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TMC will win all 42 seats BJP zero in Bengal

first_imgAndul(WB): Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday claimed that her party will win all the 42 seats Lok Sabha seats in the state and BJP will draw a blank. “I am sure that BJP will not come to power in the country and in West Bengal it will draw a blank this time, down from two seats it got in the last LS polls”, Banerjee told a public rally at Andul in Howrah district in support of TMC candidate footballer-turned-politician Prasun Banerjee. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja Referring to BJP president Amit Shah’s statement at a rally at Kalyani in the state during the day, Banerjee without naming him said “a person has come and said the National Register of Citizens will be implemented in the state when his party comes to power. Let them (BJP) come to power first and then we will show how they dare do it”, she said. Shah had said that NRC would be implemented in Bengal to weed out infiltrators. Banerjee said that election to 300 L S seats is already over and BJP is staring at defeat in the states of Rajshthan, UP, Bihar, Punjab, Gujrat, Tamil Nadu and Delhi. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highway “Now the BJP has turned its eyes on West Bengal. Is it so easy for a party like BJP, whose workers’ minds are infertile like a desert to make inroads in Bengal?” the TMC supremo lashed out. “BJP is not putting its ears to the ground and feeling the pulse of the people. Twelve thousand farmers have committed suicide and three lakh jobs have been done away with,” she said. Referring to the Ram Temple issue, she said BJP is in the habit of raising it during elections. “In the last five years has the party had been able to build even a miniature Ram Temple?” she asked. “Now Narendra Modi is coming to Bengal often and asking for votes. Modi does not know anything about the state,” she said. Referring to demonetisation, which she and her party have often opposed, Banerjee said the Modi government had announced it apparently to stop terrorism. “A day will come when they (BJP) will close down banks saying that there is no money”, she said. Referring to the naxal attack at Gadchiroli in Maharashtra which claimed the lives of 15 policeman, Banerjee said “We have restored peace in Junglemahal area (comrpsising the erstwhile Maoist affected forested areas of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore districts). We have establish peace there”. “Let BJP do the same in states like Jharkhand and Maharashtra in dealing with the Naxalites and restore peace,” she added.last_img read more

463 jailed Morsi backers declare hunger strike Lawyer

first_imgCAIRO –A source from within Egypt’s prison authorities dismissed the allegations, claiming that none of the prisoners had declared a hunger strike. “Some prisoners only objected verbally to the introduction of glass dividers,” he said.As many as 463 jailed supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi on Monday declared a hunger strike in a Cairo prison to protest alleged maltreatment by Egyptian prison authorities, a lawyer with the detainees’ defense team said.Among those who have joined the hunger strike are Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader Khairat al-Shater; deputy head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party Essam al-Erian; leading Brotherhood member Mohamed al-Beltagi; and former youth minister Osama Yassin, lawyer Sayed Nasr told Anadolu Agency. A handful of former Morsi aides – including secretary for foreign affairs Essam al-Haddad, adviser for Egyptian expatriate affairs Ayman Ali, adviser on media affairs Abdel-Meguid Mashali, security advisor Ayman Hodhod, and aide Ahmed Abdel-Atti – have also joined the hunger strike, Nasr added.“They declared the hunger strike to protest the prevention of their families from visiting them and new measures to install glass dividers between them and visiting family members,” he added.However, a source from within Egypt’s prison authorities dismissed the allegations, claiming that none of the prisoners had declared a hunger strike. “Some prisoners only objected verbally to the introduction of glass dividers,” he said.The Interior Ministry had announced earlier that jailed Brotherhood leaders would be able to use booths to see visiting family members through a glass divider and talk to them through handsets instead of face-to-face meetings.In a statement, the ministry said that prison regulations gave the authorities the right to organize prison visits in ways that prevented prisoners from passing messages on to followers outside.Following Morsi’s July 3 ouster by the military, the government launched a wide-ranging crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which the ousted president hails.Most Brotherhood leaders, including the movement’s supreme guide and his top aides, are currently in jail on multiple criminal charges that they insist are politically motivated.By Islam Tawfiqlast_img read more

