Turkey, people when they heard I’m Greek called me friend, komsu — neighbor in Turkish — and bacanak (brother-in-law).

“Then they would invite me to sit down and drink our tea; it was incredible for me what I felt.”

“Greeks and Turks are so similar and when I am in Turkey I feel like home,” Kokkoris added.

This familiarity with each other’s cultures crosses over into their enthusiasm for Nasreddin Hodja, whose tales often contain moral lessons or folk wisdom.

Gozde spoke about the tales of the Hodja with much admiration: “I love to narrate such stories. It makes me happy, and it’s like sharing a piece of my childhood, our past, with people everywhere, like what we did today and making it known to people.”

“For us it’s very emotional to bring here to Greece the story of Nasredin Hodja, because it is always a beautiful thing to see these two languages together.”

“We have five thousand common words”, Gozde added, “which we use in our stories. Sometimes, we have a similar humor, so when these two languages meet each other it’s a beautiful combination, which the audience also finds very interesting.”

“Many times I heard from people who listened to us narrating stories in Greek and Turkish that they found this combination amazing,” she added.

Trickster and wise man

Older generations of Greeks who used to live in Anatolia and are familiar with the story of the Hodja, loved to listen to the narration in both languages, Gozde said.

Even Greece’s famous Aesop’s Fables often bear striking similarities to the Hodja’s stories.

“The first inspiration and proposal for this performance came from one of my husbands’ storytelling teachers, Dimitris Prousalis,” said Gozde.

“It is a fascinating journey for me, telling a story that has been molded and influenced from so many people, so many places to the story it is today,” she added. “This is what I love most, to share these moments with the audience; we connect with them in a different way than in theater performances.”

The legend says that Nasreddin Hodja came from Eskisehir in northwestern Turkey and spent his last days in Aksehir, near the Anatolian city of Konya, in the 13th century.

Aksehir is also home to the International Nassredin Hodja Festival which takes place for five days every July.

“The Hodja is considered to be a wise man” Gozde explained. “His stories have travelled from several cities around Turkey and the Balkans from mouth to mouth and each story has one small touch from all the places it passed from.

“The stories of the Hodja most of the time have a deeper meaning than being just a simple story.”

“The interesting thing is that each person sees each story from a different view. Not everyone today got the same message from Hodja’s story; everyone has a different imagination, gets different vibes, but the most important thing is that the core of the story stays the same,” she said.

Funny, witty, even foolish, but also wise, the beautiful thing of Hodja’s character, says Gozde, is that he shares two elements — those of the trickster and the wise man.

The stories of Nassredin Hodja were also performed last year at the Athens International Storytelling Festival under the sponsorship of the Turkish embassy in Greece and at other events around the country.

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Turkey earns USD3.4m in tolls from bridges, roads

MENAFN – 26/01/2017 – According to data released by Turkish Highways Directorate, Turkey had earned USD30.4m in tolls from two bridges on the Istanbul Strait as well as toll roads in 2016.

In details, the Bosphorus Bridge and the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge had both yielded USD77.3m while toll highways throughout Turkey eaned almost USD243.1m last year.

Also figures showed that 417 million vehicles paid tolls to use facilities in the same period, as drivers used to pay USD1.56 for the bridge tolls.

Earlier in 2015, In 412.4 million vehicles used Turley’s toll bridges and roads, paying a total of USD290,4m.

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Emirates Airline continues regular flights to U.S.

DUBAI, 29th January, 2017 (WAM) – Emirates will continue to comply with entry requirements for travel to and from the United States, as required by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Emirates Airline has stated.

“A very small number of our passengers travelling were affected by the new U.S. immigration entry requirements implemented by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on 28 January 2017. Where applicable, we are assisting the affected travellers with their flight re-bookings,” said Emirates spokesman in a statement.

Emirates is offering both re-booking and refund options to passengers holding passports from the seven affected nations that are booked to travel to and from the USA. Passengers are also responsible for ensuring that they have the required documents for their travel, and they can view the airline’s website for more information, the statement added.

“The recent change to the US entry requirements for nationals of seven countries applies to all travellers and flight operations crews. To date, no Emirates crew has been affected by the change. We have made the necessary adjustments to our staffing to comply with the latest requirements. Emirates continues to operate flights to the US, as scheduled,” said the spokesman.

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Etihad Museum hosts UAE Postal History Exhibition

DUBAI, 29th January, 2017 (WAM) — Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, Dubai Culture, has opened an exhibition dedicated to the Emirate’s postal history, entitled ‘Emirates to the World: Postal History from 1909 to Unification’. It is the first exhibition to be hosted by the Etihad Museum since it opened its doors to the public, and runs until 30th April 2017 with a range of related events and activities.

The exhibition tells the story of the postal services in the Emirates from their earliest days through to the UAE unification in 1971, which will be showcased through stamps, letters, artworks and archives found in the extraordinary private collection of Abdulla Khoory, President of Emirates Philatelic Association.

Mr. Khoory’s collection has been augmented with objects and images supplied by Emirates Post and a number of other historical archives. The exhibition is accompanied by workshops for adults and children who are interested in postal history, letter writing, and the popular subject of philately.

Speaking on the occasion, Abdullah Mohammed Al Falasi, Director of Etihad Museum, said, “We are pleased to introduce our first exhibition at Etihad Museum, which is focused on developing national awareness and understanding of the UAE’s history, and encouraging the exchange of academic knowledge between students, experts and all members of society. With this exhibition, the museum will provide an essential historical resource for younger UAE generations, residents and visitors.”

Mr. Al Falasi added, “The evolution of the UAE’s postal services reflects the story of the nation’s growth, in which communication played a vital role by strengthening the country’s internal discourse while also connecting it with the wider world. Dubai Culture applauds Mr. Khoory for preserving this precious part of UAE history, and is delighted to now be able to share it with visitors.”

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Successful conclusion of ‘Camel Trek’ expedition in UAE desert

DUBAI, 29th January, 2017 (WAM) — The participants in the third edition of the ‘Camel Trek’ organised and supervised by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center (HHC) were overwhelmed by the hero’s welcome they received after successfully completing a journey of a lifetime in the desert of the UAE.

A group of 13 men and women returned to Global Village on Friday January 27th after having set out on Saturday 21st January on a week-long expedition where they turned the clock back traversing the pristine sands of the desert used by people in ancient times.

The caravan comprised camel riding enthusiasts from Oman, United States, Egypt, France, United Kingdom and the UAE.

They were selected for the ‘Camel Trek’ after expressing interest in following the footsteps of people who lived in the desert and underwent an intensive training program by the organizers HHC.

A large crowd gathered at the Heritage Village were treated to an exhibition of traditional dances such as ‘Ayala’ and a ‘Al Harbiya’ performance by an Emirati folk troupe in honour of the trekkers. As part of the time-honoured tradition, saffron was put on the faces of camels. There were also Youllah performances by Yuweel artistes, falconers were also present and even small sand dunes were made so that the camels would feel at home, all of which created a mosaic of a different era.

Mohammed bin Huraiz, the Manager of Chief Executive Office of HHC, expressed delight at the successful conclusion of the ‘Camel Trek’.

“We are happy to have organised it and all the participants came home safe. They were very cooperative and did their best to achieve their goals without any complains. We are very proud of them and pleased to have organized this historic journey,” he said.

Leader of the convoy Khalifa bin Sabeen praised the resilience displayed by the group of Emiratis and expatriates during the gruelling expedition which took them to Al Ain and to the borders of Oman.

“The most beautiful memory of the trek came on the third day when we started entering the sand dunes. It was most the awesome, most amazing and picturesque view I have ever seen,” said Khalifa.

The group of trekkers who had become a large family after experiencing the traditional Emirati hospitality and leading a nomadic life in the desert, were sad that the ‘Camel Trek’ had come to an end. In a short space of time they even managed to create a bonding with the camels and shrugged off the challenges they face after covering nearly 50 kilometers a day and vowed to return again.

Among the diverse group of trekkers was an Arabic-speaking American Mike Metzger who felt like a ‘Superhero’ after the completing the trek.

“Everything hurts. Knees, back, hands but inside you feel like a superhero. Like you can do anything,” said Mike who has never been in the limelight before.

“It was beyond this world. Never have I seen so many cameras, so many media and so much applause,” he said of the reception organized by HHC.

“As for the Camel Trek it was like walking through a gateway going back a thousand years in ancient times. What I like to remember is the pure traditional life of the Emirati people and the natural love these people had,” said Mike from California.

“We learned the true culture of this land is about sharing, about hospitality, knowledge, nature, plants, stars and the whole universe. What we saw in last seven days was like being transformed into another planet,” he added.

Among the five women in the group were two accomplished hikers from Britain, Hina Webb and Rhian Adams, both personal fitness trainers who are using this ‘Camel Trek’ as a launch pad for more adventures.

“The organization has been absolutely amazing. Everybody has done a fantastic job. They’ve been hospitable kind and caring. I cannot thank them enough,” said Hina who is planning to climb Everest Base camp this summer.

“I’m a little bit sad that it is over and a little bit tired after enjoying the family feeling of everybody riding together. The feeling of riding through the desert and that kind of adventure was amazing. The desert is a beautiful terrain and the camel is a beautiful animal,” she added.

For Rhian it has been an incredible experience of learning about the Arabic culture, language and also seeing how the Arabs used to live in the past as well as how they live now.

“Seven long days in the desert and seven hours each day riding. Spending nights around camp fire sharing stories in the evening. It’s been an incredible experience. The welcome reception has been so lovely and it is nice to get down off a camel,” said Rhian whose ambition is to climb Mount Everest in 2019.

“What I like to remember is the people. I’ve made some fantastic friends on this trip. We still have banter and laugh despite the language barriers,” she added.

The two French women in the group, Charlotte Sarrazin and Anne-Laure Laine, were sad they had to go back to civilisation after this life-changing experience.

“I feel always weird to come back to civilization because there is so much people and noise. The welcome reception was amazing. I didn’t expect this at all,” said Charlotte who treasures spending life in the desert as a group.

“As a European we come here without our family. I think slowly we forgot life in family living in this group together. This is an amazing group who share different moods and habits,” said Charlotte who has become an expert in managing camels.

“I learnt everything about camels. They are very smart animals who try to preserve their energy. They are very curious too,” she added pledging to return with her own camel ‘Talah’ next time.

Her friend Anne who was happy to go the distance this time also shares fond memories of the group of people she spent with.

“I feel so good. I’m sad it is finished actually. I remember what the guys taught us. I learnt to stay on camel whole day and about the culture, the way people were living before and what they eat,” she said.

Egyptian Lobna El Halawani, a personal fitness trainer in the UAE for the past three years, feels nothing is impossible after completing her maiden ‘Camel Trek’.

“It was a very nice feeling to join this trek. It was a lot of experience about camels, about riding on desert and how to know direction using stars. The experience of food. I’m so happy,” said Lobna, an endurance horse rider.

“You will find me soon in camel races,” she said in jest but will seriously continue training with camels summing up how much passion this ‘Camel Trek’ has generated.

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First Electric Vehicle Road Trip 700-km Across the Emirates

DUBAI, 29th January, 2017 (WAM) — A convoy of nearly a dozen electric vehicles set out on a 700km long road trip through all seven Emirates of the UAE on Sunday, to mark the start of the first Emirates Electric Vehicle Road Trip (Emirates EVRT), further driving the UAE towards a more sustainable future.

The four-day trip will showcase the best of electric vehicle technology, with three new charging stations, supplied by ENGIE, being unveiled at the Marjan Island Hotel in Ras al-Khaimah, the Novotel Hotel in Fujairah and the Sofitel Corniche Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Ben Pullen, Founder and Managing Director of Global EVRT – the company which has brought the road trip to the Emirates for the first time – says that an event such as the Emirates EVRT is important for the development of the electric vehicle industry.

“The UAE is at a very early stage when it comes to the electric vehicle industry, when compared to other countries in Europe, for example. Aspects like the number of dealers selling electric vehicles in the UAE needs to increase, insurance options need to be developed, banks and financing options need to be improved, and buying and installing charging stations needs to become more coherent for the consumer.

“Through our event we have strategically selected partners to accelerate the development of the industry, to enable the transition to a sustainable future which is long overdue. ENGIE as our green mobility and charging station partner, The Sustainable City as our sustainable living partner, AXA as our insurance partner, Emirates NBD as our bank partner, and AccorHotels as our hospitality partner – all of these partners have a crucial role to play the in the success of the electric vehicle industry in the UAE,” says Pullen.

Shayne Nelson, Group CEO, Emirates NBD, official bank partner of Emirates EVRT, says, “As a signatory to the United Nations Environment Programme Dubai Declaration on Sustainable Finance, Emirates NBD is committed to transforming the UAE into a green, low-carbon economy. We are thus proud to sponsor the Emirates EVRT, a remarkable initiative aimed at galvanising the adoption of electric vehicles in the country. Being the largest auto-finance provider in the region, we fully endorse a platform that pushes forward the sustainable agenda of the UAE Vision 2021, and represents a greener future for the residents of the nation.”

The journey began at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai on Sunday, 29th January. The fleet that took off on the trip comprised state-of-the-art Tesla Model X and Model S vehicles, Renault Zoe models and a Volkswagen Retrofitted Electric Car. The vehicles will transport 40 individuals around the UAE until Wednesday, 1st February. The event draws to a close at The Sustainable City with a Grand Finale including an electric vehicle conference and parade, where UAE electric vehicle owners will join the main convoy and showcase more cars.

