first_imgNew Delhi: The Congress has lost all political credibility when it comes to addressing the issue of poverty, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday, taking a dig at Rahul Gandhi’s proposed “Nyay” scheme by invoking Congress prime ministers, who, he claimed, had vowed to eradicate poverty and failed. Addressing a press conference at the BJP office here, Gadkari also alleged that the Congress had deliberately created “fear” in the minds of the minorities to divert attention from performance, work and development, which should have been the issues in the ongoing Lok Sabha election. “The Congress party has no credibility. After 1947, (then prime minister Jawaharlal) Nehru said he will remove poverty. Then Indira Gandhi said this. She used the slogan of removing poverty and won (elections), but poverty did not go. Then Rajiv Gandhi repeated that, then Sonia Gandhi and then Manmohan Singh, but poverty did not go. “Now, even Panditji’s (Nehru) great-grandson is saying the same thing. If he (Congress chief Rahul Gandhi) will remove poverty by giving Rs 72,000, then what did Pandit Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Manmohan Singh do? That is why the political credibility of the Congress in removing poverty has ended,” he said. The senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader further alleged that the Congress had a history of injustice and since 1947, it had been responsible for “wrong economic policies, bad and corrupt governance and visionless leadership”. “So, ‘Nyay’ will not happen, because with justice, the person doling it out should also be trustworthy,” he said. Gadkari also lashed out at the opposition party for the abuse it had meted out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during its poll campaign and said he had a list of 56 such abuses. “The Congress deliberately wants to ensure that performance and work do not become poll issues. That is why they have done two things. “One, fear is their biggest capital. Create fear in the minds of Dalits, minorities, SCs and STs. Two, ensure that a discussion on the work done in five years, which had not happened in 50 years, does not take place. If the discussion revolves around development, then they know they will be in trouble,” he said. Under the Modi government, the social sector had benefitted immensely, Gadkari said, while talking about opening of bank accounts, roads, water and electricity. “Last time during the Kumbh, the prime minister of Mauritius could not go for a bath in the Ganga…. This time, 20 crore people visited the Kumbh and took bath in the river. For the first time, the Ganga was pure and clean. “We did what we promised. We made the waterways and that is why (Congress leader) Priyanka (Gandhi Vadra) could travel from Prayagraj to Varanasi on a boat while abusing us continuously. I want to ask her, had we not made the waterway, how would she have done that? She could drink the water thrice because we have cleaned the Ganga water. Or else, she would have also had to leave like the Mauritius PM,” the Union minister for road transport and highways said. He said it was unfortunate that those who had promoted the accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, those who had failed to give justice to the victims were now talking about “Nyay”. “The politics of performance and development is our biggest asset. Our schemes have reached every nook and cranny of this country and that is how we want to fight the election. The lowering of the standard of the discourse during this election has been noticed by the people of this country. We will form a BJP-led NDA government with a record mandate,” Gadkari said.last_img read more

first_imgBy Cheikh Lioussi Rabat- For the first time in the history of Italian football, a female referee conducted a football match while wearing the Islamic head covering, known as hijab.Chahida Chekkafi, a young Italian of Moroccan origin, was the referee of a football match between two male teams, San Luigi and Karimou Stradevar, in the north of Italy. Chekkafi was born and raised in Italy. As a 16-year-old referee for the Italian football league for young players, she commanded the admiration of those who know her. Her mother was a football player in Morocco.The Italian daily newspaper Corriere Della Sera dedicated an article on its front page on Monday to the story, and quoted the President of the Committee of Referees in Milan describing Chahida as “shy and young but talented and determined.”© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributedlast_img read more

Sidi Kacem (north) –  Forty people were injured, including three in a serious condition and 15 seriously injured Saturday when a coach veered off the road and overturned in the province of Sidi Kacem (120-km northeast of Rabat).The accident occurred around 12:30 pm when the coach, bound for Fez, veered off the road 12 km from the town of El Jorf Melha, local authorities pointed out.Road accidents in Morocco kill 4,000 victims annually and gobble 2 points of Morocco’s GDP, a huge loss for the Moroccan economy. read more

