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13 Mar, 2017

Huge budget boost for Brunei tourism ministry

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 13 March 2017 (14 Jumaada al-Akhir 1438). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Islamic Travel Newswire, an influential and widely-read weekly compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam, seeks sponsors to fund its continued publication. Due to budget cutbacks, Tourism Malaysia has been forced to discontinue its 10 years of invaluable support. Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil will self-fund this publication in February and March 2017. After that, in the absence of sponsorship support, it will be shut down. If anyone is interested in providing sponsorship support, please email at imtiaz@islamic-travel-newswire.com.


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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Huge budget boost for Brunei tourism ministry

Bandar Seri Begawan, March 12, 2017, Borneo Bulletin – THE Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) has been allocated a budget of $51.54 million for the 2017-2018 financial year.

This was announced by YB Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong, the Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, during his budget deliberation on the fifth day of the 13th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday.

He said that his ministry is trying to intensify the diversification of the country’s primary resources to boost their contribution to the national gross domestic product (GDP) as well as efforts in creating new employment opportunities as part of the ministry’s Strategic Plan 2016–2020.

Highlighting the plan, the minister said that the MPRT’s vision is ‘Towards Rapid Growth in the output of Primary Resources and Tourism – to contribute towards economic growth in order to realise the Brunei Vision 2035’.

Despite the lower oil price that has impacted global economy including Brunei Darussalam, he assured that the ministry will continue efforts in line with its vision.

By promoting domestic and foreign investment, increasing productivity through the use of modern technology and focusing on the export market, it is hoped that the five-year plan can meet the key performance indicators (KPIs) set by the ministry, the minister added.

The strategic plan envisages more than tripling the value of output from the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector to B$1.80 billion by 2020 from B$510 million in 2015.

This means that the sector’s contribution to GDP will increase from less than $200 million in 2015 to around one billion by 2020 which will see a four to five per cent growth in GDP compared to one per cent in 2015.

The minister added that with diversification of the country’s economy, the primary resources and tourism sectors are expected to generate up to 4,000 new employment opportunities.

According to the minister, to further enhance economic growth, the MPRT will intensify efforts by encouraging local and foreign investors to participate in development projects through Public-Private Partnership (PPP), reducing dependency on government’s financial resources.

As of now, some 23 agriculture, fishery and tourism projects have been tendered through Request for Proposals (RFPs) and interested investors or entrepreneurs can still submit their business plans.

On this note, the minister said a number of projects have already been offered to successful applicants and they are expected to begin exporting their products by this year. However, some of the projects are still in evaluation stage while some are still being tendered.

He added that qualified and selected foreign investors will be mandated to invest in identified areas after attaining support from the foreign direct investment (FDI) Committee.

The minister said the MPRT needs cooperation from all relevant stakeholders, particularly farmers and entrepreneurs from the tourism industries, in increasing production to meet the export targets.

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SE Asian Islamic Nations Urged To boost Shariah-Based Finance

SHAH ALAM, Selangor State, Malaysia, 11 March 2017, (NNN-BERNAMA) – Islamic nations in Southeast Asia (SEA) have been urged to become drivers of the shariah-based banking and financial system, to boost regional economic growth and that of the Islamic world as a whole.

International Council of Islamic Finance Educators (ICIFE) Chairman, Rais Yatim, said, the glory days of the Islamic economy should be brought back to life, through collaboration between Islamic countries in the region, for the benefit of the people in the future.

Using China’s economic strength as an example, which was achieved on the back of the country’s own unique financial planning, Rais urged the SEA Islamic nations to create a shariah-based banking and financial system, without having to wait for the first move from organisations, such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“In my opinion, Malaysia-Indonesia-Brunei-Southern Thailand, can take the initiative and the first step towards establishing an assertive, efficient and knowledgeable leadership in Islamic finance and banking,” he said.

Rais was speaking to reporters, after delivering a speech at the Third ICIFE Annual General Meeting and International Islamic Financial Education Forum here, today.

He said, once the Islamic banking and finance system becomes strong, it would increase the desire of countries in the middle-east to improve the system on a larger scale.

He also urged that the Islamic financial system, based on the use of gold and silver, to be outlined in detail and for aspects of its practicality to be examined.

Rais also said, academic bodies or industries related to Islamic finance should work together in establishing an academic syllabus on a more specific basis, to shape the future of Islamic economy.

Meanwhile, Rais, who is also the President of the Islamic International University (IIUM), launched two books entitled, “The Islamic Currency” and “Islamic Leadership.”

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Kepco And Korean Smes Joined ‘Epre Malaysia 2017’

SEOUL, South Korea, 10 March 2017, (Bernama-BUSINESS WIRE) – Korea Pavilion, supported by KEPCO, joins ‘EPRE Malaysia 2017’ held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from March 15 to 17, for 3 days.

KEPCO is the largest electric utility in Republic of Korea responsible for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity and the development of electric power projects. It has been striving to support SME’s mutual growth business and overseas marketing. It also provides various programs and services for developing SMEs and pioneering overseas market.

KEPCO participates as a Korea Pavilion together with 12 excellent SMEs (Joongwon Electric Corporation, Namsung industries co., Young-Hwa Industrial Electric Co., Ltd., Costal Corporation, Entec Electric & Electronic Co., Ltd., Hanbiteds Co.,Ltd., Dongnam Petroleum Ind. Co., Ltd., LightStar, Segibiz Co., Ltd., Samkwang Industrial & Electric Co., Ltd., CTE Tech Co., Ltd., Jeongin System Co., Ltd.) in this exhibition as a part of various projects for Korean companies to break into the overseas market.

It is a good opportunity to raise awareness of Korean products in the Malaysian market and show the superiority of Korean products, as well as expecting synergetic growth with SMEs.

The event, held biannually, was attended by Korean Pavilion in the last 2015, and it was able to draw a great response from participants and visitors based on the superiority of Korean products by getting abreast of with the leading companies in the world. This year’s event is also expected to catch attention of Malaysian buyers but also in many Southeast Asian countries with the excellent technology and products of Korean companies.

Korean Pavilion is located at Booth No.1911 of Hall 1 in KLCC. Numerous visitors who are interested in Korea’s superior electric power equipment products and technology are expected to be seen at this exhibition which will be held for three days from March 15th to 17th.

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Malaysia To Host Biggest Hair Show, Fashiontainment Extravaganza

KUALA LUMPUR, 10 March 2017, (Bernama) – The Malaysian Hairdressing Association (MHA) is set to celebrate its 12th anniversary with the biggest hair show and fashiontainment extravaganza in Malaysia, titled “It’s Time” on 21st March 2017 at HGH Convention Centre, Sentul.

Aimed to create a platform for local talented hairdressers to showcase their work to larger audience, the gala will also features Australian famed hairdresser, Atilio Dusa to showcase the latest trend in hairdressing, in tandem with MHA’s mission to support industry unity and program which contributes to advancement of hairdressing.

Also dubbed as a ‘fashiontainment’ event, the show is set to celebrate fashion in an eclectic way with the theme of 1920s/30s Gatsby glamour and futuristic chic. The idea is to showcase hairdressing evolution; from yesteryear to future created by today’s talented hairdressers.

Besides the hair and fashion show, the celebration also includes concert performances by two of MHA’s hairdressers who won the ‘Hairdresser Got Talent 2016’, along with local electric violinist; Dennis Lau, and Malaysian singers; Vic Teo, and Winnie K.

Datin Winnie Loo, the President of MHA who will be spearheading the show commented: “I believe this is the right time to celebrate and recognise our 12 years of achievement and let the audience see the other side of our creativity. I always dream big and this is by far the biggest hair event to be organised by the association. I trust with my 40 years of experience and our talented members, the gala will be a night to remember for many years to come.”

Supported by L’oreal, Elgon, K Gloss, Shiseido and Evo Malaysia, part of the proceeds from the gala will go to Lighthouse Children’s Home in Bangsar and Ipoh Children’s Home.

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More Saudi Tourists Expected To Visit Malaysia This Year

RIYADH, 12 March 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – The number of Saudi Arabian tourist arrivals in Malaysia is expected to increase by five per cent this year following the visit by the King of Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to the country recently.

Malaysian Tourism Consul in Saudi Arabia Mohd Nasir Kushairi said the good relations between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia also enhanced the confidence of the people in the Middle East country to visit Malaysia, which had various tourist attractions.

“Saudi Arabian tourists stayed in Malaysia for two weeks and above and they spent about RM10,000 each and this benefits the country’s tourism and economic sector,” he told reporters at the Riyadh International Book Fair 2017 here.

He said that in 2016, a total of 123,878 Saudi Arabian tourists came to Malaysia, from 99,754 people the previous year.

King Salman headed a delegation of 600 people to Malaysia during a visit to the country from Feb 26 to March 1 this year.

Seven Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in various areas, including construction, halal cooperation, aerospace and haj services, with an estimated value of RM9.74 billion, were signed between Malaysia and Saudi Arabian companies in conjunction with King Salman’s visit.

Mohd Nasir said his office would further promote Malaysia’s tourism, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, in Saudi Arabia.

He also called for cooperation from the state governments to work with the Tourism Malaysia office in Jeddah to promote the tourism products in their respective states.

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Visa On Arrival Soon For Malaysians Travelling To Ukraine – Envoy

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 9 March 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Malaysians travelling to Ukraine can soon obtain visa on arrival after the country’ cabinet adopted a new regulation on the matter on March 1, Ukrainian Ambassador to Malaysia, Olexander Nechytaylo said.

“On that day, the cabinet approved this new regulation to remove bureaucracy for Malaysians visiting the country, which will be implemented on April 1,” he told Bernama in a recent interview in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and Ukraine.

He said this new development could boost tourism and create lasting people-to-people relations, which are some of the areas the Ukrainian embassy here are focusing on to further strengthen ties.

The ambassador said that some 11,000 Ukrainian tourists came to Malaysia in 2015, but the number of Malaysian tourist arrivals to Ukraine was slightly lower than that.

Currently, Ukrainians can visit Malaysia without visa for up to 30 days but Malaysians visiting the eastern Europe country required a visa.

The envoy said that the embassy also planned to organise a ‘travel talk’ event later this year, which will bring together travel agents from both countries, as well as international airlines.

“I would like for Ukraine to be part of the package that has been offered to the Malaysian market, maybe together with a tour to Turkey and Poland,” he said.

Nechytaylo added that Ukraine has a lot to offer, such as several UNESCO World Heritage sites, as well as ‘ extreme tour’ to the Chernobyl power plant, which was shutdown after a catastrophic nuclear accident in 1986.

Aware of Malaysians’ love for food, he said that it was now easier to find halal food in Ukraine after the crisis at the border saw Crimean Muslim population moving to the mainland to avoid persecution in the area, hence spur the halal industry in the country.

Besides tourism, Nechytaylo added that Ukraine’s National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy had shown keen interest to collaborate with Universiti Sain Malaysia (USM) for joint-diploma, joint-degree and postgraduate programmes.

“Discussions are still ongoing. On the government side, we are working on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Higher Education Ministry for future cooperations in the education sector,” he said.

Reviewing Ukraine-Malaysia’s relations for the past 25 years, Nechytaylo said the two countries had been on a tremendous journey together which was tested through time and tragedy.

“We share many common values and have managed to work greatly when both are members of the United Nations Security Council,” he said adding that the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 have brought the two countries closer.

“It is during these challenging times that we got to know who our real friends are,” he said.

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Airbus Work Value In Malaysia To Hit Above US$500 MLN

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 9 March 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – The value of Airbus work undertaken in Malaysia is set to increase by 25 per cent to over US$500 million by 2021, from US$400 million now.

The increase would come on the back of higher production rate for aircraft types worked on by suppliers such as Composites Technology Research Malaysia Sdn Bhd, Spirit Aerospace and Celestica.

This also included growth from local joint ventures including that of maintenance, repair and overhaul firm, Sepang Aircraft Engineering Sdn Bhd.

“We are committed to growing our presence in the coming years. (The work value), which is except China, by far the biggest procurement in Asia and it will only grow as our production is growing,” Fabrice Bregier, President, Airbus Commercial Aircraft told a press conference here today.

“This is a recognition of the high quality of work undertaken by Malaysian companies and workers, the country’s competitive cost base and its expertise in the aerospace engineering sector,” he said.

The majority of the aeronautical supply chain in Malaysia works for Airbus “and we are proud of its growth.”

“Made in Malaysia” parts fly on the entire Airbus civil aircraft product line (the A320 Family, A330neo, A350 XWB, and A380), as well as, the A400M military airlifter and the H130 helicopter.

Most recently, UMW Group was awarded a contract, via Rolls-Royce, for the production of fan cowls for the A330neo wide body.

In the services sector, Sepang-based SAE provides maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) solutions for single-aisle aircraft.

Also in Sepang, Airbus Customer Services delivers specialised aircraft engineering and repair services for the region.

Airbus’ helicopter division offers pilot training and customer support from 
its facility in Subang, as well as, MRO services via a joint venture with 
Malaysian firm, Boustead.

Together with several Malaysian partners, Airbus was also undertaking research and technology projects that were looking into sustainable aviation and the factory of the future, said Fabrice.

Malaysia is Airbus’s third largest market in the Asia-Pacific region after China and India, with customers across the product line.

More than 700 Airbus commercial aircraft have been ordered by airlines in the country.

Malaysia is also the first export customer for the A400M military airlifter, and over 100 Airbus helicopters are in service here.

“Beyond our commercial success, we are proud of the mutually beneficial smart partnerships that we have developed in Malaysia.

“We look forward to building on our established presence and working with the local industry to develop its technological expertise,” he added.

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Malaysia To Host UFI Asia Pacific Conference 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 10 March 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Malaysia will host the 13th UFI Asia Pacific Conference in 2018, which is expected to generate RM1.8 million in economic impact.

The announcement was made by the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), the world’s leading tradeshow organisers and exhibition centres, during the 12th UFI Asia Seminar in Singapore recently.

The event in 2018 would be organised by MyCEB, an agency under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, together with the Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers.

Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), in a statement, said the event would be an ideal platform for Malaysia to create business opportunities by attracting global decision makers and leaders in the industry.

“Business events have been recognised as one of the key contributors in Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme to reach developed nation status by 2020,” said MyCEB General Manager of Business Events, Ho Yoke Ping.

She added that the event would enable local industry players to engage and learn from the experts in the industry.

UFI represented approximately 50,000 exhibition industry employees globally, and the association also worked closely with association members in 84 countries.

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Malaysia Shuts 10 Tourism Offices, Retains Four As Regional Units

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 9 March 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Only 10 state Tourism Malaysia offices are closed while another four are maintained as regional offices, said the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

According to the ministry’s written reply in Parliament today, the offices retained are the central regional office in Kuala Lumpur (covering Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan), northern regional office in Penang (covering Penang, Perak, Kedah and Perlis), southern regional office in Johor (covering Johor and Melaka) and east coast regional office in Pahang (covering Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu).

For Sabah and Sarawak, both tourism information centres in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching international airports would act as a mini Tourism Malaysia.

Tourism Malaysia will maintain the Tourism Information Centre (TIC) in the existing states to facilitate the dissemination of information to tourists.

The written reply was in response to an oral question from Hasan Malek (BN-Kuala Pilah) who wanted a clarification from the ministry on the restructuring and tourism related functions entrusted to Tourism Malaysia following a directive to close all state Tourism offices nationwide recently.

The ministry said among the functions of the Tourism Malaysia offices are managing all TIC in every state, act as a point of reference and advisory to tourism industry stakeholders such as hotels, travel agencies, tour operators and tourism associations in tourism promotion campaigns.

They will also assist in all research initiatives related to tourism conducted by the ministry and Tourism Malaysia as well as updating all tourism product inventories in every state so that packages can be created and promoted.

Prior to this, the government made a decision to close all Tourism Malaysia offices nationwide to avoid duplication of work with state agencies in promoting tourist destinations in the country.

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Malaysia: 120 Join Rickshaw Pedaling to Mark World Women’s Day

IPOH, Perak state, Malaysia, 12 March 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Some 120 people participated in the ‘Rickshaw Pedaling-Tribute to Women’ for a distance of five kilometres in and around Ipoh city in conjunction with the World Women’s Day and Visit Perak Year 2017 here today.