Recommendations of AlQuds Committee call to protect Holy City FM

first_imgMarrakech – The recommendations of the 20th meeting of Al-Quds Committee, held on January 17-18 in Marrakech, under the chairmanship of  King Mohammed VI, call upon the international community to save the holy city and stop the Israeli occupation policies aimed at changing its legal status, said on Saturday Foreign Minister, Salaheddine Mezouar. These recommendations are a “clear and frank” message to the international community to work towards the preservation of the civilizational, cultural, and human heritage of Al-Quds, he added in a statement to the press following a meeting with Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Iyad Madani.“The Marrakech meeting reflects the commitment to put the issue of Al-Quds at the heart of our future agenda,” he said, noting that there will be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian without preserving the legal status of the Holy City.The meeting highlighted the efficiency of the vision of  the King to strengthen the diplomatic and political action to preserve the identity of Al-Quds and its cultural heritage, Mezouar noted, adding that the meeting has strengthened the role of Bayt Mal Al-Quds Agency in carrying out effective development programs benefitting the population of the city.last_img read more

Morocco and France Diplomatic crisis over French Ambassador alleged statement

first_imgRabat – The Moroccan government condemns, in the strongest terms, the hurtful words and demeaning expressions by the Ambassador of France in Washington, which described Morocco as a “mistress with whom we sleep every night and, though we are not particularly in love with her, must defend,” said a statement by communication minister, government spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi.The source recalls that these insulting statements “were made by a Spanish actor, notoriously known for his deeply-rooted hostility towards Morocco’s territorial integrity, to French media outlets as part of a slanderous campaign against the sacred cause of all Moroccans.”These statements are scandalous and unacceptable all the more so since the government of the Kingdom of Morocco is tirelessly striving for the reinforcement of bilateral ties, on the basis of sincere friendship, mutual respect and a win-win partnership, it added. The Moroccan government, it went on to say, is convinced that France will put right the harm done by these statements which have hurt all Moroccans.France will find an adequate way, beyond the mere denial by the spokesperson of the French foreign affairs ministry without a reaction by the diplomat concerned, to make redress and undo the harm done by these statements, and what was deceptively attributed to it or really said, the source added.last_img read more

Moscow to Host Moroccos Grand Export Festival from Nov 6 to

Rabat – The Moroccan Export Promotion Centre (Maroc Export) organizes from November 6 to 20 in Moscow “Morocco’s Grand Export Festival,” an event aimed at introducing Moroccan products directly to Russian consumers.Some 26 Moroccan companies will take part in this event to be organized in 36 big-box stores across the Russian capital, a statement of Maroc Export said.Morocco grand export festival is an opportunity for Russian consumers to discover new and authentic products from Morocco, the same source added. Some Moroccan products are already well known in Russia. Morocco exports more than 60 % of its citrus production to this country which makes the Kingdom Russia’s first citrus supplier.

Ramadan the Shortest and Longest Fasting Hours around the Globe

By Hajar JannadRabat – Ramadan is the holy month for Muslims worldwide and one of the five pillars of Islam, which is observed as a sacred month of praying and fasting from before Fajr (Dawn) to Maghrib (sunset).According to Islamic teachings, Muslims should observe Ramadan after the visual sightings of the crescent moon, which is generally announced by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. In midsummer, which coincides this year with Ramadan, the fasting hours would be much longer than in previous years. Fasting for long hours would be unbearable for some Muslims living closer to the North Pole compared to their counterparts in other parts of the globe. This has some Islamic scholars to pass a Fatwa to moderate the fasting hours or to follow fasting times in Mecca. However, some conservative Muslims are expressing their readiness to face the long fasting hours, saying that they have to abide by the Shariaa (Islamic laws).Another challenge for Muslims this year is the hot weather, especially for those living in the scorching desert, such as some areas in Saudi Arabia, southern Africa, and southern Morocco. Muslims in the northern hemisphere will observe Ramadan in m low summer temperatures not exceeding 25 degrees Celsius.At its longest, the fasting time can last for more than 20 hours as in the northern hemisphere countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. In European countries such as Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Poland, Muslims will have to fast more than 20 hours.At its shortest, Muslims in southern hemisphere countries such Argentina and Chile will have to fast only for 9 to 9.5 hours. As for the Middle East, the fasting time will last between 16 to 18 hours, but with high temperatures.Graphic by Nahla Bendefaa/ Morocco World News read more

