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first_imgWashington DC: Stepping up pressure on Pakistan, the US has asked Islamabad to take “sustained and irreversible” actions against terrorist groups operating from its territory to prevent future attacks and promote regional stability. The State Department statement came as Pakistan, under global pressure after the Pulwama terror attack and India’s air strikes against Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist camp in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on February 26, started taking actions against some of the terrorist outfits and their leaders over the past few days. In Islamabad, the Interior Ministry on Thursday announced that a total of 121 members of the proscribed groups have so far been taken into “preventive detention” across Pakistan. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino told reporters at his biweekly news conference on Thursday, “I would say that we, the United States notes these steps and we continue to urge Pakistan to take sustained, irreversible actions against terrorist groups that will prevent future attacks and promote regional stability”. “We reiterate our call for Pakistan to abide by its United Nations Security Council obligations to deny terrorists safe haven and block their entry to funds,” he said. Responding to questions, Palladino refrained from giving a direct answer on the move at the United Nations Security Council to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. However, he said that the US and its allies in the UN Security Council want to update the UN list of terrorist organisations and leaders. “Our views on Masood Azhar and Jaish-e-Mohammed are well-known. Jaish-e-Mohammed is a United Nations-designated terrorist group that has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks and is a threat to regional stability. Masood Azhar is the founder and leader of JEM,” Palladino said. Questions on the United Nations Sanctions Committee deliberations are confidential and as such it is not something that the State Department is going to be able to comment on specific matters on the issue, he said. “But we will continue to work with the sanctions committee to ensure that the list is updated and that it is accurate,” Palladino said. At the US Capitol, India’s Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla met Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives and discussed the issue of terrorism. “We must stand strong against acts of terrorism and work together to improve trade between our nations,” the top Republican leader said after the meeting.last_img read more

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first_imgMumbai: Filmmaker Onir recently said that male actors in Bollywood are still insecure about playing gay roles. The director said a film based on LGBTQ characters can get a mainstream release but “good actors” avoid such roles. “I have had many narrations with these mainstream male actors and they refused it. The fear of what it can become still holds them. And this is why I really have a lot of respect for all those actors who say yes to these roles,” Onir said at a panel discussion at an event. Also Read – Hilarie Burton, Jeffery Dean Morgan tie the knotFilmmakers like Hansal Mehta, Sridhar Rangayan, writer Gazal Dhaliwal and veteran actor Shabana Azmi were also a part of the panel which discussed on the topic ‘Celebrating Rainbow: The Seven Shades of Content’. Dhaliwal, who wrote Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga, urged mainstream male stars to take up well-written gay characters. “It is all about business and what works is what sells and reaches the audience. Because of the patriarchy we live in, the masculine ego is really fragile and that’s the reason they refuse to take up gay characters,” Dhaliwal added. Also Read – ‘Vaastav’ gave me the real sense of being an actor: Sanjay Dutt on film’s 20-year anniversary”Our mainstream cinema needs to become responsible in representing LGTBQ characters. Till the time there is general sensitisation among audience, we should refrain from creating characters like in Dostana, where it is all about laughing,” Dhaliwal said. Rangayan, who has made films on queer subjects like “he Pink Mirror, Yours Emotionally, said he faced trouble in releasing his films. However, he thinks with Section 377 being decriminalised, things are changing better.last_img read more