The aim of the inaugural trip is to drive electric vehicle adoption in the UAE and accelerate the transition towards a sustainable low-carbon future. Pullen explains, “We believe there are many potential driving forces out there that will enable the UAE to fast-track their exposure to this industry, and that the country will certainly jump to the level of its peers across the world in the very near future.

“This trip, coupled with the installation of these charging stations, will open up the roads of the UAE to over 750km of electric vehicle driving. This is a great way to kick off 2017, which we believe is the year when the UAE will cement its foundations for electric vehicles as it gets ready for an exciting few years in the run up to Expo 2020. An era of electric vehicle adoption, infrastructure installation, and technology innovation awaits.”

“ENGIE is committed to promoting low carbon energy like gas and renewables as well as changing consumers’ transportation habits through the development of cleaner and more sustainable energy solutions to reduce overall CO2 emissions from transport,” says S?bastien Arbola, CEO of ENGIE Middle East, South & Central Asia and Turkey. “Globally, the company is leading the way in terms of greener mobility solutions, including urban planning advisory services, smart parking and transportation systems, charging solutions for electric vehicles, managing systems for public transport and innovative solutions such as car sharing and smart parking.”

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Oman Information Minister Launched Muscat FM Radio

MUSCAT, Oman, Jan 24 (NNN-ONA) – A celebration was held today, at Muscat FM Radio Station, in North Al Ghubrah, under the auspices of Dr. Abdul Munim bin Mansour al-Hasani, Minister of Information, to mark the radio’s official launching.

The Minister said that, the private radio stations add to the Omani media system in the Sultanate. He pointed out that, the private radio stations in the Sultanate (through radio or TV channels) play a complimentary role, at the Omani media system.

He added that, the new Muscat FM Radio, will be a valuable addition to the Omani media system.

He affirmed that, Muscat FM’s coverage of the youths’ social, art, culture and sports interests, will present a real addition to the Omani and non-Omani radio listeners.

The radio station will transmit its programmes 24/7 in the Governorate of Muscat, at the first stage, at 105.3 FM frequency. The new radio station will focus on providing programmes that meet the needs of the youths and develop their talents.

The radio seeks to attract national talents, to work in preparing and presenting the programmes. It will also benefit from the Arab experience and will ensure interaction with listeners.

Dr. Abdullah bin Nasser al-Harrasi, Chairman of the Public Authority for Radio and TV, Ali bin Khalfan al-Jabri, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Information, and Nasser bin Sulaiman al-Sibani, Deputy Chairman of P.A.R.T. attended the launching ceremony.– NNN-ONA

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Omani Research Team Achieves Medical Breakthrough

MUSCAT, Oman, Jan 24 (NNN-ONA) – Dr. Safana bint Salim Al-Sa’eediyah, a chemo-pathologist in Oman’s Ministry of Health (MOH), has succeeded in validating a new marker in early prostate cancer diagnosis, along with her cooperative team from the MOH, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH), and the Research Council.

This new prostate specific marker is called -2 pro PSA. The research study was conducted under supervision of Dr. Waad Allah Mula, Professor in the Royal Hospital Clinical Biochemistry.

The study included around 200 patients from Urology Department of two teaching hospitals in Muscat. Unlike the conventional one, the new marker is more specific in diagnosing a prostate cancer at its early stage. By introducing this new test, the patient could be diagnosed early and hence could get the proper management at a very early stage of the cancer.

In addition, there would be reduction in unnecessary prostate biopsies, if the result of the new test is not suggestive of prostate cancer. Therefore, the waiting list for the prostate biopsy procedure will be shortened, to include only patients who really need it, based on the result of the new marker.

The Royal College of Pathologists has proved this new promising finding of the study. It will be announced on the upcoming Aug 7-9, during the Bio-markers Congress 2017, Osaka, Japan, as Dr. Safana has received an invitation, to participate with a working paper on the new study results.– NNN-ONA

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Qatar: Reconstructive Surgery Helps Women Feel Complete Again

DOHA, Qatar, Jan 29 (NNN-QNA) – A ground-breaking reconstructive surgery, performed only at Qatar’s Women’s Hospital, has boosted the confidence of some women and even given some the ability to have children again.

The first uterus reconstruction surgery, performed by Dr Arabo Ibrahim Bayo, Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gyneacologist, at the Women’s Hospital, took place in 2009.

A ground-breaking surgery, this was the first time the procedure was performed anywhere in the world. Since then, Dr Bayo and his team have successfully performed more than 30 surgeries.

According to Dr Bayo, removal of the uterus may be required, if a patient has placenta accrete, a life-threatening condition, which causes the blood vessels and other parts of the placenta to grow into the walls of the uterus.

The condition commonly occurs in connection with placenta previa, where a woman’s cervix is blocked by the placenta. It can result in severe bleeding before or during delivery, and even result in maternal death.

Dr Bayo said, the number of patients experiencing placenta accrete is on the rise, due to the increase in deliveries by C-section and other uterine surgeries, adding that, women having multiple pregnancies are also a factor.

“In most cases, if a woman is diagnosed with a placenta accrete, a physician may recommend removing the entire uterus with a hysterectomy, several weeks in advance of her due date. This is called a planned preterm cesarean hysterectomy.

“It involves leaving the placenta in place and taking it out together with the uterus, in order to help minimise a woman’s risk of severe bleeding and other complications.”

He added, “While this solution may work for some women, it may not work for all. The reconstructive surgery has given some of my patients the ability to maintain a regular menstruation cycle, which can be very important to a woman’s self-esteem. It can even allow her to conceive again.”

In one of Dr Bayo’s most rewarding cases, a patient who had two babies with a permanent disability, due to congenital anomaly, was able to get pregnant again and deliver a healthy baby, after the reconstructive surgery.

The patient had placenta accrete. Instead of removing her uterus, the surgical team, led by Dr. Bayo, removed the placenta and reconstructed the uterus.

“My team and I are thrilled with some of the amazing outcome we have had, as a result of this innovative reconstructive surgery,” said Dr. Bayo.

“This patient was able to have a perfectly healthy baby delivered at 35 weeks, after having two children with disabilities and suffering through a terrible pregnancy, which could have resulted in her uterus needing to be removed,” Dr. Bayo added.

At present, Women’s Hospital is one of the only hospitals worldwide that is able to perform the surgery.

In 2013, Dr Bayo and his team were invited to the World Congress of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Liverpool, to present their techniques and data from a number of successful operations performed at Women’s Hospital.– NNN-QNA

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Dubai Extends Its Lead As World’s Number One Airport

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Jan 24 (NNN-WAM) – Dubai International (DXB) has retained its title as the world’s number one airport for international passengers, after near record numbers in Dec, propelled the hub’s annual traffic to 83.6 million passengers in 2016, according to the annual traffic report, issued by operator, Dubai Airports, today.

With monthly passenger traffic breaching the 7-million mark, six times during the year, including the historic 7.72 million traffic in Aug, DXB’s annual traffic in 2016, totalled 83,654,250 passengers, compared to 78,014,838 in 2015, a robust growth of 7.2 percent. The surge of travellers during the holiday season boosted monthly traffic in Dec, to 7,706,351, up 9.3 percent compared to 7,053,243 recorded in Dec, 2015.

During 2016, a number of new airlines, including Nepal Airlines Corporation and Rossiya, launched services to DXB, while 11 new passenger destinations were added to the hub, as a result of network expansion by flydubai, Emirates and other international carriers.

Spurred by capacity increase and the launch of new services by Spice Jet, Jet Airways, Air India and other carriers, India continued to lead as Dubai’s single largest destination country for the full year, with 11,440,215 passengers in 2016, up 10.1 percent, compared to 10,391,376 in 2015. Saudi Arabia took the second spot with 6,086,158 passengers ( 11.3 percent), just marginally overtaking the UK at 6,061,342 ( 6.7 percent). In terms of destination cities connected to DXB, London took the top spot from Doha with 3,751,596 passengers, while Doha clocked 2,999,762 passengers, followed closely by Mumbai with 2,357,103 passengers.

In terms of percentage growth in 2016, the top regions were Eastern Europe (17.5 percent), spurred by ongoing growth on routes to the region and network expansion by Emirates, flydubai and other airlines, Asia (11.4 percent), and the Indian subcontinent (9.5 percent).

DXB also leads the way globally, in terms of the average number of passengers per flight, which reached 209 during 2016, up four percent from the same period in 2015. The average number of passengers per flight during Dec, 2016 was 224, up 7.1 percent compared to 209, recorded in Dec, 2015.

Aircraft movements in 2016 reached 418,220 compared to 406,705 in 2015, up 2.8 percent. Monthly aircraft movements in Dec, 2016 totalled 36,065, up 1.6 percent compared to 35,491 movements during the same month in 2015, an increase of 5.9 percent.

After registering contraction throughout the third quarter, cargo volumes recovered in the last three months of 2016, rounding off the year with 2,592,454 tonnes in freight, up 3.4 percent compared to 2,506,092 recorded during 2015. DXB handled 230,122 tonnes of cargo in Dec, 2016, an increase of 5.4 percent compared to 218,408 tonnes recorded during the same month in 2015.

Commenting on the announcement, Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said, “After emerging as the world’s number one airport for international passengers in 2014, DXB has firmly established itself as the leader in that category. With our new forecast for 89 million passengers in 2017, DXB is closing the gap on Atlanta and Beijing for the top spot in overall traffic. We continue to enable that growth and enhance the passenger experience with top flight infrastructure, streamlined processes and technology. Our focus in 2017 and beyond will be on making the airport experience even more delightful, engaging and comfortable for our customers. Our DXB Plus programme will see a series of new and unique initiatives and technologies introduced at the airport, to make DXB not only the busiest but also the world’s best international airport.”– NNN-WAM

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Over 24.5 M Pax Travelled Through Abu Dhabi Airport In 2016

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Jan 26 (NNN-WAM) – Abu Dhabi International Airport registered more than 24 million passengers passing through its terminals during 2016, according to statistics released.

A total of 24,482,119 passengers used the airport as a point of departure, arrival or transit, representing a 5.1% increase on the 23,286,632 passengers throughout 2015.

Acting Chief Executive Officer Abu Dhabi Airports, Abdul Majeed Al Khoori, said, “The figures released reveal consistent growth in passenger traffic, demonstrating that Abu Dhabi continues to expand as a global hub processing more passengers than ever before.”

The year 2016 saw significant rises in traffic to and from a number of key destinations, such as the United Kingdom, which increased by 11.4%. India remained in top position, with more than four million passengers throughout 2016, representing a market share of 18.1% and an annual growth of 13.3%.

Al Khoori said, “Our partner, Etihad Airways, produced strong results throughout 2016, which contributed significantly to the increase in passenger traffic at the airport. In fact, Etihad Airways accounted for 76% of traffic throughout last year, more than 18.6 million passengers. We are always looking, together with our stakeholders, for more opportunities to grow and meet the demands of our various markets.”

Traffic throughout Terminal 3 rose to around 15 million passengers a 12.6% increase compared to 2015. Contributing to the significant rise in traffic was the introduction of the Smart Travel System, installed in Terminals 1 and 3 in the first quarter of 2016. This innovative system allows passengers to use automated check-in, bag drop and boarding facilities, in addition to unmanned passport control gates equipped with bio-metric verification functions and facial recognition technology.

Al Khoori noted the importance of introducing these innovative measures. “Smart Travel, which is the first of its kind in the region, has been highly successful and decreased processing times by 70%. Not only does this greatly improve customer experience and satisfaction, it also allows us to process significantly more passengers.”

“Ultimately such improvements contribute greatly to meeting the requirements of Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 and the Abu Dhabi Plan, both of which highlight travel and tourism as cornerstones of a diversified economy,” he added.

“During Dec, 2016, over two million passengers travelled through our international airport, representing a 3.7% increase on Dec, 2015. Terminal 3 experienced a 30% increase, handling 1,474,436 travellers throughout the winter month,” Al Khoori said.– NNN-WAM

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Qatar- Girls Creativity Center: Nurturing young talent

MENAFN – The Peninsula – 25/01/2017 – Almost 40 students enjoyed ‘Spring Festival’ at Girls Creativity Center, one of the leading artistic creativity institutions for citizens and expats in Qatar.

The centre aims at teaching girls arts and crafts and to promote their outstanding talent. It provides all materials and special assistance to achieve their goals.

Sawsan Al Shaar, pottery teacher at the Girls Creativity Center told The Peninsula that the experience students got in the past few days was very exciting. ‘Students got an opportunity of learning pottery in two weeks. I had ten local students, she said.

She said that clay was used with many different techniques including PINCH — using fingers to pinch and poke a single lump of clay into any shape; SLAB — rolling the clay into flat sheets (like a pie crust) to cut apart and assemble; COIL — rolling out long snakes of clay and twisting them into coils and shapes; and WHEEL — spinning clay on a potter’s wheel to form pots and vases.

‘During spring festival we used ‘Earthenware’ for pottery classes. This is the type of clay that comes in white or red and it is heated to a temperature of approximately 1,000 degrees Celsius, she further noted.

The centre is divided into five departments: painting, pottery, creative club, skills and small enterprises and Qatari heritage development. Spring festival was designed with different activities. The activities are for the girls aged between 7 and 14 years old.

