Moroccos New Migration Policy Pioneer in the Region Says UN Expert


Rabat- The new Moroccan migration and asylum policy is a “pioneer” in the region, UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity, Virginia Dandan, said Tuesday in Rabat.“I congratulate Morocco for devising the new immigration and asylum policy, which is pioneer in the region”, Dandan told the press.Morocco has “obviously made efforts to strengthen its South-South cooperation, especially with its African neighbors”, the UN expert said, noting that the Kingdom is committed in particular to support capacity-building projects in various fields in partnership with a number of African countries, particularly in the area of sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. “Morocco has always sponsored and hosted a number of African students in its universities,” Dandan said, praising the integration of the principles of solidarity and international cooperation in the preamble of the Moroccan Constitution, which illustrates the kingdom’s commitment to promote a solidarity-based society.With MAP read more

Moroccans Organize March in Rabat to Protest Ban Kimoons Statements


Rabat – Moroccan political parties and trade unions have decided to organize a march on Sunday in Rabat to protest the statements made by United Nations Secretary General last weekend in the Tindouf camps, in southwestern Algeria. The march will start at 1 pm local time and will depart from Bab Chala, one of the most emblematic areas of the Moroccan capital.During his first trip to the Tindouf camps last Saturday, Ban Ki-moon made statements that have been described by the Moroccan government as “departing from his impartiality and neutrality” as Secretary General of the United Nations. The UN chief used the term “occupation” when referring to Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara, a Moroccan territory that is claimed by the Polisario, a separatist movement supported by Algeria.The statement caused an uproar in Morocco, prompting to issue a communiqué on Tuesday in which Morocco denounced Ban Ki-moon of “bias” in favor of the Polisario.The UN chief’s comments “are politically inappropriate, unprecedented, and contrary to Security Council resolutions,” Rabat said in a statement.The statement said that Morocco has seen “with amazement that the Secretary General used the term ‘occupation’ to describe the recovery by Morocco of its territorial integrity.”“This departs from terminology traditionally used by the United Nations in the Moroccan Sahara,” added the statement. read more

Boko Haram Suicide Bomber Kills 11 at Mosque in Cameroon


Yaoundé – A bombing attack by the Boko Haram terrorist group has killed at least 11 people in a mosque in Cameroon.Officials said on Thursday that the bombing had occurred the night before, when an assailant detonated his explosives as people were breaking their fast at a mosque close to the Nigerian border.Four other people were injured in the blast. According to Cameroonian authorities, close to 1200 people have been killed ever since Boko Haram started attacking the Far North region in 2013.Since 2009, the Boko Haram insurgency has left 20,000 people dead and 2.3 million displaced. read more