The inaugural programme organised by the Perak state Kong Siew Ancestry Association was participated by both men and women of various age categories.

Its chairman Chow Chee Peng said, apart from appreciating women, the programme was to raise the awareness among women themselves about their importance in an organisation.

“We will enter the 2030 era soon, so we are trying to show the importance of women in organisations or bodies in the country. 
”As the saying goes ‘the hand that rocks the cradle can shake the world’ and we want women to be aware of their interests and hope that more women will become leaders in future,” he said at a media conference here today.

He also hoped the programme could be made an annual event and more entries would be received not only from Perak state but also nationwide.

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Global Deals Platform Grabs Attention Of Malaysian Online Shoppers

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 10 March 2017, (Bernama-BUSINESS WIRE) – Global deals platform “Paylesser” drove business worth over US$ 700,000 in terms of sales value for top Malaysian merchants over the last six months. Paylesser was launched in 2010 under the leadership of Mr. L. D. Sharma, with a vision to provide best deals and coupons to customers. It is currently available across 13 countries globally with a strong presence in Southeast Asia.

In its recently published half yearly website traffic data (September 2016 to February 2017), the company has revealed the online shopping trends in Malaysia. According to the statistics, online shopping is growing rapidly and Malaysian economy is the fastest growing online marketplace today.

Out of 250,000 visitors at Paylesser Malaysia, 21% of customers fall in the age bracket of 18 to 24 years, 49% in 25 to 34 years and 17% in 35 to 44 years. Paylesser’s user base comprised 50.35% of males and 49.65% of females during the review period. Google Chrome is the most used browser for all the Paylesser purchases – 64% being the exact statistics, with 18% people using Safari, 6% using Firefox and 12% other browsers.

Mobile shopping is becoming more popular as evident from the fact that 55% of the total visitors used smartphones, 38% preferred desktops and 7% of them used tablets to reach Paylesser Malaysia website. Mobile visitors are further divided in 68% Android users followed by iOS (30%) and Windows (2%).

Malaysia is amongst the fastest growing economies in the world and it has a vibrant ecommerce eco system. As a leading provider of coupons and deals globally, Paylesser will also provide best saving opportunities for all online shoppers in Malaysia, said Suneet Manchanda, CEO of Paylesser.

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Taiwan Targets 550,000 Malaysian Tourists This Year

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 10 March 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – The Taiwan Tourism Bureau Kuala Lumpur (TTBKL) is targeting 550,000 visitors from Malaysia this year with 10 per cent coming from Muslim tourists.

Its director Tony Wu said Taiwan was well known as a top tourist destination among non-muslims although the country actually had a wide-range of Muslim environment.

“Taiwan has a Muslim population of 600,000 that migrated from China. Most of them have opened Muslim restaurants and Taiwan Tourism Bureau has upgraded Muslim-friendly facilities.Up to now over 100 hotels and restaurants in Taiwan have halal certification.

“So, food is not a problem for Muslim tourists,” he told a press conference at the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Headquarters here today.

Also present during the press conference was MATTA chief executive officer, Phua Tai Neng.

Taiwan has been selected as Asia’s favourite destination at the three-day first edition MATTA Fair this year from March 17 at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) and will showcase Taiwan as the best new choice for Muslim travel.

Wu said Taiwan was the best place to visit as the country has beautiful scenery, world-renowned fine food, friendly enthusiatic people and many theme parks, which could be the best option for a family holiday.

To welcome more Malaysians to exprience the beauty of Taiwan, he said TTBKL was offering a new package known as ‘Unsung Heroes Special Deals’ during the MATTA fair.

“This promotion is to express our thanks to the designation of public staff in Malaysia. This specialised promotion is offered to on duty or retired public service staff.

“For example, healthcare professionals, police, firefighters, teachers, media, differently-able persons, government staff and mosque administrative staff.

“Qualified personnel are entitiled to an accommodation deal of ‘a night for a night’ where you purchase a night stay and you will receive another free night stay,” he said.

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Malaysia: Kl Xtravaganza Carnival Attracts More Than 10,000 Visitors

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 12 March 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – The KL Xtravaganza carnival held for the very first time attracted over 10,000 visitors yesterday.

The carnival, held since the morning at the Wangsa Walk shopping centre brought together about 40 local traders selling various goods including food and beverage.

Visitors were entertained with energetic performances from 10 renowned artistes including Siti Sarah, Projector Band, Amelia, Elly Mazlein and Haiza.

Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said the carnival, co-organised by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall and Persatuan Karyawan Malaysia, could be potentially held in each parliamentary constituency in Kuala Lumpur to strengthen ties between local leaders, celebrities and citizens.

“The carnival not only has a variety of stalls, but also facilities such as a dental check-up by the Ministry of Health as well as the registration and inspection of the electoral roll (by the Election Commission),” he told reporters after launching the programme here, last night.

The programme also received support from the Entertainment Journalists’ Association of Malaysia (WHAM) and the Ministry of Health.

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Malaysia Airports record 2.4pc rise In Passengers on Feb

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 10 March 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Airports under Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd (MAHB) registered 9.3 million passenger movements for February 2017, a 2.4 per cent increase compared to the 9.12 million registered in the same month last year.

In a statement today, MAHB said its international passenger traffic recorded growth of 6.4 per cent to 4.32 million passengers in February, while domestic traffic declined by 0.7 per cent to 5.02 million.

It said the Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s main terminal’s double-digit growth streak continued with a 28.3 per cent increase compared with February 2016.

“Overall aircraft movement declined by 1.4 per cent with the international movement registering an increase of 0.3 per cent, while domestic movements declined by 2.3 per cent.

“The average load factor for February was unusually high at 75.5 per cent indicating latent and new demand for air travel. This is indeed an indication of positive demand outlook moving forward,” it added.

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Malaysians Urged To Appreciate, Support Local Innovators

PORT DICKSON, Malaysia, 8 March 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – Malaysians have been urged to appreciate and support local innovators to enable them to continue to grow.

Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah said Malaysia had produced many products on par with other countries but the public’s support for local products was still low.

“The usage rate of local technology in Malaysia is quite low, and we cannot say what percentage. Many innovative products only make it to exhibitions and are left there.

“That’s why at the ministry we say that by 2020 we must have 360 products by universities to be introduced in the market. I’m not worried about the products and we can get them at anytime. However, the issue is will people use them,” he told Bernama here, yesterday.

He was met after closing the Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) Career Festival and Forum titled: ‘Malaysia’s Rail Industry Roadmap’ here.

With participation from more than 40 companies, the festival aims to provide students with job opportunities as well as relevant industrial training.

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Indonesian Education expo depicts Islamic golden age

Jakarta, 10 March 2017, (Antata) – An Islamic Education Expo organized by Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia features the histories of the dark ages in Europe and the glory of education, science and technology in the Islamic golden era, as well as the condition of education today in view of secularism.

“The exhibition shows the dark ages in Europe, which actually coincided with the Islamic world making tremendous progress in many areas of science,” an expo tour guide, Estiningtyas, said here on Friday.

She said the visitors, who were mostly students from elementary to high school, were very interested in the Islamic education exhibition, which highlights the history of the Islamic world, especially during the era of the Islamic Caliphate.

Meanwhile, another expo guide, Ambarukminingsih, said the visitors are very enthusiastic about listening to the explanation on a number of posters containing information about the history of politics, social and culture in Europe that influenced education in the region.

“The visitors are also very interested in the part that shows the Islamic golden era in the fields of education, science and technology in many disciplines and how Muslims revive the time,” she explained.

She added that the visitors expected similar events to be held more often, not only in Jakarta, but also in different regions across the country.

According to Nasmah Asmadijah, a student from an Islamic boarding school Al-Abqory in Serang, Banten province, the information provided at the exhibition enriched her view of history and provided new insights into the teachings of Islam.

“I’m interested in the history of women scientists during the Islamic period,” she said, hoping that she can someday become a scientist and travel around the world, especially to Cordoba, Spain.

The exhibition entitled “Khilafah and Education: Reviving the Golden Age” is a series that is part of the International Conference on Education that will be organized by Hizbut Tahrir in Jakarta on March 11.

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Bandung Tech Institute develops new modes of electric transport

Bandung, W. Java, 6 March 2017, (ANTARA News) -The Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in West Java is developing three electricity-based transportation modes, namely, those for buses, delivery vehicles and metro capsules.

“In developing those technologies, we cooperate with various industrial companies,” Head of Sustainable Development Technology of ITB, Sigit Puji Santosa, said here, Sunday.

He added the innovations are still in the development stage, while metro capsule transportation has been tested in a 300-meter track built in Subang, West Java.

“The test covers all systems, and the results are pretty good,” he said, adding that the construction of metro capsule transportation will be done in Bandung city for six kilometers from the Bandung Station.

Sigit explained that the production of electric vehicles will be done by ITB in cooperation with such Indonesian manufacturing industries as PT. INKA (the Indonesian Rolling Stock Manufacturing Corporation), PT. KAI (Indonesian Railway Company), PT. INTI (Indonesian Telecommunication Industry), PT. Pindad ( Indonesian state-owned enterprise specializing in military and commercial products), PT. Lens (National Electronics Industry), and some foreign universities and companies.

He said the development of electricity-powered transportation is carried out as an attempt to deal with the automotive industry revolution by 2025, and a viable alternative solution for fossil fuel decline and environmental pollution issues.

“In the future, fossil fueled-vehicles will be reduced and replaced by hybrid and electric vehicles,” he said.

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Study reveals Bengkulu`s mangrove forests store 3,652 tons of carbon

Bengkulu, 10 March 2017, (ANTARA News) – A study on mangrove forests spanning 214 hectares in Bengkulu revealed that the area was able to absorb and store 3,652 tons of carbon, according to Gunggung Senoaji, an academician of the Bengkulu University.

“Mangrove forests along the shoreline of Bengkulu play a major role in mitigating global warming, as they are able to store 18.53 tons of carbon per hectare,” Senoaji remarked here on Friday.

According to the academician, the amount of carbon stored in mangrove forests is determined by calculating the total biomass of the trees by taking into account the value of biomass expansion factors, carbon fraction, and the wood density.

He said the results of the analysis indicated that the vast spread of mangrove ecosystems in the coastal city of Bengkulu reached approximately 214 hectares.

Mangrove forests cover an area of 116.24 hectares in the Pantai Panjang Natural Tourism Park, while 98.38 hectares are present in the forest area.

“Mangrove ecosystems outside the forest area are highly prone to conversion, hence they need to be designated as protected areas,” he emphasized.

Senoaji said the results of the study conducted jointly by the agricultural faculty of the University of Bengkulu can shed light on the vital functions of mangrove ecosystems in mitigating climate change due to global warming.

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Indonesia, S Africa explore cooperation in transportation

Jakarta, 10 March 2017, (ANTARA News) – The governments of Indonesia and South Africa are exploring cooperation on air transportation and railways development in Kalimantan, Minister of Transportation Budi Karya Sumadi stated.

“The cooperation is a follow-up of a meeting between President Joko Widodo and his South Africa’s counterpart Jacob Gedleyehlekisa Zuma,” Sumadi said in a press statement received here on Thursday.

A South African company has expressed interest in developing railways in Kalimantan to transport coal.

“Mining field in South Africa has developed in recent years,” the minister stated.

The transportation ministry will study the cooperation in detail.

Meanwhile, the governments of Indonesia and South Africa have agreed to increase cooperation in the field of aviation.

Widodo expected that Indonesia could be hub for flights to Asian countries as South Africa is set to be hub for flights to African countries.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Ambassador to South Africa Suprapto Martosetomo noted that South Africa had a lot of business opportunities which could be explored by Indonesia.

“South Africa has advanced in technology. We can develop the railway sector in South Africa,” he stated.

The cooperation between Indonesia and South Africa, particularly in the air transport sector, started since 1997. In that year, a treaty was signed to open the air links between the two countries.

In 2013, both countries signed a MoU related to the management of air transport rights. The MoU contained the agreement to open service flights on Indonesia-South Africa route with a frequency of seven times a week.

The two countries agreed to open the entire flight access through their respective international airports.

South Africa has three major international airports, namely Cape Town International Airport, Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg), and Durban International Airport.

However, until now there are no airlines of Indonesia or South Africa that serve flights between the two countries.

Indonesia and South Africa earlier discussed efforts to increase trade cooperation and reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers for their prime products and commodities.

Widodo expressed his happiness on receiving Zuma, who visited the country after 12 years, at a joint press conference following the meeting between the two countries delegations here on Wednesday.

“Indonesia and South Africa are two emerging countries and members of G20 who have been working together under the South-South cooperation scheme,” he stated.

Jokowi, as he is also called, stated that he hoped the partnership between the two countries, including new Asia-Africa strategic partnerships, could be more intensified. Therefore, the bilateral meeting focused on talks for more efforts to increase trade cooperation.

Jokowi has proposed a wider trade cooperation to cover Indonesia-South Africa Custom Union (SACU) cooperation and pledged to send a concerned minister to follow it up.

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Two Rafflesia arnoldii flowers bloom in Kaur forest, Bengkulu

Bengkulu, Bengkulu Province, 10 March 2017, (ANTARA News) – Two Rafflesia arnoldii flowers have fully bloomed in Kaur forest, Manau Village, Padang Guci Sub-district, Kaur District, Bengkulu Province.

“Local villagers have found the rare flowers in full bloom in a forest near a residents garden,” Noprianto, coordinator of Padang Guci Rare Flower Lover Community, said here, Friday.

The location is some eight kilometers from a nearby village and could be reached by a motorcycle ride, he said. “We have monitored the habitat and several flowers had bloomed previously,” he noted.

Tropical forest, which is intact and has extreme terrain, in Padang Guci, some 200 km of Bengkulu City, is habitat for two species of the rare fauna – Rafflesia bengkuluensis and Rafflesia arnoldii.

“After taking a motor ride, we must walk through rice fields and gardens of local villagers,” he remarked.

Other habitats of Rafflesia are found in North Bengkulu, Central Bengkulu, Seluma and Lebong Districts.

Agus Susatya, rafflesia researcher of the University of Bengkulu, has identified four Rafflesia sp flowers in Bengkulu, namely Rafflesia arnoldii, Rafflesia bengkuluensis, Rafflesia gadutensis, dan Rafflesia hasselti.

“However, there is a possibility that new species of Rafflesia to be discovered in Bengkulu forests,” he said.

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Country’s future re-shaping as govt takes revolutionary measures: Dar

ISLAMABAD, 10 March 2017, (APP) – Minister for Finance Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar Friday said future of the country was re-shaping as revolutionary measures had been taken by the government to bring economic development.

Talking to a private news channel, he said when Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) government came into power in 2013, the country’s economy was almost declared bankrupt but with the efforts of the government, economic situation was entirely different today.

As a result of concrete steps taken by the government, national economy was flourishing and growing with positive indicators, he said.

He said international community was now acknowledging economic growth in the country and Pakistan was being ranked among fast growing nations.

The minister said PML-N government had been doing sincere efforts to revise its agreement with Swiss authorities to get information access to accounts of Pakistanis at their banks.

He said significant development had been made in that connection after holding negotiations with the authorities, and the government would sign a revised agreement on March 21.

Ishaq Dar said that Swiss authorities had presented a number of terms and conditions for the revised agreement, but the government succeeded in doing so unconditionally.

He said new agreement would enable the government of Pakistan to get information about the accounts opened in Swiss banks.

To a question, the minister said that Panama Papers case was sub-judice and decision on it was expected in coming days.

He said name of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was not mentioned anywhere in Panama Papers.

To another query, Senator Ishaq Dar said that inquiry on Dawn leaks was underway by a seven member commission, however its findings had not been submitted by the commission so far.

He said the report would be made public once the investigation was completed and the report was submitted.

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Pakistan Army Vows To Protect China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 12 March 2017, (NNN-Xinhua) – Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Saturday visited the Headquarters of Special Security Division (SSD) responsible for security of Chinese on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and non-CPEC projects.

The army chief reiterated Pakistani Army’s commitment to ensure security for the CPEC and the work force involved. He emphasized on the value Pakistan attaches to the Chinese help and assistance extended in making this projects a success.

General Bajwa was given a detailed briefing on Integrated Security Mechanism led by the Special Security Division, a statement from the army’s Inter-Services Public Relations said.