Rabat – Seventeen years have passed since Moroccan athlete Hicham El Guerrouj set the still-standing world record of 3:26.00 in the men’s 1500m in Rome, Italy.Tuesday July 14th, 2015 marked seventeen years since Hicham El Guerrouj broke the world 1500m record in 1998 in the Italian capital Rome.His time of 3:26.00 is yet to be beaten. At Seventeen years, it is the longest a men’s 1500 m world record has ever lasted. In November 2014, the double Olympic gold medalist, who is considered by many to be the greatest middle-distance runner of all time, became the youngest man to be inducted in the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) hall of fame.Often dubbed as the ‘king of the mile’, El Guerrouj was inducted into IAAF Hall of Fame at only the age of 40 and barely a decade after he put an end to his professional career.The Berkane native won four successive 1500m titles at the IAAF World Championships from 1997 to 2003. El Guerrouj was also the male World Athlete of the Year on three consecutive occasions from 2001-2003.El Guerrouj also won gold medals in the 1500m and 5000m at the 2004 Athens Olympics.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission read more

Rabat – Since ancient times, Morocco has been a safe haven for Jews.  Throughout its history, Morocco has protected its Jewish population in times of conflict and persecution in the world. Now in the 21st century, Morocco’s reformed constitution of 2011 recognizes Jews as one of Morocco’s national identities and core constituents, making Morocco a unique model of co-existence and religious diversity in the Arab world.Estimates and historical references indicate that Jews lived in Morocco during the reign of the Phoenicians. However, the biggest influx of Jews to Morocco dates back to the fifteenth century when Granada fell into the hands of Queen Isabella of Spain in 1492, and Spain forced 165,000 Jews to convert to Catholicism or face expulsion.The protected status of Jews in Morocco remained unchanged during the French protectorate years of the 20th century as the number of Moroccan Jews increased to 250,000 in 1940, when they represented 10 percent of the country’s citizens. In the 1950s, the number of Moroccan Jews expanded to 300,000 citizens who enjoyed the freedom to practice their religion and social customs. During the French occupation of Morocco, the late King Mohammed V adamantly rejected the pressure of France’s Vichy government to discriminate against Jews.  His response to requests by that government to turn over Moroccan Jews to the Nazis was,“There are no Jews in Morocco. There are only subjects.” It was also reported that he hid some Jews from the Nazis in his palace during the rise of anti-Semitism in World War II. His intention was to preserve Morocco’s security and safety, and ensure that there was no distinction between Morocco’s citizens on the basis of religion or creed.Morocco historically has also recognized the religious practices of the Jewish community.  Three decrees were issued in May 1918, February 1925, March 1928, and March 1957 to reorganize the Hebrew courts in various regions of Morocco that address matters of personal status, inheritance, marriage, pluralism, divorce, and the inheritance system for Jews. The courts still operate under Jewish law.The atmosphere of respect and coexistence among religions in Morocco has contributed to the emergence of a Jewish elite who have occupied important positions in Morocco’s economic, scientific, diplomatic, and cultural arenas.  Dr. Leon Ben-Zaken, for example, was the personal doctor of King Mohammed V.  He was appointed Minister of Telegraph and Communication after Morocco’s independence in 1956 where he remained until 1958.  Serge Berdigo is one of Morocco’s contemporary high ranking Jews, having held the position of Minister of Tourism in 1993 in the government of Abdul Karim Amrani. Andre Azoulay, was the economic adviser of the late King Hassan II, and he continues his service to Morocco as a senior advisor to the current King Mohammed VI.The Kingdom of Morocco has historically preserved and protected the religious freedom of Moroccan Jews and their places of worship. The government recently rehabilitated 167 Jewish sites, including a number of cemeteries and synagogues, to preserve the heritage of Moroccan Jews. In 2011, Simon Levy founded the Jewish Museum in Casablanca. The historic site remains a culturally important monument in Morocco connecting the Arab and Islamic world’s past with the present, and highlights Morocco’s legacy of religious tolerance and diversity. read more

