NDA will be short regional parties will have big say in government

first_imgKolkata: Predicting that the BJP-led NDA would fall short of the majority mark of 272 seats in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, Trinamool Congress has said regional parties will have a “big say” in the formation of next government but remained evasive on the issue of Prime Ministership. Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Derek O’Brien, while expressing confidence that his party would have the third largest tally, also predicted that the NDA would break after the elections and “many” non-BJP parties would work together to form a government at the Centre. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “trying to create an impression that he is ahead” which is nothing but a defensive tactic being projected as an “offensive” one, O’Brien, TMC’s Parliamentary Party leader in the Rajya Sabha, told IANS here. “The reality is that NDA is not even close to 272 (the majority mark). This is all actually defensive tactics but he (Modi) is trying to pretend that he is being on the offensive,” he said. TMC and the BJP are locked in a direct fight for the 42 Lok Sabha seats of West Bengal, with the saffron party giving a big push to its campaigning to ensure it bags a substantial number of seats here at the cost of ruling party of the state. The Prime Minister and BJP President Amit Shah have addressed several rallies in West Bengal over the last few weeks in a bid to raise the party’s poll prospects in the state where polling has already been held in 18 seats in four phases. Speaking about the likely poll-poll scenario, O’Brien insisted that the BJP will not be able to lead the NDA to form a government in New Delhi. “There are many parties which do not want to be (with them), especially the smaller and north east parties, which always stay with those forming the government,” the 58-year-old famous quizmaster-cum-author-cum-ad man said. “The NDA will break up after the results and maybe, all the north east parties will go,” he predicted and asked, “Why can’t these parties work with us?” In such a backdrop, all parties, which are not with the NDA, would work together, he added. “All I am telling you now is that the regional parties will have a big say (in forming an anti-BJP government),” he asserted. Asked whether the Congress would be part of the alternate coalition, the TMC leader said, “Our position is very clear. We work with all to defeat the BJP”. He went on to add, “The Congress and the CPI-M are working to defeat the Trinamool in Bengal. There is a Bengal match to be played and there is another match in Delhi and we understand there is difference between the two.” On whether his party would extend support to Rahul Gandhi for the Prime Ministership if the Congress does well, O’Brien said, “Such questions are to be answered after May 23… If the Congress gets 272 seats (in the 543-seat Lok Sabha), they will choose whoever they want as PM.” Asked to respond to Modi and Shah regularly ridiculing TMC chief Mamata Banerjee over her purported ambition to become the Prime Minister by contesting so few seats, O’Brien said, “We are100 per cent certain that we will continue to be the third largest party after the ongoing polls. We acknowledge two parties (BJP and Congress) may have bigger numbers than us.” Attacking the Prime Minister, he said, “I am not surprised at Modi’s remarks, as he does not believe in the Constitution of India that says 272 MPs will elect the leader. ” He went on to add, “He has to go. All of us are very clear that he will have to go.” Lambasting the Modi government, the TMC leader said it was destroying all institutions. “Parliament’s principal job is to legislate and scrutinise bills. 70 per cent of bills were scrutinised in India before the BJP came to power. But under Modi, only about 20 per cent of bills get scrutinized,” the Rajya Sabha member said. O’Brien did not agree that the contours of the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) envisaged at the January 19 Brigade Parade ground rally had failed to crystalise. “Everything is fine and Mahagatbandhan is absolutely in place. The BJP wants to pretend that it is not in place,” he said. O’Brien, who had worked for years as a creative head of an advertisement agency, quoted legendary advertisement guru David Ogilvy to punch a hole in the BJP campaign. “Ogilvy said if you have a good product, it may sell with bad advertising. The BJP sold a bad product with good advertising in 2014… They have sold all the dreams in 2014. Had they delivered even half of what they promised, they would have got three-fourth majority. But they have been an all-round failure,” he said.last_img read more

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For me Irrfan is the biggest Khan Kareena Kapoor