“Army is fully aware of hostile agenda against the CPEC and vowed that the security forces are fully prepared to defeat their design,” the army chief said.

He appreciated the SSD for their state of preparedness and arrangements for execution of the assigned mission and tasks.

In January the government launched a special division for the security of the CPEC.

The security division, assigned with the duty of protecting projects under the CPEC and the Chinese workers, comprises of nine army battalions and six civil wings having nearly 13,700 personnel.

Pakistan’s southern Sindh province also plans to raise a special force for the CPEC. A force comprising of 1,000 retired soldiers of Pakistan Army for security of the CPEC will be part of the force, according to provincial Advisor Maula Bakhsh Chandio.

The Chinese authorities had agreed in December last year to include projects relating to a railway service in Karachi, development of a port in Thatta district near Karachi and setting up of a special economic zone in the CPEC.

The agreement reached during the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) on the CPEC held in Beijing. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah led a government delegation at the meeting.

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Pakistan returning to more stable, prosperous state: The Economist

ISLAMABAD, 10 March 2017, (APP) – Highlighting the political and economic stability achieved in recent years as well as the successful holding of PSL final in Lahore, an article carried by The Economist said, Pakistan seems to be returning to a more stable and prosperous state.

“The first thing to come back was the prime minister. Having twice held Pakistan’s highest office before the army toppled him in 1999, Nawaz Sharif returned from exile to win it back in 2013.

“This was a personal triumph but also a historic moment, marking the only time since Pakistan’s founding that one elected government has completed its term and passed power to another. It also turned out to be the first of a heartening series of signs that Pakistan itself seems to be returning, slowly and haltingly, to a more stable and prosperous state,” the article observed.

It said, “For the eight years since terrorists attacked a visiting Sri Lankan team, Pakistan’s cricket-mad citizens had forfeited the joy of watching top international matches on Pakistani soil.

“But on March 5th Lahore, the capital of the province of Punjab and site of the attack in 2009, hosted the final match of the Pakistan Super League, a lucrative franchise with many foreign players,” the article noted.

According to the article, “More broadly indicative is that Pakistan’s stock market has risen faster than any other in Asia over the past 12 months, by a heady 50%.”

“Poverty has fallen and the urban middle class is growing. Nestl’, a giant maker of processed foods, says its sales in Pakistan have doubled in the past five years, to over $1bn,” it added.

“Across much of the country, too, lights are coming on again. When Mr Sharif resumed office four years ago Pakistanis rarely enjoyed more than 12 hours of electricity a day,” the article noted.

It said, “Big investments in power infrastructure mean that power cuts are now down to a more manageable 6-8 hours a day. The government hopes to eliminate them entirely in time for national elections next year.”

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Pakistan PM urges Ulema to promote unity, harmony

LAHORE, 11 March 2017, (APP) – Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Saturday called upon Ulema to play their effective role in promoting unity among society, besides effectively dispelling the false propaganda against real teachings of Islam.

He said the PML-N government and Ulema would collectively foil all attempts, aimed at creating fissures in the society and with their joint efforts, strengthen peace in the country.

The Prime Minister was addressing a seminar, held at Dar-ul-Uloom Jamia Naeemia here.

He regretted that throughout the world, the real teachings of Islam were distorted but the Ulema and religious leaders had the panacea for such challenges by utilizing their pulpits to spread the true picture of religion.

In these efforts, he said the role of Ulema was crucial.

In 2013, when the PML-N was given mandate to run affairs of the government, it was his objective to secure lives of people and bring about lasting peace, he added.

The Prime Minister said the government resolved that all the political forces were taken on board, while personnel of army and police tackled the challenge with bravery and sacrifices whereas people manifested unity to face the menace.

“We have fought the greatest war against terrorism in the world,” he said, adding the hands of terrorists were broken and their centers destroyed.

Though lone attacks occurred in the country which were facilitated by sympathizers of certain elements, he noted and said the state was looking after them and would bring them to justice.

Terrorists had no race and religion, he said and questioned whether the blood of Mufti Naeemi or hundreds of others would go waste.

The Prime Minister, lauding role of late Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi, said such religious leaders had worked for the unity of nation through their untiring efforts and teachings.

He said fanning of negative sentiments of sectarianism and distortion of the real message of Jihad led to rise of extremism in the world.

He said the deviated and extremist elements had sowed seeds of discord among the Muslims and carried out inhuman acts of massacre.

The Ulema and religious leaders like Shaheed Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi and Mualana Hassan Jan had given edicts against such elements and laid down their lives for the religious duty and great cause of unity, he added.

The Prime Minister expressed the hope that their disciples would not budge from the path, chosen by these personalities.

He regretted that besides religious and sectarianism basis, efforts were also being made by deviated elements to sow seeds of discord on the provincial basis. They were trying to avenge for their rejection from public, he added.

But the PML-N government, he said, would foil all such conspiracies and play its role to further forge unity among the ranks and files of society as it had done during the creation of Pakistan by uniting Muslims of India.

The Prime Minister said they would thwart negative propaganda of creating provincial prejudices among the Punjabis, Pakhtuns, Sindhi, Mohajir and other federating units as the nation had rejected such attempts in the successful holding of Pakistan Super League Finale.

“Through PSL, the nation showed that Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Karachi….all were against terrorism. We are knitted together in bonds of brotherhood,” he added.

He resolved the PML-N government, with the support of Ulema, would discard elements of hatred and disunity and urged religious leaders to raise voice against provincial bias as well.

He also stressed upon Ulema to promote the narrative handed over by their predecessors, depicting the messages of religious freedom, the real image of Islam and the teachings of Holy Quran.

The young generation should also be educated with the teachings of Islam from the pulpits of mosques and seminaries, he added.

He said through such narrative, new generation should be taught that those elements had no relation whatsoever with the religion who carried out massacre in the name of sectarianism.

Speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique and a large number of Ulema were present on the occasion.

The Prime Minister said the seminaries had always been the centers of religious education and effective source to dispel misleading propaganda, aimed at creating disharmony among the society.

The Prime Minister also lauded the role played by Jamia Naeemia and observed that visiting the seminary had always been a great source of spiritual experience.

He also paid tribute to late Mufti Muhammad Hussain Naeemi and Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi for their services to religion and society.

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Pakistan tourism body plans Buddha Heritage exhibition in Thailand

ISLAMABAD, 5 March 2017, (APP) – Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) is planning to organize a Buddha Heritage exhibition in Thailand.
Talking to APP, Managing Director PTDC Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor said that the exhibition would be organized with an aim to highlight the Buddhist historical and religious sites at Taxila, Takht Bhai and Swat.

He expressed the hope that the exhibition would attract the Buddhist tourists to visit Pakistan and see their religious sites.

Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor said that Buddhist Scholars and tour operators would be invited to visit the exhibition.

He said that Pakistan is the custodian of Gandhara Buddhist Civilisation and there are numerous holy places in this country of great value for Buddhist people from across the world.

“The significance of Buddhist civilisation remains in Pakistan can boost up tourist flow to Pakistan as a result of proper publicity,” he added.

He said that the Thailand government will provide assistance for restoration/maintenance of Ghandhara Archaeological sites in Taxila and Swat.

He said publicity material on Ghandhara will be published in Thai language soon.

Chaudhry Ghafoor said that PTDC will also invite travel writers to project Ghandhara heritage and highlight tourist attractions of Pakistan to enhance the soft image of Pakistan in Thailand,” he added.

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Pakistan Academy of Letters organizes ‘Khawateen Mushaira’

ISLAMABAD, 8 March 2017, (APP) – Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) Wednesday organized a “Khawateen Mushaira in Pakistani Languages” in connection with World Women Day.

Chairman PAL Prof. Dr Muhammad Qasim Bughio in his remarks welcomed the women poetess in the Mushaira. He said the literary activities would promote peace, tolerance and brotherhood in the society. He paid rich tribute to the women for their contributions in the field of literature and education.

Mushaira was presided by Parveen Tahir and Dr Nahid Qamar was the chief guest on the occasion. Mushaira was conducted by Durr e Shehwar Tusif and Fakhira Nowreen. Eminent Poetesses including Bint e Zainab, Samina Tabbasum, Farhana Ali, Bushra Saeed, Rukhsana Sehar, Rifat Wahid, Haya Qureshi, Farhat Jabian Virk, Sara Gilani, Farzana Naaz, Rizwana Sayed, Noshaba Hashmi and others were presented their poetry in the Mushaira and got appreciation from the participants.

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CPEC becomes center-point of transit trade routes

BEIJING, China, 7 March 2017, (APP) – With related major energy and infrastructure projects being in full swing, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has become the center-point where transit trade routes converge linking Russia with Central Asia.

Pakistan has also provided a special security division to secure CPEC from all dangers, a Chinese official website ‘China.org.cn’ opined on Tuesday.

The Belt and Road (B&R) kicked off with the CPEC, the first of its six corridors and the linchpin of the B&R strategy, as it unlocks Central Asia, connects to Xinjiang, leads down to Gwadar port and then onwards to Africa, Iran and the Middle East.

All this economic activity has also brought about a major geopolitical realignment in the form of the China-Russia-Pakistan power troika, an equation which provides economic benefit while it addresses mutual security concerns.

It also consolidates the entire region vis-a-vis the new dimension of U.S.-India ties. The B&R initiative is a vital combination of geo-economics and geo-strategy.

The Belt and Road (B&R) is an innovative paradigm of global integration involving 65 countries, including one-third of the world’s GDP, impacting 65 percent of the world’s population and a quarter of all the goods and services, the website observed.

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative in late 2013. It comprises the “Belt,” which is a network of roads across the world, and “the Road” which is actually a network of shipping lanes and ports.

The project has a geo-strategic component focused on advancing China’s economic goals and utilizing its industrial potential. It serves to remove China’s dependence on the Malacca Strait for oil imports, improves trade connectivity, furthers China’s foreign policy and minimizes conflicts as it reconnects the world.

This project of the century has kept the world economy afloat since 2013 by withstanding the crash of the trans-Atlantic banking systems.

As PricewaterhouseCoopers reports, the “real value” in China’s economy and its investments in countries along its Belt and Road initiative is shifting to infrastructure projects and rising at a rapid pace.

The B&R is to be financed mainly by the Silk Road Fund and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. Additionally, the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership provides Beijing with the perfect opportunity to re-integrate Asian investment that used to find its way to American banks.

Further prospects and direction of the B&R initiative will be determined at the “two sessions” as the project is an integral part of China’s new reforms and an intrinsic part of its foreign policy.

China is going to hold the Belt and Road forum this May and it would be a masterstroke by China if more countries like U.S. and India announce their participation or signal their approval with their presence at this forum; the great game is never really over and there is much more scope in Chinese wisdom and peaceful globalization in the Eurasian Century.

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CPEC business tower to be built in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD, 6 March 2017, (APP) – Government decided on Monday to build ‘The CPEC Tower’ here which would be the tallest building in the city and will serve as a symbol of socioeconomic progress Pakistan is making across all the fronts.

Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms , Ahsan Iqbal noted that the iconic tower will attract investors and would serve as a symbol of branding Pak-China Friendship.

The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by Minister Ahsan Iqbal here. Senior officials from the PD&R, other line ministries and departments attended the meeting.

A high level committee to be headed by Malik Ahmed Khan, Member Infrastructure, PD & R will work on the proposed CPEC tower.

While speaking on the occasion, Ahsan Iqbal laid down the tasks for the committee. Directions were given to conduct a feasibility study after identifying a suitable site. It was further directed to acquire the land in the light of feasibility study.

“Committee should sit with relevant departments to resolve issues of building codes and regulations” said Minister Iqbal.

Minister stated that the initiative will provide facilitation to Chinese and other investors from around the world.

He further said that the tallest building would help in image building of Islamabad as a sustainable and vibrant city thriving upon entrepreneurship, science and technology, research and development, finance and culture.

“CPEC tower should be equipped with state of the art hotel, office spaces, commercial spaces and modern facilities”, said Minister.

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Bangladesh Flag-Carrier To Run All-Women Flight On Women’s Day

DHAKA, Bangladesh, 8 March 2017, (NNN-Xinhua) – With the aim to pay respect to the contribution of women, national flag-carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines will operate a special flight by all women on Wednesday to mark the International Women’s Day.

The national flag carrier has taken the initiative to encourage and inspire women in the aviation sector to move forward matching up with other airlines globally, state-run news agency BSS reported Tuesday.

Biman spokesperson Shakil Meraj told the state-run news agency that the all-women special flight will be operated on Dhaka-Sylhet (some 241 km northeast of capital Dhaka)-Dhaka route Wednesday with a Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

“Captain Tania Reza and First Officer Antara will lead the BG-0603 flight with six female cabin crew,” he said.

Besides, female security personnel and ground handling staff will be deployed for the flight, added Shakil Meraj.

He said the flight is scheduled to take off at 01.15 p.m. (local time) from the domestic terminal.

“Biman authority thinks such move would encourage the female to join the diversified aviation industry,” said Shakil Meraj.

Biman has now 140 pilots of which nine are lady pilots. Besides, female employees are working with efficiency in ground service, engineering section and other departments of Biman.

Talking about the flight, First Officer Antara said they operate flight regularly, but this special flight on the special day would be an inspiration for the country’s women for this challenging job.

Antara joined Biman in 2011 and gained experience of flying with Dash8-Q400 and Boeing 737-800 so far. Now, she is dreaming of flying more and lead Biman’s fleet from the front.

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UN Envoy Urges World Aid To Afghanistan Nation-Building

UNITED NATIONS, 12 March 2017, (NNN-Bernama) – The UN envoy for Afghanistan called for continued international political and financial support to Afghanistan while urging Kabul to redouble efforts in its nation-building efforts, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

The appeals came on Friday as Tadamichi Yamamoto, UN secretary-general’s special representative in Afghanistan, was speaking at an open meeting of the UN Security Council on the current situation in Afghanistan.

The deteriorating security situation remains of great concern, he said, urging the Taliban to enter peace talks without preconditions and warning against attacks by foreign fighters, including Daesh terror group.

More focused action on governance, social services and private sector development to promote equitable growth will be necessary, he said.

The visible progress co-existed with grave challenges in the Asian country, he said. “The government has to pursue both an inclusive peace process and economic growth against the backdrop of an intensifying insurgency and worsening security.”

Last year, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), headed by the UN envoy, recorded the worst number of civilian casualties since record-keeping began nearly a decade ago.

Deteriorating security also led to the highest-ever level of internal displacement in 2016. More than 650,000 Afghans were displaced. Returns from Pakistan exceeded 620,000 people. Displacements and returns for 2017 are likely to remain at these levels.

Developing a nation while fighting an insurgency is an uphill struggle, he emphasised, noting that due in part to the worsening security situation over the past two years, service delivery has become increasingly difficult.

“We have witnessed some downward trends in key indicators, such as access to health clinics and education facilities,” he said.

Yamamoto said that the National Unity Government, almost halfway through its five-year term, has made visible steps forward on anti-corruption, the electoral process and women’s economic empowerment.

“Fortunately, the ground is being prepared to make Afghanistan a success,” he said.

The UN mission will launch its first anti-corruption report, titled Afghanistan’s Other Battlefield: The Fight against Corruption soon. The report will highlight the Afghan government’s achievements in addressing corruption, and recommends options for further progress, he said.

The government has committed to holding parliamentary elections which are seen as fair, inclusive and transparent by the Afghan people, he said, noting that the commissioners of the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission have been appointed.

Afghanistan remains one of the most difficult places in the world to be a woman, he said. However, just two days ago, on International Women’s Day, the government launched a national plan that recognizes women as key economic actors.

He urged the countries concerned, particularly in the neighbourhood, to support the Afghan Government’s interest in the intensified regional peace effort, and asked the Council to renew UNAMA’s mandate, which expires on March 17.

The UN Security Council is expected to vote to renew the UNAMA’s mandate.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides “good offices” among other key services.

“Good offices” are diplomatic steps the UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.

UNAMA also assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights, including the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.

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Adobe architectural structure discovered in Center of Iran

Tehran, March 12, IRNA – The second season of archeological studies in the Jam region of Mahallat, Markazi province resulted in the discovery of an adobe architectural structure from the historicl era, the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT) reported.

The structure consists of different pieces of simple and illustrated clay works, various stone tools, etc.