Rabat – Moroccan women launched a petition on Friday calling for Morocco’s government and the High Authority for Audio-visual Communication, known better as HACA, to penalize National television service, 2M, for broadcasting “tutorial instructions for females to hide bruises of domestic violence,” on its morning show “Sabahiyates,” on Wednesday.Amid the heated scandal that the show stirred on social media, Moroccan women took to to create a petition calling for all Moroccans to sign it as a moving step toward denouncing the “standardization of violence against women.”“As Moroccan women and as feminist activists in Morocco, and in the name of all Moroccan people, we denounce the message of normalization with violence against women. We demand severe sanctions against this show, “Sabahiyat”, and the channel 2M,” the petition’s creator said. She went on to add, “The violence should not be covered by makeup and the aggressors have to be condemned.”Expressing their dismay at the show’s topic, the signatories supported the idea of launching a petition as part of their contribution to put an end to the phenomenon of violence against women.“I am going to sign [the petition] because I am tired of injustice against women,” one of the signatories said.The show’s controversial topic coincided the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is celebrated annually on November 25.On Friday afternoon, 2M issued a communiqué on its Facebook page, explaining, “The management believes that this segment was completely inappropriate and displayed a lack of editorial understanding of the sensitivity and seriousness of the subject of violence against women.”“Violence against women” is considered a serious phenomenon. In two previous years, courts across the kingdom recorded about 20,488 cases of violence against women, including 11,000 cases that are related to physical violence and 9187 of other types of violence. read more

Casablanca – Morocco’s appointed Head of Government, Abdelilah Benkirane, was named “The Person of the Year” in a vote organized by the Casablanca-based Aswat Radio.The results of an SMS vote organized by Aswat Radio were revealed on January 10th. After being awarded his trophy by the radio channel, Benkirane graciously participated in a congratulatory interview.As part of his expression of gratitude at being selected among all the figures competing for the title, Benkirane thanked the voters “who considered that I [Benkirane] was the person deserving of the title.” He went on to reveal that he was touched by the story of a female doctor, Nawal Guassim, who came second in the vote. Guassim, a supervisor in the delivery ward at Zagora hospital, has managed through her personal effort and dedication, to enhance the services of the hospital.Benkirane was clearly impressed by her story and sent her his greetings saying, “you understood me more than many of the closest people to me.” He added that he is convinced that reform cannot take place unless “the doctor, the nurse, the teacher, the employee in public administration and whoever else tasked with a specific duty” contributes with their own personal efforts.“You could take measures to the highest level the way you want” Benkirane further explained, “If people do not positively interact with the measures, they are doomed to fail.” The appointed Head of Government then addressed teachers in the public sector, which is suffering through major crises, saying that they must take the initiative and not wait for government programs because they are in a better position to know the problems afflicting their sector.Turning the subject back to the doctor who secured second place in the vote, Benkirane said, “If I had voted, I would have voted for her… given the significance of the role she plays. “When his interview was concluded, Benkirane remained to answer questions from reporters about the status quo on the political scene following his decision to end the talks leading to the formation of the next government. He reaffirmed his position that he cannot continue negotiations with the other parties so long as the reasons for his decision still apply. read more

Rabat – In light of recent allegations that Hirak-associated prisoners are receiving unjust punishment, Mustapha El Khalfi claims that actions are being taken against any sort of violating activity.Over a hundred people have recently been arrested in connection with the Rifian protests that started in Al-Hoceima last fall, in demand of better regional funding and a stabilized job market.In response to allegations of violations and torture towards Hirak protestors, calls for justice for prisoners have intensified, and later turned violent. The largest incident occurred on Monday during Eid al-Fitr, when brutal clashes erupted between protestors and security forces. According to Moroccan government spokesman and Minister of Communications, Mustapha El Khalfi, all Al-Hoceima cases of torture will now be subject to medical examinations.El Khalfi emphasized the government’s commitment to investigating any alleged abuses against Al-Hoceima detainees, and said that complaints will be “automatically accepted.”21 temporary detention files are under investigation in the Al-Hoceima Court of Appeals, and 28 in Al-Hoceima’s Court of First Instance.“The vast majority of them are given a prison sentence, while 20 percent have been given suspended sentences,” El Khalfi said. He also announced that national strategies regarding the protests will be updated to better meet human rights needs. “The strategy will be updated before the end of 2017.”Various associations and stakeholders are to be involved in the progress, which is to be implemented at the beginning of 2018. read more