first_imgMumbai: Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Salman Khan — actress Kareena Kapoor Khan has worked with all of them on the big screen, but she feels most “privileged” to join creative forces with Irrfan Khan in “Angrezi Medium”. Kareena will be playing a small yet significant role of a policewoman in “Angrezi Medium”, a sequel to the 2017 film “Hindi Medium”. Asked about how she is preparing for the role, Kareena told IANS here: “Oh God, I am super excited for this film. I have worked with all the Khans — Shah Rukh, Salman, Aamir and Saif. But for me, it is an honour and privilege to work with Irrfan Khan. Also Read – ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ has James Cameron’s fingerprints all over it: Arnold Schwarzenegger “He is the pioneer, one of the finest actors among all the Khans if I may say, and he is the biggest Khan for me. So, I had to tick that box of acting with Irrfan Khan. I know it is a small role but that does not matter. I know I am too excited, and I am really looking forward to this one.” The actress will start shooting for the film from May 15. It also features Radhika Madan and Pankaj Tripathi. Kareena has finished shooting the Akshay Kumar-starrer “Good News”, which also stars Diljit Dosanjh. Also Read – Salman pays tribute to Vinod Khanna on ‘Dabangg 3′ wrap up Talking of Diljit, he has not been shy about his admiration for international reality TV star Kylie Jenner, and recently made a song titled “Kylie+Kareena”. Kareena, who worked with him in “Udta Punjab”, feels overwhelmed. “Diljit wrote the song and I am humbled and touched. He is a fine actor, really. Our first outing was �Udta Punjab’, which was a serious and intense story. “That film was special but �Good News’ is different as it is slightly in the comedy zone. So, it is easy to watch. But we really have a good story,” added the mother of 2-year-old Taimur Ali Khan, who is already a favourite among the paparazzi. While Kareena is “okay” with the attention that her son draws, she says what she dislikes is “when people call him a star”. “He is not… he is the child of star parents. He has to be an achiever in the future. But for now, let him live free,” she said. Kareena spoke to IANS on the sidelines of the 3rd edition of Radio4Child Award 2019, an initiative by Unicef. She says being a mother, such child care campaigns and initiatives are very close to her heart as she has realized how crucial the first two years of a child’s life are. “The vaccination, breastfeeding for the first six months, setting a routine that makes a pattern of eating, sleeping and also the warmth of the mother…everything has to be in place. “When you are a new mother, you might be unaware of such things. But with these campaigns like #EveryChildAlive, we are creating more awareness on child care,” added Unicef’s Celebrity Advocate.last_img read more

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Man kills wife for dowry in cop net

first_imgKolkata: A 20-year-old woman was allegedly beaten to death by her husband at Mathurapur in South 24-Parganas on Sunday. Later, police arrested her husband on charges of murder.According to sources, approximately two months ago, Jasmina Mondal of Bakultala got married to Sahensha Gazi of Tentulberia in Mathurapur. Before marriage Gazi’s family members did not claim any money or valuables as dowry. On the contrary, they had reportedly told Mondal’s family that they do not want any dowry. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaBut the scenario changed after their marriage. After a few days of their marriage, Gazi allegedly demanded money from Mondal. When she refused, she was allegedly beaten up regularly by her husband. On Sunday, Mondal was supposed to go to Bakultala as her name in the voters’ list was registered there. When Mondal was about start her journey to Bakultala, Gazi allegedly picked up a fight with her. When she told Gazi that she would go to cast her vote, Gazi reportedly started beating Mondal. Gazi called up Mondal’s family to inform them that their daughter had committed suicide. After her parents and other family members reached the hospital, they found that Mondal was dead. Later, Mondal’s family lodged a complaint against Gazi and his family members at the Mathurapur police station. On the basis of the complaint, police officers arrested Gazi. However, his family members managed to escape and evade arrest.last_img read more

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Algeria Internal Conflict between Military and Intelligence services

first_imgRabat – Middle East Newsline has issued a new report which confirms a split between the military and intelligence services in Algeria.According to daily Al Massaa newspaper, MENL’s report said that there has been tension between the intelligence agency and ranking military figures.The internal conflict has intensified lately with president’s absence due to illness. According to the same source, the split comes two months before the presidential elections that may lead Abdelazize Boutaflika to his fourth term.The report notes that this is the first time when the clash has been made public.The U.S. and France have already called on Algeria to conduct a cleansing operation in its intelligence agency, after the French secret service accused the Algerian Security Intelligence Services of kidnapping Europeans.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributedlast_img read more

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Roma target new defender to replace soon to leave Benatia

Rabat – AS Roma is eyeing Olympiakos defender Kostas Manolas as a potential replacement for Moroccan international Mehdi Benatia who is set to leave the Stadio Olimpico side for Bavarian giants of Bayern Munich before the end of the summer transfer window.Media reports said that Benatia’s agent, Moussa Sissoko, went to Munich to negotiate his client’s personal terms with Bayern after the Moroccan player has been reported to reject a contract extension with Roma.Several European teams expressed interest in having Benatia including Premiere League heavyweights Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. Bayern are attempting to clinch the Benatia deal for 30 million euros, which is not enough for the Giallorossi who demand 35 million to release their rock strong defender.Other reports suggest that Mehdi Benatia will have a medical with Bayern on Wednesday, which rules out scenarios that he might join Monaco or some English team.Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images read more