To meet Global Demand King Mohammed VI Opens Extension Wing of


Rabat – King Mohammed VI inaugurated on Friday, the extension project of the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines and Morchidates (religious male and female preachers) in Rabat university campus.The project forms part of the royal instructions to expand the institute’s reception capacity in order to better respond to the growing demands of foreign countries for religious training, said Ahmed Toufiq, Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, in a speech given before the King.Toufiq stressed that “778 foreign students are currently pursuing their studies at the institute. The duration of the training takes into consideration the educational level of the candidates, especially in terms of their mastery of the Arabic language.” Thirty-five Imams from Guinea, 33 from France, 107 from Niger, 79 from Chad, and 37 from Tunisia have benefited from short training courses for Imams serving in mosques.“The number of the institute’s graduates from these countries has so far reached 712 imams and preachers,” the minister said.The minister emphasized that every year the institute also receives 150 Moroccan students who have obtained their bachelor’s degree with honors and who have memorized the Quran in its entirety, for 12-month training, enabling them to assist other imams in the exercise of their duties.The institute also receives students with the same academic profiles who have memorized some of the Quran following the same program over the same period, in order to make them preachers within mosques and within the various academic and social institutions, with the aim of promoting the “true precepts” of Islam.Toufiq said that according to directions of King Mohammed VI, a special department was set up within the institute, which has received 100 students, responsible for the religious supervision of the officers and non-commissioned officers of the Royal Armed Forces.During the project’s opening, the King awarded diplomas to 18 graduates of the institute’s class of 2016 from Ivory Coast, France, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Chad, and Morocco.Carried out by the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, the extension project was given a budget of MAD 165 million. It covers an area of 10,000 square meters, and includes a pedagogical space with a capacity of 640 seats, a large amphitheater with 1,100 seats, and a residential space of 350 beds.Modern Imams for Modern IssuesConfronted with the rise of extremism and terrorism, Morocco has embarked on a vast reform of the religious field, including the renovation of mosques, the creation of the radio and television station “Mohammed VI,” and the establishment of Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines, and Morchidates.Built on a 28,687 square meter space, requiring a MAD 200 million investment and nine months of construction, the institution was launched in 2005 by King Mohammed VI.The idea was to create a body of imams to preach moderate Islam within the country as well as internationally.The teaching started with 150 Morchidines  and 50 Morchidates  After one year, they were sent across Morocco to share their religious education with citizens, in schools, mosques, youth centers, and regional delegations of the Ministry of endowment and Islamic Affairs.The reputation of the institution quickly travelled abroad.During the royal visit to Mali in 2013, the Malian president asked the King to receive a group of Malian imams in the institution to benefit from the training provided in Morocco.Soon after, Malian students arrived in November in Rabat and received training in the institution. The experiment was a success, which prompted other countries to follow suit.Starting in 2014, student delegations from Guinea-Conakry, Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Mali, and France all started studying at the institute.New demands followed and students from Chad, Nigeria, and Senegal have joined the training. To date, the institute welcomes more than 1,200 students every year. read more

SDX Energy Launches New Drilling


Rabat – SDX Energy announced the process of drilling the SAH-2 well, will begin after a delay of 15 to 20 days, in a press release on February 27. If the drilling proves successful, it will be completed, flow tested, and then delivered to nearby infrastructure.The SAH-2 well, located on the “downthrown” side of the fault, possesses the same drilling structure as those that have produced effective wells for the company.The SAH-2 is the seventh of nine onshore well-drilling programmes in Morocco; four wells have already demonstrated positive results, while the latest drilling (KSS-2 well) revealed low gas saturation incompatible with commercial usage. The company explained that the well is too isolated from the reservoir source rock, due to its location on the “upthrown” side of a fault. Read Also:Sebou KSS-2 Permit Drilling Reveal Low Gas Saturation: SDX EnergyIn a previous release, the corporation projects that the SAH-2 carries a high potential for commercial use.SDX is an international oil and gas exploration, production, and development company, headquartered in London, England, UK, with a principal focus on North Africa.In Morocco, SDX has a 75 percent working interest in the Sebou concession situated in the Gharb Basin. In Egypt, SDX has a 50 percent working interest in two producing assets located onshore in the Eastern Desert, adjacent to the Gulf of Suez.These producing assets are characterized by exceptionally low operating costs, making them particularly resilient in a low-oil price environment. SDX’s portfolio also includes high impact exploration opportunities in both Egypt and Morocco. read more

Butterfly Center asks judge to stop Texas border wall


HOUSTON — The non-profit National Butterfly Center has asked a federal judge to stop border wall activity on its property as the Trump administration gears up to build new barriers in South Texas and may soon win funding for more.In a motion filed late Monday, centre director Marianna Trevino Wright says heavy machinery has been driving through their property for a week, including a road grader accompanied by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle.The government says it will start this month on the first of 33 miles (53 kilometres) of new walls and fencing. Congress funded construction last year.Congressional negotiators trying to avoid a second government shutdown reached an agreement Monday to fund an additional 55 miles (88 kilometres) of barriers in the Rio Grande Valley.Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press read more