RICHT Public Relations Office quoted head of the team of the second season of archeological studies in the Jam region in Mahallat, Leila Bani Jamal as saying the project was implemented with an aim of completing information in the field of real limits, survey of the extent of the turbulence in the region and identifying the periods of settlement.

The archaeologist said, “In this season of studies in the Jam region with the setting up of a workshop in the northeastern side of the region a part of an adobe architectural structure was emerged.”

According to her, the remains included two perpendicular adobe walls with the width of 100 and 150 cm that probably belonged to a greater architectural environment dating back to the historic era.

The head of the archeological team further remarked that among the items obtained in the two seasons of excavations of the region different samples and illustrated clay works, various stone tools and stones devices can be mentioned.

Bani Jamal, stressing that Jam region is one of the most important and largest regions in the southeast of Markazi Province, noted that settlement evidence exists in this region indicating the settlement from the stone copper, bronze, Parthian and the Sassanid eras.

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Iran Air to get four new Airbus-321 planes this year

Tehran, 11 March 2017, (IRNA) – Managing Director of national flag-carrier Airline “Iran Air” Farhad Parvaresh said here on Saturday that the third plane of Airbus-330 is to enter the country on March 19 or 20.

He announced that according to the contract with Airbus, Iran is to receive four Airbus-321 planes in the upcoming year (Iranian calendar).

Parvaresh made the remarks on the sidelines of arrival ceremony for the second Airbus to Iran. He said that we are to rebuild our air fleet and are trying to promote qualification of our air services.

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Photo exhibition on Iranian women underway in Tehran

Tehran, 11 March 2017, (IRNA) – “Iran’s Women”, a photo exhibition, is going to be held in Milad tower in Tehran on Saturday to display the leading role Iranian women have been playing in every day life in recent years.

Jointly organized by the Vice-Presidency for Women and Family Affairs and the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the exhibition displays 80 photos taken by IRNA’s photojournalists.

The participation and the capabilities of Iranian women and portraying the role they play in various spheres are the main themes of the photos.

The exhibition is being held as Iranian people are getting prepared for the upcoming Iranian new year called Nowruz.

Vice-President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi, the United Nations Information Center (UNIC), Tehran, Director Maria Dotsenko, and the Managing Director of IRNA Mohammad Khodaddi are going to deliver speeches in the opening ceremony.

The exhibition is underway for one week in Milad tower.

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Saint Petersburg, Shahid Beheshti universities to cooperate

Tehran, 11 March 2017, (IRNA) – An academic delegation from Saint Petersburg University in Russia visited Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran on Saturday with the aim to develop academic activities between the two scientific centers.

The Russian academic delegation exchanged views and discussed grounds for joint academic cooperation with Iranian counterparts.

The two academic delegations also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on scientific cooperation.

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Turkey is getting a boost from Chinese capital

11 March 2017, (MENAFN – Asia Times) – The Daily Sabah reported Friday that private Chinese capital is entering Turkey, with China’s ambassador to Turkey highlighting several large projects.

While the two governments are working on a high-speed railway and nuclear power station, China’s Wanda has announced investment in a new resort, and China’s Tianchen Engineering hacompleted a natural gas storage project. The ambassador also stressed Turkey’s importance to the One Belt, One Road initiative.

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Kuwait to host International Conference On Healthcare Quality

KUWAIT, 8 March 2017, (NNN-KUNA) – Kuwait’s Ministry of Health said Tuesday, it will be hosting an international conference on healthcare quality, between Mar 13 and 15, under the auspices of the Minister of Health, Dr. Jamal Al-Harbi.

The event will discuss the challenges facing the healthcare sector and the best practices in service improvement, said Dr. Buthaina Al-Modhaf, director of the Ministry’s quality and accreditation dept.

Themed: “Together we can – towards change and experience sharing,” the gathering will review the health policies and strategies of countries in the Gulf region and beyond, to ensure the safety of patients, she pointed out.

“A large number of health experts and representatives of service providers from Kuwait and many friendly countries will attend the sessions and workshops, on the agenda of the conference,” Dr. Al-Modhaf noted.

An exhibition will be held as a sideline, to showcase the studies and academic achievements of researchers from the Faculty of Medicine, she said, adding that, her department will brief the participants on the results of its questionnaire, on awareness about safety at health institutions.

On her part, Dr. Hanaa Al-Ghanim, chairperson of the quality indices programme, of the quality and accreditation dept., said, the 19 local speakers and 10 international ones, will address the gathering on the experiments of their respective institutions, in the fields of health quality, safety and effective leadership.

“The agenda of the three-day event includes 25 lectures and intensive panel discussions,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Malak Al-Ali, chairperson of the standardisation division of the department, advised those concerned with the healthcare quality to take part in the activities of the conference, to earn 16 Continuing medical education (CME) points.

“Registration at the conference is free,” she said, noting that, the gathering provides a chance for participants to share experience on the successful practices, in providing high quality healthcare service.

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Oman Air signs partnership deal with DHL Express

Muscat, Oman, 12 March 2017, (MENAFN – Muscat Daily) – Oman Air, the national carrier of the sultanate, has announced a new partnership with DHL Express, a division of the German logistics company Deutsche Post DHL.

This trial builds on Oman Air’s promise to scrap high baggage charges. The arrangement will allow guests flying Oman Air to use DHL Express to deliver their baggage to their final destination at extremely affordable rates, in line with the new rates introduced by Oman Air in January. The agreement signifies DHL and Oman Air’s commitment to strengthen cooperation and deliver better service and value to Oman Air’s customers within the sultanate.

The partnership will enable guests with confirmed Oman Air tickets to send baggage to any address within Oman Air’s network through drop off at any DHL service point in Oman, including Seeb, Al Khuwayr, Sohar, Muscat, Qurm and Salalah. Guests will then be able to track their packages on the move via phone, SMS, email or online through their website.

Aboudy Nasser, senior vice president, Network Planning & Revenue Management for Oman Air, said, ‘Our decision to partner with DHL is part of the journey to becoming the best. As with our move to scrap high baggage charges, we want deliver more value for our customers and make their life as easy as possible while travelling.

‘Passengers flying with us can arrive in the hotel with their baggage waiting for them, relieving them of the hassle of having to carry their bags to and from the airport.’

Ali Thabet, country manager for DHL Express in Oman, said, ‘We are pleased to be working closely with Oman Air. This new and strategic partnership with Oman Air reflects the common vision and brand promise of both companies in making sure that customers are offered great service quality that exceeds their expectations. It is also a reflection of the strong ties that we have with Oman Air.

‘This new partnership with DHL definitely delivers an added benefit for anyone flying with Oman Air.

‘Using our unparalleled global network that extends to more than 220 countries across the world, DHL Express is able to provide Oman Air passengers with a unique and value for money service of securely shipping their luggage to any country they are flying to and delivering it to its final destination on time, offering them peace of mind and a hassle-free flight.

‘Our support will aid Oman Air’s mission to exceed customer expectations with a safe, reliable and seamless flying experience.’

Oman Air guests will receive special DHL rates on production of a valid Oman Air ticket with specific rates for inter-GCC travel, Middle East, Africa and Indian Subcontinent and separate rates for travel to Europe and Asia Pacific.

DHL standard terms and conditions will apply for each shipment and DHL will be responsible for all processing of Oman Air guest requirements.

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Omani businessmen explore investment opportunities in Indonesia

Jakarta, 8 March 2017, (ANTARA News) – A total of 33 Omani businessmen attended the Indonesia-Oman Business Forum here on Wednesday and met 50 Indonesian businesspersons to explore investment opportunities in the country.

Chief of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) Thomas Trikasih Lembong stated that the business delegation represented various sectors, including construction, export and import, property, manufacturing, mining, logistics, tourism, information technology, and banking.

“The visit by the Omani delegation has shown that investment interest from Middle East countries has begun emerging. We will cooperate with Kadin (the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) and the Foreign Affairs Minister to grab the opportunity,” Lembong noted in a statement.

Lembong believed that in order to attract Omani investment, Indonesia will need to apply a regional approach and treated Oman as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

“As a single country, it is a small nation, but we have to view it as a region in the GCC. Similarly, when people said, investment in France or Italy is too small, we have to see it as a region of the European Union,” he explained.

According to data of the BKPM, Omani investment realization in Indonesia during the 2010-2016 period was ranked 101 and was recorded at US$211 thousand.

The investment was focused on two sectors: food crops and plantation as well as electricity, gas, and water.

Based on FDI Market data, Omans capital expenditures were made in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom.

During the 2012-2016 period, 48 percent of the investment in Indonesia was mainly in the manufacturing sector.

Hence, investment promotion is crucial to achieving the governments target of Rp678.8 trillion of the domestic and foreign investment in 2017, Lembong stated.

In 2018, the government has targeted to increase investment to Rp863 trillion.

The forum was also attended by Kadin Chairman Rosan P. Roeslani, Oman Ambassador Nazar Said, the economic advisor of the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development, and chairman of the Omani Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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Qatar: “Art For Tomorrow” Conference Held

DOHA, Qatar, 7 March 2017, (NNN-QNA) – The New York Times “Art for Tomorrow” Conference, will reconvene in Doha from Mar 10-13, under the patronage of the Chairperson of Qatar Museums, Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani.

Led by award-winning New York Times journalists, the conference will explore the tangible contributions, art and cultural development can make, to economic growth and national identity.

The conference also supports Qatar Museums position, as the nation’s focal point for connecting cultures, encouraging cultural exchange, and nurturing creative talent.

The conference will be introduced by Chairman of The New York Times Company, and Publisher of The New York Times, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., and is returning under the theme: “Boundaries, Identity and the Public Realm.”

The conference, which will bring together over 200 world-renowned art and cultural influencers, from more than 30 countries, aimed to deliver an informative and rich creative experience for participants.

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Qatar Hotel groups call for easier visa policies to boost tourism

11 March 2017, (MENAFN – The Peninsula) – While hotels have lauded the recent announcement by the Qatari government to boost private sector investment on tourism by granting permission for five-star and four-star hotels to issue tourist visas, they have also called to improve the current tourist visa policies and procedures.

The Prime Minister and Interior Minister H E Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani recently announced a series of new measures to boost private sector investment, especially in tourism, including a permission for five-star and four-star hotels to issue tourist visas.

‘Granting this is a great initiative that is not only beneficial to Qatar as a developing country, but to Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl – Doha too. The visa will allow us to bring in more traffic, adding to the professional workforce as well as continuing to highlight Doha as an upcoming city long before the Soccer World Cup, Wissam Suleiman, Cluster General Manager, at Marsa Malaz Kempinski – The Pearl Doha and Kempinski Residences & Suites Doha, told The Peninsula.

Suleiman added: ‘The ease of travel is increasingly important to the region, and this initiative will ensure that Qatar is regarded as more than just a layover or stopover by our prospective clientele. By making it easier to visit our nation, we expect that world travllers will soon regard Qatar as a world class destination.

Joey Chen, General Manager, Holiday Villa Hotel & Residence, hopes the government focus on challenges being faced by hotels with regard to policies and procedures. ‘Since the government is finding ways to increase tourism in the country, the management is hoping that they would be able to improve on the current policies and procedures to address the challenges that the hotels are currently facing such as the processing time and reasons for denied application, said Chen.

He added: ‘As we aim to aid the country boost its tourism industry, a well-improved tourist visa policy has the potential to help widen the scope of visiting countries and can become a tourist-friendly destination. The idea of giving hassle-free tourist visa will possibly further put Qatar as a must-visit country in the Middle East,” said Chen.

During a meeting with representatives of the private sector and businessmen in the presence of several ministers and representatives of the government sector in the Committee for Promoting Business and Investment Environment, the Premier also issued directives to respond to hotels’ requests for working visas to cover their needs of staff in the tourism sector.

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Saudi Arabia To Hold Camel Beauty Contest, Prize Reaching 30 Million USD

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, 6 March 2017, (NNN-SPA) – Saudi Arabia will hold the King Abdulaziz Camels Festival, from Mar 19 to Apr 15, to select the most beautiful camel, which will be awarded a prize of 25 million pounds (about 30 million U.S. dollars).

More than 300,000 camels will compete in the beauty contest, according to the organiser.

“Judges are on the look out for untouched natural beauty, with prizes awarded throughout the festival. Camels are assessed in five categories, according to breed and colour,” said Dr. Talal Al Torifi, the spokesperson of the festival, as quoted by the Daily Mail.

Various features are included, to evaluate the beauty of the camels, such as the size of the camel’s head, the length of its neck, the shape of its eyes, the roundness of its hump, whether the lips cover the teeth, whether the lashes are long enough and so on.

The annual national festival attracts millions of people, including the royal families and celebrities.

The organiser hopes that the festival would strengthen the traditional practices and connect the older generations and the younger ones.

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Saudi King set for Japan leg of Asia tour for investment, alliances

11 March 2017,(MENAFN – Asia Times)- King Salman of Saudi Arabia arrives in Tokyo for a three-day visit starting March 12, part of a month-long Asia tour that is seen as building investment and security ties with countries that are some of the biggest customers for the kingdom’s oil.

The king will be making his first trip to Japan since assuming the Saudi crown two years ago, signaling the country islooking for new investment opportunities outside the turmoil in the Arab world. After Japan, the king will travel to Beijing, having completed visits to Malaysia and Indonesia.

In Malaysia, Saudi Aramco — which owns 15% of the Japanese oil refiner Showa Shell Sekiyu — took a stake in a multibillion dollar refinery venture with Malaysia’s Petronas. State-owned Aramco is also planning the world’s biggest initial public offering, which could value the company at 2 trillion.

Economic advisers accompanying the King will discuss investment in light of a September 2016 agreement between Saudi Aramco and Mizuho Bank, aimed at luring Japanese firms to Saudi Arabia. The King will meet Japan’s emperor and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The king’s tour is also seen as possibly cementing and building on new international alliances as policies of the Donald Trump administration remain unclear.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has boosted military and security cooperation with countries in Southeast Asia. Saudi special forces have also trained in China. In Malaysia, Salman signed an agreement for advanced military cooperation with Kuala Lumpur, and announced the creation of the King Salman Center for Global Peace in Malaysia.

When addressing the Indonesian parliament, Salman called for a united front against global terrorism and signed a security pact with Indonesia.

During the Japan visit, the huge Saudi delegation will handle side agreements, like academic exchanges, scholarly cooperation, athletics, water processing, and desalination.

Bilateral Saudi-Japanese relations kicked off in 1938, when an envoy for the kingdom’s founder, Ibn Saud, traveled to Japan to attend the opening of the Tokyo Mosque.Japan’s thirst for oil and gas made Tokyo almost fully dependent on the Gulf for more than 80% of its oil supply, with 41% being met by Saudi Arabia.

More recently in 2014, the two countries started discussions that would enable the export of Japanese nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia, while Saudi exports to Japan rose to US42.5 billion from US13.1 billion.

Although two Japanese citizens were beheaded by ISIS in early 2015, the country doesn’t feel threatened by the rise of Islamic fanaticism. It is too distant from geographically from the Arab World to worry about ISIS, has no ethnic Muslim majority to worry about, and has no boots on the ground in the Middle East.

It is a major tourist destination however, and a magnet for international conventions, making it an attractive target for ISIS, if any of its terrorists manage to reach Japanese soil.

Tokyo will be hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2012 Summer Olympics and wants to make sure that the ISIS threat “currently low but not completely negligible” is firmly under control and can rely on Saudi intelligence to help achieve that.

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Saudi Shoura Council studies proposal for Umrah visa extension

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 11 March 2017, (IINA) – A Shoura Council member said the council is expected to adopt a proposal to extend the Umrah visa period to three months after it is studied, Al-Watan Arabic newspaper reported Friday.

Vice chairman of the Council’s financial committee Dr. Fahad bin Jumah said the extension will be based on meeting certain conditions, including the financial capacity of extension seekers. An extended Umra visa would enable pilgrims to enjoy local tourist activities and attractions, support the economy and local tourism, and create jobs as medium and small businesses supporting tourism will emerge, he added.

Jumah said insufficient investment in tourism infrastructure, such as hotels and resorts, is obstructing tourism activity, and the private sector is insufficiently encouraged. He called on the General Authority for Entertainment to distribute tourist activities in different regions of the country to develop tourist services. He also recommended that tourist activities include national heritage.