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Polisario Lashes out at France for Supporting Morocco on Western Sahara

Rabat – The Polisario Front criticized  France on Tuesday, accusing it of “systematically aligning with Morocco” on the Western Sahara dispute.“We know that France is sensitive to the stability of Morocco, but its policy is against the interests of the people of the Maghreb,” said Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, a leader of the “Polisario,” at a press conference, according to AFP.Relations between Paris and Rabat have returned to normal last week, with the two countries restoring judicial cooperation after a year of being embroiled in a diplomatic row. Judicial cooperation was suspended in February 2014 after complaints in France against senior Moroccan officials, followed by a series of incidents and diplomatic blunders.Last month, Romain Nadal, the spokesperson of the French foreign affairs ministry said that the “stance of France over the Western Sahara issue is well-known and remains unchanged.”“France supports the search for a just, lasting and mutually-agreed solution, under the UN aegis and pursuant to UNSC resolution,” he added. read more

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Leaders Gather in Rabat to Advance Interfaith Dialogue

By Robert AllenRabat – Wednesday marked the inauguration of the Center for Research and Training in Interfaith Relations at the Rabita Mohammadia des Oulémas headquarters in Rabat.The event started with the Canadian Ambassador Nathalie Dubé and Ambassador to the European Union Rupert Joy addressing the attendees about the necessity of interfaith and intercultural dialogue. While Ambassador Joy stated that the formation of the EU was itself an example of bridging cultural norms, further dialogue will be needed to address growing tensions in Europe regarding the current refugee crisis. During a discussion on the concept of mutual acceptance across different religious texts, Rev. Karen Smith from Akhwayn University in Ifrane stated that she was specifically avoiding using the word tolerance in her arguments. “I never used that word,” she said in response to a question regarding Evangelical teachings of tolerance. “Tolerance is to greet your teeth and smile,” she claimed as she explained that rather than tolerating our differences, we should embrace them.The exchange itself highlighted the hurdle of maintaining the subtle nature of an argument over the linguistic divides that often accompany these types of dialogue.Bringing the discussion from interpretation to application, Dr. Farid El Asri from the International University Rabat stressed the importance of the “integration of text into…reality,” and “how to make interpretations in modern time.”Mr. Shamil Idriss, CEO for the US based nongovernmental organization Search for Common Ground, in trying to dispel myths surrounding interfaith dialogue, emphasized that an “agreement is irrelevant when trying to obtain progress through dialogue.” He maintained that researchers from MIT have found that the most important part of any dialogue is the free exchange of ideas and beliefs, not necessarily an agreement.Mr. Idriss also warned that the essence of a religious leader shouldn’t always be to speak out against those who are against the idea of mutual acceptance. “Don’t silence them, but give them a platform to be heard” he said, contending that the only way to reach people who work against efforts towards an interfaith society is to bring them into the dialogue.The inaugural event ended with an interfaith musical concert at Rabat’s national library, a project from the Belgian/Moroccan artist Rafik El Maai. The concert featured traditional songs from multiple cultures and faiths, including a rendition of the famous American protest song “We Shall Overcome” both in its original English and Arabic translations. read more

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Algerias Bouteflika Names Abdelmajid Tebboune New Prime Minister

Rabat – Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika appointed former housing minister Abdelmajid Tebboune Prime Minister on Wednesday, replacing Abdelmalek Sellal in the wake of parliamentary elections, reported the APS state news agency.The decision came after former Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal submitted his resignation to the Algerian president  following the session of the new national assembly on Tuesday, May 23.“Bouteflika has also instructed the members of Sellal’s government to attend to the current affairs of their respective sectors, pending the appointment of the government,” said the same source. At 71, Tebboune and the 80-year-old president have some history together. The latter named the new Prime Minister Minister of Culture in his first government in 1999 and Minister of Housing in 2012.The newly appointed Prime Minister, is known for making a number of unfulfilled promises for the good of Algeria.One of the main authorizing officers of the [Algerian construction and public work markets, Tebboune recently promised to release a large part of accounts payable to debtor construction companies, promise that was not kept and now awaits his attention as the new Prime Minister.He has also been the central figure in previous scandals. Evening of Algeria reported in October 2015 that a housing scam ran for seven years under his watch without the Ministry of Housing  intervention. “The equivalent of 800 fictitious houses were sold on plans on sites to draw a large number of subscribers who naively fell into the scam and who were perhaps compelled, in spite of themselves, to vote for the candidate of the system at the last presidential campaign,” according to the site.Moroccan news outlet, le 360 reported recently that Tabboune blames the ills of Algeria on “foreign hands,” especially “those” of Morocco. read more