King of Spains Brotherinlaw Sentenced to 5 years in Prison for


Rabat – The brother-in-law of Felipe VI King of Spain, Inaki Urdangarin, was sentenced by the Spanish Supreme Court to five years and ten months in prison on corruption charges. He should be incarcerated in the next few days.The husband of Princess Cristina of Spain – banished from the royal family since 2013 and exiled in Switzerland – was sentenced Tuesday, June 12.Urdangarin’s imprisonment  is long overdue. In February 2017,  he was initially sentenced to six years and three months in prison and over 500,000 euros fine for misusing the prestige of the Crown to do business with the public administrations of the Balearic Islands and Valencia. The brother-in-law of Spain’s King Felipe Vi is convicted for charges ranging from embezzlement of public funds, tax evasion to trading in influence.Between 2004 and 2006, Urdangarin siphoned off grants awarded to the nonprofit foundation, Noos, of which he was the president. However, he was acquitted of the offense of forgery, which explains the reduction of his sentence.As for his partner, Diego Torres, his sentence was reduced from 8 years and 6 months to 5 years and 8 months.The Infanta Cristina,  sentenced in her civil proceedings as a beneficiary of the gains obtained by her husband, received a fine of 265,000 euros, However, her appeal led the court to reduce the fine  to 136,950 euros on TuesdayUrdangarin, 50,  and father of four children will soon be summoned by the Balearic Court to organize his entry into prison to serve his sentence. However, he has a possible recourse via the  Constitutional Court to ask for mercy. read more

Darden Restaurants shares rise on 3Q earnings


ORLANDO, Fla. — Shares in Darden Restaurants jumped on Thursday after the company raised its outlook and posted earnings and revenue that beat Wall Street estimates.The owner of Olive Garden and other chain restaurants reported fiscal third-quarter profit of $223.6 million, beating expectations and the $217.8 million in profits for the same quarter last year.Another strong showing from its anchor brands has Darden raising its full-year earnings expectations to $5.76 to $5.80 per share, from the previous guidance of between $5.60 and $5.70 per share.Same-restaurant sales for Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, which make up nearly 80 per cent of Darden’s restaurants, increased 4.3 per cent and 3.8 per cent, respectively, during the quarter. The metric is a key indicator of a restaurant’s health as it strips out the impact of locations that have opened or closed in the past year.On a per-share basis, the Orlando, Florida-based company said it had net income of $1.79. Earnings, adjusted to exclude discontinued operations, came to $1.80 per share.The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.75 per share. Darden’s earnings per share for last year’s third quarter were $1.73.The company posted revenue of $2.25 billion in the period, topping last year’s quarter of $2.13 billion as well as Street forecasts. Nine analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $2.24 billion.Darden shares rose more 6 per centper cent in early trading. They’ve increased more than 15 per cent since the beginning of the year and about 23 per cent in the past 12 months._____Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights ( using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on DRI at Associated Press read more