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first_imgKuldeep Singh Rathore, 58, was appointed PCC president close to the Lok Sabha poll replacing Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, a sitting MLA. His brief was to put the party’s factionalism to an end and ensure active engagement of the veterans like Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who was vehemently seeking removal of Sukhu for quite sometimes. A close lieutenant of former Union Minister Anand Sharma, Rathore says the party is now fully geared up to fight the Lok Sabha polls. Ashwani Sharma, Assistant Editor, the Millennium Post, spoke to Rathore at Shimla. Here are excerpts from his interview. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’ Around three months into the job, do you think you are in the full command of the things? Yes, 100 per cent. When I was given the charge, the party was in complete disarray. Though I don’t want to cause any aspersions on my predecessor it is a hard fact that I inherited the organisation that was split into many factions. Senior leaders were unhappy and utterly disappointed with the party’s state of affairs. Knowing that the elections are around the corner, I did not waste a single day. I had the organisational experience since being a PCC general secretary before this. I reached out to all senior leaders. I also met the workers. Noted down their suggestions. A clear road map emerged before me. That has been put into full action. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KHow tough was to convince Virbhadra Singh and get him on the board? Virbhadra Singh is a towering leader. He had been Chief Minister six-times, a former union minister and PCC president several times. He understood the challenge before us and trusted me. I told him simply that if I am a ‘commander’, appointed by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, you are our Commander-In-Chief (C-in-C). He laughed and said ok. What are the party’s prospects. Do you think, you will be able to open your account? In 2014, the Congress could not win any seat. All four seats were won by the BJP. This was basically due to Modi wave sweeping the country. They (BJP) mislead voters. Narendra Modi made tall promises. People in Himachal Pradesh are very simple. They believed him blindly. They thought the state will get a lot of benefits /help from the centre when Modi becomes the Prime Minister. We also expected a financial package, lot of jobs for the youths, and believed that the apple growers will be benefited from what he promised to Himachal Pradesh farmers. What has really changed for the Congress now? There is a lot of change. Modi faces three-fold anti-incumbency. He did not help at all though he claims Himachal Pradesh is his second home. His corruption, the Rafale deal and other exposed, failure to provide jobs, help fruit growers in the state, and above all now non-governance of the BJP government under Jai Ram Thakur. People feel Modi is a liar. His ‘jumla’ politics is not going to work again. Modi factor not cut any ice here. No vote for Modi. If so, why senior Congress leaders did not agree to contest the Lok Sabha polls? It’s true. I wanted senior leaders to contest. I was keen to see Virbhadra Singh contesting Mandi – which is a hot seat for us now. He was not ready. Nevertheless, I think we have been able to field best and also winnable candidates. The BJP position is so bad that it had to change two candidates. It’s a clear defeat of the party because the performance of its MPs is zero. Do you feel the return of Pt Sukh Ram with his grandson Ashray Sharma in tow will help the Congress,especially Ashray having been fielded from Mandi? Oh yes. Sukh Ram’s entry is definitely a blow to the BJP. He has a strong influence intact in the area. Since his son Anil Sharma had quit the Congress and joined the BJP in 2017 before the polls, the Congress lost the whole of Mandi district. This time, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur — who hails from Mandi district, is badly cornered by the Congress. He is worried about Mandi to save his chair. Anil Sharma has also quit the cabinet. Let us see how Jai Ram Thakur saves the seat. But will Virbhadra Singh campaign in Mandi? We had discussed this factor in length. Virbhadra Singh Ji has already joined the poll campaign. His Mandi campaign programme will soon be released officially. I can’t say if he will share the stage with Pt Sukh Ram but he (Virbhadra ) will be party’s star campaigner for all four seats. The BJP has a lot of resources for the campaign, hoardings are already out all over the state. The Congress has no money to fight polls. I always say we will fight ‘Dhanbal’ (money power) with “Janabal” (manpower) Virbhadra Singh says the Congress will win at least two seats. What’s your assessment? No, No. We will all four seats.last_img read more

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first_imgNew Delhi: Chefs to take care of their taste buds and travelling days in advance to ensure better acclimatisation — the Indian boxers’ stupendous Asian Championship medal haul has prompted the national federation to think of some fresh ways to aid their Olympic preparations. The Indian boxers logged in their best performance at the tournament, fetching 13 medals including two gold, four silver and seven bronze. The men picked up seven medals, while the women managed six. Also Read – We will push hard for Kabaddi”s inclusion in 2024 Olympics: RijijuThe Boxing Federation of India (BFI) is expectedly buoyed by the show and its President Ajay Singh said the target now is to repeat some of it at the Tokyo Games next year. The qualifying process for that will get underway at the world championships in September. “We will do our best at BFI to make sure you guys are really well prepared for the Olympics. We will leave no stone unturned. We will provide everything starting from guidance, coaches, nutrition to make sure you are at your best in Tokyo,” Singh said at an event to felicitate the medal winners. Also Read – Djokovic to debut against Shapovalov at Shanghai MastersFood has been an issue for Indian athletes travelling abroad besides the struggle to acclimatise with the change in temperatures. “Acclimatisation is always an issue. So all the boxers who will go for the Olympics, will travel 10 days ahead of schedule,” he said. “If there is a problem with the food you guys get, like in this Asian Championship, we are happy to send chefs with you. If that is the problem we will try and address that as well,” Singh said. Talking about the performance at the Asian Championship Singh said it augurs well for the sport. “It’s India’s best performance ever in the Asian Championship. Thirteen medals makes India the country with the most medals. Overall, we came third and in terms of points AIBA gives, we were second. “Asia is extremely important in the world of boxing, the leading boxers in the world are from Asian countries. To do so well in this tournament is great credit to all our boxers and coaches,” Singh said. Indian boxers produced some commendable performances in the tournament. Asian Games champion Amit Panghal (52kg) defeated Olympic gold and bronze medallists en route another top finish. Pooja Rani (81kg), who also won gold, defeated current World Champion Wang Lina in the final. While Nikhat Zareen (51kg) and Kavinder Bisht (56kg) also got the better of world champions. “We had a string of victories that were just stunning. Sarita (won the 60kg bronze at 37) showed that age means nothing at all. Several of our boxers defeated world champions. “I know for a fact that two of our silver medals — Deepak and Kavinder’s — ought to have been gold. We need to work towards making sure that bouts like that result in our favour.”last_img read more