Rabat- Just a few days after Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was released from detention, Saudi authorities on Tuesday released all remaining detainees from the luxury Ritz-CarltonRitz-Carlton Hotel, a Saudi official said on Tuesday. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) had ordered the arrest and detention of about 200 Saudi dignitaries and top officials for more than three months. “There are no longer any detainees left at the Ritz-Carlton,” an anonymous Saudi official told Reuters.The kingdom’s attorney general, Saud Al-Mojeb, said in a statement that 56 individuals remain in custody due to “other pending criminal cases, in order to continue the investigations process, and in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations.” In late November, Saudi Arabia’s strongman crown prince ordered the arrests as part of anti-corruption crackdown, claiming that over USD 100 billion had been lost to embezzlement and corruption in the past decades.The massive and unprecedented purge came hours after a Saudi royal decree announced the formation of an anti-corruption commission headed by the crown prince who promptly ordered a high-profile cabinet reshuffle. To date, the complete list of former detainees is still unknown but is said to comprise at least 11 princes, including 62-year-old Bin Talal, who faced accusations of money laundering, corruption and extortion.The majority of those detained were released after negotiating their exit for very large sums of money. Bin Talal’s sum, though, is believed to be one of the largest sought by the Saudi authorities; reportedly at least $6 billion in exchange for his freedom, according to the Wall Street Journal.Some of the detainees are believed to have been moved from the Ritz to a prison after “refusing to admit wrongdoing and reach financial settlements with the authorities.”The attorney general has indicated that the estimated value of settlements currently stands at more than $106 billion. Al-Mojeb said the settlements reached include seizure of real estate assets, commercial entities, securities and cash.As the detainees have been moved from the five-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the latter is expected to reopen to the public in February. According to its website, the hotel is taking bookings again beginning 14 February. read more

Rabat – INTA approved the European Union-Moroccan agriculture deal on Monday. A final vote in a plenary session in January will follow the adoption.Several EU commissions have adopted the agriculture partnership between the EU and Morocco, including the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) in November.The votes of the EU committees reflect the positive view of the members of the European Parliament towards the partnership between the EU and Morocco. INTA’s adoption also brushes aside Polisario’s repeated allegations that Morocco exploits the natural resources of Western Sahara.Read Also: EU Agriculture Committee Views Morocco-EU Agriculture Deal PositivelyThe chairman of the Morocco-EU joint parliamentary committee, Abderrahim Atmoune, said, “The vote adds value to the quality of relations with the European Parliament.”Quoted by Moroccan television channel 2m, Atmoune said the vote also comes to “consolidate the growing strategic importance of Morocco in the Euro-Mediterranean partnership and the model of democratic, political, and economic development that the kingdom embodies in relation to other countries, particularly in North Africa, and in the Arab world.”Atmoune also emphasized “the common will to continue the Euro-Moroccan dialogue and the importance of finding answers to the challenges and threats facing our regions and acting in solidarity” to promote the cooperative binding between the EU and Morocco.As well as the agriculture agreement, Morocco and the EU have agreed to renew their fisheries deal, which expired on July 14.The fisheries deal must pass through the EU Parliament and receive ratification by all 28 EU member states before entering into effect.Several members supported the renewal of the partnership, including Spain.On November 13, Spanish Minister of Agriculture Luis Planas called for a “rapid ratification” of the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement at the European Parliament. read more

JUNEAU, Alaska — Gov. Mike Dunleavy is proposing a fiscal plan that includes sweeping cuts and providing Alaska residents with a full payout from the oil-wealth fund, and many residents are unhappy about it.The annual check paid to qualified residents was capped the past three years as state leaders struggled to address an ongoing budget deficit now estimated at $1.6 billion.Dunleavy campaigned on wanting to get residents their full payout. Now that he’s governor, they’re learning what that means.He has proposed cuts to a range of services, along with tax collection changes that municipal officials say would devastate some local governments.Some see this as a manufactured crisis that doesn’t consider taxes and too highly prizes the dividend over government services.Dunleavy says the problem is spending, not the dividend.Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press read more

Rabat – A zebra, nine addax, eight Barbary sheep, eight servals, eight Dorcas gazelles, eight Bald ibis, and a Dama gazelle were born, amongst other animals, said the Rabat Zoo in a press release.Some of these animals are critically endangered. The Dama gazelle, the largest of all gazelles, is also one of the rarest. Once common in Chad and the Darfur and Kordofar provinces of Sudan, fewer than 400 of these gazelles remain in the wild.The Bald ibis is a migratory bird found in semi-arid habitats. The bird can be spotted in the Souss-Massa and Tamri regions in southern Morocco. Thanks to record breeding results there, the birds status was downgraded in 2018 from critically endangered status to endangered on the IUCN Red List. Read also: Rare Barbary Macaque Born at Morocco’s National Zoo in RabatFive Scimitar oryx were also born at the Rabat Zoo this year. Also known as the Saharan oryx, the species was once widespread across North Africa but became extinct in the wild in 2000.The births of the animals this year are the result of a strategy by the Rabat Zoo to ensure the reproduction of its species, in accordance with international standards of conservation.The zoo has a conservation program in place, targeting especially the endemic species of Morocco including the saharan antelopes and Bald ibis, in an aim to rebuild population numbers and to reintroduce them into their wild habitats. The Rabat Zoo has over 150 different breeds of animals. read more