Qatari students get free admission in the centre, whereas expats have to pay QR500 per month for 12 classes and kids have to pay QR300 per month.

Skills and Small Enterprises Section of the centre include ceramic, painting, stitching and junior section.

Ceramic section has a clay flower making session in which the instructor teaches students how to prepare the clay and add colour in it and make flowers from that stuff. ‘These 11 local students have been enjoying the spring festival’s special classes.

They made ceramic boxes and its tops are decorated with cutting of flowers in the first week. Now they are ready to make clay flowers for flower bands and jewellery, said Laila Al Anni, a teacher of ceramic section at the centre.

Sabah Noor Ud Din, teacher of Kids section, said: ‘In the first week of Spring Festival, kids made hand-made dolls and by the last week of the festival they are learning how to make necklace and bookmarks.

Dr Nidhal, another teacher at centre said that during first week, he gave students classes on stitching. ‘We decorated simple baskets and hand-fans by doing stitches with woolen thread, second week we are teaching them how to decorate jars and plastic-baskets with the help of paper and stickers. These hand-made decorations are usually used in the holy month of Ramadan. Traditional things look more beautiful with these hand-made décor.

Al Bandari, young student at centre’s painting section said: ‘These are colours that cannot be created through the mixing of other colours. They are original colours. The three primary colours are red, yellow and blue. Today we are leaning how to mix primary colours and create new colors.

‘Spring week ends with a special trip which includes outdoor exercises for all students. First week was filled with exciting activities for students which included hand-made art activities and cupcake baking session. The second week was related to painting and ceramic activities and students went to watch movie at Royal Plaza. Overall the students have enjoyed and had a wonderful journey of two week filled with excitement and knowledge, said Hiyam Ismaile, Media Coordinator at the centre.

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Oman Air opens new Grooming Centre

MENAFN – Muscat Daily – 25/01/2017 – Muscat- Oman Air has unveiled a new state-of-the-art Grooming Centre at its headquarter building on January 24. The new facility was inaugurated by Maitha bint Saif bin Majid al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Tourism and deputy chairman of Oman Air.

Oman Air has always been consistent with its commitment to service excellence and this is not only communicated throughout the organisation but is also conveyed to all ‘Oman Air Brand Ambassadors’ including the cabin crew, ground services and the rest of the frontline staff.

The new Oman Air Grooming Centre will help fulfill Oman Air’s commitment to deliver sustained service excellence with elegance and appeal amongst the brand and image ambassadors, from the moment they come in contact with the staff at the airport check-in counters, on-board the aircraft or upon arrival at their destinaions.

Initiated by the Products and Brand Development Unit, the new Grooming Centre has lots of ‘firsts’ on offer. The centre will be used for all-inclusive workshops and demonstrations for make-up, hairstyling and deportment for females, in addition to conducting courses on corporate etiquette and personality development for males. It is also a one-stop shop providing basic skin care products and cosmetic lines exclusive for Oman Air frontliners – something unique with the centre. This is the first time that Oman Air will be introducing signature colours and palettes that will most complement the colours of the uniform and the diverse nationalities that represent the airline.

With this initiative, one can expect an enhancement in Oman Air frontliners’ presentation, conveying an image of professionalism and impeccable style.

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Saudi Arabia helps Library In Nangarhar

Sunday, January 29, 2017, Kabul (BNA) Saudi Arabia aid committee has submitted an equipped library along with books and appliances to Najmul Madaris madrasa in Nangarhar in presence of representatives of education ministry.

The total cost of the equipped library was $ 218906.

Construction and equipment of the library with books, computers and furniture has been submitted based on MoU signed between Saudi Arabia’s embassy to Kabul and ministry of education in 2013.

According to the MoU, Saudi Arabia’s aid committee will distribute thousands of text books and stationeries including student boxes and copies of the Holy Quran to students of religious madrasas registered in ministry of education and will construct and equip libraries for famous darul olums in Afghanistan. The first phase of the project was executed in 2013 and nearly 20000 students benefited, while the second phase of the project is under way. In near future, the respective committee will also submit another equipped library to Asadia madrasa in Balkh. It is worth mentioning that Saudi Arabia aid committee has provided aid to the people of Afghanistan in various sections such as education, health and others since 2002 and the aid will continue in the future as well.

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Oman – Logistics forum outlines public transport strategies

MENAFN – Muscat Daily – 25/01/2017 – Muscat- First Oman Transports and Logistics Services Forum was organised by the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) under the patronage of H E Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Salim al Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Telecommunications, at the premises of Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulances (PACDA) on Wednesday.

The forum focused on a number of fields, such as public transport strategies and the upcoming projects in this sector, the airport systems and Muscat International Airport’s vision, Mwasalat and the new taxis, in addition to ROP’s customs declaration system and the logistics area in Barka.

Dr Salim bin Sulayem al Junaiby, chairman of OCC’s Transport and Logistics Committee, said, ‘The worldwide race is no more in the oil and gas sector. It has changed its vision and aims something that is larger and contributes to countries’ economy on a bigger basis – the transport and logistics services sector.

‘In the recent years, the Middle East in general and the GCC countries in particular, have started to plan and find an investment environment for worldwide logistics services. Most of the GCC countries have been providing logistics solutions in way of air and sea, in addition to road networks. This investment has made this area very important.’

Six papers on public transport and logistics were presented at the event.

Dr Junaiby noted that the seminar’s aim was to gather all the logistics sector parties and discuss and listen to what they have achieved, what their aims were and in what way they could find integration mechanisms to help support and develop the sector. He said the event also looked to find worldwide companies that would lend a helping hand to develop the growing sector in Oman.

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Economic success of Qatar’s growing service sector

MENAFN – Gulf Times – 29/01/2017 – Qatar’s strong and diverse private sector makes it stand out amongst its regional peers thanks to the government’s wise policies and clear vision. The Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics expects that despite lower oil prices, real GDP growth will remain healthy at 3.8% in 2017, with the non-hydrocarbon sector continuing to account for most of the economy’s expansion.

Contributions to Qatar’s growing private sector have come from many different sources, including the banking sector. However, it is the construction industry which has been the primary growth driver of the economy. Supported by government spending, construction has been stimulated by large infrastructure projects and major real estate developments that are playing a significant and fundamental role in economic growth and development.

While most of the attention has been rightly on the construction sector, looking ahead it is expected that services will be the largest contributor to growth in 2017 to 2018, as construction projects complete and services continue to record solid growth.

A combination of a growing population with the highest GDP per capita in the world, high levels of disposable income, and an increasing number of tourists mean that prospects for the service sector are looking healthy. For example, the food and drink sector has been forecast to grow by annual growth rate of around 14%, especially at the premium end of the market.

Qatar is leading the Middle East in developing the most advanced fully multimodal transport network, and major development projects on the roads, rail, Hamad International Airport and Hamad Port has been a catalyst to the country’s logistics sector. Logistics is driving growth in the transport sector in general and has great potential when you consider that most of Qatar’s transport-related infrastructure investments are not yet operating at 100% capacity.

As a world-class business, sports and tourism hub, Qatar’s trade and hospitality industries are also growing robustly due to conference activities, the hosting of major sports tournaments, and the growth in tourist arrivals.

The Qatar Tourism Authority has been successful in attracting a large number of tourists to Qatar, with over 2mn visitors reported in the first 9 months of last year, of whom more than a million visitors from the GCC.

40bn worth of investment in tourism infrastructure in the run up to the World Cup in 2022 and onwards to 2030 means that Qatar’s hospitality and hotel industry is poised to experience healthy growth.

Retail trade too is expected to surge as household spending is forecast to increase by over 15% a year in the next few years, and the list of Qatar’s shopping malls, either recently completed or in the pipeline, continues to lengthen.

Top-down government spending on large infrastructure, real estate and transport projects has been a boon to construction industry but as these projects mature, services are becoming an increasingly large component of Qatar’s private sector, especially when population growth and rising consumer spending are added to the mix.

The strength and variety of Qatar’s services sector shows that Qatar’s economy is maturing, and the government policy of economic diversification is working. Construction is providing the economic stimulus for a larger, more diverse and competitive economy in the medium-term and Qatar is on target to achieving the strategic goal laid out in the Qatar National Vision 2030 of a knowledge-based economy.

Dr Abdulaziz A al-Ghorairi is senior vice-president & group chief economist and head of asset management at Commercial Bank.

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Saudi Arabia bags four regional tourism awards

Tunisia, January 29, 2017, (Tunis Daily News) – Several Saudi personalities and journalists gathered Thursday at the Arab Tourism Media Awards announcement ceremony 2017 at Casablanca Grand Hotel Jeddah.

Among the attendees of the program were Hussain Al-Mannai, chairman of the Arab Center for Tourism Media; Ahmed Al-Juaed, board member of Saudi Tour Guides Association; Fahad A. Al-Ghamdi, executive chairman of Al Mada advertising, Sultan Al-Yahyaie, chairman of the Oman Center for Tourism Media, and Khalid Al-Khalil, Sabq Tourist supervisor.

The Arab Heritage Man for the year went to Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Al-Rawas, counselor of Cultural Affairs to Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman. The Heritage Personality of the Year Award went to Mohammed Abu Zaid Mustafa, minister of Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife for the Republic of Sudan.

Khalid Al-Sulaiti general manager of Katara cultural village from Qatar, won the title of the Best Government Personality in Supporting Arab Tourism. Mehdi Al-Abduwani of Oman won the award for Leading Personality in Tourism.

Saudi Arabia captured four regional tourism awards. Best Tourist Snapshot was won for a photograph of Taif. The Best Tourism Writer was won by Saudi journalist Ahmed Awad Sulais of Al-Jazirah newspaper and Essam Taboni from Libya.

Nayef Anzi of Saudi Arabia won the award for Best Director of the Year for Public Relations in the Tourism Sector. The Best Tourist Instagram award went to the Saudi Tourism Instagram accounts of Sami Tokhees and Hisham Hamid.

The awards included about 28 media categories specializing in the field of tourism. The contest saw a large turnout through the electronic voting.

Almost 900,000 people participated in voting for 260 participants from all the Arab countries. The Saudi winners were among several Arab contenders in various categories, including entrants from Oman, Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain, Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Tunisia and Jordan.

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Single Country Exhibitions Attract Foreign Investments To Oman

MUSCAT, Oman, Jan 29 (NNN-ONA) – The Ministry of Commerce and Industry attaches a great care to the exhibition sector, which plays a key role in the growth of the Omani economy in the future. It is also an important element in the transfer of information and dissemination of knowledge and professional practices.

It also contributes to enhancing reciprocal trade, building understanding and exchange of culture. The sector has also tourism, cultural, knowledge, social and political effects. The single-country exhibitions are among the six types of exhibitions regularised by the Organisation and Management of Exhibition Regulation, issued by the Ministerial Decision No.77/2011, amended by the Ministerial Decision No.474/2014.

Awad bin Said al-Alawi, Director of Commercial Affairs, at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, said that, four single country exhibitions have been organised in 2016, namely the Iranian Exhibition, the Thai Product Exhibition, the Indian House Exhibition and the Lebanese Products Exhibition.

He pointed out that the single country exhibition seeks to attract foreign investments to the Sultanate by introducing the Omani market to foreign investors and enhancing reciprocal trade with various countries of the world.

It also develops the competitiveness of the SEM’s by giving them an idea on the services and goods available at the various countries of the world. It also encourages setting up some industrial products, imparting of knowledge, innovation and technology, benefiting from the experiences of other countries in educational, medical, cultural, technical, legal fields, as well as, in attracting foreign investment.

All these will contribute to the development of the different sectors, enhancing the growth of national economy and cementing relations with various countries of the world.– NNN-ONA

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Two Kuwaiti Authorities Join Hands In Beautifying Kuwait

KUWAIT, Jan 29 (NNN-KUNA) – Two main Kuwaiti authorities have joined hands, giving momentum to efforts to turn empty spots green with leafy plants and blossoming flowers, throughout the country of largely arid land.

In its latest activity, to turn as many parts as possible of the landscape green, Kuwait Public Environment Authority (EPA), said in a statement that, up to 10,000 saplings were distributed for planting in Al-Nuwaiseeb, Kuwait’s southern-most region, stretching along the southern shores of the Gulf country. The plants were given to citizens, campers and volunteers, enthusiastic about such activities, to safeguard and improve the environment of Kuwait, indicated Sheikh Abdullah Ahmad Al-Humoud Al-Sabah, EPA Board Chairman, in remarks to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

He also indicated that the activity is part of a nationwide campaign, to promote peoples’ awareness of the necessity to safeguard Kuwaiti wild life and environment.

Greening side-streets and public parks and location, helps in purifying the air, he said, noting, the top leaders’ special concern for greening Kuwait.

EPA is distributing large numbers of saplings, in coordination with the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET), whose general director, Haytham Al-Athari, said, up to 10,000 saplings had been planted, in the first (4-month-long) phase of the campaign. The current second stage is designed to plant 250,000 more.

PAAET’s services department is cooperating with the “green dream” team, which comprises volunteers, who have been leading the multi-phased greening campaign.

The authority had granted 20,000 saplings to Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber’s Popular Heritage Village. It had also distributed 10,000 more in Kabad, some 70 km from Kuwait City, and planned to distribute 10,000 more elsewhere.

Moreover, it is involved in greening projects outside mosques, oil companies and on islands.