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first_imgNew Delhi: A Delhi court Wednesday asked AAP’s Lok Sabha candidate from East Delhi, Atishi Marlena, to prove her locus standi for filing a petition against her BJP rival Gautam Gambhir for allegedly enrolling as a voter in two assembly segments. Metropolitan Magistrate Viplav Dabas directed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader to file more documents to prove her locus standi (the right to bring an action or to appear in a court) after her counsel said there was a “prima facie” case against Gambhir. Also Read – Odd-Even: CM seeks transport dept’s views on exemption to women, two wheelers, CNG vehicles “How you are affected by this? If he has committed any wrong, what’s your locus,” the court asked. Advocate Karuna Nundy, appearing for Marlena, told the court that Gambhir was a “dead man walking. He is not eligible to vote and will be disqualified as a candidate”. “Even if he wins, people of East Delhi should not be saddled with an MP who has no chance of survival in the near future. Voters should not be made to suffer,” she told the court. Also Read – More good air days in Delhi due to Centre’s steps: Javadekar The court has posted the matter for further hearing on May 6, six days before Delhi goes to polls. The plea, filed by advocate Mohd Irshad on Thursday, alleged that Gambhir has enrolled “deliberately” and “illegally” as a voter in Karol Bagh and Rajinder Nagar assembly segments. The petition further alleged that Gambhir has provided false information in his nomination papers, accompanying affidavit and other documents preceding voter screening and registration in order to be seen as qualified to contest elections and potentially secure membership of the parliament. Marlena has said in the plea that the details of Gambhir’s registration in the constituencies were available online on the Election Commission’s National Voters’ Service Portal. The plea has sought directions to the Delhi Police to investigate offences under sections 17 and 31 of the Representation of People Act (RPA), 1950, and section 125A (penalty for filing false affidavit) of RPA, 1951. Section 17 of the RPA, provides that no person is entitled to be enrolled as a voter in more than one constituency and its violation is a criminal offence punishable with maximum of one year imprisonment. Section 31 of the Act makes false declaration in the matter of inclusion or exclusion of voter rolls punishable with up to one year in prison. “It is clear that the Gambhir has made and continues to provide false information/statements/declarations to the relevant authorities like the Election Commission of India in order to obtain and retain enrolments as a voter in two constituencies,” the plea alleged. Both Marlena and Gambhir filed their nomination papers last week.last_img read more

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first_imgThrissur (Ker): Thousands of people gathered here Sunday to witness the grand opening of the famed Thrissur Pooram, considered as the mother of all temple festivals.’Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran’, the controversial elephant which was earlier denied permission to take part in the festivities by the authorities on health grounds, ‘opened’ the annual festival at the ancient Vadakkumnathan temple here. Marking the ritual heralding of Pooram, Ramachandran, the tallest elephant of the state, pushed open the southern entrance of the shrine amidst thunderous cheers of the people gathered on the temple ground. The Thrissur Pooram falls on May 13 this year. Also Read – 2019 most peaceful festive season for J&K: Jitendra SinghThe main event of the annual ‘pooram’ begins with the 10.5 foot tall elephant pushing open the gate of the temple, with the idol of ‘neithilakkavilamma’ atop it. Police and temple authorities had a tough time in shifting the jumbo from the ground after the rituals, based on the strict instructions by the district authorities. Among the restrictions imposed on the use of the elephant were: It can take part in the ritual only for an hour from 9. 30 am; four mahouts should escort the animal and barricades should be constructed on a 10-metre radius to prevent people from getting closer to the jumbo. Ending four days of uncertainty, Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran was given the conditional nod Saturday to participate in the Thrissur pooram after the animal cleared the fitness test. Also Read – Personal life needs to be respected: Cong on reports of Rahul’s visit abroadThe clearance to the government was given after a team of three veterinarians conducted the medical examination of the 54-year-old elephant. The team had also submitted a report to the Thrissur collector T V Anupama, stating that the elephant was fit to participate in the “vilambaram” ritual as part of ‘pooram’. Since 2014, the elephant has been been performing the ritual and has a big fan following in the state. However, after two persons were killed by the pachyderm during a house-warming celebration in Guruvayur in February this year, the district administration had imposed a ban on its participation in festivals. Thrissur, the state’s cultural capital, is under a thick security cover with 3,500 policemen being deputed on duty.last_img read more