LOS ANGELES — “Avengers: Endgame” has crossed the $2 billion mark at the global box office in record time and is leaving newcomers in its dust.The Walt Disney Co. estimates Sunday that the Marvel blockbuster has added $145.8 million from North American theatres and $282.2 million internationally in its second weekend in theatres bringing its global total to $2.2 billion.“Endgame” is one of 5 movies to ever reach that mark and, not accounting for inflation, is now the second biggest film of all time worldwide behind “Avatar’s” $2.8 billion. “Avatar” reached $2 billion in 47 days of release compared with 11 for “Endgame.”New films picked up scraps at the domestic box office, including “The Intruder,” with $11 million, “Long Shot,” with $10 million, and “Uglydolls” with $8.5 million.Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press read more

Rabat – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, has claimed responsibility for the killing of prominent journalist and Washington Post contributor, Jamal Khashoggi.MBS admitted that the execution operation ‘happened under his watch.’“It happened under my watch. I get all the responsibility because it happened under my watch,” MBS told PBS’ Martin Smith, according to a preview of the documentary, entitled The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, which will be broadcasted on October 1. MBS denied, however, he had prior knowledge of the plot.This is the first time MBS has talked publicly about his role in the killing of Khashoggi.Saudi operatives murdered Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where the journalist had reported to acquire the necessary paperwork for his marriage. marriage.The killing, which happened on October 2, 2018, sparked a global uproar, with the Saudi crown prince viewed as the main culprit in the killing.In a report conducted by UN extrajudicial executions investigator, Agnes Callamard, it has been found that Khashoggi’s death “constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible”.Read also: European Countries Condemn Torture, Lack of Human Rights in Saudi ArabiaReleased on June 19, the report provided a minute-by-minute account of the journalist’s execution and dismemberment.Hours after the report’s release, Saudi Arabia denounced the report with its Minister for Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir saying in a Tweet that the report contains “clear contradictions and baseless allegations, which challenges its credibility.”Turkish investigators have not found the remains of Khashoggi’s body. They believe that his murderers dissolved the body in acid and poured the remnants down the drain of the Saudi consulate.Saudi authorities arrested 11 suspects involved in the killing, five of whom could face the death penalty for “ordering and committing the crime.” read more