Kuwait’s land is largely desert, however, authorities and associations exert relentless efforts, to keep much of the land green.– NNN-KUNA

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‘Tawash,’ Pillar Of Kuwait’s Traditional Economy

KUWAIT, Jan 26 (NNN-KUNA) — In old Kuwait, the traditional ‘Tawash’ (pearl traders) used to play a key role in the economic activity, which relied heavily on pearl diving.

The Kuwaiti pearl traders gained success and fame across south Asia, particularly in the Indian subcontinent, due to their sincerity and professionalism.

They were known for their expertise in assessing the pearl grading and pricing in the main commercial centres, whether in Bahrain – the hub of pearl trade in the Arabian Gulf, or Mumbai, India.

This craft entails a lot of travel and movement between the key pearl diving centres and the main markets, said Saif Marzouq Al-Shamlan, a Kuwaiti historian.

Kuwaiti pearl traders used to tour aboard their private ships, the main pearl diving areas in the territorial waters of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and sometimes Oman, to buy pearls before setting sail to the commercial markets in Bahrain and India.

Darin, a town in Al-Ahsaa served as a main hub for the pearl trade, where traders used to gather to strike deals and discuss the affairs of the market, he said.

In Bahrain and Mumbai, they, as wholesalers, stuck deals on selling their precious products to retailers from the Gulf region, India and Europe, Al-Shamlan pointed out.

Dealing with Tawashes’ tools, he said, they used to have scales for measuring the exact weight of a pearl, and magnifiers for determining the quality and grade.

These tools were carried in a ‘Dasta’ – a toolkit which is usually red and one metre long, he said.

A Tawash could become very wealthy if he was able to get a “dana” – a big pearl, such as the well-known Bin Yaqout’s dana which was sold for 110,000 rupees in Bahrain and Sayed Al-Refai’s dana which was bought by the Kuwaiti trader, Hilal Al-Mutairi, for 45,000 rupees.

When compared with divers, Tawashes used to lead a more comfortable life, eat better, have larger boats and get higher, sometimes astronomical, wealth, Al-Shamlan went on.

Tawashes used to take sheep on their boats and slaughter them upon arrival at the pearl diving sites, to offer their meat to divers as gifts, which helped cement the cordial business relationship with them.

Tawashes usually had contracts with a number of divers; they visited the diving sites one month after the divers go there in order give the divers enough time to pick the pearls.

They also took some of their children along, in order to train them on this business.

In Al-Qafal (the return trip) the Tawashes and their divers come back to Kuwait with the pearls in one flotilla; they take some time to rest before started a farther journey to sell the pearls on the regional markets.

This shows that many families depended for livelihood on this business, which played an essential role in the economy of old Kuwait.– NNN-KUNA

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India, UAE sign 14 agreements to deepen bilateral coop.

MENAFN – Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) NEW DELHI, Jan 25 — India and the UAE on Wednesday signed 14 agreements including one on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership to enhance bilateral relation between the two nations.

In a media briefing following delegation-level talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan who arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday to participate as Chief Guest in the 68th Indian Republic Day celebrations to be held on Thursday, Modi said that the discussions were wide ranging covering the entire spectrum of bilateral engagement.

He added that the UAE is an important partner in the Indian success story and lauded the Gulf nation’s keen interest in investing India’s infrastructure development and termed the UAE as one of the most valued partners of India.

He added cooperation in the defence and security sectors would bring new dimensions to the existing bilateral ties. He also underlined the importance of cooperation in the field of fighting terrorism and extremism.

The Indian External Affairs Ministry said in its statement that both countries inked 14 MoUs following the talks including the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which highlights the areas of bilateral cooperation as agreed upon in August 2015 when Modi visited the UAE and February 2016 when Abu Dhabi Crown Prince made his first India visit.

Another Agreement on Oil Storage and Management between Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company was signed to build a framework for using underground strategic crude oil storage facilities at Mangaluru and Padur in south Indian state of Karnataka by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

This will give an advantage to the ADNOC as it will enable the company to safeguard itself from global price shocks and supply disruptions in addition to giving an edge in the coming days.

Indian Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Defence of UAE signed an MoU in defence industry aimed at deepen cooperation in defence manufacturing and technology through studies, research, development and innovation. Another agreement on Institutional Cooperation on Maritime Transport was signed for enhancing bilateral maritime trade relations, free transfer of monies and reciprocal recognition of ships’ documents.

An MoU on mutual recognition of certificates of competency was also signed to boost maritime economic activities by establishing a framework for mutual recognition of certificates of marine officers and engineers. Bilateral Cooperation in the Road Transport and Highways Sector was also inked to establish cooperation in the sectors of highways and road transport.

An MoU to establish cooperation in combating and prevention of human trafficking and an agreement in the field of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and innovation to deepen cooperation was also signed. Various other MoUs in agriculture sector, mutual exemption of entry visa requirements to the holders of diplomatic, special and official passports holders and another agreement on broadcasting and news was also signed.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry of India and the Ministry of Economy of UAE also inked an MoU on trade remedial measures to promote cooperation in the anti-dumping sector through exchange of information, seminars and training. An MoU on Cooperation in Energy Efficiency Services and another one in technology development and cooperation in cyberspace bring the total number of agreements to 14.

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25% More Pilgrims From India To Perform Haj This Year

NEW DELHI, India Jan 26 (NNN-Bernama) — More than 300,000 Muslims have applied to perform this year’s Haj pilgrimage from India against a quota of 170,000 pilgrims.

The Haj Committee of India, which is responsible for managing Indian pilgrims, will conduct a draw to shortlist applicants as per the limit fixed by the Saudi government.

Saudi Arabia has hiked the Indian pilgrim quota by 25 per cent from 136,000, according to Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, India’s minister of minority affairs.

The increase in India’s quota is in line with a 2013 bilateral agreement that had set the number at 170,025 seats – comprising 125,025 seats for those performing the pilgrimage under the Haj committee management and 45,000 for pilgrims through private tour operators.

Saudi Arabia had reduced the pilgrim intake for all countries five years ago by 20 per cent due to infrastructure work at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Makkah.

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Gaza Univ Students Pioneer Conversion of Waste Into Cement

GAZA, Palestine, Jan 25 (NNN-WAFA) – Four students in the besieged city of Gaza, who are studying civil engineering at the Islamic University there, succeeded in a project, which converted waste of glass and coal ash into cement, after months of research work.

The students: Rahma Ashour, Noor Buhaisi, Aya Abu Hashish and Angham Madhoun, were looking for an idea for their graduation project, and were determined to work on something that could benefit their society, amid the

difficult circumstances and the Israeli siege imposed on their city, since a decade ago.

According to Gaza-based Al-Resalah Media Institution, the four girls then decided to do a research on cement’s extraction from materials available in the Gaza strip. They did so for four months before they finally succeeded.

They gathered 20 kg of glass, crushed them at the university’s laboratory and added a little cement and other materials to the crushed glass.

They were surprised that this idea had succeeded tremendously and resulted in the first test sample.

Ashour told Al Resalah that, after obtaining the university’s approval to use its “crushing device” they got to work and ground the glass for about 15 hours, which resulted in very soft powder. The powder was then mixed with some cement, under high pressure and density.

Ashour said, they obtained a positive result in the form of “a very good cement,” that could be used in tiles, plastering and finishing works, which could help to lessen the scarcity of cement in the Gaza strip.

She said, they faced some difficulties during the implementation of the project, including power outage, as well as getting a permit from the university to use the glass-crushing device.

Another problem was the scarcity of glass quantities and coal ash, she said.

Ashour and her friends were elated that the project was successful and a bonus came when they obtained an “A degree” from the university.

The students hope to get the interest of official bodies in their project and use it to help alleviate Gaza’s construction problems.

The Israeli occupation allows only 3,000-4,000 tonnes of construction materials per day, into the Gaza strip, which is considered very little compared to the real need, which reaches a million and a half tonnes, in order

to be able to rebuild what was destroyed in the last three wars on Gaza by Israel.– NNN-WAFA

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Royal Jordanian Strengthens its Presence in 14 Cities

Amman, Jan 28, (Petra) — Royal Jordanian (RJ) announced that it will be increasing the frequency of its flights to 14 key Arab and international destinations on its route network as of summer 2017.

RJ has also rescheduled arrival and departure times providing passengers, particularly transit travelers, with the convenience of selecting from a broader array of flight options.

The network enhancement comes as part of RJ’s keenness to strengthen its presence and boost its connectivity in those cities, all while incorporating network consolidation throughout the high-demand summer season. This will ultimately increase RJ’s network connectivity by an additional 8 percent.

The 2017 summer operating plan will add an additional weekly flight to the already scheduled services to Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Madrid, Moscow, Riyadh, Tunis and Algiers, and two additional weekly flights to New York, Kuwait and Dammam.

RJ will also add three additional weekly flights to Medina, bringing the total number of weekly flights into the city to 16. Moreover, RJ will be operating a total of 15 weekly flights to Baghdad by adding six additional weekly trips to the existing schedule.

Passengers can now enjoy flying RJ to 52 destinations on board its modern and young fleet which, since the end of 2014, saw the introduction of seven new Boeing 787 Dreamliners that operate on medium and long-haul routes.

The commercial strategy implemented by RJ seeks to increase revenue for the airline through various means. Continuously meeting seasons’ demands, RJ periodically revises its route network in order to offer further flexibility, while matching aircraft capacity and flight frequency to destinations.

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Amman airport handles 7.4 million passengers in 2016

Amman, Jan. 29 (Petra) — The Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) welcomed 7,410,274 passengers, setting a new record for annual passenger traffic, according to figures released by Airport International Group (AIG).

AIG, the Jordanian company responsible for the rehabilitation, expansion and operation of QAIA, said the Airport witnessed a 4.4% increase in PAX in comparison to the previous year. Aircraft movement (ACM) figures also rose slightly in 2016, experiencing an overall growth of 2.8% and totaling 73,784, whereas cargo traffic figures registered a marginal year-to-date (YTD) increase of 0.5%, settling at 101,172 tons.

In December 2016, QAIA welcomed 538,866 passengers, establishing a new benchmark for QAIA’s highest-ever monthly December PAX and signaling a 1.1% year-on-year increase in comparison to the 533,051 PAX received in the same period of last year, it said.

The company said QAIA also witnessed an increase in ACM, registering 5,953 ACM as opposed to 5,813 in December 2015. Meanwhile, QAIA handled 8,917 tons of cargo in comparison to the 9,764 tons handled in the same period in 2015, bringing about a year-on-year fall of 8.7%.

From January through May 2016, QAIA witnessed consistent year-on-year growth in PAX, ACM and handled cargo, which continued until the start of the region’s low travel season during the holy month of Ramadan. In August 2016, QAIA registered its highest monthly passenger traffic in the Airport’s 34-year history, receiving a record-breaking 830,259 passengers, AIG added.

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European Film Festival held In Lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Jan 29 (NNN-NNA) – The Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, Ambassador Christina Lassen, opened the 23rd edition of the European Film Festival, at Cinema Metropolis Empire Sofil, in the presence of political and diplomatic figures, as well as culture, media and social personalities.

In her speech, Lassen said, “I am very happy to see you all here tonight, for the opening of the 23rd edition of the European Film Festival in Beirut. And I can tell you, even before tonight, it has been a great day today, in the relationship between Europe and Lebanon.

“We had an important visit of our European foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who was here with a message on behalf of all 28 EU Member States: That Lebanon has our full support and we want this country to succeed, as an example of tolerance and religious co-existence in this region, where those qualities are going through difficult times. As Ms Mogherini said: Lebanon is a miracle!

Just like Europe, Lebanon is a country that is united in diversity or even in spite of diversity. And maybe that is why our European Film Festival has always been so well received here in Lebanon, in the 23 years we have already had this great tradition.

Because Lebanese are curious and open-minded and always eager to learn about what is going on outside this country. And cinema is exactly a place where people meet and are introduced both to other worlds, but more than anything, to a world that is a reflection of our own humanity.

The festival is not only a chance for viewers to discover the latest European films, but most importantly, it is a reminder of the universal nature of human beings.

We are lucky today to be given this chance of entering the world of cinema in a city that spells diversity and coexistence of cultures in an attractive – and sometimes chaotic, but always charming – way, Beirut. This is where we are able to see how much our societies, European and Lebanese, have in common in terms of both culture and daily human challenges.

This is also the reason why we have decided that when the European Union engages with the world, culture is at the centre of our foreign policy. Culture can help us fight and prevent radicalisation. But it can also foster economic growth. Culture is fundamental to the European Union’s commitment to peace and freedom of expression, respect for fundamental rights and diversity. It can help us stand together in the face of common threats and build partnerships and alliances among both people and institutions.

We have worked to organise this 23rd European Film Festival in order to take you on an enjoyable cultural journey through European cinema. I hope you will enjoy tonight and come back many times over the next 10 days for the more than 39 feature films and 12 short films that we show on these days.– NNN-NNA

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Prime Minister To Inaugurate “Made In Iraq” Exhibition

23/01/2017, BAGHDAD / NINA / Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, on Tuesday, will open the exhibition “Made in Iraq”, with the participation of more than forty local companies in all areas.

The Media director of the Baghdad International Fair, Zainab Nasser Hussein said in a statement: “The exhibition is organized by the Iraqi General Company of Fairs and services, on the land of the Baghdad International Fair, and will continue until next Thursday.”