Florentino Perez Bans Ronaldo From Travelling to Morocco

By Daniela CastroNew York – Real Madrid President Florentino Perez banned Cristiano Ronaldo from traveling to Morocco due to his poor performance on the pitch, according to El Español.Perez asked the Portuguese football star to stop his weekly trips to Morocco. Four days a week, from Monday to Thursday, at around 3:00pm after each day’s morning training session, Ronaldo fled from Madrid to Marrakech, Morocco’s main tourist city. Ronaldo travels to Morocco in his private jet, valued at 19 million euros, and returns the same night.The regular trips to visit his friend Badr Hari, a Moroccan-Dutch kickboxer, may have come to an end if he wants to stay on the “merengue” team. Some outlets have speculated that Hari could be Ronaldo’s partner.Perez allegedly asked his friend Mohammed VI, the king of Morocco, to let him know when Ronaldo visits the African country, according to Sport.According to the 2015 Goal Rich List, an annual chart of the world’s wealthiest active players, Ronaldo is the richest footballer in the world, with a personal fortune worth  210 million euros. read more

French Officials Respond to Second Weekend Of Yellow Vest Protests

By Carolina McCabeOn Saturday, over 106,000 protesters who are part of “gilets jaunes” or “yellow vests” took to the streets in France.Outcry grew after President Emmanuel Macron introduced a new hydrocarbon tax to promote alternative energy. The tax raised prices 23 percent in a year, to an average of €1.51 per liter of diesel. The last time fuel prices in France reached that level was in the early 2000s, AFP said. However, anger also stems from distrust and disappointment in Macron and the French government. Since the protests began, 2 people have died in traffic related incidents and over 500 people have been injured. Protests became violent and destructive, damaging shops on the Champs-Elysees with smashed windows and graffiti.Clean up operations are now underway, with over 200 workers repairing what officials estimate could be up to €1.5 million in damage.Police responded to protesters on Saturday with water cannons and tear gas. Paris Police Chief Michel Delpuech stated that police forces used 5,000 teargas canisters, and fire services put out about 100 fires. Police arrested 103 people.Officials worry about the perception the protests will have around the world. During a news briefing, Government Spokesman Benjamin Griveaux stated, “We shouldn’t underestimate the impact of these images of the Champs-Élysées … with battle scenes that were broadcast by the media in France and abroad.” Ministers and public officials have been steadfast in their decisions and said the environment-friendly tax increases will remain in place. Macron is expected to release measures that will make the transition more conscious of its impact on members of the lower and middle-class.The yellow vest protests also symbolize division between urban elites and the rural citizens of France. The movement, which developed over social media, illustrates dissatisfaction with Macron, mirroring his approval rating, which has fallen to 26 percent, according to Politico. Macron condemned the protests through a tweet, stating, “Shame on those who have abused other citizens and journalists. Shame on those who have tried to intimidate elected officials. No room for this violence in the Republic.” Merci à nos forces de l’ordre pour leur courage et leur professionnalisme. Honte à ceux qui les ont agressées. Honte à ceux qui ont violenté d’autres citoyens et des journalistes. Honte à ceux qui ont tenté d’intimider des élus. Pas de place pour ces violences dans la République.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 24, 2018Moroccan transport operators also went on strike this year partially over high fuel prices. The transportation industry was left paralyzed in October after taxi and bus drivers refused to work with the expensive fuel prices, according to Moroccan news outlets. However, global oil prices have fallen recently from $81 per barrel in late September to $65.50 last week. The truck drivers’ protest started earlier this year over the government’s requirement they take a training course costing MAD 4,000-8,000. read more