HIKKADUWA, Sri Lanka — Sipping fresh coconut water while sunbathing on deserted Hikkaduwa beach, Alexi Konchayenko, a sports trainer from Ukraine, struck a stoical note.Bomb blasts can happen “anywhere, anytime,” he said, adding that he was not afraid. “Sri Lanka is an amazing country. This is my first visit and I will tell my friends also to come.”His is a lone voice — and a lone presence. Sri Lanka was the Lonely Planet guide’s top travel destination for 2019, but since the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and luxury hotels, foreign tourists have fled.Many of those booked to come in the next few months have cancelled. Hotel occupancy across the island has plummeted by 85% to 90%. The tropical beaches, restaurants and shops are empty.The co-ordinated suicide bombings on April 21 not only destroyed lives but also wiped out the livelihoods of Sri Lankans who depend on tourism.More than 250 people, including 45 foreigners mainly from China, India, the U.S. and the U.K., died in the Islamic State group-claimed blasts.Tourists normally come to Hikkaduwa, in the southwest, for the strong waves that are perfect for surfing and sparkling clear waters made for snorkeling. Today, of the 27 hotels, very few are open. Most, along with the eateries that line the 6-kilometre (3.7-mile) stretch of palm-fringed beach, are closed.Among the few hotels still open is Hikkaduwa Beach Hotel. On April 21, all 50 rooms were occupied; today, only a handful. “It’s a real disaster. We don’t know what to do right now,” said Sanjeewani Yogarajah, an executive with the hotel. She said the attack has cost the hotel 5.5 million Sri Lankan rupees ($31,000), forcing the hotel’s management to send half the staff home.Some tourism officials say the damage to the industry after the bombings is worse than during the 26-year civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government which ended a decade ago. At least then, the violence was mostly contained to the north of Sri Lanka, they said. This time, no part of the island has remained untouched by the blasts.Lankesha Ponnamperuma, general manager of hotel chain Hikka Tranz, is one of the luckier ones. While most hotels report wholesale cancellations, he is surviving thanks to business from local residents. Last Friday, two-thirds of the 150 rooms were booked, mostly by domestic tourists.“I haven’t sacked anyone yet. Instead, we are training our people to adjust their expenditure and helping them restructure their bank loans,” Ponnamperuma said.The president of Sri Lanka’s Hotels Association, Sanath Ukwatta, said hotels have offered 30-50% discounts to entice local residents.Such a strategy won’t solve the problem, he said, but will “help at least to keep the hotels going.”The manager of a clothing shop said the owner had shut the group’s other two shops and the factory too. “Business collapsed after April 21,” said Kumari, who declined to give her surname.According to government figures, there has been an 80% drop in arrivals since the attack. Tourism accounts for 4.9% of Sri Lanka’s GDP. Last year, 2.3 million tourists visited the island, generating $4.4 billion in revenues, a nearly 12% jump from 2017. Around half a million Sri Lankans directly depend on tourism while 2 million depend on it indirectly.One of them is Mohomed Musflick, the owner of a souvenir shop in Galle which is full of wood carvings, local paintings and postcards. “I have not sold one item. There are no tourists and we are in a huge crisis,” he said.While life is gradually returning to normal on the island with offices and schools re-opening, the tourism industry is in a sombre mood over the slump in foreign tourists. Tour operators from Russia, Norway and Britain have cancelled bookings going right up to April 2020.A travel ban issued by nearly a dozen countries is the greatest cause for concern. “The ban is our main worry. Until it is removed or softened, we can’t start our marketing to attract tourists. If it is lifted soon, we are hopeful we can bounce back this year or otherwise definitely next year for sure,” said Yogarajah.In the meantime, Sri Lanka’s government should target “people and countries resilient to this kind of attacks and situations, such as Russia, Israel and India,” said Anusha Frydman, managing director of the Lavanga Resort and Spa.The industry is clear about what else it wants from the authorities: Ensure that stringent security measures are in place to reassure potential visitors; persuade politicians to put their differences aside and adopt a bipartisan approach on national security; and work fast to get the travel ban lifted.To help the industry cope, the government has put together a relief package comprising easy loans at special rates and reduced taxes. The government also plans to formulate a $100 million insurance fund for compensation to any tourist injured or killed while visiting the island.“In the past we have had many serious crises and we have recovered. I am quite positive we can do it again,” said Jan van Twest, general manager of the Fortress Resort and Spa near Galle, where 750 room nights have been cancelled from May to October.“But we need to recover, recover very fast,” he said.Bharatha Mallawarachi, The Associated Press read more

23 January 2007United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on all parties in Lebanon resume a dialogue to address their political differences after street confrontations that have reportedly caused loss of life and injuries. “He is greatly concerned that the political dispute in Lebanon,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson Michele Montas said in a statement that noted that the new confrontation came just ahead of a donors’ conference in Paris, which will seek to help the country recover from the ravages of last summer’s between Israel and Hizbollah.Mr. Ban, who will attend the Paris conference, reiterated the UN’s support for the stability, sovereignty, security and independence of Lebanon.The office of Mr. Ban’s Personal Representative for Lebanon Geir Pedersen reported that the Beirut airport had been cut off during the demonstrations and was temporarily effectively closed. Many roads within and around Beirut and in other parts of Lebanon have been cut off by blockades, some them built with burning tires and old cars, it added.The office is monitoring reports of clashes between different factions, mostly north of Beirut.In a related development Ms. Montas said there had been seven Israeli overflights of Lebanon by Israeli warplanes today in breach of the agreement which ended the hostilities in August.“In accordance with its standard procedures, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) protests each overflight to the Israeli authorities as a violation of the Blue Line” separating the two countries, she added.Before going to the Paris conference on Lebanon, Mr. Ban will travel to Brussels, where he will hold meetings with European Union, European Parliament and European Commission officials as well as senior representatives of NATO and the Belgian Government, as well as the country’s King.From Paris he will go to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), meeting with President Joseph Kabila and other senior government officials as well as peacekeepers and staff of the UN’s largest mission, and addressing the National Assembly.A trip to Kisangani is scheduled, as is a brief visit across the river to Brazzaville to meet with President Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, Ms. Montas announced today.Mr. Ban will then go to Addis Ababa for the African Union Summit before ending his Africa trip with a stop in Nairobi, where he will meet with the Kenyan President and the UN staff.From Kenya, the Secretary-General will travel to the Netherlands, where he will visit the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. He will also meet with Queen Beatrix as well as the Dutch Prime Minister and senior officials.After that, Mr. Ban will go to Washington, D.C. for a meeting of the Middle East Quartet comprised of the UN, United States, Russian Federation and European Union. read more