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Sharjah launches international Government Communication Centre

Baku, 11 March 2017, (AZERTAC) – In an extraordinary move, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council, has announced the launch of the International Government Communication Centre (IGCC), ahead of the Sixth Edition of International Government Communication Forum (IGCF 2017), being held from March 22-23 in Sharjah with more than 2,500 world leaders, influencers and international experts in attendance.

The first of its kind platform in the region, the International Government Communication Centre will be managed by the Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB) and is being seen as yet another extraordinary initiative by the Sharjah government to support and boost the media environment in the Emirate and the UAE.

The IGCC will function as a world-class media resource facility as well as a scientific research and knowledge platform offering reference and all possible guidance in the field of government communication locally, regionally and internationally.

Announcing the initiative, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi said that the Sixth Edition of the IGCF will see the official launch of the new Centre in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and international guests, senior officials and communication specialists from around the world.

The Chairman of Sharjah Media Council stressed that the International Government Communication Centre is based on the vision to build an integrated government communication system involving the IGCF, sophisticated knowledge platforms and specialised programmes for training and developing the skills and abilities of those working in government communication, besides forming an international relations network of specialists in the field.

He said: “Since the launch of the International Government Communication Forum in 2012, we have been guided by a clear vision and goal to promote the concept and applications of government communication. This is for several reasons, most importantly the increasing importance of government communication, the evolution of modern media and the advancement of communication sciences and technologies, not to mention the lack of interest in this important aspect of the relationship between governments and the public.”

“Based on this vision, the IGCF has drawn the interest of top media and communication experts from across the globe, who have been flocking to the event and managed to create new prospects for developing best government communication practices and applications, in the field that we have pioneered in the region by launching a forum of such proportions and international standing,” added Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi.

Speaking on the occasion, Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Executive Chairman of Sharjah Department of Government Relations, lauded the International Government Communication Centre as a demonstration of the keenness of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah to support and promote government communication locally, regionally and internationally, and of the continuous efforts made in this regard by Sharjah, being the first to allocate an entire forum for government communication.

Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi pointed to the significant role played by the IGCF over the past years in consolidating the government communication experience and highlighting successful experiences in the field, stressing that the International Government Communication Centre initiative will consolidate the IGCF’s status as one of the world’s most prominent forums in this field.

Tariq Saeed Allay, Director of Sharjah Government Media Bureau, viewed the International Government Communication Centre as a reflection of and tribute to the success of the IGCF, which has been successfully hosted by Sharjah all these years and setting a new benchmark and focusing on this largely unexplored field.

He said: “Through the International Government Communication Centre, we will seek to further develop the IGCF and its annual agenda for further qualification of those working in the field of government communication. This will be done in accordance with a new developmental vision that will accommodate various recent changes and present them to workers and researchers in this important area based on Sharjah’s vision in enriching different scientific spheres.”

The International Government Communication Centre aims to achieve harmony and compatibility with Sharjah’s strategy in supporting modern sciences, research, education and development of government cadres through a strategic priority that entails promoting for the IGCF throughout the year and enhancing Sharjah’s reputation and position in the field of studies and research, as well as developing the Centre itself to form a local, regional and international reference in government communication, he added.

For her part, Jawaher Al Naqbi, Manager of the International Government Communication Forum, expressed her enthusiasm about the establishment of the International Government Communication Centre, which represents a culmination of the great efforts exerted over the past years, and a proof of the substantial support extended by the UAE wise leadership and Government of Sharjah to the various areas of government communication.

She said: “The launch of such a centre for the first time in the region mirrors the success of the Emirate of Sharjah and the IGCF in the development of all aspects of this vital sector. It also heralds the beginning of an important phase in line with a new strategy through which we aspire to achieve as many of our objectives as possible and improve the various areas of government communication and the skills of workers in the field.”

Hessa Al Hammadi, Manager of the Government Communication Department at Sharjah Government Media Bureau, stressed the importance of launching such a sophisticated initiative as the International Government Communication Centre. She described it as a leap forward for the government communication sector, which receives utmost support from the Emirate of Sharjah.

“We as a department of government communication highly appreciate the efforts of the IGCF, and are very pleased with all the attention paid to government communication, which demonstrates the keenness of Sharjah Government to promote this field and support it with initiatives that contribute to its progress and highlight the Emirate’s pioneering experience in this regard at a local and international level,” said Al Hammadi.

As far as government communication practitioners are concerned, the International Government Communication Centre will work to promote their capabilities through the implementation of world-class training programmes.

The Sharjah Government Media Bureau, known earlier as the Sharjah Media Centre, is the communication and public relations arm of the Government of Sharjah. Launched in 2012 and hosted by Sharjah Government Media Bureau, the IGCF aims to showcase best global practices in government communication, and enhance the performance of governments through improving their communication with citizens.

The IGCF 2017 will see more than 2,500 world leaders, opinion makers and media and communication experts all under one roof who will brainstorm over how best to implement the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They will debate issues and challenges facing governments around the world and the world community and discuss ways of creating a better world.

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Sheikha Moza to visit Sudan and Tunisia

Tunisia, 11 March 2017, (Tunis Daily News)- HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, member of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group, will head tomorrow to Sudan for a field visit to Education Above All and Silatech foundations’ projects.

During the visit, Sheikha Moza will witness the signing of a number of important humanitarian agreements in Khartoum.

Sheikha Moza will leave Sudan for Tunisia at the invitation of Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Al Shahed.

Sheikha Moza will discuss during her visit to Tunisia a number of topics related to financing and employment’s opportunities for youth.

Sheikha Moza will also visit a number of Silatech projects in Tunisia to see the impact of the foundation on the Tunisian society and to discuss the development and improvement of these projects.

Sheikha Moza was appointed a member of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Sheikha Moza supports these goals through education and employment opportunities offered by Education Above All and Silatech foundations.

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UAE World’s Fastest Growing Market For Theme Parks

DUBAI, 10 March 2017, (NNN-WAM) – The theme parks in the UAE are dialling up the “smart” visitor experience to ensure the country remains one of the world’s fastest growing markets, industry experts announced today, ahead of the of the Dubai Entertainment, Amusement, and Leisure Show.

The UAE is the dominant market in the Middle East and North Africa, the world’s fastest growing region for theme park visitor spending, according to a report by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). The visitor spending at the UAE theme park is set to grow six-fold from US$105 million in 2016 to $637 million by 2020, the report stated.

“The UAE theme parks are on the cutting-edge of leveraging real-time information management technology to enhance the visitor experience. Millions of visitors will be able to use mobile apps to determine the ride wait period and order concessions, while operators can deliver dynamic peak and off-peak pricing, and enhance visitor safety and security,” said Andrew Calthorpe, CEO at smart theme park consultancy Condo Protego, which has worked closely with numerous theme parks in the UAE over the past several years.

Market research firm PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that the UAE’s theme park visitors could account for nearly two-thirds of the UAE’s projected 30 million visitors by 2021.

Experts agreed the UAE’s theme parks are serving as ideal case studies for the advanced technology that will fuel the premier mega-event of Expo 2020 Dubai.

“Monitoring tens of thousands of daily visitors mean the UAE theme park operators need to have a mobile app, Big Data analytics, and data storage solutions that are always available, are cost-effective and can scale up to handle millions of more visitors annually,” Calthorpe added.

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Sultan Al Qasimi opens 13th edition of Sharjah Biennial

SHARJAH, 10 March 2017, (WAM) – H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, opened on Friday the 13th edition of Sharjah Biennial, Tamawuj (SB13) at Al Mureijah Square.

Sharjah Biennial is organised by Sharjah Art Foundation, which brings a broad range of contemporary art and cultural programmes to the communities of Sharjah, the UAE and the region.

Upon arrival, Sheikh Sultan was received by Sheikh Khaled bin Abdullah bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Seaports and Customs, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Centre (SMC), Sheikh Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Urban Planning Council (SUPC), Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the President and Chairman of the Board of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), and a number of Sheikhs, top officials, and diplomats.

Curated by Christine Tohme, curator and the founding director of the Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, the five-day cultural event includes a public programme in two acts, one in Sharjah (10 March – 12 June 2017) and one in Beirut (19 October 2017 – 19 January 2018), as well as the SB13 School education programme in Sharjah.

Sharjah Ruler toured the exhibition which includes a selection of films related to the SB13 keywords: water, earth, crops and culinary. He was also briefed by Christine Tohme about performances, films, lectures, and the annual March Meeting, featuring presentations by artists, art professionals and institutions focused around the main curatorial framework of SB13.

Sheikh Sultan, accompanied by Sheikha Hoor bin Sultan Al Qasimi, honoured winners of 13th edition of Sharjah Biennial. The jury also awarded the Appreciation Award for the late artist Ali Jabri.

He also honoured sponsors and supporters of the event.

Since 1993, Sharjah Biennial has commissioned, produced and presented large-scale public installations, performances and films, offering artists from the region and beyond an internationally recognised platform for exhibition and experimentation.

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Woman becomes first board member of Abu Dhabi Aviation Co

ABU DHABI, 11 March 2017, (WAM) – Arwa Ahmed Al Kindi has become the first female member of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi Aviation Company.

Arwa won 11.31 percent of the company shareholders’ votes, during its annual general assembly meeting.

Arwa, who holds a Master’s degree in communications, will serve a three-year term on the board of the company, in the first precedence of its kind since the aviation group was founded 41 years ago.

Board Chairman Nader Al Hammadi welcomed the milestone, which he said was consistent with the state policy to appoint women on the boards of companies.

“Woman is a true partner of man in the process of building and development,” he stated.

Arwa’s achievement coincided with the UAE’s International Women’s Day celebrations, he noted.

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Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi concludes second Career Week

ABU DHABI, 12 March 2017, (WAM) – Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi has successfully completed the second edition of its Career Week activities, which ran from March 5th to 9th on the university campus on Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi.

During the event, PSUAD welcomed a number of renowned experts in various fields such as law, human resources, economics, and others on a local and international level.

Career Week events target students at Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and its alumni. Priority objectives include increasing awareness among students about the importance of career planning while they are still at the university, and providing the alumni who are seeking job opportunities in the UAE market with the chance to explore different options.

Thirty experts from over 20 different professional backgrounds participated in roundtables, seminars and discussions that took place as part of Career Week to share their insights and offer career guidance.

Eisa Al Raeesi, Head of Student Affairs at PSUAD, said, “Career Week is an exceptional opportunity for our students to acquire career strategies they can use as they plan for their future. It is also the moment for our alumni to discover new career paths and learn about the variety of local and international companies present in the UAE market. It also allows employers to interact, connect, and meet students from different backgrounds and qualifications. During the sessions, our students showed that they are highly motivated and proactive which reflects their will to learn and develop their skills.”

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Young Emirati designers to create stand for Design Days Dubai

DUBAI, 12 March 2017, (WAM) – Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, Dubai Culture, the emirate’s dedicated body for culture, arts and heritage, has commissioned two young Emirati interior designers to create its stand for Design Days Dubai 2017, the Middle East and South Asia’s only collectible design fair. The fair will take place at Dubai Design District, d3, from 14th to 17th March, and is a flagship event of Dubai Art Season 2017.

Dubai Art Season is the umbrella event on the Dubai cultural and creative calendar, and is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice Chairman of the Dubai Culture. For the fourth year running, it will bring the city to life with activations of art in public spaces, outdoor art projects, interactive initiatives, workshops, exhibitions, panel discussions, and performances held across Dubai to highlight the emirate’s fast-growing creative landscape.

Design Days Dubai will see designers Alya Al Ghafeli and Jawaher Al Khayyal, who have both recently graduated from Zayed University, collaborating in their first joint project to design Dubai Culture’s stand, a seating area that is based on the concept of Iqr’a, or read, and captures Emirati heritage.

The stand also continues Dubai Culture’s commitment to provide public reading spaces for the community, in line with the UAE National Strategy for Reading 2016-2026. Iqr’a is the first word revealed in the Holy Quran, and its Arabic form was abstracted to create the stand’s minimal, modern layout, which will be contrasted with traditional, sustainable materials such as rope and teak wood.

Once Design Days Dubai is successfully concluded, the stand will move between various locations around the city, before being finally installed at the Al Safa branch of Dubai Public Library.

Moza Suwaidan, Director of Projects and Events at Dubai Culture, commented, “We are proud of our strategic partnership with Dubai Design Days, an important event that highlights our continuous commitment to supporting young, emerging artists. We are delighted to be nurturing and empowering upcoming local talents like Alya Al Ghafeli and Jawaher Al Khayyal, and providing them with a platform from which to showcase their best work. Our stand aims to create a positive, inspiring environment in which visitors can pause, read and exchange views, which will help to promote a healthy reading habit across the community.”

The annual two-month Dubai Art Season is a definitive initiative that aims to highlight the city’s global credentials on the arts scene, bringing together artists from around the world for an unmatched celebration of talent, creativity, innovation and cultural diversity.

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Al Ain National Museum to host educational workshops on Emirati Burqa

AL AIN, 12 March 2017, (WAM) – As part of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority’s, TCA Abu Dhabi, cultural programme curated to support the UNESCO theme of, ‘Protecting our Heritage and Fostering Creativity,’ Al Ain National Museum’s education department will host a programme this month celebrating the history and heritage of the burqa, traditional Emirati accessory for women in the UAE.

To raise awareness of the historical and cultural significance of the burqa in the UAE and in Emirati women’s lives, the programme will focus on the burqa collection at the museum, with a children’s workshop on March 15th.

Speaking on the occasion, Hind Al Dhaheri, Education Specialist at Al Ain National Museum, said, “This month, at Al Ain National Museum, we chose the burqa as our focal point as it is integral to the history and pride of our nation. As an accessory, it is part of our national dress and plays an important part in the role of female Emirati identity. The variety of shapes and designs of burqas are key in identifying specific tribal origins.”

The first workshop will take place on 15th March at Al Ain National Museum, and will be repeated on 31st March.

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Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi concludes second Career Week

ABU DHABI, 12 March 2017, (WAM) – Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi has successfully completed the second edition of its Career Week activities, which ran from March 5th to 9th on the university campus on Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi.

During the event, PSUAD welcomed a number of renowned experts in various fields such as law, human resources, economics, and others on a local and international level.

Career Week events target students at Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and its alumni. Priority objectives include increasing awareness among students about the importance of career planning while they are still at the university, and providing the alumni who are seeking job opportunities in the UAE market with the chance to explore different options.

Thirty experts from over 20 different professional backgrounds participated in roundtables, seminars and discussions that took place as part of Career Week to share their insights and offer career guidance.

Eisa Al Raeesi, Head of Student Affairs at PSUAD, said, “Career Week is an exceptional opportunity for our students to acquire career strategies they can use as they plan for their future. It is also the moment for our alumni to discover new career paths and learn about the variety of local and international companies present in the UAE market.

It also allows employers to interact, connect, and meet students from different backgrounds and qualifications. During the sessions, our students showed that they are highly motivated and proactive which reflects their will to learn and develop their skills.”

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Jordan, Italy Sign 169 Million Euro Aid Programme

AMMAN, 10 March 2017, (NNN-Petra) – The Jordanian and Italian governments on Thursday, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that includes an Italian 169 million euro aid program for Jordan for the years 2017-2019.

Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury and Director General of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation Pietro Sebastiani signed the memorandum, which comes in implementation of pledges made by Italy during the London Donor Conference which was held last February.

Fakhoury said in a statement that the agreement aims to boot bilateral cooperation between the two countries, contribute to achieving goals of the 2016-2019 executive development program as well as the Jordan Response Plan to the Syrian crisis (2017-2019).

The minister said that the MoU includes grants valued at 19 million euros and soft loans totaling 143.8 million euros to finance various development projects. These include 85 million euros to support the general budget as well as 58.8 million euros to finance development projects in a number of sectors.

The MoU also includes 6 million euros as additional humanitarian aid.

Fakhoury voiced thanks and appreciation of the continued Italian support to Jordan that help the Kingdom achieve economic and social development. He also announced the opening of an office for the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation in Amman that would enhance development cooperation between the two countries.

Sebastiani praised efforts exerted by Jordan to host refugees as well as the role played by King Abdullah II to achieve peace and prosperity in the region.