Mandatory Military Service Might Not Include Moroccan Binationals

Rabat – Moroccan binationals will allegedly be exempted from the mandatory military service introduced by Morocco’s government in August.A source in Morocco’s embassy in Paris said that the “military service should only concern young people residing in Morocco.”The anonymous source told the French Sud Ouest outlet that the details of the bill will include everything about the requirements of those to be conscripted in October when the text will be officially adopted in Parliament. The government’s proposal to bring back the military service surprised Morocco’s youth.Moroccan-Dutch and Moroccan-Belgian youth have both showed concern over the decision. Dutch news outlet NL Times reported that many Dutch-Moroccans are “worried that they will have to join the North African country’s army for a year.”Moroccan binationals were not the only citizens to express concerns over the decision. The number of Moroccans residing abroad is estimated at 5 million, according to statistics offered by the minister delegate in charge of Moroccans residing abroad in July.After the government announced its decision in August, a group of activist created a Facebook group named “Moroccan Rally against Compulsory Military Service.”The activists issued a statement, explaining why they are against the draft bill.The group explained that the rejection of the bill “came because of the government’s total lack of clarity on the bill’s real objectives.” They added that conscription cannot be decided in a short period.On September 4, the Party of al-Istiqlal (Independence) discussed the government decision in its meeting. The members of the party called on the government to exercise pedagogical efforts “to correct negative stereotypes” which feature the service as a “mechanism for discipline and punishment or for the suppression of energies and spirit of initiative and creativity” among young people.The party also urged the government to hear from people and youth and communicate with them and to listen to their suggestions, according to the party’s statement.Bill 44.18 on mandatory service concerns young people aged 19 to 25, both men and women. The bill exempts citizens with diseases, married people, and people who financially support their families. Only one young person per family will be conscripted.The army can call on exempted people to join the service until the age of 40 if the reason that prevented them from participating no longer applies.Morocco first introduced 18-month military service on June 9, 1966, in accordance with Royal Decree 137-66.Morocco reduced the length of service to 12 months in 1999. But in 2006, King Mohammed VI abolished mandatory military service. read more

Algeria Outlaws Burqas Niqabs for Women at Work

Rabat – On Thursday, Algeria passed a law banning the wearing of full face-veils, called burqas or niqabs, for women at work. The bill asserts that the garment obstructs authorities from properly identifying women.The Algerian government released a statement saying that women “are obliged to respect the rules and requirements of security and communication which is at the level of their interests, and requires the recognition of their identity in an automatic and permanent manner, especially in the workplace.” The majority of women in Algeria do not wear the niqab, although the decision is expected to upset those in the country who adhere to the Salafi branch of Islam.Read Also: Morocco Prohibits Sale of BurqaAlgeria joins countries such as Spain, Denmark, and Niger, which have all passed full or partial bans on women wearing the garment.The stricter Wahhabi school of Islam, which has its roots in Saudi Arabia, has traditionally promoted the wearing of the niqab. Saudi Arabia has been influential in spreading the niqab’s use throughout the wider Islamic world, including parts of West Africa. In Morocco, women are allowed to wear full-face veils, but it is illegal to produce, sell, or buy them. read more

Finance Minister Morneau begins promoting federal budget with Toronto speech

TORONTO — Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau has begun promoting the recent budget that’s already come under fire for its big-ticket spending promises.Morneau is defending the Liberal government’s strategy in a speech to a breakfast meeting of business leaders in downtown Toronto.He is highlighting the budget’s many measures intended to help the middle class, including new government aid to help first-time home buyers enter the market.The budget tabled Monday contains major spending on everything from pharmacare to retraining of foreign workers.Morneau has said the government plans to run near-term deficits of about $20 billion and has not mapped out a path to return to balance.The approach has drawn sharp criticism from the opposition Conservatives, who say the government is making future generations pay for today’s spending.The Canadian Press read more