Mr. Ban also remembered the efforts of Mr. Yeltsin – who served as president from 1991 to 1999 – “in fostering rapprochement between East and West,” his spokesperson said in a statement issued at UN Headquarters in New York.“The Secretary-General extends his heartfelt condolences to Mr. Yeltsin’s family and to the people and Government of the Russian Federation.” 23 April 2007Voicing sadness today at the death of Boris Yeltsin, the Russian Federation’s first democratically elected president, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled the critical role he played in promoting political and economic reforms in his country. read more

“The high number of indictments for torture filed by the Attorney General’s Office, the number of successful fundamental rights cases decided by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, as well as the high number of complaints that the National Human Rights Commission continues to receive on an almost daily basis indicates that torture is widely practiced in Sri Lanka,” Manfred Nowak told the General Assembly committee dealing with social, humanitarian and cultural issues, known as the Third Committee. “This practice is prone to become routine in the context of counter-terrorism operations,” Mr. Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, added. Mr. Nowak said that during the course of his visit to the country from 1 to 8 October, he received “numerous consistent and credible allegations” from detainees who reported that they were ill-treated by the police to extract confessions, or to obtain information in relation to other criminal offences. Similar allegations were received with respect to the army. Also addressing the Committee, Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam of Sri Lanka said that his delegation respectfully differed with regard to the Special Rapporteur’s description of detainees’ conditions in Sri Lankan prisons which Mr. Novak had described as amounting to degrading treatment. Overcrowding was caused by resource constraints, he said, adding that his country was mindful of its international obligations. The Special Rapporteur, who works in an unpaid, independent capacity, said that in an effort to criminalize torture and bring perpetrators to justice, the Government enacted the 1994 Torture Act. While the significant number of indictments filed under the Act was encouraging, Mr. Nowak decried the fact that only three people have so far been convicted. “Given the high standards of proof applied by the Supreme Court in torture related cases, it is regrettable that the facts established do not trigger more convictions by criminal courts,” he stated. While the Government does not agree that torture is widely practiced, “I’m convinced and I think I have enough evidence for that,” Mr. Nowak told reporters after his address to the committee. The Sri Lankan Ambassador said he also respectfully differed with regard to the statement about torture being widely practiced in Sri Lanka, and said that statistics had shown torture to be very rare. Nevertheless, he said Sri Lanka would take the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations into account, and welcomed initiatives towards technical assistance, he said. The Ambassador thanked Mr. Novak for his work, and assured him of Sri Lanka’s commitment to full cooperation with the United Nations and his office and for constructive engagement to take care of all the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations. Mr. Nowak added that the most serious allegations of human rights violations, including torture, relate to the ongoing conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). But he noted that he was not in a position to speak about that since he was not able to visit detention facilities in army camps or those run by the LTTE. In addition to Sri Lanka, Mr. Nowak has visited Paraguay, Nigeria and Togo in the last year. He is scheduled to visit Indonesia next month and Equatorial Guinea and Iraq early next year. 29 October 2007An independent United Nations human rights expert said today that although Sri Lanka has measures in place to prevent torture, the brutal practice is widespread – an accusation disputed by a representative of the country’s Government. read more