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Iraq, Jordan to upgrade highways linking border ports

26/01/2017, BAGHDAD / National Iraqi News Agency / nina / Iraq and Jordan discussed the rehabilitation of highways linking between the two countries, in addition to the Trebil border port.

A statement by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, said that the Minister Anne Nafe’ Al-Osei discussed, during her meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Sami Halsah, ways of enhancing joint cooperation between the two countries in the urban area.

Al-Ossie confirmed “the necessity of activating aspects of joint cooperation and exchange of experiences in the urban area, in addition to discussing a number of topics of mutual interest, including the development of the road network linking between the two countries, and rehabilitation of highways leading to the Trebil border port because of its importance in the promotion and development of economic exchanges between two countries. ”

She explained that they invited the Jordanian investment sober companies to invest in Iraq, especially in the housing and the implementation of the projects in housing sector investment in the field / vertical housing /, and access to employment opportunities in the rehabilitation works in all fields and in all the provinces and improve investment between the two countries in the field of contracting business and consultancy offices level “.

For his part, Minister of Public Works and Housing of Jordan, stressed the importance of opening the prospects of joint cooperation and the desire of the Jordanian investment companies to enter the Iraqi market, particularly in the housing sector, as well as the development of the level of relations and the exchange of experiences in the urban area. / End

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World Pastry Cup 2017: Algeria ranks 1st in Africa

ALGIERS, Algerian Press Service -Algeria ranked 1st in African following its participation in the World Pastry Cup 2017 held in Lyon (France), the Ministry of National Planning, Tourism and Craft Industry announced in a communiqué.

Algeria ranked 1st in Africa before Tunisia (17th) and Morocco (19th) in this world event in which it partook for the first time, as part of the 17th International Hotel and Food Exhibition (SIRHA), said the same source.

Algeria ranked 14th in the global ranking.

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Solar power plant commissioned in Reggane (Adrar)

ADRAR- A 5MW solar power plant has been commissioned Sunday in Reggane (Adrar, 1543-km south of Algiers) by Minister of Energy Noureddine Boutarfa.

During the inauguration, the minister said that the national renewable energy development programme, aiming at achieving a production of 47 terawatts per hour, has allowed so far the building of many power plants nationwide offering an overall production capacity of 350MW.

Boutarfa also announced the launch of invitations to tender soon for investors wishing to contribute to renewable energy programmes, in view of their importance in the diversification of energy sources, the protection of environment and the creation of job opportunities.

The solar power plant, stretching over an area of 10 hectares, will help diversify energy resources, develop renewable energy production capacity and protect environment, through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, according the explanations given by Shariket Kahraba wa Taket Moutajadida (SKTM), a subsidiary of the national electricity and gas company SONELGAZ, the project owner.

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Algerian Olympic Museum inaugurated

ALGIERS, Algeria Press Service, 27 Jan 2017 – The Algerian Olympic Museum, opposite Harcha-Hassan Sports Hall in Algiers, has been inaugurated Thursday by the head of the Algeria Olympic Committee (COA), Mustapha Berraf, and the Wali (governor) of Algiers Abdelkader Zoukh, in presence of many African sports figures.

Stretching over 521 square meters, the Algerian Olympic Museum hosts the Olympic Academy of young talents.

“It is a wonderful place of memory of the Algerian sports and Olympic spirit. It will allow visitors to recall the achievements of our champions,” Zoukh told the press.

The only African Cup of Nations, won in Algiers in 1990 by the national football team, is being featured at the Museum’s hall and has greatly attracted the first visitors.

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Photographer, visual artist “Mizo” unvails “Metal-physique” exhibition

ALGIERS, Algeria Press Service, 27 Jan 2017 – A photo exhibition including visual arts were inaugurated Saturday in Algiers by photographer and visual artist “Mizo”, who focuses on the relationship between superstition and metaphysics.

Themed “Metal-physique,” this new exhibition, which takes place in “Bouffée d’art” gallery, encompasses art photography, paintings, graphics, collage and sculpture on metal in various works.

Through his works “No Words”, “No Sound” and “No Vision,” the artist superimposes photos of women models, graphic inlays of Khasma (Fatma’s hand) and strokes of paint, all glued to reflective metal plates.

The exhibition will last until 18 February.

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Tunisie Telecom and Microcred sign partnership pact

Tunisia, January 23, 2017, (Tunis Daily News) – A two-year partnership agreement was recently signed between Tunisie Telecom (TT) and Microcred Tunisia, for the provision of telecommunications services in the field of fixed, mobile, DATA and Fiber Optic telephony.

This agreement will enable Tunisie Telecom to expand its portfolio of the financial sector and further consolidate its leading position in the market for services meant for companies in Tunisia, a joint statement reads.

Operating as part a digital finance Microcred, a Fintech company has developed a web mobile applications allowing optimised management of the credit portfolio, according to the same source.

Microcred Tunisia currently has a network of 9 branches and has served more than 8 thousand clients. The company has 200 employees and aims to reach, over the next 5 years, 50 thousand clients and 400 employees as well as coverage of all the governorates of the country.

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Laico Tunis hotel to open in June 2017

Tunisia, January 26, 2017, (Tunis Daily News) The Laico Tunis hotel will officially open its doors in June 2017; this is what was announced at a meeting on Tuesday between Director General of Tunisia’s National Tourist Office (ONTT), Abdellatif Hamam and General Manager of Laico Hotels & Resorts, Jassem Khalifa Idrissi and several officials of the company.

The officials presented to the DG of ONTT the progress of the redevelopment of this hotel unit, which has mobilised large investments.

For his part, Hamam spoke of the importance Tunisia gives to Libyan investments, especially in the tourism sector, valuing the contribution of this new hotel, especially in the field of business tourism.

The Laico Hotel, which comprises 300 rooms, including 30 suites, stands out as one of the most prestigious hotels in Tunis. This unit will have the largest conference room in Tunisia, with a capacity of 1,200 people.

Board chairman of the Libyan African Investment Company Abdelhakim Chouihdi had announced in a statement to the TAP in December 2016 that a budget of 100 million dinars has been allocated to redevelopment work of Tunis Laico, adding that this unit will create 500 direct jobs and a large number of indirect jobs.

He also said that the company has worked with four banks in Tunisia to guarantee part of the financing and that it has used 40 Tunisian companies to finalise the development work.

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Tunisian Youth urged to seize business opportunities

Tunisia, January 29, 2017, (Tunis Daily News) They have project ideas and their goal is to be leaders and to create their own businesses. They are young university graduates, others are still students and some have already embarked on the experiment but their projects have failed.

They attended the various events organised on January 27 and 28 at the Tunis Convention Centre in the framework of the regional forum on micro finance and social and solidarity economy in Tunisia.

Workshops on Entrepreneurial Capacity Building, Young Entrepreneurship Incentives, Women’s Micro Entrepreneurship and many other topics related to business start-ups and microfinance have taken place within the framework of the forum.

The participants, most of whom are young graduates, toured, Saturday morning, all stands of the 30 exhibitors representing the most important microfinance institutions as well as NGOs active in the field to have all the necessary information and to know all the mechanisms and programmes of support and financing for the creation of their projects.

“I came to have ideas for projects and to listen to success stories that can motivate me to set up my own business,” said Ahmed, a young student.

Chadi, for his part, is a young bearer of ideas but who still cannot realise his dream. He has already applied several times for funding but his application is still rejected.

“I do not intend to give up. I want to create my project and I am here to discuss with all the micro-finance actors present at the forum to know the reasons for refusing my application and to rectify any gaps,” he said.

Facilitating the workshop on strengthening entrepreneurial capacities, Makrem Saidi, coach-trainer with the NGO, EFE Tunisia (Education for Employment) emphasised the importance of strengthening the skills of young people through training.

“Unfortunately young people often neglect the importance of training which can only strengthen their skills and facilitate their integration into the labour market,” he told TAP.

The speaker believes that today there are important business opportunities and several support programmes to help young people create their own projects.

“You just need to be entrepreneurial, willing to be a leader, be motivated and persevere even in the face of failure, be a good communicator and make the effort to look for opportunities and identify the needs of consumers”, he said.

“A project is like a baby, it cannot grow quickly. It must be given time and we must not be discouraged,” he added, considering that the success or failure of a project can only be judged after at least 3 years of activity.

Since 2011, there has been an enthusiasm among young people to set up their own businesses, according to Hanen Missaoui, marketing manager at Enda Tamweel

“From that year and until the end of 2016, Enda Tamweel has financed 11,000 start-ups with an 85% survival rate,” she noted. “These 11 thousand startups have in turn created 10 thousand jobs “.

She pointed out that in the framework of this two-day regional forum, Enda Tamweel had granted credits to some 30 young people for a total amount of 700 thousand dinars.

Success stories were presented at this forum. An arts academy, a cultural centre, a consulting and training agency and many other projects in several sectors have attracted the attention of young promoters who have chosen to be leaders.

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Marseille-Zarzis maritime line bookings to open in March

Tunisia, January 29, 2017, (Tunis Daily News) “Booking on the Marseille-Zarzis maritime route would open towards the end of March,” commercial director of the Tunisian Shipping Company (CTN) Samir Themouni said Saturday an information day on the opening of the Marseilles-Zarzis maritime line, organised by the Consulate General of Tunisia in Massy (department of Essonne).

The official added that steps are underway to start trips on this shipping line in early July 2017. “The company is committed to opening this line in the summer of 2017, “He insisted.

In a statement to Tap, Samir Themouni said “the Marseille-Zarzis line would likely be opened before that date.” “It is according to the needs of Tunisians in France,” noted the commercial director of the CTN.

He added: “An international call for tender has been launched to lease the boat that will transport passengers and we estimate the opening of reservations towards the end of March and even before”.

Tunisia’s ambassador to France, Abdelaziz Rassaa pointed out that the Marseille-Zarzis maritime line is part of the rapprochement of services to citizens. “I think this is an important element that will, among others, develop economic relations between Tunisia and France,” he told TAP.

Consul General of Tunisia in Paris, Ali Chalali noted that the new line will be a portal to Africa and that it will open new economic opportunities for Tunisia.

For her part, Advisor to the President of the Republic, responsible for relations with civil society and social issues, Saida Garrach told TAP “the new Marseille-Zarzis maritime line will make a qualitative change in the services provided for travellers and boost economic activity at the port of Zarzis “.

A call was launched by the participants of the information day to open the Marseille-Zarzis maritime line as soon as possible. They also urged the officials to ensure that this line is regular, while applying reasonable prices within the reach of the Tunisians in France.

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Micro-Finance Expo inaugurated in Tunisia

Tunisia, January 28, 2017, (Tunis Daily News) The first edition of Micro-Finance Expo: the Regional Forum on Microfinance and social and solidarity economy was officially inaugurated on Friday afternoon at the Convention Centre in Tunis by Finance Minister Lamia Zribi.

This two-day forum is a meeting place for the microfinance community and bringing together public and private decision-makers, civil society organisations, institutions and professionals active in this sector.

The programme includes a series of conferences and workshops led by Tunisian and foreign experts dedicated to the promotion of microfinance in financing and developing micro-investments, strengthening of entrepreneurial capacities and inciting young people to entrepreneurship.

These workshops also shed light on the need for financial education for youth, the importance of micro-entrepreneurship for women, but also of social entrepreneurship as a vector of wealth creation and of the university as a springboard for Entrepreneurship.

Statistics show that 81% of Tunisians are interested in microfinance and that the Tunisian market counts between 1.2 and 1.4 million micro-entrepreneurs.

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Dates exports in Tozeur edge up 20%

Tunisia, January 26, 2017, (Tunis Daily News) Dates exports from Tozeur reached a new record of 7,350 tonnes, amounting to 38 million Tunisian dinars (MTD), said Regional Director of the Inter-professional Fruit Group Ali Tahar Bouazizi.

These exports did not exceed 6 thousand tonnes (27 MTD) during the same period last year, with a 20% rise for the current season, he told TAP.

“Dates exports reached 36 thousand tonnes (180 MTD), nationally with a 24% increase compared to the same period last year,” he stressed.

NB: There are 22 dates packaging and export units in the governorate of Tozeur with a storage capacity of 25 thousand tonnes and packaging exceeding 30 thousand tonnes.

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‘Mashrou3i’ programme: 1,250 jobs created in 1st phase

Tunisia, January 25, 2017 (Tunis Daily News) – Launched in 2013 by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the “Mashrou3i” (My Project) program has created 1,250 jobs and supported more than 160 start-ups in 4 governorates, Zied Laâdhari, Minister of Industry and Trade said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a conference on the start of the second phase of the program, which aims to facilitate the employment of young people, Laadhari stressed that the first phase of the programme, which ran from 2013 to 2016, was a great success.

The second phase with a substantial fund of 14 million dollars will target 14 regions considered priority, including Beja, Gafsa, Kebili, Gabes and Sidi Bouzid, he said.

Laadhari underlined that this programme aims to generate more than 6 thousand jobs in Tunisia by 2021, noting that it will translate into direct support to young entrepreneurs in the creation and development of their projects and through enhanced coaching and entrepreneurial training.

According to the Managing Director of the Hewlett-Packard Foundation, this programme is based on the HP LIFE e-Learning initiative, a free online programme focused on new information and communication technologies as well as on entrepreneurial skill.

This platform offers solutions adapted to students, potential entrepreneurs and promoters of small and medium-sized enterprises, he said.