Herve Renard Releases Lineup for Moroccos Games with Argentina Malawi

Rabat – Coach Herve Renard has unveiled his official list of the 33 footballers who will take part in Morocco’s final qualifier game of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) against Malawi and the friendly game against Argentina.The list includes Moroccan-Dutch Idrissi Oussama, who will be playing with the Atlas Lions for the first time after choosing to represent Morocco instead of the Netherlands.Both Hamza Mendyl and Nabil Dirar, who played with Morocco in the 2018 World Cup, are not on the list. The two Moroccan goalkeepers Munir El Kajoui,  who plays for Malaga, and Bounou Yassine, who plays for Girona, have made the list.Although he missed multiple CAN qualifier games last year, the captain of the Moroccan football team Mehdi Benatia is on the list, as well as favorites Younes Belhanda, Amine Harit, Faycal Fajr, and Achraf Hakimi.The full list is as follows: Morocco’s football team will play against Malawi on March 22. Morocco has already qualified for CAN 2019 after defeating the Comoros in the qualifier games in November 2018. The defeat gained Morocco a qualification to CAN, also known as AFCON.The Atlas Lions will then play a friendly game against Argentina on March 26 in Tangier.The friendly match is part of the Atlas Lions’ preparation for CAN. read more

Sioux City approves nearly 15M contract for new expo centre

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Sioux City officials have approved nearly $15 million for a new expo centre with 80,000 square feet of exposition space that they hope will attract events to the city, including trade shows and youth sports tournaments.The City Council awarded the contract to L&L Builders on Monday for the Siouxland Expo Center project, the Sioux City Journal reported. The contract bid was more than $2 million higher than initial projections.Dirk Lohry, the centre’s board president, said it’s not shocking that the bid exceeded the original estimates.“I still think that’s within the range of accuracy of any type of construction estimate for a project of this size,” he said. “We have to realize we’re in a growing robust economy. Contractors are busy. Wages are going up. Materials are more expensive.”The multifunctional venue will be constructed on a plot of land near Interstate 29 and the Floyd River channel. The city will oversee the building once construction is finished.The centre is part of the downtown Sioux City Reinvestment District, which includes three other projects that developers say could generate a total $13.5 million in hotel and sales taxes.The city Parks and Recreation Department is presently located in the Long Lines Family Rec Center, but it will relocate its offices and activities to the Expo Center.Organizers must “work very hard” on fundraising due to the rising construction expenses, Lohry noted. The Expo Center still needs a naming rights purchaser.“Now that it’s a reality and it’s going forward, I think it’ll make the fundraising a lot easier, because now people can visualize what this Expo Center is going to be and how it can be such a great addition to the quality of life issues in Sioux City,” Lohry said.The facility is expected to start hosting events in 2020.___Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.comThe Associated Press read more

Senate passes bill meant to combat robocalls

NEW YORK — The Senate has passed a bill that aims to combat the illegal robocalls torturing Americans .Though the measure wouldn’t eliminate all unwanted calls, it would give regulators more tools to go after scammers. It would also push phone companies to adopt new technology to combat fake phone numbers popping up on caller ID.The Senate passed the bill 97-1 on Thursday. It’s not clear what will happen in the House, where Democrats in charge have their own anti-robocall proposals.The bill has support from the telecom industry and consumer groups, a rare combination.As scam call volume rises, the Federal Communications Commission is trying to nudge phone companies. The nation’s communications regulator will vote in June to allow carriers to block scam calls by default for customers.Tali Arbel, The Associated Press read more

Building on measles success UN health agency stresses multidisease prevention strategy