South Africa Morocco Allegedly Ready to Break Diplomatic Stalemate


Rabat – Pretoria has finally acknowledged the diplomatic credentials of Morocco’s new ambassador to South Africa, according to a Moroccan diplomatic source quoted earlier this week in a number of Moroccan publications.Are Rabat and Pretoria finally ready to bury the hatchet and nourish the peaceful diplomatic ties that the AU is increasingly requesting of continental giants? The answer is complicated, but at least the two countries appear to be considering rapprochement.“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation received this week a letter from South Africa,” the Moroccan source was quoted as saying. The letter, the source explained, came with the good news—as far as African affairs are concerned—that South Africa would finally accept the hand that Morocco had extended in August 2018.Pretoria has “finally accepted former deputy foreign Minister Youssef Amrani as Morocco’s ambassador to Pretoria,” the source added.More than an appointmentWhen King Mohammed VI appointed 14 new ambassadors in August 2018, the one appointment that generated comments in diplomatic circles was the appointment of Amrani to represent Morocco in South Africa.Of paramount importance in such debates was the profile of the newly-appointed Moroccan ambassador to Pretoria.While traditional ambassadorial appointments often have to do with changing from one ambassadorship to another or promoting promising young civil servants at the foreign affairs ministry, Amrani was already an established—and revered—senior in Moroccan diplomacy.As Moroccan ambassador to a number of South American countries between 1996-2003, Amrani played a considerable part in Morocco’s ongoing diplomatic breakthrough in Latin America, a region mostly known for its endorsement of “revolutionary” and Marxist-communist movements like the Polisario Front.After his Latin American years, Amrani joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rabat, where he occupied a number of “strategic posts,” including chief of the bilateral relations office, secretary general of the ministry, and delegate minister.Prior to his appointment as ambassador to Pretoria, he most recently served as the chief of mission at the Royal Cabinet. In that position, Amrani was part of the restricted circle of senior dignitaries advising the King on matters of utmost diplomatic significance.In appointing Amrani to the Pretoria office, the King was sending another part of the message he addressed to his AU counterparts on the day Morocco officially returned to the organization in January 2017.Now that the North African kingdom is “back home,” it plans to make its mark on continental politics, including being present in previously uncharted waters for the advancement of its “legitimate interests.”More than an appointee, Amrani will be a missionary in South Africa, the heart of his task being to progressively engineer a diplomatic common ground with South Africa, a strong Polisario supporter.The long road aheadFor Amrani’s mission to be possible, or start, however, it needed Pretoria’s stamp. The alleged letter the Moroccan diplomatic source referred to was that stamp. Even though the stamp came very late—more than seven months after Amrani’s appointment—and very half-heartedly, it may be enough to suggest that some things are changing.But South Africa suggested it had reasons for delaying Amrani’s confirmation. The divergence between the two countries hit its lowest mark in 2004 when Morocco’s ambassador to Pretoria hurriedly left his post. Morocco was protesting against South Africa’s recognition of the Polisario-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.After overtly opposing each other’s interests for over a decade, Rabat and Pretoria finally gave signs of normalization in November 2017, when King Mohammed VI met with then-President Jacob Zuma at an AU summit in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire.That was less than a year after Morocco joined the AU, and the suggestion was clear: Establishing firm relations with other African nations has become the center of gravity of Morocco’s new “royal diplomacy.”As news articles suggesting a “new African momentum” in Rabat-Pretoria ties began spreading, explaining the benefits of normalized ties between the two countries, Pretoria announced that it was poised to consider opening a new page with Morocco.Mxolisi Sizo Nkosi, a senior official in the South African foreign ministry, said in the aftermath of the Abidjan meeting that “the ball is Morocco’s court if the Kingdom wants to return an ambassador to Pretoria.”According to the South African official, “the starting point for any normalization of relations between Rabat and Pretoria would have to be Morocco replying to the 14-year-old South African request.”Appointing Amrani was Morocco’s reply, putting the ball in South Africa’s court. And now that Pretoria has allegedly positively replied by accepting Amrani’s appointment, can the much-reported “new momentum” be said to have finally begun?The answer will depend on how President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced President Zuma in early 2018, will reply to King Mohammed VI’s perceived insistence on intra-African cooperation.The search for common ground is recognized as the primary goal of any successful diplomatic endeavor. Continuously befriending already friendly countries is singing to the choir. It is easy and demands little or no effort.Good, outstanding diplomacy, on the other hand, requires efforts, dedication to brokering an agreement between parties seemingly destined to disagreement and hostility.Much has happened since President Ramaphosa came to power.Although President Ramaphosa has not engineered any substantive deviation from the official South African position on Western Sahara, he has given it a much fiercer pro-Polisario resonance. He has called on Morocco to “decolonize” Western Sahara and has vowed to throw South Africa’s international weight behind Polisario’s “Sahrawi cause.”As Pretoria and Rabat will begin to slowly “discuss diplomacy” in the coming weeks and months, the usual diplomatic question will be raised, “What is in it for us?”South Africa and Morocco know the answer to that question: There is a lot to benefit for both countries should they decide to cooperate.“The cultural heritage between Morocco and South Africa should enable the two parties to move forwards,” Germany’s Deutsche Welle wrote in late 2017. The newspaper highlighted that rapprochement between Rabat and Pretoria will benefit an Africa thirsty for relevance and significance in global affairs, in addition to benefiting the two countries.The same argument was made nearly a year later, this time by South African experts on African security. Reacting to South Africa’s election as a non-permanent member at the UN Security Council, they stressed that the country should be more neutral and flexible in African crises like Western Sahara.A vision of “continental leadership,” “strategic clarity,” and “intra-African coherence and consistency,” they argued, should be the guiding principles of South Africa’s diplomacy, instead of “the current trap of worsening distrust.”By agreeing to break nearly 15 years of diplomatic stalemate, South Africa and Morocco may have suggested that they are finally ready to discuss, and incrementally go beyond, their “strategic disagreements.”But while the prospect of discussion between two countries that have avoided each other and fought each other on the diplomatic and financial terrains should be applauded, no one should get ahead of themselves. Premature celebration often ends in disappointment.Amrani’s appointment is not in itself the end of an anachronistic age in Morocco-South Africa relations, but it may herald the beginning of a whole new era. read more