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Algeria Plans to set Up Higher Institute of History

ORAN- A study is underway for the creation of a higher institute of history, announced Sunday in Oran the Secretary General of the Organization of Mujahideen (national liberation war veterans), Said Abadou.

The higher institute will be completely independent, said Abadou during a national colloquium on “Algerian experience in addressing the needs of disabled ex-servicemen and victims of the National Liberation War and endowing them with artificial organs,” chaired by Minister of Mujahideen Tayeb Zitouni.

Abadou added that the project has been submitted to the government services.

He also underlined the importance of writing history and encouraged mujahideen to write their memoirs, inviting them to focus on the period of the national movement and the Liberation War.

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Morocco- Jumia Market Goes Green

By Safaa Kasraoui

MENAFN – Morocco World News – 25/01/2017 – The Jumia Market has announced the launch of a fresh new version of its website this week. By improving its signature color, design and its customer shopping journey, Jumia Market is working to improve its platform of services.

Jumia sought initially to learn its value with clients. To that end, the platform devoted considerable effort to focus on three specific areas: offering the best deals to customers, providing a platform on which marketing is securely available, and thirdly, gathering a community of sellers and buyers together in one place.

The new deign will also be launched in Nigeria, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Kenya. This mise-a-jour, is an indication of Jumia Market’s effort toward better service.

‘The new Layout strengthens the identity of thousands of people selling on Jumia market every day,’ said Massimilano Spalazzi, CEO of Jumia Market Africa.

‘People now can gain more visibility by becoming featured sellers on the homepage and increase their sales,’ he added.

Customers are now able to message sellers and review the shopping experience of other Jumia Market members through ratings and comments.

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Egyptian museums revenues hit EGP45mn in 2016

MENAFN – 26/01/2017 Egyptian museums achieved the highest incomes in Dec, posting EGP6.8mn with 117.000 visitors, while the lowest revenue reached was USD1.7mn in June with 21.800 visitors.

Accordingly, the number of visits of museums and archaeological sites has increased amid the recent months starting from Oct which coincide with the winter season.

In addition, the museums’ total revenue in Jan reached EGP2.8mn with 72.400 visitors, compared to EGP4mn in Feb with 125.000 visitors.

However, the profits declined gradually, to post EGP2.9mn in May with 51.600 visitors, until they declined to EGP1.7mn in June with 21.800 visitors.

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After 33 Years, Morocco Set To Rejoin African Union

RABAT, Jan 29 (NNN-AGENCIES) — After leaving the pan African organization three decades ago, Morocco is set to rejoin the African Union (AU) during the 28th African summit scheduled for Jan 30-31 in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia.

Morocco left the former Organisation of African Unity (AU’s predecessor) in 1984, to protest the seating of the Polisario Front as representatives of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a former Spanish colony west of the Sahara that Morocco considers part of its territory. SADR disputes Morocco’s position, and 30 years later the dispute remains unresolved.

For over three decades, Morocco has refused to be part of the organization, but recently the country has changed its policies, making the readmission to the AU on the top of its agenda.

Last July, King Mohammed VI of Morocco sent a message to the 27th AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda, saying that his country “should not remain outside its African institutional family, and it should regain its natural, rightful place within the AU.”

Explaining the reasons for returning to the pan African organization, the king mentioned the repeated call of many African friends of the kingdom as well as a thorough reflection, which concluded that “when a body is sick, it is treated more effectively from the inside than from the outside.”

He also stressed that from within, “Morocco will contribute to making the AU a more robust organization, one that is both proud of its credibility and relieved of the trappings of an obsolete era.”

Two months after the king’s message to the African leaders, the North African kingdom formally submitted a request to re-join the continental body in September.

The request was submitted after Morocco received the support of a group of 28 AU member states, representing more than the majority of the 54 African Union member states required for admission.

Following this request, the Moroccan king toured numerous African countries, including some that Rabat has long regarded as hostile to its territorial unity, on the top of which the African giant, Nigeria.

Consequently, the north African kingdom raised the total of the supporters to its bid to 40 as was announced by the Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar during a parliamentary session to review the constitutive act of AU a week earlier.

Last week, both houses of the Moroccan parliament unanimously adopted the constitutive act of AU, its additional protocol and the bill on the approval of the act, preparing the ground for the Kingdom’s return to the African Union.

On Jan. 10, the council of ministers, which is chaired by the king, approved the draft texts.

While Morocco has not been a part of AU, it has developed strong ties with many countries in the continent, particularly in French-speaking states in West and Central Africa. The north African kingdom is already the top investor in west Africa and the second largest African investor in the continent. In addition, Moroccan firms have strong holds in the many African markets, especially those related to banking, insurance, air transport, telecommunications and housing.

According to official statistics from the country’s economy and finance ministry, over the decade ending in 2016, Morocco’s investment in sub-Saharan Africa represented 85 percent of its overall foreign direct investment stocks.

In addition to economic relations, Morocco has strong cooperation with many African countries, particularly in the fields of security, peacekeeping operations and managing religious affairs.

Through rejoining the AU, Morocco looks ahead to expand its influence in the continent and join hands with member states to meet the countless challenges facing the continent. — NNN-AGENCIES

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Azerbaijan, Iran discuss tourism cooperation

Baku, January 26, AZERTAC – Head of the Department of Tourism of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Aydin Ismiyev and head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation of West Azerbaijan Province of the Islamic Republic of Iran Jalil Jabbari have explored ways of developing cooperation in the spheres of culture and tourism between the two countries.

Aydin Ismiyev spoke about development of the cooperation in the sphere of tourism, enrichment of the relevant legal database on the permanent basis and increase of mutual flows of tourist. He highlighted that the tourist flow between the two countries intensified with the simplification of visa regime.

Ismiyev emphasized that the number of Iranian tourists to Azerbaijan essentially increased in comparison with two previous years.

The two discussed the building of relations between the two countries` tourism agencies.

Aydin Ismiyev also invited his Iranian counterpart to “AITF-2017”, International Travel and Tourism Fair to be organised in Baku on April 6-8.

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‘Azerbaijan Judo Federation prepares for 4th Islamic Solidarity Games’

Baku, January 27, AZERTAC – “Our Federation is seriously preparing for 4th Islamic Solidarity Games. Every athlete is eager to participate in this astonishing sporting event. Athletes have already started their special training program,” said Secretary General of Azerbaijan Judo Federation Elman Babanli as he was interviewed by the official website of Baku 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games.

Q. Mr. Babanli, let’s speak about recent achievements of Judo Federation.

A. As you know, our Federation has undergone some changes, Rovnag Abdullayev was promoted to the position of the President of Federation, and Mikayil Ismayilov, Sadig Sadigov, Elnur Mammadli were appointed as vice presidents.

Grand Slam was the last tournament allowing us to participate in Rio2016, where our athletes have shown an unprecedented success. Athletes like Rustam Orujov, Elmar Gasimov made us proud with their Olympic performances. Of course we are looking forward for same results.

Q. There is not much time left before Islamic Solidarity Games, what can you say about the level of preparatory work?

A. Of course there is a lot going on before the start of such big International sporting event, moreover our athletes are now preparing for several huge tournaments which will take place before Islamic Games. Grand Slam Tournament will be held in Baku for the next 4 years and speaking more about our achievements, the representative of International Judo Federation Nasser Al Tamimi attended Grand Slam tournament in Baku and expressed his satisfaction with the level of organization of the event. We are working hard to carry on our winning streak.

Q. All in all, do you expect triumph on Islamic Solidarity Games?

A. Of course we do, there are a lot of talented, promising athletes in our team. Achievements encourage us.

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ASAN Visa paves way for increase of tourist flow to Azerbaijan

Strasbourg, January 27, AZERTAC – ASAN Visa paves the way for the increase of tourist flow to Azerbaijan, a member of the French National Assembly Jean-Francois Mansel told AZERTAC.

“We laud the establishment of “ASAN service”. The visa services are very important. If we intend to increase the flow of tourists, it is important to obtain visa promptly. Some countries spend a lot of time for the visa issuance and their procedure of getting visa is long. However, Azerbaijan’ ASAN initiative enables to get the visa promptly”, he added.

All participants of the conference titled “Accessibility to state services and citizenship” taking place in Paris praised the efficiency of “ASAN service”.

“We all witnessed importance of “ASAN service” from the presentation of Inam Karimov, chair of the State Agency for Citizen Service & Social Innovations of Azerbaijan Republic. The efficiency of the state service, satisfaction of the needs of citizens in “ASAN service” centres, prompt replies to their queries demonstrate achievements of Azerbaijan in this sphere. Perhaps, we shall cooperate with “ASAN service” in order to reach the success, which it obtained in Azerbaijan,” said Jean-Francois Mansel.

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Kazakhstan’s tourism potential

Astana, 27.01.2017 (Khabar Agency) – British experts in the tourism industry are willing to tell the potential European tourists about Kazakhstan, the Kazakh national culture and traditions. At the same time, they highly appreciate Kazakhstan’s tourism potential. According to experts, the country will become especially attractive this year, during the Expo 2017. According to the adviser of Tourism, George Smith, the exhibition is a unique opportunity to present Kazakhstan to the world. He often lectures on tourism in a Kazakh universities.

GEORGE SMITH, ADVISER ON TOURISM: The country is such a diverse country. You can offer so many types of tourism. The country which never seen mass tourism, but that is not what Kazakhstan needs, but your culture, your heritage.

Italian traveler Francesco Cucque is planning to visit Kazakhstan. He is mostly interested in the musical instruments. He plays the guitar. Recently, he discovered Kazakh kobyz. Cucque found very many characteristics similar to other stringed bowed instruments – a violin. This is not surprising. After all, along with the Arab rebab, Spanish vielle and British crowth, Kazakh kobyz is considered one of the predecessors of the violin. It is known that from composition of these instruments violin was appeared, in Italian violino.

FRANCESCO CUCQUE, TRAVELER: This is very interesting, because there are rules of our culture inside. The rules of modern violin inside this.

In order to attract more tourists it is necessary to have strong ties with European and Western tour operators, who have huge experience, experts say. These links can be very useful for the development of sustainable tourism, after the Expo international exhibition in Astana.

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UAE investments in Kazakhstan’s economy

27.01.2017, Astana, Khabar Agency – The United Arab Emirates is one of Kazakhstan’s most important partners in the Middle East. The trade turnover between the two countries last year reached $326 million. Since Kazakhstan became an independent country, amount of direct investments from the UAE totaled about $2 billion.

Today, there are about 200 joint ventures with the UAE capital in Kazakhstan. Projects in agriculture, industry and energy are being successfully implemented. Kazakhstan pays special attention to economic diversification and sets the task to enter the top 30 developed countries. To achieve this goal, the country provides comprehensive benefits and creates favorable conditions for foreign investors.

For instance, citizens of 56 countries can freely enter Kazakhstan without a visa, including the citizens of the United Arab Emirates. In general, the UAE businessmen highly evaluate Kazakhstan’s favorable investment climate and are ready for fruitful partnership in various sectors of the economy.

HUSSAIN JASIM AL NOWAIS, CHAIRMAN, AL NOWAIS HOLDING: Kazakhstan is rich in natural resources, and at the same time agriculture is highly developed. Moreover, this year your country will hold the international exhibition Expo, and it will attract a huge number of people, including investors.

ABDULLA NASSER AL MANSOORI, CHAIRMAN, AL NASSER HOLDINGS: We export oil products to other countries. Kazakhstan is an important partner for us. Prospects that have been designated by the Kazakh President are very attractive to us, as for investors. Especially, when your country creates conditions for doing business. And this is very important.

Establishment of the Astana international financial center represents another important incentive for investors. It will be based on the principles of the English law, with a preferential tax regime and an independent financial court. The AIFC’s cooperation foundations with free financial zone of Global Market were laid in Abu Dhabi. The United Arab Emirates targets cooperation with Kazakhstan in the field of alternative energy sources. Work in this area is especially important ahead of the Expo 2017. Earlier this year, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev attended the 10th World Future Energy Summit.

ANCA WESTLEY, DIRECTOR, ABU DHABI SUSTAINABILITY WEEK & SPECIAL PROJECTS: It is important because of the link between Kazakhstan and UAE, but also because of the link with Expo 2017. There is an understanding that the theme of Expo 2017 is the future of energy.

The International Renewable Energy Agency has officially confirmed its participation in the Expo 2017 to be held in Astana.

Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates are planning to further expand cooperation in all sectors of the economy. The sides confirmed their readiness to develop joint projects in the energy, petrochemical, nuclear industry, transport and logistics, military-technical sphere.

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Austria presents draft pavilion for EXPO 2017 in Astana

30.01.2017, Khabar Agency – The participants of EXPO 2017 are preparing their national pavilions. Austria was one of the first countries to receive a venue in the Expo village. The Expo organizing committee signed a document on allocation of 870 square meters for the European country’s pavilion so they could present their developments. The Austrian pavilion is very unusual. As planned by the designers, it is a man who creates the future of energy and, at the center there will be a “Power Machine”, which will move when visitors enter the pavilion. Some installations will demonstrate how much energy it takes to make a cup of coffee or to watch a TV. According to the architects, this will give a clear understanding of how difficult it is to produce energy, so in the future people could be more thoughtful when consuming it.

HELMUT DELLER, DIRECTOR, EXPO PAVILION, AUSTRIA: About 30 Austrian companies will present their products and their developments regarding the theme “Future Energy”. EXPO is, indeed, a unique platform for developing cooperation in “green” technologies on a global scale.