“We begin our discussions in what I believe are optimistic times for health,” UN World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan told the opening session of the agency’s twice-yearly Executive Board meeting in Geneva.“The news gets even better,” she said, referring to the measles success and the wider health gains linked to it. “Increasingly, this initiative is delivering a bundle of life-saving and health-promoting interventions: bed nets for malaria, vitamin A to boost the immune system, de-worming tablets that help keep children in school, polio vaccine, and tetanus vaccine for pregnant women.“I view this initiative as a model of what can be achieved through integrated service delivery. This is a value-added approach that amplifies the power of public health.”Addressing her first Board meeting since becoming WHO chief earlier this month, Dr. Chan returned to one of her key themes: that the agency’s work should be judged by the impact it has on the health of women and of people in Africa.“Much of what we are already doing has an impact on women and the African people,” she said. “This is not surprising. The threats to these two groups are numerous. Many of these threats are receiving high-level attention as we strive to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to which I am fully committed.”The MDGs, which seek to slash a raft of social ills by 2015, specifically target several health goals including cutting child mortality rates by two-thirds and maternal mortality rates by three-quarters, and halving and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and the incidence of malaria and other major diseases. On polio, the paralyzing and sometimes fatal disease that was once every parent’s nightmare but has now been reduced to virtually a memory in all but a few countries, Dr. Chan noted that it was now technically feasible to interrupt its transmission worldwide but the world must tackle the operational and financial obstacles involved.“I believe we need to assess the country-level operations very carefully to ensure that we can indeed interrupt transmission globally,” she said, adding that she would convene an “urgent high-level consultation” next month to draw up “a set of milestones that must be met if transmission is to be interrupted in the four remaining endemic countries.” The consultation will also consider the funding needed to meet these milestones.On the current bird flu outbreak and the threat of its possible mutation into a potentially deadly human pandemic, Dr. Chan delivered a “straightforward” message. “We must not let down our guard. The whole world has lived under the imminent threat of an influenza pandemic for more than three years. These years of experience have taught us just how tenacious this H5N1 virus is in birds.”A report to the Board on the global strategy for preventing and controlling chronic illness, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, concludes that much has been done but more progress is still needed. Last year, 35 million people died from these diseases, 60 per cent of all deaths globally. These deaths are projected to increase by a further 17 per cent over the next decade.Other issues on the agenda of the nine-day meeting include tuberculosis; gender, women and health; oral health; health systems; and the rational use of medicines, including better medicines for children. Some 10.5 million children under the age of five die every year, mostly from treatable conditions. The Executive Board comprises representatives from 34 Member States, elected by the World Health Assembly, WHO’s decision making body. Its main functions are to give effect to the Assembly decisions. 22 January 2007Building on the “spectacular success story” of the 60 per cent reduction in measles deaths since 2000, 10 per cent above target, the United Nations health agency today outlined its ambitious goals of expanding the integrated delivery of immunization and preventive treatment against a whole host of diseases. read more

Ethiopia UNbacked initiative provides livesaving treatment to millions of children

The Enhanced Outreach Strategy programme, which provides low cost and high-impact survival interventions for children and women, received almost $1 million in funding from the European Union to help people in four regions: Tigray, Oromia, Amhara and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region.Between October and December of last year, over five million children between six and 59 months of age in those areas benefited from vitamin-A supplements and nearly the same number received de-worming treatments. Around 5.2 million youngsters were screened for malnutrition and referred to the targeted supplementary food project of the UN World Food Programme (WFP). In addition to children, more than 800,000 pregnant and lactating women have benefited from the Strategy, which has also provided nutritional guidance.By the end of June, it is predicted that a further 6 million children and 1.2 million women will receive assistance in these areas thanks to the Strategy.“It is only through the continued support from our partners that UNICEF can provide vital materials and expertise to help millions of children grow into healthy adults,” said Sylvie Chamois, the agency’s Project Officer in Ethiopia, where one out of six children die before reaching their sixth birthday.In the largest project of its kind, every six months UNICEF provides almost 7 million children and 1.6 million women with six services: vaccination, micronutrient supplementation, de-worming, malaria nets and malnutrition screening. The recent surge in funding from the European Union has accelerated the number of people the Strategy’s assistance is reaching.Two regional Emergency Nutrition Coordination Units, which monitor nutrition trends and coordinate emergency responses as necessary, will be reinforced and two new facilities built with funds from the EU donation.UNICEF said the Strategy is extremely effective towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets that aim to deal with a host of social ills – including reducing child mortality – by 2015. 14 February 2007A child survival initiative backed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has provided millions of youngsters and almost 1 million pregnant women in Ethiopia – where two out of every five people have no access to vital health care services – with life-saving treatments, thanks to a boost in funding. read more