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Moroccan ECommerce Outlet Hmizate Mall Makes Forbes Top 100 Startups in

By Hajar EL KahlaouiRabat – Kamal Reggad, founder and CEO of the Menaclick group (Hmizate and Hmall), has ranked on Forbes’s list of 100 most promising startups of the Arab World in 2017.Reggad was chosen for creating Hmizate Mall, a daily-deal e-commerce site launched in 2011 that offers discounts in restaurants, spas, cinemas, hotels, and other businesses in the big cities of Morocco. The site was voted the number one e-commerce site for two consecutive years and the best Moroccan innovating brand for the year of 2012. The Casablanca-based entrepreneur studied computer science and computer engineering and management in Northeastern University.Kamal is currently focused on building the e-commerce industry in Morocco, with a vision to change the way Moroccans shop. In June 2012, Kamal launched the first online marketplace in Morocco, Hmall.ma. With Hmizate Mall, Kamal works to provide thousands of merchants the opportunity to connect with consumers throughout the country.This year, Forbes compiled three lists to rank the brightest startups and investors in the Arab World.Fetchr, a GPS-based shipping based in the United Arab Emirates, is on the top of the list. Founded in 2012, the app offers fast delivery service anywhere in the Gulf country.Anghami, a Lebanese music streaming platform, is ranked second, providing unlimited music on-the-go on mobile.The Forbes list contains startups offering varied services, such as customized travel services, online payment processing solutions, and online hotel booking from around the Arab world. read more

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Appointment of 50 Heads of Higher Education Institutions Still Valid Minister

Rabat – Minister of Education Said Amzazi has denied news reports pointing to the end of the Ministry of Education’s programme to appoint 50 heads of higher education institutions.The Ministry of Education will continue its programme, creating 50 new prominent positions in higher education and scientific research, contrary to false news claims that the programme was set to be canceled. Minister Said Amzazi responded to the reports, calling the claims “false” and reiterating that the application is still open. Amzazi confirmed the appointment process is progressing smoothly, and higher education institutions maintain business-as-usual functioning. Born in 1962 in Sefrou, Amzazi was appointed as Minister of Education, Vocational Training, and Scientific Research in January 2018. He holds a PhD in biology and served as the former Dean of Faculty of Sciences in Rabat.The Ministry of Education, under the supervision of former Minister of Education, Vocational training and Scientific Research Mohamed Hassad, previously pledged to address the lack of educators in Morocco by creating 24,000 new teaching positions throughout the ongoing 2017-2018 school year. read more

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Moroccan Tourism Kicks Off with Promising Start in 2018

Rabat – 2018 looks to be an auspicious year for tourism in Morocco. Visits, overnights stays, and revenues have already showed double-digit growth over the first few of months of 2018. During the first two months of 2018, Morocco welcomed 1.5 million tourists, achieving an increase of 12 percent compared to the first months of the previous year, reports Moroccan business newspaper L’Economiste. French tourists top the list, comprising 11 percent of all visits made to Morocco. The Spanish follow the French, accounting for over 5 percent of Morocco’s tourists. Visits by Moroccans residing abroad (MREs) continue to show significant growth, especially among MREs residing in Germany and Italy. Visits among MREs from each country increased by 18 percent each, followed by 11 percent in Holland, and 10 percent in the United Kingdom. Tourism revenues mirrored this growth, reaching MAD 9.8 billion at the end of February, compared to MAD 7.7 billion in 2017. This marks a 30 percent increase. Additionally, foreign exchange revenues reached MAD 4.14 billion in February, reflecting 19 percent growth.Overnight stays at recognized accommodations throughout Morocco rose by 13 percent at the end of February. However, Marrakech and Agadir remained dominant, absorbing 61 percent of the total volume of overnights stays during January and February 2018. Stays at recognized accommodation establishments have also increased by 15 percent in Marrakech and by 10 percent in Agadir. Other key destinations that experienced this increase: Fez with an increase of more than 26 percent; Tangier, over 17 percent; Rabat, more than 15 percent; and Casablanca, over 12 percent. L’Economiste also notes a discernible increase in Chinese tourists, whose number have multiplied tenfold between 2015 and 2017—reaching a total of 100,000 visitors. During the China-Morocco Tourism Forum (held early February in Casablanca), the Moroccan Minister of Tourism, Air Transport, Handicrafts and Social Economy, Mohamed Sajid, announced that Morocco hopes to welcome a total of 500,000 Chinese tourists by 2020. read more