UNAMID reported that another 162 personnel are due to join the multi-role logistics unit tomorrow in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, giving a boost to the joint AU-UN mission in logistical support. The Bangladeshi unit brings additional logistical and engineering capabilities in the areas of supply, transport, maintenance and force protection to UNAMID. Bangladesh is the second-largest UN troop-contributing country and its current deployment in Darfur includes one formed police unit (FPU) also deployed in South Darfur, as well as 53 individual police advisers. Today’s deployment brings the total number of UNAMID forces – slated to eventually become the world body’s largest peacekeeping operation with some 26,000 personnel at full strength – to 8,917 troops and police officers on the ground. But it still lacks essential equipment, including helicopters. An additional 3,000 personnel, mostly from Ethiopia and Egypt, are expected to join UNAMID in the next two months, bringing the total number of troops by the end of November to over 12,000.Meanwhile, some 230 schoolchildren from El Fasher joined UNAMID and the UN country team in celebration of UN Day in the North Darfur capital, with a variety of events, including the performance of songs by the children and traditional dances by UNAMID personnel from Gambia, Rwanda, Indonesia and Afghanistan. The Day was also marked with the launch of a UN-sponsored tree-planting campaign, aimed at fighting the desertification of the impoverished and arid region. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur since fighting erupted in 2003 between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militiamen and the rebels, while 2.7 million others have been forced from their homes and now live as refugees or as internally displaced persons (IDPs). 23 October 2008Some 163 Bangladeshi officers arrived today to serve with the hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the operation tasked with quelling the violence and humanitarian suffering across the war-torn region of western Sudan. read more

24 October 2008From a concert in New York by world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma to a tree-planting ceremony in strife-torn Darfur to a blood donation drive in Namibia, celebrations were held across the globe today to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. To mark United Nations Day, virtuoso cellist and UN Messenger of Peace Yo-Yo Ma performed tonight with the Silk Road Ensemble in the annual UN Day Concert in New York. “This is a very special way to celebrate the day that the Charter of the United Nations came into force,” General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto told those gathered for the concert.“He is a man who, through his wonderful music, is able to convey to us the values of the United Nations and inspire our commitment to them. Compassion, cooperation and communication, strength through diversity – these are some of the values that seem to be absent or inconsequential in international relations, yet these values should underpin all the undertakings of our great Organization.”Also in New York, UN staff and senior officials visited schools across the city to provide an overview of the Organization’s work, share their own experiences and interact with students in a campaign called UN4U, orchestrated by the Department of Public Information (DPI). Some 3,500 students heard from UN officials such as Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka; the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy; Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan Michael Adlerstein; and the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Rachel Mayanja.The UN has also launched a newly redesigned website ( that serves as a portal to the network of 63 UN Information Centres (UNICs) around the world, whose efforts are crucial to telling the UN story to people in their own languages.Among the many events held worldwide was a ceremony in Moscow to mark UN Day as well as the 60th anniversary of the UN presence in that country. In a message to the event, Mr. Ban noted that &#822060 years on, our world and our Organization have changed beyond recognition. The problems we face have grown much more complex, impacting all of us around the globe.” In Addis Ababa, the celebration at the Economic Commission for Africa marks not only UN Day, but also the 50th anniversary of the Commission. It includes the launching of the ECA Jubilee Book, which chronicles the Commission’s main contributions to African development over the past five decades.Meanwhile, week-long events in Colombia include a seminar by the UN refugee agency for refugees, a forum on avian influenza, and a photographic exhibition on UN activities in the South American country. In Windhoek, Namibia, UN staff participated in a blood drive, organized in part by the World Heath Organization (WHO).The joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in the Sudanese region of Darfur – known as UNAMID – marked the Day with a tree-planting ceremony, as well as music and dance, while the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) honoured Lebanese staff who have served with the mission for more than 25 years. In Haiti, there was no celebration of UN Day as the occasion comes at a very difficult time for the island, as noted by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the country, Hédi Annabi.Mr. Annabi said that Haiti has suffered a crushing loss of lives and property during this year’s hurricane season, with the overall material damage estimated at over $1 billion by the World Bank. All efforts are now geared toward finding urgent humanitarian assistance for millions of suffering Haitians.The Special Representative urged UN staff in the country to take part in conferences, television and radio programmes and other public forums to advocate for greater humanitarian assistance to Haiti.In a related development, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes, who today wrapped up a two-day visit to Haiti, expressed his willingness to make an additional allocation from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to fund the urgent humanitarian needs of people affected by the recent hurricanes.UN Day has been celebrated on 24 October every year since 1948, exactly three years after the UN Charter entered into force. In 1971, the General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending that the Day be observed as a public holiday by Member States. read more