On its inaugural mission UN Peacebuilding Commission to visit Sierra Leone

On the trip, which runs until 25 March, the group intends to evaluate the situation in the country and identify obstacles to peacebuilding, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson, Michele Montas, told reporters.The seven-member delegation will also aim to see how the Commission “can best support national peacebuilding efforts” and “bring increased attention to ongoing peacebuilding efforts in Sierra Leone,” she added.Ambassador Frank Majoor of the Netherlands is leading the delegation, and its other members include Alpha Ibrahima Sow, Ambassador of Guinea; Leslie Christian, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ghana; Amir Muharemi, Deputy Permanent Representative of Croatia; Piragibe dos Santos Tarrago, Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil.Representatives from India, China and the European Commission will be joining the delegation in Freetown, the capital.Earlier this month, Sierra Leone, ravaged by an 11-year civil war, received $35 million from the UN Peacebuilding Fund, established from voluntary contributions to aid countries which have recently emerged from war from slipping back into conflict.In another development, Lovelore Munlo, the Registrar for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, announced last week that he is leaving his position, saying “the time has come to move on.”Mr. Munlo became interim Registrar October 2005, and was appointed Registrar last February by the Secretary-General.During his tenure, the Special Court concluded an agreement with the Government of the Netherlands and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to allow the Special Court to try former Liberian President Charles Taylor in The Hague. 19 March 2007A delegation from the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission – the body created in 2005 to focus on reconstruction, institution-building and the promotion of sustainable development in post-conflict countries – kicked off its first-ever mission to a country on its agenda today when a team arrived in Sierra Leone. read more

Iraq Security Council ends mandate of United Nations weapons inspectors

Closing a chapter it opened over 16 years ago, the Security Council today terminated the mandate of United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq, with the Russian Federation abstaining during voting on a resolution sponsored by the United Kingdom and the United States.The resolution, which passed with 14 votes in favour, immediately terminated the mandates of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the Security Council-mandated work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iraq. Explaining the Russian Federation’s decision to abstain, the country’s Ambassador, Speaking after the vote, Vitaly Churkin said there had yet been no definitive statement about the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.The Council resolution said the continued operations of UNMOVIC and the IAEA’s Iraq Nuclear Verification Office are no longer necessary to verify Iraqi compliance with its obligations.The resolution “closes a cycle of many years of verification, where the UN showed that it can implement successfully the activities demanded by the international community despite difficulties and frequently a lack of cooperation from the inspected party,” said UNMOVIC’s Acting Executive Chairman, Demetrius Perricos, in an address to the Council.Mr. Perricos warned against complacency. “In the present security environment of Iraq, the possibility should not be discounted that non-State actors may seek to acquire toxic agents or their chemical precursors in small quantities,” he said. “The possibility of non-State actors getting their hands on other – more toxic – agents is real.”He also pointed out that the main finding of the US-led Iraq Survey Group’s Comprehensive Report, “namely the absence of any stockpiles of WMD or evidence of a revival of WMD-related programmes proscribed under the Security Council resolutions,” corresponded to conclusions reported by UNMOVIC to the Council in June 2003.Also addressing the Council, Gustavo Zlauvinen, a representative of the IAEA Director-General, recalled in early March of 2003, he had told the Council that the IAEA had found “no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq.”A detailed assessment could have been produced within months of that date, he added, but the IAEA has not been able to carry out its mandate since 17 March. That was the date when the withdrawal of UN staff from Iraq was announced. Days later, the war broke out. UN spokesman Farhan Haq noted that the weapons inspectors accomplished a great deal on the ground both in terms of monitoring and in terms of destroying or verifying the destruction of WMDs before their work was interrupted by the war in 2003.He said UNMOVIC’s just-released 1,160-page Compendium of Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes in the Chemical, Biological and Missile areas is “the best testament to the work of the Commission and its value.”The Council’s resolution today requested the Secretary-General “to take all necessary measures to provide for the appropriate disposition of UNMOVIC’s archives and other property under arrangements ensuring, in particular, that sensitive proliferation information or information provided in confidence by Member States is kept under strict control.”UNMOVIC’s predecessor, the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), set up at the end of the war in 1991, destroyed missiles, mobile launchers, fixed launch sites, chemical munitions, a chemical weapons complex and a germ warfare complex as well as tons of missile fuel, chemical warfare agents, precursor chemicals and bacteria growth media. UNMOVIC inspectors destroyed dozens of Iraqi Al Samoud 2 missiles and warheads, as well as launchers, shells filled with chemical weapons precursors and other arms. 29 June 2007Closing a chapter it opened over 16 years ago, the Security Council today terminated the mandate of United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq, with the Russian Federation abstaining during voting on a resolution sponsored by the United Kingdom and the United States. read more