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CIES Moroccos Achraf Hakimi Best Fullback in European Leagues

Rabat – The International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) has ranked Borussia Dortmund’s star Achraf Hakimi as the top fullback  in the European leagues in the last three months.With a score of 85.3, Hakimi outperformed several internationally renowned fullbacks, including Brazilian Juventus star Alex Sandro, who was ranked second with a score of 84.5. Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich came third with a score of 83.9, while Joao Cancelo of Juventus was  fourth with a score of 82.9. Dortmund signed a 2-year loan for the Atlas Lion with Real Madrid in July.The 20-year-old football player made his official debut at the Santiago Bernabeu in October 2017. He has since become one of Morocco’s key players and proved his worth alongside the Atlas Lions during the 2018 World Cup in Russia.Read Also: Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi Scores Goal in First Game with DortmundDortmund is highly satisfied with Hakimi’s performance this season in the Bundesliga.The managing director of the German football club, Hans-Joachim Watzke, announced Dortmund’s intention to convert Hakim’s loan contract to a permanent agreement after convincing Real Madrid.After securing a deal with Paco Alcacer, who had been playing for Dortmund on loan from Barcelona, Watke said as Sport reported, “Dear Paco Alcacer, welcome to Borussia Dortmund … We hope to do the same thing with Achraf Hakimi, but it will not be easy.” In February, CIES Football Observatory ranked the international footballer among Europe’s “50 most promising under-20 footballers.” read more

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Baby eel fishermen hope for year free of poaching shutdowns

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine fishermen began several weeks of taking to rivers and streams to fish for baby eels Friday, which marked the start of a high-stakes season harvesters hope isn’t interrupted by poaching concerns as it was a year ago.Fishermen in Maine use nets to harvest baby eels, called elvers, to feed demand from Asian aquaculture companies, who use them as seed stock.The tiny eels are the source of one of the most valuable fisheries in the country on a per-pound basis, and they were worth a record of more than $2,300 per pound last year. Maine’s home to the only significant elver fishery in the country.Last year’s season was shut down two weeks early by state regulators after investigators found that illegal sales had caused Maine to blow past its quota for the eels. New controls on the fishery are expected to clamp down on clandestine sales, and the use of a swipe card system to record transactions remains in effect.Darrell Young, co-director of the Maine Elver Fishermen Association, said the health of the fishery also depends on members of the industry “behaving themselves” this time around.“Buyers wanted to find their way around the swipe cards. They just made it harder for everybody else,” Young said.The elvers are raised to maturity in aquaculture facilities so they can be used as food, such as kabayaki, which is a skewered, filleted cut of the fish. Most of the world’s eel is produced in China, and the fish is especially popular as food in Japan. Some of the elvers harvested in Maine eventually come back to the United States for use in sushi restaurants.An interstate fishing commission set the quota at 9,688 pounds. That was about the amount of elvers Maine fishermen harvested in 2014, when regulators decided to tighten controls on the fishery. The quota had previously been more than 2,000 pounds higher.The elver fishing season has the ability to run until June 7, but it ends earlier if fishermen tap out the quota before then.Elver fishing sometimes begins slowly and heats up in April and May because fishermen need rivers and streams to thaw before they can fish.American elvers became especially valuable in the early 2010s, when other country’s eel fisheries faltered. They’ve been worth anywhere from $875 to $2,366 per pound since.Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press read more

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Chile Supports Moroccos Autonomy Proposal for Western Sahara