The Austrian pavilion will be constructed in the near future. A competition will be organized for this purpose. According to the Austrian side, the preference will be given to the Kazakh companies in order to cut transportation expenses. Austria is as interested in green technologies as is Kazakhstan. Austria is planning to increase the use of energy efficient resources and cut carbon emissions by 2030.

Sieglinde Spanlang, CONSUL, AUSTRIAN EMBASSY: We have many houses with solar panels. We have a huge power station that will help us accomplish the goal of 34%.

The Austrian participation in the EXPO 2017 is not limited only to a pavilion. The main building of the exhibition – the sphere has been construsted with participation of the Austrian company. Its developers have made about 400 solar panels that will light up the main building. In addition, four Austrian companies entered the “zone of best practices” in the EXPO 2017. Experts say that Austria is pleased to present its experience and ready to be in the area of “green” energy cooperation, and the upcoming exhibition is an ideal opportunity for the fruitful work in this area.

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Kazakhstan’s transport and logistics attractiveness

30.01.2017, Astana, Khabar Agncy – Kazakhstan, given its favorable geographical position, seeks to become a transport and logistics hub of the Central Asia. The development of large-scale air and ground transportation hubs contributes to this. First of all, the government plans to increase the capacity of the country’s airports.

Last year alone, Kazakhstan’s airports served 12 million people. 70% of it accounts for Almaty and Astana. With the commissioning of one more terminal in Astana, the passenger traffic will increase to almost 8,5 million passengers per year. Its opening is expected by summer. Astana Airport will be able to serve 12 domestic and international destinations.

Thus, the air harbor of Astana will take over most of the passengers flow and the airport will become the largest in Central Asia. The new terminal, with the area of 47,000 square meters, will be located in the VIP-zone with offices, computers, a buffet restaurant, showers and a sauna. But in addition to the comfortable conditions, great attention is paid to safety.

KUANDYK RYSPAEV, MANAGING DIRECTOR FOR CONSTRUCTION, ASTANA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT JSC: Specially ordered luggage equipment is installed here. It meets all safety parameters. Goods that are suspicious are automatically ejected by the machine.

Launch of new international routes at the Astana airport is well underway, thereby increasing Kazakhstan’s tourist attractiveness. Four times a week the planes will fly to Poland, twice a week to Finland and three times to Beijing. Moreover, in March, the talks with Japan are planned to be held to increase direct flights to Astana. 250 million passengers fly every year from China to Europe and back, and Astana has an ideal position for docking halfway. The growth of passengers will also be secured by the Expo 2017 in Astana.

A new railway station will open in Astana ahead of the international exhibition. The project has no analogues in the world. The construction is impressive. The trains will arrive on the third floor of the new station with the help of a pass-over. This will help leave the surrounding streets uninterrupted. So the passengers will travel above the city and will be able to admire Astana sights through the panoramic windows. The most modern materials and green technologies are used in the construction of the station. During the Expo, the railway station will be able to serve 35,000 passengers daily.

IGOR GAIDUK, SENIOR STAFF, NATIONAL RAILWAY OPERATOR: Railway overpass is almost like a bridge over the Volga River. It is longer than 2.5 km. It starts from Karaganda highway and is at the level of the third floor of the station building. It is a kind of know-how, which presently became widespread in the world. The platform and train tracks are situated just inside the station.

The new complex will be an important facility of transport infrastructure and will ensure access of Kazakhstan’s railway to qualitatively new level in the organization of international transport corridors through the main hub in Astana. According to experts, taking full advantage of the transport and logistics potential of the country will allow developing the new Silk Road connecting with Europe, Asia and the Middle East via Kazakhstan.

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Leonardo DiCaprio to visit Kazakhstan

30.01.2017 Astana, Khabar Agency – Hollywood star and the UN Peace Ambassador on Climate Leonardo DiCaprio will visit Astana to attend for ceremony of signing the agreement between the Government of Kazakhstan and the World Wildlife Fund for revival of tiger population. According to the Green Economy Coalition and Development of «G-Global», since last year, the organization has launched the preparation of the agreement within the partnership program “Green Bridge”. It is a comprehensive program aimed at restoration of the ecosystem in the Ili-Balkhash region and the revival of tiger population. The World Wildlife Fund suggested this initiative to be implemented in Kazakhstan a few years ago, but the negotiations have just begun.

Saltanat Rakhimbekova, chairwoman, Green Economy and G-Global Development Coalition: We are preparing an important agreement between the World Wildlife Fund and the Kazakh government. The first stage of the project will require10 milliom euros. The agreement will be signed on September 8-9, 2017 just before the end of the Expo. Our initiative, announced two years ago, is to invite the first and only UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change Leonardo DiCaprio to Kazakhstan. We will most likely succeed.

According to Saltanat Rakhimbekova, the World Wildlife Fund will be represented by Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, who is the head of the Netherlands Climate Change Fund. At present, the ministries and Astana EXPO-2017 are preparing a venue for the ceremony.

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Kyrgyzstan to host English Language Week

Bishkek, Jan. 27 / Kabar /. Kyrgyzstan will host Kyrgyzstan to host English Language Week from 10 to 18 February, the press service of the Ministry of Education and Science reports.

As part of the English Language Week, the lessons on the theme “English is the international language of communication” will be held in educational institutions of Kyrgyzstan.

Besides, contests, exhibitions, meetings and conferences will be held in schools devotedto this topic.

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Kyrgyzstan to host tourism festival

Bishkek Jan. 26 / Kabar /. Tourism Festival “Kyrgyzstan is a country of skiing and winter holidays” will be held in Kyrgyzstan. The Festival, which is held since 2010, is scheduled to be held at the Toguz-Bulak ski base on February 4, the press service of the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism of the Kyrgyz Republic reports.

The organizers are planning to hold various contests and competitions.

The main objectives of the festival is to provide are providing needed charitable assistance to vulnerable groups, the promotion of healthy and active lifestyle, as well as promotion of Kyrgyzstan as a country of winter sports, recreation and tourism.

The funds from the previous festivals were designed to support the socially vulnerable segments of the population.

The Council for Business Development and Investment under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Association of JICA Alumni, the Chamber of Commerce of the Kyrgyz Republic, the International Business Council, the American Chamber of Commerce in the Kyrgyz Republic, hiking Union, together with the Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism of the Kyrgyz Republic annually conduct charity tourism festival “Kyrgyzstan – country skiing and winter recreation.”

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Korea hosts seminar on economic prospects of Central Asia

Bishkek, Jan. 27 / Kabar /. Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic to the Republic of Korea on January 25 took part in the seminar entitled “Economy and political prospects of Central Asia in 2017”, organized by the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Korea, the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports.

According to organizers, the seminar was aimed at strengthening bilateral relations with the Central Asian countries and the acquainting Korean companies with the current economic and political situation in the region.

The event was attended by over 50 Korean companies, representatives of ministries and departments of Korea, as well as diplomats of the Embassy of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Advisor of the Kyrgyz Embassy to Korea Namatbaev made a presentation. In his speech Namatbaev informed the representatives of the Korean business community about the real situation in the investment field and opportunities in Kyrgyzstan, as well as political reforms in the country.

During the seminar, all the participants were given leaflets and brochures about tourism and investment potential in Kyrgyzstan, showing a video of Kyrgyzstan.

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Street gangster turned Imam guides young US Muslims

By Bill Donahue, January 29, 2017, Washington Post – A QUARTER-century ago, before he converted to Islam and long before he was a Muslim cleric, Imam Suhaib Webb was a street gangster. He was a swaggering 6-foot-5, 18-year-old blond, blue-eyed member of the Bloods, a Los Angeles contingent whose tentacles reached east to Webb’s home in the suburbs of Oklahoma City.

He smoked weed. He skipped school. His English teachers, he says now, were rappers – Tupac Shakur, NWA, Biggie Smalls and Public Enemy – and Webb spun his own tunes, serving as the DJ in a hip-hop ensemble called AK Assault. On the cover of the band’s second album, “Mafia Style” (1992), Webb stares sullenly off into the distance, arms crossed.

The hint of a scowl on his smooth baby face conveys a message embraced by teen rebels everywhere: The whole world is totally lame and in need of serious reform.

On a cool, rainy afternoon in October, as Webb stands before a congregation of Muslims gathered for Friday prayers at the Church of the Epiphany in downtown Washington, DC, he’s 40 or so pounds heavier than he was in his AK years, but his hard gaze has not softened. He’s sporting a bushy, mustache-less beard and a gray suit.

He is 43 years old. But somehow he still carries the same badness and verve that enlivened the album cover.

Imam Suhaib Webb participates in Jumu’ah, or Friday prayers, at the Church of Epiphany in Washington, DC

Maybe it’s the sleek, snappy cut of his suit or the gleaming white kerchief tucked in the lapel pocket. His size 12 shoes are pointy-toed – fancy and well-suited for dancing – and as he stands on the altar, politely waiting out the emcee’s introduction, there’s a bristling energy in the way he shifts on his feet.

Legions of Islamic teenagers in America know who he is. Webb has 100,000 followers on Twitter and 230,000 on Facebook. On Snapchat, the disappearing-message platform that is de rigueur among millennials, he gets roughly 20,000 daily views. His snaps are 10-second prose poems that bespeak his wisdom on both Islamic law and 2016 street style. In one, he’s wearing a flat-billed Kangol hat as he waxes dubiously on arranged marriage. No other Sunni imam could joke, as Webb did in a video last year, that his Snapchat handle is pimpin4paradise786.

A newcomer to Washington and a deeply educated Quranic scholar, he is the founder and guiding spirit of a faith-based community group aimed at gathering the city’s young Muslims. Center DC does not yet have an office or a single donor. There are only three volunteer staffers, all part time, but in leading his small group – which offers prayer sessions at iconic sites like the Lincoln Memorial and fortnightly classes on Muslim theology – Webb aims to make classical Islam relevant to modern Americans and to help a hate-addled world see that, if the prophet Muhammad were alive today, he’d be politically in sync with Bernie Sanders. He’d be tolerant of gays and abortion, and he would, like Webb’s long-ago rap idols, be sickened by the systematic racism pervading America.

When Webb introduced his agenda to Washington – at Center DC’s first gathering, in mid-2015, at Busboys and Poets in the U Street corridor – hundreds of people waited in line outside the building beforehand, and many were turned away.

Naturally, hard-liners hate Webb for his liberal views. In its online magazine, Dabiq, the Islamic State last year labeled him an apostate and “all-American imam.” The story ran with a photo of a machete pressed to a man’s neck and, beneath it, a caption reading, “The punishment for apostasy.” The story said of Webb, “Adopting a Southern inner-city accent sprinkled with thug life vocabulary, he is quick to switch to an ordinary voice when speaking to CNN and other media outlets.”

At the Church of the Epiphany in October, Webb’s subject is Donald Trump. “We’ve got a presidential candidate who has no respect for women, for Latinos, for Muslims, for blacks,” he says. “This is a guy who doesn’t know how to wear a suit properly and has a bad spray tan.”

For Webb, Trump is a reason to read Islamic history more closely and to find inspiration in two Muslim heroes of the first millennium, Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, and his descendant, Zaid. Both men died in battle, “sacrificing themselves,” Webb argues, “for the freedom of the Muslims. Zaid was killed and his body hung on a fence for four years.”

“You have a responsibility to honor his legacy,” Webb intones to the hundred or so faithful kneeling on prayer mats arrayed on the altar. “You need to stand up against persecution, for what is right and just. Think of Rick in ‘The Walking Dead,’ of the way he wakes up in the hospital. We can wake up like that and speak out against white male privilege in this country. We have the collective power to propel causes like Black Lives Matter. We can make a huge difference.”

When he stalks off, Webb is swarmed by admirers. Some fans pound him on the back as others take selfies with him, leaning in close as he looms above, grinning.

It is an ebullient moment – and a moment that now, in retrospect, seems like it happened seconds before an earthquake or in the instant before the sun fell from the sky.

On Nov 8, American voters elected as president a candidate who has said that he would “absolutely” require Muslims to register in a database, a candidate who has said, “Radical Islam is coming to our shores. … The immigration laws of the United States give the president powers to suspend entry into the country of any class of persons.”

It remains unclear which components of his anti-Muslim platform Trump will enact. His rhetoric has generally become less inflammatory, post-election, and the Constitution could enjoin him from making good on his most extreme campaign promises. But Trump’s rise, driven by xenophobia and awash in crude, politically incorrect language, has already given many Americans license to unleash hatred.

Where can Muslims find hope in the wake of Trump’s win? And what can they do to fight back effectively? These are questions the nation’s 3.3 million Islamic residents have little choice but to face over the coming months as Trump settles into the White House along with staffers who share his views on Islam. Consider national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has called it “a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet,” adding, “It has to be excised.” How can a Muslim leader stand in the heat of such vitriol and remain poised and effective? At this unique juncture in American history, a great pressure rests on the shoulders of such leaders as Suhaib Webb.

Webb arrived in Washington late in 2013 from Boston, where for three years he was the top imam at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center – and a target. When terrorists with Islamic ties bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing three and injuring more than 260, Webb fended off baseless Internet rumors that the bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were trained in Boston mosques. – The Washington Post

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IsDB Islamic microfinance project to create 25,000 jobs in Senegal

Dakar, Senegal 23 January 2017, – An Islamic microfinance project financed by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) will create 25,000 jobs in the Republic of Senegal by 2022.