UN Ambassador Angelina Jolie spotlights plight of Iraqi refugees

Actress and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie is visiting Iraq and Syria to raise awareness of the plight of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families who have fled the violence in their home country. According to UNHCR estimates, over 4.2 million Iraqis have been displaced, with 2.2 million within the war-torn nation and two million in neighbouring countries.“I have come to Syria and Iraq to help draw attention to this humanitarian crisis and to urge Governments to increase their support for UNHCR and its partners,” Ms. Jolie said. “My sole purpose in both countries is to highlight the humanitarian plight of those uprooted by the war in Iraq.”Today, the Academy Award-winning actress crossed into Iraq from Damascus, the Syrian capital, arriving at the makeshift Al Waleed border camp housing 1,200 stranded Iraqi refugees who are unable to flee their country. She also observed dozens of Iraqis making their way into Syria at a border checkpoint.“It is absolutely essential that the ongoing debate about Iraq’s future include plans for addressing the enormous humanitarian consequences these people face,” she said, adding that in her role as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, she will concentrate on humanitarian issues and leave politics to others.In Iraq, she also paid a private visit to United States troops and other multinational forces based in the area.Yesterday, Ms. Jolie arrived in Syria, and visited a UNHCR centre in Damascus where she met some of the thousands of Iraqi refugees – almost one-quarter of them being victims of violence and torture – registering with the UN agency. Spending hours talking to Iraqi refugees in their homes, she recognized Syria for opening its borders and for its generosity to Iraqis.Tens of thousands of the refugees are unemployed, and many young people are missing out on an education and their futures.Late last month, UNHCR and the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF) jointly launched a $129 million education appeal to send 155,000 Iraqi refugee children to school throughout the Middle East. Today, the United States announced it will contribute $30 million to the fund. 28 August 2007Actress and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie is visiting Iraq and Syria to raise awareness of the plight of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families who have fled the violence in their home country. read more

UNESCO chief condemns murder of Nepalese journalist

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today condemned the murder last month of Nepalese journalist Pushkar Bahadur Shrestha.The 57-year old publisher of two local weeklies was shot in the back on the evening of 12 January while with his brother in a town near Birgunj on the border with India. A man who said he was the local representative of the Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha militia claimed responsibility for the murder, saying Mr. Shrestha was killed because he was a “pahadi” journalist, meaning from the hill region and not the southern plains population.“I condemn the murder of Pushkar Bahadur Shrestha,” Koïchiro Matsuura said in a statement. “Through him, the murderers were obviously standing against freedom of expression but also against an ethnic group they are in conflict with.”The head of the Paris-based agency said the targeting of journalists “must cease in order for Nepal to reach, at long last, democracy and the rule of law.”According to IFEX, violence against journalists increased drastically in 2007 in areas where armed groups claiming to defend the Madhesi, the people of the south, have launched protest movements. Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha has been involved in dozens of cases of threats and violence since its creation in August 2006. 12 February 2008The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today condemned the murder last month of Nepalese journalist Pushkar Bahadur Shrestha. read more