By Abdessamad El BazRabat –  Morocco is garnering more international support for its position on the Western Sahara, as well as the autonomy proposal it submitted to the Security Council in 2007. Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, and the president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, released a joint statement on Friday in which Chile affirmed its support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative. Chile asserted its “support for the efforts of the UN Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, as well as the serious efforts of Morocco and the Plan of Autonomywith a view to reaching a realistic, viable and definitive political solution”, according to a joint statement reported by Maghreb Arab Agency (MAP). Mr. Bourita informed the Chilean side of the latest developments concerning the Western Sahara conflict and the growing international support for the autonomy plan that Morocco proposed in April 2007.Both countries also expressed their interest in bilateral cooperation in various sectors.The meeting is part of Bourita’s official four-day tour to four Latin American countries (The Dominican Republic, Republic of Suriname, Brazil, and Chile).Read Also: Morocco-Dominican Republic: Exemption of Tourist, Business VisasThe Dominican RepublicOn Thursday, June 11, Mr. Bourita was received by President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina. The two officials held a joint statement, Santo Domingo, in which the Dominican Republic saw the autonomy initiative presented by Morocco “a realistic, credible and serious basis to reach a negotiated result by the parties.”Mr. Bourita conveyed a verbal message from King Mohammed VI to the president of the Dominican Republic. The message expressed Morocco’s determination to increase its bilateral relations and its partnership with the country. The Republic of SurinameOn June 12, Mr. Bourita met Suriname’s Vice President, Michael Ashwin Adhi to reaffirm both countries bilateral agreements.Read Also: Dominican Republic Reiterates Support for Morocco’s Territorial IntegrityThe Caribbean country ”reiterates its decision taken on March 9, 2016, and communicated to the United Nations, under which it withdrew its recognition of the so-called Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)”, according to the joint statement.Mr. Bourita also met his Suriname counterpart, Yldiz Pollack-Beighle. The meeting “focused on several issues of common interest related to trade, investment, connectivity, cultural exchanges, tourism and the exchange of experiences.”, according to MAP.BrazilOn June 13, Mr. Bourita met with his Brazilian counterpart, Ernesto Araujo to discuss possible solutions to the Sahara region dispute. ”On the issue of the Sahara, a vital issue for Morocco, Brazil supports Morocco’s efforts to reach a realistic solution to this issue, which has lasted for decades,” Araujo pointed out.Araujo also emphasizes the friendships that bind both countries and promised that Brazil will work into finding any solutions to the Sahara conflict that go beyond “rhetoric”.In this meeting, Morocco and Brazil signed several agreements aiming at covering various areas of ”investment, defence, mutual legal assistance…”, according to MAP.Brazil, Chile, Republic of Suriname, and the Dominican Republic join a list of countries that consider Morocco’s autonomy plan as a solution for the Western Sahara conflict.The Republic of El Salvador has recently considered reviewing its stance on the Sahara conflict issuing a statement saying that new President Nayib Bukele is evaluating the country’s position on Western Sahara. “Once the evaluations are concluded, the government of El Salvador will inform the international community of its decision in this regard.” read more

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Asian markets lower oil rises on Iran concerns

BEIJING — Asian stock markets were mostly lower while oil prices surged for a second day Monday following reports Washington wants to block Iranian exports.Tokyo’s benchmark edged up while Shanghai, Seoul and India retreated. Hong Kong and Sydney were closed for the holiday.On Wall Street, the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index ended a shortened trading week Thursday snapping a winning streak of three weekly gains.Investors looked ahead to U.S. quarterly gross domestic product due out Friday. Also this week, the United States reports new home sales Tuesday while Japan announces factory output on Friday.“The broad expectation is for U.S. indices to grind higher,” said Jingyi Pan of IG Markets in a report.“However, with prices nearing all-time highs, some sense of caution may be bound to set in,” Pan said. “Earnings and the first reading of U.S. Q1 GDP at the end of the week would be key for markets.”Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index rose 12 points to 22,213.37 and Seoul’s Kospi gained 0.1% to 2,218.47. The Shanghai Composite Index sank 1.4% to 3,250.91.Benchmarks in Taiwan and Singapore rose while Jakarta retreated.On Thursday, the S&P 500 gained 0.2% to 2,905.03 before closing for Good Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4% to 26,559.54. The Nasdaq composite added less than 0.1% to 7,998.06.Oil prices rose following news reports the Trump administration will tell five nations, including allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey, they will no longer be exempt from U.S. sanctions if they import oil from Iran.Washington wants to step up pressure on Tehran by cutting of export revenue, U.S. officials told The Associated Press.If successful, that could boost demand for supplies from U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates but would heighten political tensions.“The big fear now and perhaps the markets’ next significant catalyst, will Iran retaliate with force?” said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management in a report.Benchmark U.S. crude surged $1.55 to $65.62 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.20 on Friday to close at $64.07. Brent crude, used to price international oils, soared $1.79 to $73.76 per barrel in London. It gained 35 cents the previous session to $71.97.CURRENCY: The dollar gained to 111.94 yen from Friday’s 111.91 yen. The euro declined to $1.1239 from $1.1245.Joe McDonald, The Associated Press read more

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Deal or no deal US and Chinese sides resume trade talks

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he and other negotiators for the Trump administration should know this week or next whether they can reach a trade deal with China — or whether it’s time to “move on.”Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are travelling to Beijing to resume talks Tuesday to try to end a yearlong trade war between the world’s two largest economies. A Chinese team is scheduled to visit Washington next week for another round of talks.The two sides are locked in a standoff over the Trump administration’s charges that Beijing steals technology and forces foreign companies operating in China to hand over trade secrets.Paul Wiseman, The Associated Press