This was disclosed during the signing of agreement on the project between the IsDB Vice President (Sector Operations), Dr. Mansur Muhtar, and Senegal’s Minister of Economy, Finance and Planning, Mr. Amadou Bah.

The signing of the agreement took place in Dakar, the capital of Senegal during the visit of IsDB Vice President to the country.

Islamic Microfinance project falls within the social and economic development plan of Senegal known as “Plan Sénégal Emergent” (PSE).

The total cost of the project is US $82m, out of which IsDB will provide US $60.30m.

The project will increase access to financing among disadvantaged members of the population, particularly women and youth, from 15% to 18% by 2027.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, the Minister of the Economy, Finance and Planning, Mr. Amadou Ba, commended the IDB for the constant support it has provided to the government and people of Senegal.

“There is nothing more pleasing than lifting people out of poverty by giving them access to finance. Building the capacity of citizens to create jobs is the best way to create a vibrant economic environment. Senegal is moving in the right direction, and IsDB will always be there to support the initiative of its member countries,” said Dr. Mansur Muhtar.

The Islamic microfinance project fits into the plan of the government of Senegal to ensure financial inclusion for the poor, and the government has recognized the potential of Islamic finance to lift people out of poverty. The microfinance project is also consistent with IsDB Strategic Agenda, which focuses on providing financing that has social impact.

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New Gambian leader seeks support of IsDB

Dakar, Senegal, 24 January, 2017 – Newly elected President of Gambia, Mr Adama Barrow has called for the support of Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) in order to address the development challenges facing his country.

Mr. Barrow made this statement at his residence in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, when he received a delegation from the IsDB, led by Vice President (Sector Operations), Dr. Mansur Muhtar, who is on official mission to Senegal.

President Barrow stated that this is the time for long term partners of Gambia like IsDB to support the country in infrastructural development, agriculture, health, capacity building and governance reform.

“I am glad the political problem has been resolved. It was an African problem, that got an African solution. This will give confidence in our ability to resolve difficult situations. We have a new Gambia,” he said.

Mr. Adama Barrow told the delegation that Gambia has a lot of work to do in reforming the civil service, expanding physical infrastructure, developing agriculture, rebuilding institutions, etc. He urged IsDB and other development partners to work with his government to improve the economic situation of Gambia.

In his remarks, IsDB Vice President, Dr. Mansur Muhtar assured Mr. Barrow of IsDB commitment towards supporting Gambia. He conveyed the goodwill message of the IsDB President, Dr. Bandar Hajjar, who is committed to working with African member countries in several areas to support their social and economic development. Vice President Mansur Muhtar added that IsDB has several capacity building and technical assistance programmes, including through its Reverse Linkage program that Gambia can benefit from, to complement its financing activities.

Dr. Muhtar told President Barrow that IsDB has been active in Gambia since 1980, and has received financing worth US $690 million. He added that curently there are 14 active projects in Gambia totalling US $158 million. The IsDB Vice President stated that he hopes with the support, guidance and leadership of President Barrow, along with his team, the implementation of IsDB-supported portfolio will improve and opportunities for collaboration strengthened.

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IsDB pledges to support private sector in Guinea

Conakry, Guinea, 26 January, 2017 – The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has pledged to support the growth of the private sector in the Republic of Guinea. The statement was made by the IsDB Vice President (Sector Operations), Dr. Mansur Muhtar at the opening ceremony of the Private Sector Forum jointly organised by the Govenrment of Guinea and IsDB Group.

The Prime Minister of Guinea, Mr Mamady Youla chaired the Forum in the capital Conkary.

The IsDB Vice President stated that IsDB Group will join hands with the Government of Guinea to identify business and investment opportunities, and finance viable private sector projects for the benefit of the people of Guinea.

Dr. Muhtar expressed his appreciation to the President of Guinea, Mr Alpha Conde, who personally requested for the Private Sector Forum to be held in Guinea. He added that the President of IsDB, Dr. Bandar Hajjar is commited to deploying more staff to the IsDB Regional Offices in order to be closer to clients. He urged the members of the business community in Guinea to take full advanatage of the opportunities offered by the private sector entities of the IsDB Group, and the proximity with the regional office in Dakar.

The President of Guinea, Mr. Alpha Conde, who graced the occasion, emphasised the importance his government attaches to the private sector. He reaffirmed his commitment to support Guinean economic operators in realising their business objectives.

In his remarks, Prime Minister Mamady Youla welcomed the interest of IsDB in Guinea. He told participants at the Private Sector Forum that Guinea is in transition in several aspects of development, and the presence of IsDB will open opportunties in supporting Guinea’s development efforts. He encouraged the private sector to understand the rules and procedures of IsDB Group in order to benefit from its development offerings.

He called on the youth to participate actively in private sector development activities because it is a source of job creation and transfer of technology.

The Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Guinea, Madame Kanny Diallo, also joined the Prime Minister in calling on Guineans to benefit from the private sector facilities offered by IsDB. She added that the private sector is the engine of growth that support the economic development and job creation.

The private sector enties of IsDB Group, namely, the Islamic Cooperation for the Insurance of Export Credits (ICIEC), the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the International Islamic Trade and Finance Corporation (ITFC), and the IsDB Poverty alleviation arm, the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD) have participated in the Forum.

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Maferinyah Health Centre Inaugurated in Guinea

Conakry, Guinea 25 January 2017: In a grand ceremony led by the President of the Republic of Guinea Mr. Alpha Conde, and the Vice President of Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Dr. Mansur Muhtar, the Mafranye Health Centre was inaugurated on Wednesday.

IsDB built the health centre through the Fael Khair programme, from a donation made by the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. During the Ebola crisis that affected some IsDB member countries including Guinea, Sierra Leone and Mali, the late King Abdullah donated US $35 million through the IsDB in order to help strengthen the health systems of the affected countries.

“Let me seize this opportunity to express, on behalf of the Islamic Development Bank Group our profound gratitude to the family of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the Late King Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz for his generous donation in support to the fight against the deadly Ebola Epidemic that hit West Africa in 2014-2015.” “This generous contribution is part of the policy of solidarity of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose contributions have benefited all regions of the world, without

distinction, be it national, racial or religious. I pray to the Almighty Allah to grant His infinite mercy to late King Abdullah,” said Dr. Mansur Muhtar during the inauguration.

The Maferinya Health Centre is one of the four centres built by IsDB in Guinea to help various communities in the country, should an epidemic similar to Ebola emerge.

Ahead of the visit for the inauguration of the Maferinyah Health Centre, the Vice President of IsDB, Dr. Mansur Muhtar had an audience with President Alpha Conde at the presidential place in Conakry.

President Alpha Conde expressed the gratitude of his government to IsDB for its continued support. He told Dr. Muhtar that IsDB Group is a major partner for Guinea, and is counting on its support in the economic reforms he has initiated through the Economic and Social Development Plan (PNDES).

President Conde stated that the key focus of his reforms are in agriculture, education for employment and tapping into the mineral resources of Guinea. According to President Conde, Guinea has half of the world reserve of bauxite, and his government will work with partners to ensure that such mineral resources bring benefit to Guinea. He expressed his readiness to work with the IsDB Group in order to diversify the economy of the country.

In his response, Vice President Mansur Muhtar stated that the purpose of his visit to Guinea was to convey the goodwill message of IsDB President, Dr. Bandar Hajjar, and to discuss with the government of Guinea on ways of strengthening the cooperation between the IsDB Group and the country.

He informed President Conde that the reforms his government has initiated through the National Economic and Social Development Plan (PNDES) align with the 10-year Strategic Framework of IsDB.

He assured President Conde that IsDB is ready to support Guinea in providing financing, sharing knowledge, building capacity and promoting regional cooperation and integration. He called on President Alpha Conde to take advantage of the financing opportunities provided by IsDB through its private sector entities.

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Brunei Has Third Highest Social Media Penetration In World: Report

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, Jan 29 (NNN-BRUDIRECT) – Brunei has the third highest social media penetration in the world, with 370,000 users, or 86 percent of its total population, local media reported.

Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) topped the chart with 99 percent social media use, said the report, citing latest statistics of the new Digital in 2017 Global Overview report, from We Are Social and Hootsuite.

The latest data shows that eight countries around the world have social media penetration levels in excess of 80 percent.

Brunei also fared very high in terms of penetration of mobile social media with 76 percent people using it. It is the sixth highest globally after Qatar, the UAE, South Korea, Aruba and the Maldives.

In total, 10 countries have mobile social media penetration rates in excess of 70 percent, but 43 countries have penetration rates of less than 10 percent, the majority of which are in Africa.

This year’s report also highlighted that, almost two-thirds of the world’s population now has mobile phones and more than one in five, of the world’s population, shopped online, in the past 30 days.– NNN-BRUDIRECT

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Jigsaws not falling into correct slot in Brunei’s tourism puzzle

Blog posted by “LC”

Bandar Seri Begawan, Borneo Bulletin, January 28, 2017 – TO BOOST tourism in Brunei Darussalam, it will be a good idea to introduce half hourly or hourly free bus service covering all major tourist attractions. The service can be operated in opposite directions simultaneously.

Tourists can get down, say at a museum, and board another bus a few hours later.

I wrote this letter after seeing a foreign tourist who had to walk down Jalan Tutong as far as the Seri Complex post office looking for the Kiarong mosque and then double back again under the hot sun following correct directions. He had a map, but still he had to walk quite a distance.

And when he reached the mosque he was thirsty and badly needed to drink something. But he could not find any vendors selling beverages near the mosque compound.

Actually, there are no shops around the mosque. In my opinion, vendors should be allowed to set up stalls in the mosque compound to sell drinks and snacks to the visitors. Not all tourists visit the mosque in a car or a bus. It’s such a simple idea yet why hasn’t the Tourism Department thought about this in years?

Another problem faced by visitors is associated with river tourism. The cruise ship should not have its starting point at the Queen Elizabeth jetty.

The plan is not effective as the starting point is wrong. Imagine that you are a foreign worker without a car and your family is visiting. You want to take them on a cruise. It is very difficult to get to the Queen Elizabeth jetty as the bus service is irregular. You just cannot get there and back on time.

The cruise ship itinerary should start and end at the Waterfront jetty. The public buses can feed cruise passengers to the central bus terminal in the town and then it’s a short walk from there to the jetty.

The cruise company will benefit from more passengers if arrangements are organised this way. Again, it’s a simple improvement but still the jigsaws are not falling into the correct place in the tourism puzzle.

All the public buses should have two crew members working in shifts allowing them to run till much later, say until 11pm. That will also enliven the central part of Bandar Seri Begawan, which looks and sounds dead at night. What would tourists think of the country if its Capital city is standstill by 6pm?

Which other capital is like this? Late running buses will enliven all the malls, restaurants and cinemas. Nowadays, if you have no transport you cannot catch a movie after 4pm because there are no buses to get back home.

Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) also should do much better. It’s not just about having high-tech aircraft. Its sales and business development team has been sleepy for decades. The entire airline needs to be urgently energised. It’s not just up to the CEO.

RB is depending on their code share partners or their website to generate bookings. Frankly speaking, their travel agents here are not doing a good enough job promoting Brunei abroad.

For example, to promote Brunei in Hong Kong, Brunei Tourism has to partner with Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong travel agents, to bring in passengers not just to Brunei but also transit passengers for RB’s Melbourne, Jakarta and Bali flights. I have not noticed this overseas promotion being done, even by RB in Hong Kong.

Similarly, to promote outbound passengers to Hong Kong, RB should be working with Hong Kong Tourism Board and the Brunei travel agents to promote that destination. Again I do not see any constant promotion being done besides the once-in-a-year travel fair. Some of the Brunei travel agents do very well at the Brunei Travel Fair, and then they rest on their laurels for the rest of the year.

If they operate effectively, the Hong Kong service can always carry loads of 50 passengers per flight. And if you travel on the RB flight you will notice SIA and Thai Airways have two huge Airbus 380 on the tarmac when you arrive. And a little while after our arrival another Airbus 380 flight by MAS rolls in.

Hong Kong is a major city and an important gateway to Southern China by rail and bus, yet other airlines daily fly huge Airbus A380s with high loads while our loads on board cannot even fill a small Airbus A320 aircraft. What turnaround can the national carrier make when the daily loads in the low season on most destinations are stuck at lower double digit levels?

In my view, RB should urgently restart its Golden Holidays company for outbound and inbound tours. They had a swanky brochure and some good staff and were doing well on both outbound and inbound tours, yet it was dissolved which became a bonus for the sleepy travel agents.

Now let me discuss the fares. Brunei passengers have been complaining for some time that RB fares are very high, especially to London and Melbourne. This is a recently tested fact.

I found that when RB’s all-in return fare was B$1,221, for the same travel dates to Melbourne, SIA was advertising and selling in our market a return fare of B$877. Now, even with a transit required in Singapore, who would take the RB fare and flight, especially during this recessionary time when travellers are trying to economise on fares? SIA is also facing tough times but they seem to know how to cleverly pull other countries’ passengers through their hub.

Wake up guys. Don’t just talk about tourism when the oil price is low and forget about it when the price rebounds to high levels.

The ingredients for a good tourism industry are here, yet the pieces of the jigsaw are still not falling into place. Is there a well-designed tourism strategy? If there is one, why does it fail again and again? Is it because it is badly implemented?

Let us discuss and try to find answers.

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