He also stressed the strong partnership between Jordan and Italy as well as his government’s commitment to continue its support to Jordan.

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Feature: Syrians Soothe In Music As Remedy For War Scars

DAMASCUS, Syria, 6 March 2017, (NNN-SANA) – Despite killings and conflicts, Syrian music lovers choose to play their tunes, to purge the theatre from darkness, at the Roman theatre of the ancient city of Palmyra, as remedy for war scars.

Holding their instruments, four girls entered the rubble-strewn Palmyra Theatre, in central Syria, and sat on rocks fallen from the facade of the theatre, after a recent explosion by the Daesh militants in the area.

“We came here to bring joy back to this area, because music brings life back to dead places, including this one, where there is no life,” Farah Yonnes, a kanoon (a string) instrument player, said, as she was warming up to perform with her band-mates at the theatre.

In Jan, the Daesh militants blew up part of the theatre, as well as, the tetrapylon, a cubic Roman building in Palmyra, the latest in a series of systematic bombings of important monuments in Palmyra, which was overran by the militants twice, in 2015 and late 2016, respectively.

In its previous invasion, the Daesh destroyed the Temple of Bel, the Triumphal Arch and other cultural sites in Palmyra.

The facade of the theatre was devastated during their second invasion, before the Syrian army recaptured the city again, last Thursday, with the help of the Russian air force and Shiite fighters, including those from the Lebanese Hezbollah group.

After the army recaptured Palmyra for the first time in early 2016, several orchestras, including Russian ones, came to the theatre with the ambition of reviving the tradition of holding lively concerts at the site.

Colours lit the facade of the theatre, with hundreds of people cheering and waving the Syrian flags around, for the performers.

At that time, it may have never occurred to the crowd or performers that the very same area would be overrun by the Daesh again. The concert was also a tribute to the Syrian soldiers savagely killed by the Daesh in the theatre.

In 2005, the Daesh released a video, shot at the theatre, showing 25 Syrian soldiers lined up on their knees, on the stage of the theatre, where child executioners were being forced to brutally slaughter them.

In the second invasion, the Daesh seemed to blow up the theatre in retaliation, leaving people in sorrow for further destruction of historic sites in Palmyra.

Now, rubble greets people at the entrance, with huge rocks from the facade lying horribly on the ground, as a witness to the Daesh atrocities.

The stage, where bands used to play, is littered with rocks of the fallen facade, but the bands, sitting at the eastern and western parts of the theatre, among the rubble, continued playing to release their lively tunes into the air, lending the stage a sense of soft and affectionate atmosphere.

Sali Badr, a 17-year-old student, who plays rhythm guitar, in the girl band formed last year, said, she came here to instil joy into the area.

“Art exists everywhere, even in destroyed places like this. We can deliver our music everywhere and here is no exception,” she said.

On the other side of the theatre, a boy band started playing traditional tunes, with encouraging lyrics to urge people to build and protect their country.

However, a man holding an Oud (lute) drew the people’s attention.

When asked what he was going to play, he unexpectedly told the truth.

“I want to be frank with you, I am not even a player, I know the band and begged them to put my name as one of their players, to come to Palmyra and visit this city. I love Palmyra so much, I have many memories here, I feel like my spirit is here in this place,” he said.

A Syrian brigadier general was also at the theatre. “I am very proud my ancestors built this city,” he said.

“Daesh took control over the city for the first time and we liberated it, and once again they got the city back, and we returned to liberate it, because this is our heritage. We cannot leave it in the hands of killers and blood shedders,” he said.

The officer said, the next move for the army is to liberate wherever terrorism is located.

“We will go to them wherever they are, in the north, in the east, wherever they are, we will go to them because in Syria there is no place for terrorists. Syria is a place for civilisation, for light, for sun and we will not leave any one of them. They should understand that they will have no opportunity here in our country, in Syria,” he said.

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Hayati (My Life) Exhibition Opens In Beirut

BEIRUT, Lebanon, 11 March 2017, (NNN-NNA) – American Deputy Chief of Mission, Danny Hall, inaugurated the Hayati (My Life) exhibition today, at Club Minus 1 in Beirut, a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, said.

Speaking to a diverse audience, that included NGO officials, artists, and photographers and their families, he emphasised the importance of art, in bringing people together, and the Embassy’s enthusiastic support for these kinds of cultural programmes, here in Lebanon.

The Hayati project was made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, partnering with the NGO, Cives Mundi, to bring these talented young people from Bar Elias in Zahle together, for photography and videography workshops and entrepreneurial training.

The group included Lebanese, as well as, Syrian and Palestinian refugees, working together in the classroom, to learn photography and videography skills.

The participants then took their cameras home to their communities, to capture images of their daily lives.

Today’s exhibition displayed 36 of their photos and three of their short videos, examining their daily experiences and showcasing their artistic talents.

The project also published a book about the programme.

The exhibition will run from Mar 10-17, 2017, from 3:30 PM – 7:00 PM, at Club Minus 1.

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Iraqi Business Council urges opening Tureibil crossing with Jordan

Amman, 10 March 2017, (Petra) – President of the Iraqi Business Council in Amman Majid Al Saedi on Thursday called for the re-opening of Tureibil border crossing between Jordan and Iraq.

Such step, he said, would boost the two countries’ economies and enhance trade exchange, which dropped significantly since the border crossing was closed.

Al Saedi made the remarks during a meeting with the International Monetary Fund’s Iraq Mission, which was held in Amman.

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Voiceless Iraqi coach inspires footballers

12 March 2017, (MENAFN – AFP) Kadhim Flayeh taps three fingers on his watch. It’s the sign for kick-off: one of Iraq’s top football coaches has lost his voice.

Cancer forced the 57-year-old to have his larynx removed last year, but it did not stop him coaching Baghdad’s Air Force Club youth team.

Sometimes he communicates using an electro-larynx, a small device whose vibrations produce a synthetic voice.

When that becomes uncomfortable he resorts to writing on paper, letting an assistant read out his instructions.

“Sometimes a look is enough to put across what I want to say,” he says.

But on the pitch, hand signals are key.

“I use sign language to tell the players what to concentrate on during training and matches,” he says.

“The key thing I have to tell them is not to argue with the referee. When I raise four fingers on one hand it means they need to press the opponent — they understand that well.”

Throughout training sessions and matches, he issues instructions with his arms, one gesture after another.

He opens his arms wide and the players spread out across the pitch. He reduces the gap and they adopt a more compact formation.

He raises two fingers on one hand and one on the other: two against one, the players mark their opponents.

  • Money problems –

Coaching the Air Force Club youth team since 1998, Flayeh has become one of the most popular coaches in Iraq.

Local media call him “the star scout”, a name he has earned by training up some of the top names in Iraqi football.

But that has not prevented the club from facing financial crisis.

”The players have continued their training without getting paid and I haven’t received my salary (about 400, 380 euros) for two months because of the club’s financial situation,” he says.

Last year he was forced to sell his car and some personal belongings to finance his laryngectomy in Beirut.

To restore his voice, he would need a 50,000 (47,000 euro) operation in Germany — but he says that is beyond his means.

His former players have launched a fundraising campaign to help finance his operation. So far they have managed to raise 3,500.

But players say the club’s financial difficulties and Flayeh’s illness have strengthened the relationship between the young recruits and their coach.

The Air Force Club’s youth team, which won the local championship this season, is a training ground for many players who graduate to the club’s first team, which won the Asian Football Confederation Cup in 2016.

His players call him “the inspirer”.

“We have no difficulty understanding what he wants, on the contrary we have started to quickly understand his signs,” says Sadiq Binwan, a 17-year-old on the team.

“We are happy when he raises both fists — it means he is satisfied with us,” he says.

“Our trainer’s patience with his health problems and his determination to work increases our determination too, and it makes us want to tackle all the obstacles the team is facing.”

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Morocco boosts Islamic finance industry

Rabat, 6 March 2017, (IINA) – Morocco’s Central Bank has approved the use of five types of Islamic banking transaction, giving a final regulatory nod for the country to launch an Islamic finance industry.

Islamic banks and insurers are setting up in Morocco after new legislation allowed them into the market, and the central bank has set up a central Shariah board, a body of Islamic scholars, to oversee the sector, Arab News reported.

In circulars published in the official bulletin over the weekend, Morocco’s central bank said any Islamic transaction would be subject to preliminary approval by the Shariah board, called the Shariah Committee for Participative Finance (SCPC).

The central bank said it was allowing five common types of transaction: Murabaha, Musharaka, Ijara, Mudaraba and Salam. It also set regulations for conventional banks to open windows selling Islamic products.

It had given regulatory approval to three major Moroccan banks to open Islamic subsidiaries: AttijariWafa Bank, BMCE of Africa and Banque Centrale Populaire, as well as to smaller lenders Credit Agricole and Credit Immobilier et Hotelier.

Subsidiaries of Societe Generale of France, Credit du Maroc and BMCI have also won permission to sell Islamic products.

The circulars lay down conditions and regulatory frameworks for banks to manage deposits, funds, and investments under Shariah principles, which ban interest and pure monetary speculation.

Morocco’s government plans to issue its first Islamic bond in the domestic market in the first half of 2017; experts said that would stimulate business in the sector. However, the Parliament has yet to approve a bill regulating Islamic insurance.

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IDB lends MAD1.23 billion to back Morocco’s high-speed train

Rabat, 12 March 2017, (IINA) – Islamic Development Bank (IDB) granted a loan worth MAD 1.23 billion to the Moroccan National Office of Railroads (ONCF) recently.

The announcement in this regard was made during a signing ceremony for a financing agreement between the ONCF and the IDB. It is part of the IDB’s Istisnaa contract, one of the flagship products granted by the Islamic financial institution.

The Ministry of Finance has guaranteed the ONCF the contract, which is considered the first of its kind in the history of Morocco.

Following this loan, the ONCF will proceed with the construction of stations for new High-Speed Trains, better known as TGV, Morocco World News reported.

They are expected to launch in 2018. They will be the first ones to operate in Africa, connecting Tangier to Kenitra in only 1 hour and 30 minutes.

In the future, the TGV will link Tangier to Casablanca in 2 hours and 10 minutes, instead of the current five-hour journey takes. The governments of Morocco, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, are funding the TGV’s $2 billion investment in new trains and tracks.

Morocco received the first carriage for the TGV in July 2015. Then, in September of the same year, the second fleets of the TGV arrived at the Port of Tangier Med. After it had received the second carriage, the ONCF said: “The transfer of this train to the Tangier maintenance workshop will take place via several special convoys.”

This was not the first time the ONCF has taken a loan for the construction of its services. In December 2016, the ONCF announced that it would receive a MAD 1.6 billion loan from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development to renovate the Rabat Ville and Rabat Agdal train stations to make the transit centers compatible with the Kingdom’s new high-speed trains.

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World Bank Grants Morocco US$159M To Support Small Businesses

RABAT, 12 March 2017, (NNN-Xinhua) – The World Bank has approved 150 million U.S. dollars to improve the efficiency of social programs and promote innovative startups and job creation, local media reported.

A statement from the World Bank said 100 million dollars are aimed to develop systems to ensure that social programs are better targeted and reach the most vulnerable Moroccans.

The World Bank estimates that the money will help double the impact of poverty reduction programs and contribute to savings of over 30 million dollars per year as program resources will be allocated only to the most vulnerable households and individuals.

The other 50 million dollars will help address a market gap in the supply of equity financing for innovative small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the source said.

The money will invest in innovative startups and SMEs through private funds to select promising investments, it added.

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Tunisia plans to implement tourist Safety Ratings “kitemarks”

Tunisia, 9 March 2017, (AfricanManager)- There are plans on implementing safety ratings on tourists destinations–the idea arose from the Sousse attack which trial inquest has just been held in London following a legal action set in motion by families of the British victims.

The planned safety kitemarks proposed by tourism executives will be intended to frequently visited regions.

The ratings would be given to resorts in hotspots with proven security measures in their respective places. This way, travelers, as well as holidaymakers would know if they are not being exposed to unnecessary danger.

The kitemarks would include prevention measures. Staff will also be required to undergo training so that they would be equipped to respond to any attack launched.

Furthermore, holiday companies would be also obliged to make it clearer when a destination is a potential target.

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Tunisia: Eight companies take part in FOODEX Japan

Tunisia, 11 March 2017, (Tunis Daily News) – Eight Tunisian companies operating in the agro-food sector are taking part in the 42nd edition of the International Food and Beverage Exhibition “FOODEX”, held at the Makuhari Messe Exhibition Center in Tokyo, Japan from March 7 to 10, 2017.

The objective is to consolidate the presence of the Tunisian agri-food industry on the Japanese market and all the Asian countries.

“Tunisian companies share a pavilion with a surface area of 126m2, featuring national flagship products such as olive oil, dates, wines, canned food, table olives and pasta, the Export Promotion Centre (CEPEX) said Thursday.

It added that “a cooking show is organized daily at the national pavilion, jointly hosted by a Tunisian Chef and a Japanese Chef and highlighting the Tunisian exhibited products.”

In addition, a seminar on “the agri-food sector in Tunisia” was organized on the 1st day of the fair by the Tunisian Embassy in Tokyo and was moderated by representatives of CEPEX and the Technical Packing and Packaging Centre (PACKTEC).

Tunisia is participating for the 20th consecutive year in FOODEX, which is the largest trade exhibition of agri-food products in the Asia zone.

Each year, the show brings together more than 3,000 exhibitors and welcomes more than 75,000 professional visitors.

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Tunisia Post seals partnerships with 3 technological operators

Tunisia, 11 March 2017, (Tunis Daily News) – The Tunisian Post recently signed three partnership agreements with 3 national technological operators to propose a new digital payment channel via Point-of-Sale (POS) solutions.

These three partnership agreements were signed at official ceremonies held at the head office of the Tunisian Post and chaired by Moez Chakchouk, CEO of the Tunisian Post, and Mr. Khatib Chakchouk, PayPos Tunisia DG, Mr. Ksontini Zouhaier, DG of RunPay Tunisia and Mr. Majdi Chaabouni, DG of CallPay Tunisia.

The Tunisian Post and its partners CallPay-Tunisia PayPos-Tunisia are committed to ICTs and commit to further deploying their mutual efforts to continue innovating in order to invent new channels of digital payment through payment solutions POS.

These POS payment solutions, which combine simplicity and flexibility, are a new secure channel for future digital financial transactions.

It allows unlimited 24/7 access through self-service kiosks or through the new generation of payment terminals that will be installed at various merchants (tobacco, shops, grocers …).

These strategic partnerships, which mark a further step towards digital transformation, will be realized by the launch of new payment services co-branded “Mobipay”, “RunPost” and “PayPost” respectively with CallPay-Tunisia, RunPay-Tunisia and PayPos- Tunisia.

These new and unparalleled services will enable citizens holding e-dinar cards to benefit from several digital services using different technologies (cashless and cardless), namely recharging e-Dinar cards, payment of invoices, payment of purchases from merchants by transferring an e-Dinar account to another e-Dinar account and the reimbursement of micro-credits as well as other innovative services.

The Tunisian Post also aims to diversify its offerings to better meet the expectations of citizens while investing in new segments to facilitate digital inclusion and to support companies operating in the technological field for the creation of a digital ecosystem that aims to offer useful services on a daily basis.

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Turkish business leaders reaffirm willingness to set up in Tunisia

Tunisia, 11 March 2017,, (Tunis Daily News) – Turkish business leaders, currently visiting Tunisia, reaffirmed willingness to set up and launch new projects in the country and contribute to the financing of large-scale projects as part of Public-Private Partnership (PPP), according to a Development, Investment and International Co-operation Ministry press release, Thursday.

They also expressed determination, at the end of a meeting on Wednesday with Development, Investment and International Co-operation Minister Mohamed Fadhel Abdelkefi, to support bilateral economic co-operation and indentify investment opportunities in a number of sectors such as energy, public works, textile and clothing, telecommunication, renewable energy and ports.

The Turkish delegation, led by MP and Vice-President of the Party of Justice and Development Yassine Aktay, includes several business leaders operating in various business sectors.

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Tunisia’s labor union to raise wages for 1.5mn workers

12 March 2017, (MENAFN) – Tunisia’s major labor union and largest industry association confirmed to raise wages for almost 1.5mn private sector workers in order to reduce social tension.