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Nepal UN envoy calls for frank assessment of electoral outlook

Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Nepal, told a press conference in Kathmandu that the UN Mission to the South Asian country (UNMIN) is willing to expand its mandate to help implement the peace process, but will only do so if requested by the people of Nepal. He stressed that credible Constituent Assembly elections cannot take place until the peace process is on a more solid footing. “This requires not just the setting of a date, but agreement on a road map which will ensure that there is not yet another failure to hold the election on whatever new date is agreed,” Mr. Martin said, in his first press conference after returning from New York, where he briefed the Security Council on the latest developments. “Despite the best efforts of the Election Commission, with which UNMIN has worked closely, two dates set for the election have come and gone. It is now time for a frank analysis by Nepali politicians and civil society of why this has been the case, and what are the requirements for a successful electoral process to go forward.” The elections were initially to be held mid-year but then delayed until 22 November. But the interim Government announced last month that the polls were being postponed again to an as yet undetermined date because of ongoing disputes between the Seven-Party Alliance that comprises the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M). Once elected, the Constituent Assembly is supposed to draft a new constitution for Nepal, where an estimated 13,000 people were killed during the decade-long civil conflict that formally ended when the Government and Maoists signed a peace accord last year. Mr. Martin told reporters that there are several areas in which UNMIN can help the peace process if the Government and the other political parties are willing to show their support. These include improving public security at a time of rising concerns among Nepalese about this issue, setting up a commission to investigate disappearances, and better managing the process of reforming the country’s security sector, especially the role of Maoist combatants. UNMIN’s current mandate expires on 22 January, although Mr. Martin has previously said the Security Council is likely to extend the mandate. The envoy voiced dismay at the recent increase in unresolved killings and abductions across Nepal, “whether attributed to armed Madhesi groups, Maoist cadres, or local disputes. Nepal has lived far too long with violence and intimidation, and I appeal again at this season for a commitment to tolerance and non-violence, but also for an end to impunity.” But he added that there had been some recent positive signs, including the efforts within the Seven-Party Alliance to reach a compromise and the respectful spirit of recent parliamentary proceedings. 6 November 2007Nepal’s politicians and civil society must conduct a clear assessment of why elections for its Constituent Assembly have had to be postponed twice this year, the senior United Nations envoy to the country said today, calling on all sides to outline a realistic road map for the future. read more

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UN launches global campaign to make hospitals safe from disasters

Natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods can within minutes wreak havoc on communities, destroying basic infrastructures and services and dealing a cruel blow to local populations. Millions of people are left without emergency care during and after disasters when hospitals and health facilities fail to function. To protect health facilities from such hazards, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) is launching the “Hospitals Safe from Disasters” campaign tomorrow in Davos, Switzerland, along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. “The price we pay for the failure of hospitals when disasters happen is too high. In comparison, the cost of making hospitals safe is tiny,” says Salvano Briceño, Director of the ISDR secretariat. “The most expensive hospital is the one that fails.” Recent examples highlight the tremendous impact that disasters can have on local health systems. On 5 August 2007, in just two minutes, the Peruvian city of Pisco lost 97 per cent of its hospital beds to an 8.0 magnitude earthquake. In addition, the October 2005 earthquake that struck Pakistan completely destroyed half of the heath facilities in the affected areas, and the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami wiped out 61 per cent of the health facilities in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. In addition to denying access to primary health care for those affected, damage to facilities and health systems could disrupt essential services such as routine immunization or maternal and child health care for months after a tragedy. Among the objectives of the new campaign is to reinforce the structural resilience of health facilities, and to ensure that they continue to function after a disaster has struck. It will also train health workers on preparedness plans that will keep health systems operational in the wake of disasters. “With current knowledge and strong political commitment it is possible to protect health facilities from disasters, even with the limited resources available in developing countries,” says Dr. Ala Alwan, Assistant Director-General for Heath Action in Crises at WHO. The agency is providing technical support to countries to help them mitigate the effects of disasters on existing and new health facilities, which will help protect the health of the population in areas affected by disaster. The Hyogo Framework for Action – adopted by 168 countries in Kobe, Japan, in January 2005 – called on Governments to do more to ensure that new hospitals are built to remain functional in the midst of disasters. 24 January 2008With hundreds of hospitals and heath facilities destroyed or damaged every year by disasters, the United Nations is launching a global campaign to ensure that millions of people are not left without the vital care they need in the midst of an emergency. read more

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Head of UN security probe stresses need for vigilance amid increasing threats