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first_imgKathmandu: Two Indian climbers have died in Nepal due to high altitude sickness near the summit of Mount Kanchenjunga during an expedition to the world’s third tallest peak, an official said Thursday. Biplab Baidya (48) and Kuntal Karar (46) died Wednesday night above Camp IV after they were unable to continue their descent from near the 8,586-meter peak due to hypothermia and snowblindness. “Biplab made it successfully to the summit point while Kuntal fell sick on his way and could not make it to the top. The Indian duo died while climbing down from the peak,” Mira Acharaya,” liaison officer at Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism team deployed at the base camp, told PTI. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange framework According to fellow climbers, the incident occurred when the duo were being brought to Camp IV from an altitude of 8,400 metres through a herculean rescue operation carried out by Project Possible team leader Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja along with the fellow members. “They succumbed to high altitude sickness,” said Pasang Sherpa, Director of Peak Promotion Ltd, that carried out the expedition. They were part of a five-member team of climbers from West Bengal, Sherpa said. Also Read – Trio win Nobel Medicine Prize for work on cells, oxygen “Two Indian climbers and a German mountaineer who also suffered from serious frostbite will be evacuated from the high altitude camp as early as possible,” he said. Another climber from Chile is missing from above Camp IV of Mount Kanchenjunga since last evening. Rodrigo Vivanco from Chile went missing on the descent after he reportedly made it to the summit late on Wednesday, Sherpa said, adding that a team has already left for Camp IV to conduct a search operation. Mount Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world. It rises in a section of the Himalayas called Kangchenjunga Himal delimited in the west by the Tamur River, in the north by the Lhonak Chu and Jongsang La, and in the east by the Teesta River.last_img read more

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first_imgTunis — Tunisian lawmakers are to vote Saturday on adopting a long-delayed new constitution, seen as crucial to getting the democratic transition back on track more than three years after the revolution.“The vote will be held tomorrow, Saturday,” Mofdi Mssedi, spokesman for the speaker’s office, told AFP on Friday, a day after parliament completed its review of each article in the draft constitution.The time of the vote has yet to be determined, but the charter needs the approval of two-thirds of the 217 assembly members to be adopted. That would pave the way for the appointment of a caretaker cabinet of independents headed by premier designate Mehdi Jomaa, after the ruling Islamist party Ennahda agreed to hand power to a technocrat administration, under a deal to end months of political deadlock.Jomaa’s government will be tasked with leading the country to parliamentary and presidential elections, scheduled to take place later this year.“A plenary session will take place on Tuesday or Wednesday for a vote of confidence in this new government,” parliament speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar told Tunisian radio.Lawmakers completed their line-by-line scrutiny of the text late on Thursday after three weeks of heated debate and disagreement on a range of subjects, including the role of Islam, women’s rights, the independence of the judiciary and the president’s powersEnnahda’s veteran leader Rachid Ghannouchi hailed the draft charter as a “historic achievement” which he said would enable the establishment of the first democracy in the Arab world.“We are at an advanced stage of the (democratic) transition, all that remains is to officially adopt this historic document and fix the date of the next elections,” Ghannouchi said in a statement.“We should be proud of what has been achieved, and translate that into ending the interim period and making Tunisia the first Arab democracy.”‘Foundations of a modern state’Under the new constitution, executive power is divided between the prime minister, who will have the dominant role, and the president, who retains important prerogatives notably in defence and foreign affairs.Islam is not mentioned as a source of legislation, although it is recognised as the nation’s religion and the state is committed to “prohibiting any attacks on the sacred,” while freedom of conscience is guaranteed.Human rights are broadly enshrined in the text, although some rights groups have expressed concern that the relevant provisions are often vague.And the charter also upholds gender equality and the rights of women “without discrimination”, and commits the state to promoting equal representation in elected bodies, something unprecedented in the Arab world.“It is a progressive constitution, responding to the hopes of the revolution… and laying the foundations of a modern state,” said assembly speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar, while recognising that “there could be improvements.”If the constitution is approved on Saturday it would then be formally promulgated by President Moncef Marzouki, outgoing Islamist premier Ali Larayedh and Ben Jaafar, with the signing ceremony planned for Monday.But if it fails to achieve the necessary majority on either its first or second reading, the charter must be put to a referendum.The political parties have sought to avoid that outcome so that they can maintain the elections timetable and end the crisis gripping Tunisia since the assassination of two opposition MPs by suspected jihadists last year.The national assembly was elected in October 2011, nine months after the popular uprising that toppled strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and touched off the Arab Spring.But its mission to adopt a new constitution within one year was disrupted by bitter divisions between Ennahda and the secular opposition, coupled with jihadist violence and persistent social unrest.last_img read more