Additionally, the announcement of the 6 percent increase came at a ceremony at the Prime Minister”s office, after weeks of talks between the private business industry group and the UGTT.

Accordingly, the wage hike came at a delicate time for many regional firms aiming to enhance growth after Islamist militant attacks in 2015 that hit the economy hard.

Moreover, the government has imposed an additional corporate tax on all firms of 7.5 percent as part of plans to raise income and reduce its budget deficit.

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School students campaign for Astana Expo 2017

10 March 2017, (Khabar Agency) – School students of Atyrau Nazarbayev Intellectual School summed up the results of the campaign marking the international exhibition Astana Expo 2017. The exhibition features presentation of innovative recreation parks, amusement ride on renewable energy sources, waste processing and waste management projects.

The fair visitors saw that the modern youth is interested not only in gadgets and computer games, but also young people can invent know-how projects. In addition, most of the ideas and projects can already be realized now.

MALIKA GUBASHEVA, EXHIBITION PARTICIPANT: Our project is a Ferris wheel that operates on the principle of a renewable energy source. We want to use solar panels and batteries. That is, one battery is designed for day work, the second for the evening. Even in the evening or on foggy days when there is no sun, our wheel can work.

AIDARBEK AITBOKESHOV, SCHOOL DIRECTOR: The main goal of our event was that, in fact, the children could understand the problems that today challenge not only Kazakhstanis, but also all people in the world. The 4th grade school student Aimen Nurzhan invented her own mobile application Guide-Expo to support the international exhibition in Astana. It is aimed to help visitors navigate in the locations of the pavilions.

AIMEN NURZHAN, MOBILE APPLICATION DEVELOPER: This is a kind of navigator for Astana guests and residents. The map will show cultural and entertainment venues, pavilions of the Expo participating countries, booking offices, where people can buy a ticket to the exhibition. Aimen invented her own program when she began to attend programming courses for students. They were organized by the alumni of Bolashak program. In the first month of the courses, students studied theory, in the second – practice, and in the third months students took the exam. They invent their own application.

ZHANIBEK KYDYRALIEV, DIRECTOR, EDUCATIONAL CENTER: When Aimen developed this application, she did not think about commercial purposes. She wanted to create a social project so that this project would help people. Now, we are finishing some moments, adding some information, and soon, this application will be released in Play Market, as well as in iOs, for general use.

Expo- Guide has so far only been developed in the Kazakh language. Presently, Aimen and the project curator are adapting the application. It will also be released in Russian and English. The application will be available for download in worldwide online stores.

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Confucius classes to open in educational institutions of Osh

Bishkek, 10 March 2017, (Kabar)- Confucius classes will be open in a number of educational institutions of Osh city, the press service of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic reports.

On the initiative of the Kyrgyz-Chinese faculty of Osh State University, classes will be opened at Osh Technological University, Osh Humanitarian Pedagogical Institute and at the Bilim Lyceum.

The corresponding agreement was signed by the leadership of educational institutions.

“Confucius classes will be equipped with modern material and technical base, educational audio-video tools and provided with the necessary textbooks. It is expected that two volunteers will arrive from China for each class, which will teach students and schoolchildren who want to learn Chinese.

Volunteers will also prepare for examinations in the Chinese language, which helps students to participate in competitive selection for grants for studies in universities in China,” the press service of Osh State University reported.

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Kyrgyzstan President receives head of the “Yiman” Foundation

Bishkek, 11 March 2017, (Kabar) – President of Kyrgyzstan received Nurzhigit Kadyrbekov, Chairman of the Board of the “Yiman” Spiritual Culture Development Foundation, the press service of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic reports.

During the meeting, the head of state was informed about the work carried out by the Yiman Foundation for the retraining and professional development of clergymen, supporting creative people in implementing their positive ideas.

Nurzhigit Kadyrbekov said that since the launch of the project in 2015, more than 2,000 imams have received the necessary training and raised the level of religious and secular literacy.

He also told the President about plans to implement activities within the framework of the Year of Morality, Education and Culture aimed at promoting a harmonious interrelation between the national culture of the Kyrgyz people, education and religion, creating various platforms for youth in the regions of the country in order to facilitate the disclosure of their spiritual and intellectual potential.

President Atambayev emphasized the special importance of the activity of the Yiman Foundation in the development of the spiritual culture of citizens and the formation of a healthy, peace-loving, tolerant and educated society in the country.

The President noted that, taking into account the religious situation in the country and the tendencies of its development in the world, the assistance of the Yiman Foundation is especially valuable for the state and civil society in strengthening interdenominational harmony and tolerance in Kyrgyzstan.

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Kazakhstan’s investment potential presented in Turkey

09 March 2017, (Khabar Agency) – Kazakhstan and Turkey are interested in expanding mutual business cooperation. At a meeting of exporters, the chief of the special economic zone “South” Medeu Dildabaev emphasized that the parties intend to intensify cooperation in particular in the light industry.

At a special meeting, the chiefs of leading industrial enterprises and the Turkish Light Industry Association were presented Kazakhstan’s investment opportunities. Especially foreign entrepreneurs were interested in a special economic zone and tax incentives for investors.

FIRDEVS ATILLA, BUSINESS OWNER: I believe that investing in Kazakhstan is very profitable. We are very interested in tax and customs benefits, provided in the special economic zone and support for investors from the local authorities.

MEDEU DILDABAEV, CHAIRMAN, SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE “SOUTH”: Our goal is to attract Turkish investors in Kazakhstan’s light and textile industry. Jointly with the Chief Consulate, we have gathered the chiefs of major textile enterprises, to present them the potential of the special economic zone, the economy of South Kazakhstan region and to tell in general about the benefits offered to foreign investors in Kazakhstan.

Turkey today is Kazakhstan’s important trade and economic partner. Dozens of major Turkish companies operate in Kazakhstan. In general, about 1,500 companies with Turkish capital are registered in the country. And experts say that their number will increase. Two countries intend to strengthen the potential of bilateral cooperation.

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Kazakh designers revive traditions

09 March 2017, (Khabar Agency) – Kazakhstani fashion designers successfully revive traditions. In recent years, elements of the national style have confidently become fashionable and captured the everyday wardrobe of domestic fashionistas. 21-year-old Zhuldyzai Nurusheva also contributes to this process. The young woman opened a studio for sewing traditional costumes.

According to the designer, the atelier is very popular among the Kazakh women.

The businesswoman develops her own design of hats, dresses, jackets.

ZHULDYZAI NURUSHEVA, DESIGNER: We want to revive the Kazakh traditions, dresses, to show how beautiful they really are. There is a demand for traditional costumes in the neighboring Akmola region as well. Aiman Zhunusova creates not only clothes, but also household items. The designer dreams to open training courses.

AIMAN ZHUNUSSOVA, MASTER: I have a dream to teach girls to sew, so that they are housewifely and could sew clothes. It is very attractive. Presently, Kazakh designers are looking for new fashion ideas. A fashion show of traditional costumes was held at the House of Friendship in Petropavlovsk. Representatives of 11 nationalities demonstrated the costumes. The ethno-fashion festival raised great interest among the citizens.

SHAKHNIYAR ALLAHYAROVA, FESTIVAL PARTICIPANT: I like to wear a traditional costume, whether it is a dress, a long dress or a skirt, a suit of different colors, blue, red, green, as on the flag of Azerbaijan. Representatives of the Kazakh center plan to receive a grant and open a studio for tailoring of traditional clothes. Soon they will also produce such costumes.

GULBAHSHA MUSSABAEVA, CHAIRPERSON, KAZAKH CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL CENTER: Our goal is to create modern fashion industry, Kazakhstani brand, particularly, modern clothes for young people. We want to sew dresses, or waistcoats. In general, I wish everyone, especially young people, to have such clothes in the wardrobe, where there will be a national ornament of his ethnos.

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Japan funds $11.9 mln for three projects in Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek, 7 March 2017, (Kabar) – The Government of Japan allocated $ 11.9 million to Kyrgyzstan for implementation of three projects – the support to the Unified State Register of Population for creation of “e-government”, strengthening the capacity for integrated risk management in the Kyrgyz Republic and regional cooperation in Central Asia and the project to support the “Safe School” program.

The official signing of the three documents took place in the Government of Kyrgyzstan with the participation of Prime Minister Sooronbay Zheenbekov.

The Prime Minister said that the projects that are planned to be signed will allow Kyrgyzstan to be promoted in many areas, in particular in the field of e-government, increase transparency and fairness of elections, and strengthen the safety of schools and preschool institutions.

“These directions have always been and remain among the priorities of the work of the Government of Kyrgyzstan. In turn, the government will provide the necessary assistance in the implementation of these important projects to effectively achieve their goals. The large-scale support provided on a grant basis by the Government of Japan in the framework of projects that will be implemented by UNDP and UNICEF meets the national priorities of our country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Japanese Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Yoshihiro Yamomura said that these three projects will be implemented by UNDP and UNICEF.

“Japan has a great sympathy for Kyrgyzstan, which shares with us a common value – a democracy. And for a quarter of a century our government consistently helps Kyrgyzstan to develop a democratic system. I am sure that the grants provided will contribute to the further development of democracy in the country, as well as the well-being of the population,” the ambassador said.

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First electric buses delivered in Kazakhstan

9 March 2017, (Khabar Agency) – Domestic electric buses manufacturers plan to increase production capacities. The first test model of public transport was presented in Kazakhstan. Electric buses are charged in only 8 minutes and last for 70 kilometers. Among the advantages of the new vehicle are absence of exhaust gases and noiseless. In addition, no vibration is felt in the bus cabin and most importantly, it is economical.

Erlan Stambekov, Chairman, Supervisory Board Of Parasat Jsc: There are no oils, no filters. There is only maintenance of electric motors and, as a rule, electric motors have a very large resource – over one million kilometers of run. And the battery works for about 10 years.

The EU plans from 2030 to completely abandon cars with gasoline and diesel engines. They will be replaced by electric cars. Production staff in Kazakhstan also views the same future. Graduates-machine builders of Satpayev Kazakh National Technical University develop software for the electric buses.

Amirbek Abiyev, Student, Satpayev Kazakh National Technical University: “We will control how the driver drives. If there are any violations, or a speed limit, the bus will stop smoothly.

“In addition, Kazakhstani buses can be monitored remotely. For example, a dispatcher can control from the office the technical condition of transport via the Internet and even stop the bus remotely. In the future, domestic electric cars are planned to be equipped with domestic batteries, then their price will be reduced twice. Now two test models are ready, they have already passed test trips. In total, it is planned to produce up to 1,000 electric machines in a year.”

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Bishkek to host International Grand Prix Tournament on Alysh

Bishkek, 12 March 2017, (Kabar) – International Grand Prix Tournament on Alysh dedicated to the memory and 50th anniversary of Bayaman Erkinbayev will be held in Bishkek on March 17, the press service of the State Agency for Youth, Physical Culture and Sports of the Kyrgyz Republic reported.

Representatives of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Belarus, Moldova, Russia, Iran, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, India, Serbia, Germany, Pakistan and other countries will come to the tournament, except wrestlers from the regions of the country.

Within the tournament, athletes will fight for victory: among men in 6 weight categories in freestyle (up to 60 kg, 70 kg, 80 kg, 90 kg, 100 kg and over 100 kg); Among women in 5 categories in the classical style (up to 55 kg, 60 kg, 65 kg, 70 kg, 75 kg and over 75 kg). The competitions are dedicated to the memory of the founder of this kind of sports and public figure Bayaman Erkinbayev.

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Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia reach cut rail tariffs by 50%

Baku, 11 March 2017, (AZERTAC) – A trilateral meeting between Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia agreed to reduce railway tariffs by 50% in order to activate North-South Transport Corridor, according to Mehr News Agency.

Representatives of Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan, in a trilateral meeting in Moscow, exchanged views over organizing cargo within framework of the North-South international transport corridor through territory of Azerbaijan Republic as well as development of transit potential of Iran’s Astara border terminal.

The main objective of the tripartite session was to determine preferential tariff rates for 2017 and determine transfer time on the route.

Representatives of the three states mulled over activation of the route for transportation of cargos from Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia and Finland to the Persian Gulf and India and vice versa. They also reached consensus on tariffs rates.

Deputy Head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railway Company for Operation Affairs Hossein Ashouri stated that “after 14 years, Iran, Russia and India have finally agreed on launch of the corridor while the first test freight train was deployed to the Mumbai-Bandar Abbas- Astara-Moscow route in 2016.”

“It was agreed during the trilateral meeting that the route will become operational with a 50% cut in tariffs,” said the official voicing optimism that the new corridor will become seriously activated once Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Belarus join the route.

On other relevant measures, the official said “in addition to assistance in reducing tariffs, Russia also offered to introduce the corridor package to all visitors to the International Exhibition for Transport and Logistics Services and Technologies (Trans Russia 2017).”

“Given that construction of Astara (Iran)-Astara (Azerbaijan) railway line project will be accomplished in two months, Tehran and Baku are firmly determined to enable the corridor,” underscored Ashouri anticipating that Qazvin-Rasht route will become operational within the next six months speeding up freight transportation.

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Francophonie week 2017 in Bishkek

07 March 2017, (Khabar News Agency) – The Alliance française in Bishkek jointly with the Embassies of Switzerland, France, Belgiumare happy to announce the week of Francophonieto be held from 13thto 17thof March 2017.

The “Francophonie Week” is the festival of the French language and cultures of the French-speaking countries, which is celebrated in the middle of March across the world. The organizers have prepared a program for the broad public to show the linguistic and cultural diversity of the French-speaking countries.

At the opening of the Francophonie week on March 13 the French movie “Margarita” will be screened at 17:30 pm at the “Rossiya” cinema. The Ambassadors of France, Switzerland and Belgium will solemnly open the Francophonie Week 2017.

The Swiss film “Bouboule” will be shown at the “Rossiya” cinema on March 15 at 18:00. The Belgian animation film “Skin color: honey” – in the big hall of the Academy of Tourism (address: 99 Chui Avenue/Alma-Atinskaya street), beginning at 17:30. All films are in French with Russian subtitles.

The Bishkek Francophonie program contains traditional events such as a culinary atelier, a competition of modern French songs, a theatre contest, an evening of French wines, the French game “Petanque” and many other events.

In addition, on March 17, at 18:00, the Swiss musician Jacky Lagger will hold a concert in French at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA).

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Azerbaijani language to be taught in China

Beijing, 3 March 2017, (AZERTAC) – For the first time the Azerbaijani language will be taught in China, at the Beijing University of Foreign Languages where 76 foreign languages are taught. On the decision of China’s Education Ministry, the University will train specialists on Azerbaijani language.

“Teaching and training of the Azerbaijani language specialists will promote deepening of bilateral relations between the two countries’, pro-rector of University stated at the event held on this occasion. “This will help to closely recognize the culture of Azerbaijan, one of the ancient lands”, he stressed.

Charge de-affaires of Azerbaijani embassy in China Matin Mirza noted that after the Azerbaijani President visited China in 2015 the bilateral relations between the counties have reached a new level. He expressed readiness to render every assistance and on behalf of the Embassy presented relevant books in Azerbaijani language to the University library.

Beijing University’s teacher of Azerbaijani language, PhD Agshin Aliyev spoke of ancient ties between Azerbaijan and China, noting that 22 students of University have already chosen the Azerbaijani language as the second language. At his words, in the period of 2020-2021, students will be admitted to study Azerbaijani language, for what appropriate technical and teaching base will be created. The teaching base will include text-books, dictionaries, methodical aids and handbooks.

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European premiere of “Ali and Nino” held in Brussels

Baku, 11 March 2017, (AZERTAC) – The European premiere of the film “Ali and Nino” has been held at the European Parliament.

The event brought together more than 200 people, including European Parliament members, representatives of European civil society, members of the Azerbaijani Diaspora in Belgium, public and political figures.

MEP Norica Nicolai, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Belgium Fuad Isgandarov, Georgian Ambassador to Belgium Natalie Sabanadze and Director of the Benelux office of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) Marc Verwilghen delivered speeches at the event.

The film, based on the namesake world bestseller “Ali and Nino” novel by Gurban Said, was shot in 2015. “Ali and Nino” is about Azerbaijan’s fight for independence in early 20th century and love between two young people of different religions.

Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Leyla Aliyeva is the executive producer of the movie.

The movie’s producer is Kris Thykier and director is BAFTA Award winner Asif Kapadia, while its script was written by the Academy Award winner Christopher Hampton.

The film was shot in various parts of Baku, as well as in the streets of the historical Old City, Gobustan, Khinalig, Ganja and Gadabay.

Starring in the film are Adam Bakri as Ali and María Valverde as Nino. Other actors are Halit Ergenc, Mendy Petinkin, Connie Nielson, Riccardo Skamarchio, Homayon Ershadi, Fakhraddin Manafov, Assaad Bab, Numan Acar and others.

“Ali and Nino” was first screened January 27, 2016 at the Sundance film festival.

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Sudan To Host Meeting On Funding Of Arab Food Security Study

KHARTOUM, 9 March 2017, (NNN-SUNA) – Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Badr-Eddin Mahmoud Abbas, has praised the advanced and growing relations between Sudan and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD).

He referred in particular to the AFESD alignment with Sudan in the most difficult circumstances at a time when many other parties refused to support it. He said this when he met the chairman of the AFESD Technical Department, Ahmed Osman Ali, here Wednesday.

The Minister, who also revealed the convening of a meeting in Sudan int May with the participation of Arab funds to finance a proposed Food Security Study, said the AFESD had played a role in financing a number of studies, including the study of Arab food security and Sudan’s capabilities in the fields of agriculture, water resources, sugar and meat production besides edible oils, establishment of infrastructure and agricultural research.

He lauded AFESD’s role in financing the dams of Merowe, Rosaries, Upper Atbara and Setit and the Rahad Canal, while calling the fund to complete its efforts in the development of canals of Kenana and Rahad, Merowe Dam, Upper Atbara and Setit dams.

The Chairman of the AFESD Technical Department underlined the completion of the study by a German company of President Al-Bashir’s Arab Food Security Initiative, which the AFESD financed, revealing that it was now under review of the Minister of Finance prior to being submitted to the Arab funds in the Khartoum meeting.

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Sudan’s Vast Resources Enable It To Achieve Arab Food Security

KHARTOUM, 28 February 2017, (NNN-SUNA) – President Omar al-Bashir has stressed that Sudan’s huge natural and human resources will enable it to achieve food security for the Arab world, while the various initiatives launched by Arab leaders show their concern for agricultural development and achieving prosperity for Sudan.

President al-Bashir said this when addressing the opening session of the 3rd Arab Conference for Agriculture Investment here Monday. The President noted that Sudan has 175 million fedans (one fedan 0.42 hectare) of arable lands, 118 million fedans of natural grazing lands with more than 102 million heads of livestock, as well as huge water and fishery resources which could produce a huge developmental leap.

The president pointed out to the efforts exerted by Sudan’s government to establish various infrastructures, including dams and removing of obstacles affecting investment while opening the way for free movement of capital.

The president commended the role played by the Arab Authority for Agriculture Investment in the Sudan and those of the various Arab funds and businessmen.

He said the outcome of the conference would boost Sudan’s efforts to making utmost use of the natural resources the country is endowed with.

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Ivory Coast prepares for Islamic Foreign Ministers meeting

Abidjan, 12 March 2017, (IINA) – Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen discussed here on Friday with President of Côte d’Ivoire Alassane Ouattara the issues and challenges facing the Islamic world, primarily the Palestine cause and Jerusalem as well as the phenomena of terrorism and extremism.

This came during Ouattara’s meeting with Dr. Al-Othaimeen, who is paying a working visit to the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, a member state of the OIC.

The two leaders stressed the importance of strengthening the bonds of cooperation between the member states, in order to develop a joint Islamic approach to ensure effective dealing with existing and emerging challenges.

They also discussed the ongoing preparations for the 44th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), scheduled to take place in Cote d’Ivoire in July 2017.

In a related development, the secretary general held a meeting with Foreign Minister of Cote d’Ivoire Marcel Amon-Tanoh, who praised the close and continuous coordination with the OIC General Secretariat on the prospects of convening the next session of the body, in the West African country, at the ministerial level.

For his part, Al-Othaimeen commended the strong will of the Abidjan authorities to engage actively in the OIC’s various activities and programs, and to make the necessary efforts for the success of the upcoming ministerial session.

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Brunei plans zero food wastage at schools

12 March 2017, (Borneo Bulletin Online) – Research conducted by the Ministry of Education (MoE) shows that food wastage is still being recorded at schools, with the probable cause being that the food items are not favoured by students.

Minister of Education YB Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suyoi bin Haji Osman yesterday pointed this out during the Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting, in response to a question earlier raised by YB Khairunnisa binti Haji Ash’ari with regards to food wastage at schools.

The drink selection incorporated into the Food and Beverage Scheme for primary schools introduced on January 1, 2016 was to replace the hot drinks and carton drinks – based on recommendations from the Ministry of Health. These are accepted and well-liked by the students, he said.

The beverage supplies are based on research on the popularity of certain drinks with regards to taste and general acceptance by the students. The less-liked drinks will not be endorsed for further supplies, he said.

Food and drink monitoring will continue at schools to reduce wastage.

During an earlier LegCo session, YB Khairunnisa also raised the hot-topic issue in which some teachers are burdened by the lack of time to increase teaching quality or be able to enjoy proper family time.

In response, the minister pointed out that the tasks presented to teachers are based on two guidelines: Teaching and non-teaching responsibilities.

These two guidelines stipulate that teachers are tasked with teaching for 28-30 time periods in a school week. It is mandatory for all schools to abide by these regulations, he said.

Compiled data on the teaching duration of a teacher showed only a small number of teachers clocking in a 30-hour period or more in a week – with a ratio of only 1.7 per cent or 107 teachers at government primary and secondary schools.

These teachers are not given any administrative tasks, only teaching responsibilities, the minister explained.

The current situation whereby teachers work for more than 30 hours a week will continue to be improved based on the existing guidelines, he said.

Additionally, the intake of new teachers will certainly help reduce the burden, he said.

Through the Department of Schools, the MoE will assign placement of new teachers after their April 2017 graduation. This process will improve the situation of the affected teachers, the minister said.

Efforts are ongoing to select senior teachers for administrative tasks such as Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE); student affairs and teachers-parents relations.

This system will be implemented at primary schools that have large student populations to reduce the burden of administrative duties on teachers.

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Meet the Bruneian Muslim women inspiring a modest revolution

12 March 2017, (Borneo Bulletin Online) – SOMETHING curious has happened to the fashion industry in the last few years: So-called modest fashion has started to take off.

Designers and retailers are producing clothing that’s often a little longer and slightly looser and tends to have a higher neckline.

That’s good news for an eager generation of young women who want to look great while respecting their religious values.

Burberry, DKNY, and other brands have released special Ramadhan collections, timed to coincide with the Muslim holy month.

Uniqlo sells a line from British designer Hana Tajima described as fusing “contemporary design and comfortable fabrics with traditional values.” And last month, an event billed as the first “modest fashion” week was held at the Saatchi Gallery during London Fashion Week.

Behind this shift in tastes and preferences are a cadre of amateur designers and bloggers who amassed millions of followers on social media and grabbed the attention of big brands.

“It’s not like we just started to wear hijab,” said Mariah Idrissi, 24, who in 2015 became the first person to wear a hijab in an H&M ad campaign. “We’ve had this industry for a very long time, and they never really took notice.”

That seemed to change after bloggers proved they could attract huge followings.

Dina Torkia, 27 years old, started out posting pictures of her own clothing designs on Facebook five years ago, but people kept asking about how to style a hijab.

She turned to YouTube, where she showed people how to create a “volumised” style. In one video, she showed viewers 20 different ways to tie a scarf.

“Think of it like a haircut,” she said. “People get bored of their hairstyles, so we get bored of our hijab styles.”

Torkia-known as Dina Tokio to her 1.1 million Instagram fans and more than half-million YouTube subscribers-blogs about finding clothes that reflect her faith-based values of dressing modestly.

She has released her own lines and worked with a number of brands, including London high-end department stores Liberty and Harvey Nichols, as well as French luxury house Lancôme.

The market has been obvious for years. In 2015, Muslim women are estimated to have spent $44 billion on modest fashion alone, according to a Thomson Reuters report.

Muslims make up 23 per cent of the world’s population, and the Pew Research Center expects the figure to grow to 29.7 per cent by 2050.

Religious women-not just Muslims, but Jews and Christians as well-have long struggled to find clothes that are both modest and trendy.

Rabia Zargarpur, one of the pioneer designers in the modest-fashion world, said that when she started wearing a headscarf around 2001, she drew styling inspiration from Erykah Badu, who isn’t Muslim.

In 2009, Zargarpur opened an online store selling her own designs, including long-sleeved shirts and tops that would cover hips.

Zargarpur-or Rabia Z as she’s known-showed off her first runway collection in 2007 at the Dubai International Fashion Week.

Big retail brands started to get in touch, but she said she thinks they weren’t ready to make the leap.

“The regional stores were super-excited because they knew that it would sell well,” she said. “But I would go to headquarters, and they would always hesitate. They said ‘Oh, we’re busy with other projects,’ but I know that it was the hijab aspect.”

It was around the time Torkia started posting her designs on Facebook that some of today’s most prominent fashion bloggers started to express themselves online.

Kuwait-based Ascia al-Faraj, 27 years old, started blogging in 2012 and has quickly become one of the region’s most influential fashion writers, amassing more than 2.1 million followers on Instagram.

Al-Faraj has worked with a series of premium brands, and she has hinted that her latest collaboration is with Net-a-Porter, the online luxury retailer. The company didn’t return requests for comment.

Robbie Sinclair, womenswear editor of the trend-forecasting service WGSN, said that beyond the potential for sales growth, companies are purposefully trying to stand out by making bold statements that can veer into the political realm.

Nike released two ads in February featuring women wearing headscarves.

The company also changed its bio on Twitter to simply read: “If we can be equals in sport, we can be equals everywhere.” The second targeted the Middle East and highlighted five female athletes from the region.

Sinclair said it’s only a matter of time before more companies incorporate modest fashion into their collections. “Something’s always just an idea until someone does it,” he said.

It’s more than just headscarves. While the event in London mostly attracted Muslim women, Torkia thinks modest fashion can be for anyone. “I think we need to take Muslim out of it,” she said. “I’m pretty sure every religion promotes modesty.” – The Washington Post

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Women in Lismore, Australia united to combat Islamophobia

Lismore City, South Wales, Australia, 10 March 2017, (IINA) – When women from the northern New South Wales city of Lismore in Australia heard about eggs and lit cigarettes being thrown at their Muslim sisters, they decided to stage an event to combat Islamophobia in the community.

About 100 people attended the event titled ‘Mariam’s Day: Muslim and non-Muslim women talking, weaving traditions and lives together’ to share stories and ask questions in an attempt to gain a greater understanding of each other, ABC News reported.

Guest speaker and former Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said she had witnessed a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in the community throughout the past two years.

“The worst one was a woman who was holding her little baby outside where they lived and they were farewelling someone and the baby suddenly started crying and she realized she had raw egg running down her clothing,” Dowell said.

“The baby was hit on the head with a raw egg by someone in a car going past that yelled something out.

“It’s been happening since the rise in Islamophobia and it made me feel really sick. I wanted to reassure those people: ‘don’t judge Lismore, please, by these incidents. It doesn’t surprise me because I think it happens everywhere,” she said.

Guest speaker Dr Zuleyha Keskin, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Charles Sturt University, said it was a strange feeling arriving in Lismore wearing a hijab.

“It’s very different to being in Sydney or Melbourne where it’s more multicultural,” she said. “Here, I really feel it. I went to the shops and there was no one else wearing a hijab and I think everyone was of Anglo-Saxon background. You really do feel like a minority and people do look. I don’t think it’s necessarily a racist look but it’s ‘oh, there’s something different’.”

Lismore resident and Muslim woman Rashida Joseph said the worst discrimination she had experienced occurred shortly after the US World Trade Centre attacks in 2001.

“A few days after 9/11 I was getting money out of an ATM and a man pushed my head into the ATM and my head was split open,” she said. “I also had a live cigarette thrown into my car at the lights. I arrived at work one day I work with refugees who are Muslims and there were faeces smeared all over the front door. Having said all of that, I’ve also had incredible support from non-Muslims, so you have to put things in proportion. We’re in it together.”

Despite their experiences of discrimination, all of the speakers said they felt hopeful about the future when communities like Lismore came together to stage events like Mariam’s Day.

Dr Keskin said she hoped to have dispelled several myths about Muslim women.

“There are so many myths, like that women in Islam are oppressed,” she said. “For me, Islam empowers women. It encourages me to get an education and to speak my mind. Wearing a hijab is not oppressive, it’s empowering because it’s something I’ve decided to do for my religion. It’s about moving away from a physical focus to the spiritual, the internal and the character.”

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Can wrestling break through at the Islamic Games

12 March 2017, (MENAFN – Jordan Times) – Under the watchful eye of one of Jordan’s greatest ever athletes, there are high hopes from the the new crop of wrestlers, according to the Jordan Olympic Committee News Service.

Yahya Abu Tabeekh retired from his glorious career last year following a decade of competing at the very top of the sport.

It was a natural progression to step into coaching and alongside Ra’ed Al Qaisi he is preparing for Jordan wrestling’s first participation at a major multi-sport event under his supervision.

‘We have stepped up training to twice per day for two hours each session,’ said Abu Tabeekh, who is preparing six wrestlers for the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku from May 12-22.

‘I know how fit and stro you need to be to succeed at these tournaments so we are able to prepare the athletes to be ready mentally and physically.’

Qaisi said the Islamic Solidarity Games are an important early step for his athletes to test their current level against tough opponents as they plan for more Asian and World level participation.

‘Baku is important for us,’ he said. ‘Some of the best wrestling countries will be participating, so it will be like a semi-World Cup for us. The best in the world will be there so it will be great for our athletes to compete and build their experience.’

Jordan is competing in 11 sports in Baku with around 70 athletes.

The wrestlers competing are Ahmad Dahshan, Mustafa Al Qadi, Hamzeh Awd Allah, Sultan Al Damen, Ameer Ishakat and Asem Kharabsheh.

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US$210 million financing from IsDB for Guinea’s transport sector

Jeddah, KSA, 2 March 2017, (IDB News) – A US $210 million financing support agreement was signed on March 2nd, 2017 at the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) headquarters between IsDB Group President, Dr. Bandar Hajjar, and Guinea’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, H.E. Kanny Diallo, who is also the IsDB Governor for the country.

Under the document, the IsDB shall contribute US $210 million to the Republic of Guinea for the construction of two regional integration roads projects; the Dabola – Kouroussa road, and the Guekedou -Kissoudougou – Kondembradou. Both projects aim to establish an efficient connection between Guinea and neighboring countries facilitating trade with Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia; a major step forward for economic growth of Guinea that will greatly contribute to the government’s strategy for poverty eradication.

Other objectives of the projects are: enhancing the contribution of the private transport sector to the economic development of Guinea thanks to the national road network densification; enhancing transfer of goods; persons and services in new mining areas of Upper Guinea and the Forest Regions of the country; reduction of transport costs; reinforcement of regional exchanges amongst Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone; Cote d’Ivoire, and Mali; improving the living conditions of the local populations due to easier access to social facilities; as well as easier access to main urban centers crossed by both projects.

During the meeting, Minister Kanny Diallo handed over a message from the President of Guinea on the partnership with the IsDB Group. The two also discussed the highlights of Guinea’s national socio-economic development plan, which was recently drawn.

Minister Kanny Diallo invited the IsDB to participate in supporting the plan and mobilizing resources for it in cooperation with the Coordination Group.

She further expressed the Guineans President’s readiness to cooperation with the IsDB in implementing economic development projects in Africa as Guinea currently heads the African Union.

The IsDB Group President, for his part, welcomed cooperation with the current President of the African Union in supporting the recommended projects along the Trans-Sahara Road Project to help achieve the socio-economic and facilitate creation of job opportunities for the youth in the IsDB member countries.

With an active portfolio of 13 development projects in Guinea totaling US $534 million, the IsDB’s accumulative development financing contributions to the country stands at US $875 million covering various projects in agriculture, infrastructure, industry, trade, and human development.

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