The report of the Independent Panel on Safety and Security of UN Personnel and Premises Worldwide, led by Lakhdar Brahimi and comprised of international experts in the field, did not identify individual accountabilities for the December 2007 bombing in the Algerian capital, which killed 17 UN staff members.“The Algiers bombing has definitely shown that a few things were not right in Algeria,” Mr. Brahimi told a news conference in New York today. “But more importantly it has shown that the UN system was not working as it should.”The report – released to the public last week – did find “ample evidence that several staff members up and down the hierarchy may have failed to respond adequately to the Algiers attack, both before and after the tragedy.”Mr. Brahimi added that in saying that, the Panel “definitely didn’t say that anybody was responsible for what happened in Algiers.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced last week that he is setting up a separate group to examine whether any UN staff should be held individually accountable over that attack.The most important message from the report to Member States, the Secretary-General and mangers is “you need to be awake all the time,” because the UN is now a target for a lot of people for all sorts of reasons, he stated.In carrying out its probe, the investigators found that the UN is not perceived by a lot of people as impartial, independent and neutral, he noted. “What’s happening in the Middle East has a lot to do with it. But it’s not only that. I think the perception is that the big powers are using their muscles to influence the United Nations and that the United Nations, not always, but from time to time does not speak on behalf of its 192 members but on behalf of a one, two, three, four or five members.” The report underlined the fact that security needs to be improved all the time, he said, stressing that “vigilance is really the order of the day.” Mr. Brahimi said the UN is definitely protected much better than it was before the 2003 attacks on the world body’s offices in Baghdad, which resulted in the deaths of over 20 UN staff members. At the same time, the Panel discovered that the improvements that have taken place since Baghdad “still have some faults and some shortcomings.”Last week Sir David Veness stepped down as UN security chief, saying he will shoulder full responsibility for any security lapse that may have occurred concerning the Algiers attacks. Mr. Brahimi expressed regret at the decision, but said he hoped Sir David would use the rest of his time in office to implement some of the report’s recommendations. The report calls, among other things, for a review of the size of the UN staff presence and the manner in which the UN system does business given overall security considerations and the opportunities presented by modern information and communication technology.“The United Nations has to have the right appreciation of what the security situation is and take corresponding measures,” Mr. Brahimi stated.He added that it was important to recognize that not all countries are equipped to provide the security. “In fact, quite often it is in those countries that are less equipped to provide security that the UN has the largest presence because that is where the services of the United Nations [are] needed.” While the Panel has not requested a specific amount of money for UN security, some of the recommendations do have financial implications, he noted. “Our recommendations are modest enough and affordable enough for Member States that care for this Organization, for them to implement all of them or at least most of them.” 30 June 2008The head of the panel set up to review United Nations staff security worldwide in the wake of last year’s deadly Algiers bombing has underscored the need for vigilance amid growing threats to the Organization. read more

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Witnesses tell of worsening conditions for Palestinians to visiting UN team

1 July 2008A three-member United Nations team investigative team has received accounts of grave economic, health and human rights conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in Gaza, from witnesses it interviewed in Jordan, the second stop on a three-nation visit that also includes Egypt and Syria. A three-member United Nations team investigative team has received accounts of grave economic, health and human rights conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in Gaza, from witnesses it interviewed in Jordan, the second stop on a three-nation visit that also includes Egypt and Syria.In a statement issued at the end of its visit to Amman, the UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories expressed serious concern about reports it received about the “strangulation” of the Palestinian economy, the impact of the separation wall on the human rights of Palestinians, expanding settlements, and the condition of the Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons and detention centres.Witnesses spoke about the impact of the Israeli border control regime and other trade-related restrictions and obstacles on the economy in the occupied Palestinian territory. The team also heard about difficulties in accessing water, worsening sanitary conditions in Gaza and deteriorating health conditions, particularly among children.According to the testimony received, serious restrictions on the right to freedom of movement has in turn severely curtailed a wide range of other human rights including the rights to health, education, work and family life. Several witnesses detailed infringements on the human rights of more than 10,000 Palestinian detainees including women and children in Israeli prisons and detention centres, such as lack of legal guarantees, torture and ill-treatment and harassment.“Such policies and practices affecting Palestinian people are a serious threat to the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and must be halted immediately,” the Special Committee said.The group was particularly concerned by testimonies received about a draft Israeli Law regarding civil damages, by which residents of the occupied Palestinian territory would be prevented from seeking compensation for damages inflicted on them by Israeli security forces, even in cases where damages – to property or to the person, including torture – were caused outside the context of military operations.The Special Committee will continue its visit to the region in Syria from 1 to 5 July. read more

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