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first_imgCAIRO – Ten Egyptians, including a journalist working for a Muslim Brotherhood newspaper, were each sentenced on Monday to a year in jail for protesting against a constitutional referendum, judicial sources said.Egypt adopted in January a new constitution after the previous one, approved during the presidency of Mohammad Morsi, was suspended when he was ousted last July.The 10 defendants were found guilty of “attempts to derail the constitutional referendum” held on January 14 and 15, and “disturbing public order,” the sources said. Journalist Samah Ibrahim was arrested while covering a demonstration by supporters of Morsi, Egypt’s first elected and civilian president who ruled for a year before his overthrow.That demonstration in Cairo called for a boycott of the referendum, as Morsi’s supporters refused to recognise the military-installed government that promised a “democratic transition” following his ouster.Since the ouster of Morsi, the authorities have launched a relentless crackdown on his supporters and his Muslim Brotherhood movement.Amnesty International says more than 1,400 people have been killed in the crackdown and thousands more jailed.The Muslim Brotherhood itself has been designated “terrorist organisation” and participating in any of its demonstrations is punishable by up to five years in prison.Several television channels linked to the movement have already been shut down, while its mouthpiece Al-Horreya wal Adala where Ibrahim worked has been banned.last_img read more

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Tunis – Veteran politician Beji Caid Essebsi claimed victory in Sunday’s Tunisian presidential runoff, seen as the final step to full democracy nearly fars after an uprising ousted autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.Official results were still awaited and the campaign team of his rival, Moncef Marzouki, did not concede defeat. But soon after polls closed, Essebsi announced he had won and jubilant supporters took to the streets of the capital in celebration.A victory for Essebsi, 88, would see the return of a former Ben Ali official to the presidency just four years after the autocrat fled. Essebsi’s secular party already leads the parliament after earlier this year defeating the Islamist party that had won Tunisia’s first legislative election in 2011. With a new progressive constitution and a string of elections successfully completed, Tunisia is hailed as an example of democratic change in a region that is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts.“I dedicate my victory to the martyrs of Tunisia. I thank Marzouki, and now we should work together without excluding anyone,” Essebsi, a one-time parliament speaker under Ben Ali, told local television.His campaign manager said “initial indications” showed Essebsi had won, without giving any details, as hundreds of supporters chanted “Beji President!” and waved Tunisia’s red and white national flag.However, the rival campaign manager for Marzouki, Adnen Monsar, dismissed the victory claims, saying it was a very close call. “Nothing is confirmed so far,” he told reporters.Although Tunisia has largely avoided the bitter post-revolt divisions that trouble Egypt and neighbouring Libya, tensions nevertheless flared between Islamists and secularists after the 2011 rebellion in one of the Arab world’s most secular nations.Islamist militants who emerged in the wake of the uprising remain a risk. One gunman was killed overnight and three arrested after they opened fire on a polling station in the central Kairouan governorate.Return of the ‘remnants’But accepting former regime officials—known as the “Remnants” by their critics—back into politics was one of the steps that initially helped restore calm and keep Tunisia’s often unsteady transition to democracy on track.Essebsi took 39 percent of votes in the first round ballot in November with Marzouki winning 33 percent.As front runner, Essebsi dismissed critics who said victory for him would mark a return of the old regime stalwarts. He argued that he was the technocrat Tunisia needed following three messy years of an Islamist-led coalition government.Marzouki, 69, is a former activist who once sought refuge in France during the Ben Ali era. He painted an Essebsi presidency as a setback for the “Jasmine Revolution” that forced the former leader to flee into exile.Many Tunisians tie Marzouki’s own presidency to the Islamist party’s government and the mistakes opponents said it made in being too lenient with hardline Islamists in one of the Arab world’s most secular countries.Still, compromise has been important in Tunisian politics and Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes (Call for Tunisia) party reached a deal with the Islamist Ennahda (Renaissance) party to overcome a crisis triggered by the murder of two secular leaders last year.Ennahda stepped down at the start of this year to make way for a technocrat transitional cabinet until elections. But the Islamists remain a powerful force after winning the second largest number of seats in the new parliament.Essebsi appeals to the more secular, liberal sections of Tunisian society, while analysts predicted that Marzouki would draw on support from more conservative rural areas, and from some members of Ennahda, which did not field a candidate.The presidency post holds only limited powers over national defense and foreign policy. The parliament, led by Nidaa Tounes which won the most seats, will be key to selecting a prime minister to lead the government.Photo © Sarah Leduc, FRANCE 24 read more