Ramadan in Xinjiang Province a Sign of Extremism Says China


Rabat – Amnesty International has launched a petition to help Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang province observe Ramadan. The Amnesty petition page reminds readers of China’s repression of the predominantly Muslims ethnic minority, Uyghurs, in the province.For Chinese authorities in Xinjiang, some displays of religious affiliation are considered as “signs of extremism.” These include fasting, growing an “abnormal beard,” wearing a headscarf, praying regularly,  and avoiding alcohol. According to Amnesty, any of these can lead to imprisonment in camps called “transformation-through-education centres.” These camps aim to replace religious beliefs and aspects of cultural identity with political loyalty for the government.The government discourages Muslim religious and cultural practices. According to Amnesty, Chinese authorities have regularly posted notices on government websites that primary and high school students are not allowed to observe Ramadan. In April 2017, the government reportedly published a list of prohibited names, most of which were Islamic in origin, and required all children under 16 with these names to change them.Last year, Radio Free Asia reported that during Ramadan, the authorities forced restaurants to stay open and restricted access to mosques, Amnesty added.Read also: Crackdown Against Muslims: China Closes Three MosquesPetition for protecting religious freedomAmnesty is petitioning for the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to urge Chinese authorities to respect Uyghurs’ freedom of religion and to stop persecuting them.The OIC is an international organisation of 57 Muslim-majority countries. Its IPHRC aims to protect and promote human rights in the Muslim World.At a meeting in Abu Dhabi in March, the OIC turned a blind eye to the situation of Uyghurs, stating that it “commends the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens.” Xinjiang province borders Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan. the region is home to a predominantly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group.Muslims gather for prayer in Xinjiang province.Ethnic tensionsThe province is also a political hotspot. It has the highest concentration of fossil fuels in China and is therefore extremely valuable to the Chinese government. The region’s economic opportunities have attracted Han Chinese people from the rest of the country. Supported by the government, Han Chinese are allegedly given better jobs, causing ethnic tension.Uyghurs are culturally and ethnically closer to Central Asian countries and some seek independence.The anti-Han independence movement intensified in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of independent Muslim states in Central Asia. But the Chinese government suppressed the movement.Sporadic ethnic violence has since occasionally flared up. In 2009, 200 people were killed in ethnic rioting. 2014 was particularly violent, with a number of bomb incidents, shootings, and knife attacks between ethnic groups and Chinese authorities. read more

CAF Announces 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers Pots


Rabat – The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has announced the pots for the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.The 2021 AFCON will take place in Cameroon. Cameroon was set to host the ongoing 2019 tournament but was stripped of hosting rights. The West African country was not prepared for the tournament in terms of the standard of the stadium and other issues.The CAF listed the teams in 5 pots according to their FIFA rankings. The first two pots include 12 national teams, while the remaining three have only eight.Morocco was listed in the first pot alongside Algeria, Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Tunisia.The draw of the 2021 AFCON will be made on Thursday, July 18 in Cairo, Egypt. read more