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Rabat – More than 4,481 refugees have been registered in Morocco as of September 2015, according to the most recent data announced by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).“There are currently an estimated 4,481 refugees in the kingdom of Morocco. 60 percent of them are Syrians,” announced Jean-Paul Cavalieri, UNHCR representative in Morocco, during a media briefing last week in Rabat.Jean-Paul Cavalieri went on to say that those refugees came to Morocco from 40 countries and are based in 35 cities across Morocco. He added that over 2,983 of them are in need of international protection.Cavalieri believes that 1,558 asylum applications have been lodged in Morocco as of September 2015, and are now under review by the Moroccan authorities. A previous report by UNHCR revealed that 1,763 Syrians refugees were registered in Morocco as of August 31, 2015.The majority of Syrians applying for asylum in Morocco departed Syria legally using their national passports. The two main exit points from Syria are the Aleppo and Damascus airports.On June 26, 2014, the Moroccan authorities initiated a regularization process for Syrians registered with UNHCR.The body in charge of the process is an ad hoc, inter-ministerial commission, chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and includes representatives from the ministries of Interior, Justice and Employment, the Inter-Ministerial Delegation for Human Rights and UNHCR. The commission holds its sessions at the Bureau for Refugees and Stateless Persons. read more

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London  – The British government welcomed the signing this Thursday in Morocco of a Libyan political agreement to end the crisis in Libya.“This is a positive step for Libya and I commend those who have worked together to seek consensus in the interests of all the Libyan people”, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a release.“To ensure a lasting peace in Libya, all parties must maintain this momentum to create a Government of National Accord based in Tripoli. I also urge those who have not yet signed, to support this agreement”, he added. The agreement was signed this Thursday in Skhirat (30 km south of Rabat), by representatives of all parties taking part in the inter-Libyan dialogue, held under the aegis of the UN support mission in Libya, mainly the Tobrouk agreement (recognized by the international community), the National General Congress, called the Tripoli parliament, independent figures and representatives of the civil society. Morocco had hosted several UN-sponsored rounds of talks. read more

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Rabat – Morocco has decided to give up its right to host the ordinary session of the Arab Summit, initially scheduled to be held next March.Upon High Instructions of King Mohammed VI, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and cooperation Salaheddine Mezouar informed Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi of Morocco’s decision to give up its right to host the ordinary session of the Arab Summit.This decision has been taken based on the provisions of the charter of the Arab League, consultations with a number of brotherly Arab states, and conscious, responsible and committed thinking in favor of the efficiency of the joint Arab action and the necessity to preserve its credibility, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and cooperation pointed out in a statement. In the wake of the ongoing challenges in the Arab World, the Arab Summit could not be an end in itself or an occasional ordinary meeting, the statement said, stressing that the objective conditions to guarantee the success of the Arab Summit and take decisions that live up to the situation and the aspirations of Arab peoples are not met.Given the absence of important concrete initiatives which could be submitted to Arab Heads of State, this summit will only be an occasion to take ordinary resolutions and deliver speeches which pretend to give false impression of unity and solidarity between Arab States, the statement added.The Arab world is going through a difficult period. The hour of truth has come. The leaders of the Arab countries cannot just, once again, carry out a simple bitter diagnosis of the situation, differences and divisions in the Arab world, without providing decisive collective answers to face this situation, in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, where crises get further complicated because of the many maneuvers and regional and international agendas, the statement said.Similarly, the leaders of Arab countries cannot stand idly by in the face of the economic and social problems of their peoples, or just watch the unfolding tragedies of the Arab citizen.Morocco does not want this summit to be held on its soil without bringing added value within the framework of the defense of the first cause of Arabs and Muslims, namely the Palestinian issue and Al Quds, while the Israeli settlement and violations continue on the occupied Palestinian territories, where the number of Palestinian deaths and prisoners continues to increase, the statement said.Like all brotherly Arab countries, the Kingdom of Morocco aspires to hold a summit of the Arab awakening to renew the solidarity-based and joint Arab action as the only way to give anew hope to Arab peoples.This inspires the constructive contribution and the recognized role of Morocco in supporting the political process in Libya, which led to the historic agreement of Skhirat and the formation of a national unity government in this Maghreb country.The common construction of the future of Arab countries is the best guarantee of stability and a bulwark against the resurgence of regional tensions, the rise of extremism, violence and terrorism, which undermine the foundations of the modern State and our ancestral values, the statement added.Morocco will continue its constant action in the service of the just Arab issues and against the sectarian divisions that stimulate withdrawal and extremism and to promote the role of the Arab League as a catalyst for large-scale social projects, the statement concluded. read more

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Rabat – A new report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) released on Monday said it could take up to 70 years to close the global gender wage gap if current trends continue.In the report, the ILO estimated the global gender wage gap to be 23 percent, meaning women earn 77 percent of what men earn.“The gap cannot be explained solely by differences in education or age,” the report said. “[They] are also linked to the undervaluation of the work that women undertake and of the skills required in female-dominated sectors or occupations, the practice of discrimination, and the need for women to take career breaks to attend to additional care responsibilities, for instance after the birth of a child.” The ILO’s analysis of recent progress in closing the gap showed that moves towards wage parity can “mostly be attributed to explicit policy actions to address gender imbalances in the labor market, rather than to general improvements in living standards.”The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) experience the largest gender-based gaps in employment, the report added. The regional employment gap, which exceeds 50 percent, will lead to further gaps in pension coverage in the future, the ILO said.“Low female labor participation rates…weigh significantly on women’s effective pension coverage in Northern Africa, the Arab States and Southern Asia, where the proportions of older women in receipt of a pension are inferior to 10 per cent,” the report read.In addition, the female youth unemployment rate in MENA, which hovers around 44 percent, is double the male youth unemployment rate. read more

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By Beryl KessioRabat – The most divisive presidential elections in U.S. history is finally coming to an end after this Tuesday. American voters are heading to the polls today to pick the next president, vice president, congressional representatives and other officials.Voting started at 06:00 EST (11:00 GMT) on the east coast, though some villages of New Hampshire polled early. The rest of the country’s polling places are due to open later in the day. A record 46 million Americans have voted early this election season, according to the Pew Research Center. That number could top 50 million by the time all votes are counted. Before voting began today, Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton’s lead over Washington outsider and GOP nominee Donald Trump was a mere four percent, according to a CBS News poll. In most swing states, it will be a close race. However, if Clinton holds on to traditionally blue states and adds a few swing states, she will most likely win the election.Trump will need Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, three hotly contested states, in order to have a chance. That is assuming he does well in the remaining swing states.Both candidates have held rallies in the battleground states of North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan in the days leading up to the election in a last-ditch effort to win crucial votes to tip them over the required 270 electoral votes needed to clinch the presidency.“We now have the chance to elect a 45th president who will build on our progress who will finish the job … who is smart, who is steady and who is tested,” Obama said at a rally, endorsing the former Secretary of State while slamming Mr. Trump. “She will work, she will deliver. She won’t just tweet.”At his last rally of the campaign on Tuesday, Trump assembled supporters under the idea of putting “America first.”“Imagine what our country could accomplish if we started working together as one people, under one God, saluting one American flag,” he said.The presidential election is not the only important race for Americans today. Democrats are looking to seize the Senate from Republicans. Even though the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will most likely remain as such, the majority is expected to be reduced. read more

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Rabat – Turkish authorities arrested on Monday the main suspect of attacking a high-end restaurant in Istanbul on New Year’s Eve.Just as stories began spreading about the identity and motives of the person who carried out the terrorist attack at the high-end restaurant and lounge, the Reina, in Istanbul during the New Year’s Eve celebration, Turkish authorities announced the arrest of the primary suspect in the attack.Since his escape, Turkish authorities have purportedly led massive search operations across the country. The operations resulted in the arrest of the suspect in the area of Esenyurt on the European side of Istanbul. The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu, previously revealed that the attacker was from an Uzbekistani origin, paying allegiance to the Islamic State. According to the minister, the attacker operated under the nickname Abu Mohammed Al Khorassani and used to move around the country with a network connected to ISIS in Turkey supporting him.The photo of the alleged terrorist suggests that the police may have beaten him during the arrest as his face is bruised and swollen, especially in the area around the eyes. The attack on Reina created international uproar, claiming the lives of 39 people from many countries, and wounding 69. Two Moroccans died, and their mortal remains were repatriated back to Morocco on Tuesday, January 3rd. read more

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Rabat – The 17th Mawazine Festival Rhythms of the World is shaping up. Maroc Cultures has added several artists to its lineup, including pop sensation and four-time Grammy winner The Weeknd, who will perform June 29, at the OLM Souissi stage.Born Abdel Tesfaye, The Weeknd is a 28-year-old R&B and pop performer whose debut album “Trilogy,” was gold-certified. He has scored 8 top ten entries in the Billboard Hot 100 list, including hits such as “The Hills,” “Can’t Feel My Face,” and “Starboy.”Performing at Mawazine’s international stage Mawazine, The Weeknd joins superstar Bruno Mars (US), top DJ Martin Garrix (Netherlands), hit duo The Chainsmokers (US), funky band Jamiroquai (UK), pop-rock band Texas (UK), music sensation Luis Fonsi (Puerto Rico) and the successful rappers Niska (France) and Damso (DRC). Rabat will also enjoy the Jamaican performer Chronixx on the Bouregreg stage on June 25.Jamar McNaught, best known as Chronixx, was born west of the Jamaican capital. The singer appeared on the reggae scene in 2012, but his fame exploded two years later with the release of his EP “Dread & Terrible,” followed by an appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” which catapulted his popularity ratings.His album Chronology, released in 2017, reached first place on US charts.The Algerian group, Babylone, famous for its single “Zina,” will perform on June 24 at the Mohammed V National Theater.Formed in 2012, Babylone is composed of singer and author Amine Mohamed Djemal; guitarists Rahim El Hadi, Ramzy Ayadi, and Rafik Chami; and percussionist and bassist Redouane Nehar. Their first single Zina, released in 2013, went quickly viral on the web.Lebanese superstars Saad Ramadan and Marwan Khoury will mesmerize the Nahda Stage on June 23.Saad Ramadan conquers audiences with his distinctive voice and beautiful stage presence. He participated in Star Academy 5 in Lebanon, where he claimed third place.Renowned Lebanese singer, composer, and arranger Marwan Khoury has produced numerous titles for great names in Arabic music, such as Magida El Roumi, Najwa Karam and Saber Rebai.The 50-year-old artist, who has won many awards since his impressive career began in 2000, is also known for his collaborations with Moroccan artists, such as Karima Sqalli and Hatim Ammor.Recognized as the youngest raï—Algerian folk music—artist, Moroccan singer Douzi sings in several languages, including Arabic, French, English, Spanish, Turkish, and Hindi.Established in 2001, Mawazine is the essential rendezvous for music lovers in Morocco, and was attended by 2.4 million fans last year. Held every year over nine days, the festival’s rich and diversified program unites stars from the four corners of the world to transform the cities of Rabat and Sale into a grand stage for international music. read more

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NEW YORK — A parliamentary committee report is recommending that the United Kingdom government increase oversight of social media platforms like Facebook to better control harmful or illegal content.A report published Sunday says social media sites should have to follow a mandatory code of ethics overseen by an independent regulator. The report called out Facebook in particular, saying that the site’s structure seems to be designed to “conceal knowledge of and responsibility for specific decisions.” The report expands on an earlier report by the committee issued in July .Facebook did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.Facebook and other internet companies have been facing increased scrutiny over how they handle user data and have come under fire for not doing enough to stop misuse of their platforms by groups trying to sway elections.The Associated Press read more

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Rabat – International media reported that Malaysia Sultan Muhammad V announced his intention to abdicate the throne, a decision unprecedented in the country’s history.The Malaysian palace confirmed the decision, but has yet to issue a statement explaining the King’s reason.The 49-year-old sultan held the throne for two years and had another 3 years left to reign before the throne rotated. The country’s rulers are expected  meet to decide on the next leader. Read Also: Russian Beauty Queen Marries Malaysia’s King Mohammed VIn December 2018, photos of the Malaysian King marrying Miss Moscow 2015, Oksana Voevodina, went viral. The wedding was reportedly held at a concert hall in Barvikha, a village in Moscow.The wedding reportedly did not serve alcohol and all food was halal, cooked according to Islamic law.The 25-year-old wife of the resigned king converted to Islam in April 2018. In a photo posted to Twitter last year, Voevodina posed in a hijab with her husband.Despite the release of photos of the sultan’s marriage to  Miss Moscow 2015, to international news outlets, including The National, many are still calling the marriage a rumor because royal officials have not released a statement confirming the marriage. read more

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Singapore Airlines says it has grounded two of its Boeing 787-10 aircraft due to engine issues.The carrier said in a statement on Tuesday that “premature blade deterioration was found on some engines” of its 787-10 fleet at recent routine inspections.It said, “Pending engine replacements, two SIA 787-10 aircraft have been removed from service.”The carrier said it would operate other aircraft on the affected routes to minimize disruption. It said some flights were disrupted but gave no details.Singapore Airlines said it was consulting engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and the relevant authorities for next steps and any precautionary measures.SIA became the first carrier in the world to fly the 787-10, beginning last year. The 337-seat aircraft includes 301 seats in economy and 36 lie-flat seats in business class.Associated Press, The Associated Press read more

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