Lucara Diamond finds another big diamond at Karowe mine in Botswana


VANCOUVER — Lucara Diamond Corp. says it has found a 1,758-carat diamond at its Karowe diamond mine located in Botswana.The company says it is one of the largest diamonds ever found and the largest diamond to be mined at Karowe so far.Lucara chief executive Eira Thomas says the Karowe mine has now produced two diamonds greater than 1,000 carats in four years.The latest discovery weighs close to 352 grams and measures 83 millimetres by 62 mm by 46 mm.The company says the diamond has been characterized as “near gem of variable quality, including domains of high-quality white gem.”Lucara found a 1,111-carat gem quality diamond at the Karowe mine in 2015. Companies in this story: (TSX:LUC) The Canadian Press read more

Moroccan Project Receives €20 Million Aid Package From International Climate Program


Rabat – Moroccan project, Integration of energy efficiency in the building sector, has received a €20 million fund from the Nama Facility, an international climate finance program that seeks to encourage “ambitious action on climate change.”The project earned financial aid as part of an international contest.Commenting on securing the fund, Minister of National Territorial Development and Urban Planning Abdelahad Fassi Fehri said that the selection of the Moroccan project confirms Morocco’s “pioneering” role in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. According to the Ministry of National Territorial Development and Urban Planning, the building sector is “one of the major energy-consuming areas in Morocco, it represents 33% of the final energy consumption and records a strong growth of the annual energy consumption.”Read Also: 39% of Moroccans Haven’t Heard of Climate ChangeMorocco suggested the national energy efficiency strategy to achieve energy savings of around 20% through “better use of energy in all areas.”The ministry added that the integration of energy efficiency in construction is “one of the levers that will help to meet the kingdom’s energy challenges and achieve its objectives in the fight against climate change.”Fassi Fehri said that Morocco is “strongly committed, in accordance with the guidelines of King Mohammed VI, to a worldwide movement to fight global warming and limit greenhouse gas emissions.”Morocco’s project was selected after an evaluation of all projects submitted.Experts from the NAMA Facility carried out assessments on the projects.“This project was carried out in partnership with the Ministry of Energy and Mining and the Al Omrane Group,” he said. read more

Can US China salvage their talks and end trade war


WASHINGTON — Heightened trade tensions between the United States and China are spooking financial markets and putting a chill on prospects for the global economy.Chinese officials are heading to Washington to try to salvage negotiations aimed at breaking an impasse between the world’s two biggest economies over Beijing’s aggressive push to challenge American technological dominance. The 11th round of talks is set to start Thursday in Washington.But their arrival is unlikely to stop the United States from going ahead with plans to raise import taxes on $200 billion in Chinese goods at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Eastern time, in a dramatic escalation of a yearlong trade war.The dispute is upsetting investors. The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 500 points Tuesday afternoon after slipping modestly on Monday.Here’s a look at what’s happening:___WHAT WENT WRONG?For weeks, the Trump administration had suggested that talks were making steady progress, and financial markets seemed to have priced in a peaceful resolution to the trade dispute. But on Sunday, President Donald Trump unexpectedly expressed frustration at the pace of talks and vowed to raise tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese products from 10% to 25%. The higher duties would cover thousands of Chinese imports, ranging from baseball gloves to burglar alarms.“The Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No!” Trump tweeted.A day later, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the top U.S. trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, said that China was reneging on commitments it made in earlier rounds of negotiations. U.S. officials say they got an inkling of China’s second thoughts in talks last week in Beijing, but that the backsliding became even more apparent in exchanges over the weekend. They wouldn’t identify the specific issues involved.____WHAT ARE THE U.S. AND CHINA FIGHTING ABOUT?The United States accuses China of resorting to predatory tactics in a drive to give Chinese companies an edge in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and electric vehicles. These, the U.S. contends, include hacking into U.S. companies’ computers to steal trade secrets, forcing foreign companies to hand over sensitive technology in exchange for access to Chinese markets and unfairly subsidizing Chinese tech firms.Trump has also complained repeatedly about America’s massive trade deficit with China — a record $379 billion last year — which he blames on weak and naive negotiating by previous U.S. administrations.Last July, Trump began gradually slapping tariffs on Chinese imports. The United States now is imposing 10% taxes on $200 billion in Chinese products and 25% on another $50 billion. Beijing has counterpunched by targeting $110 billion worth of American imports, focusing on farm products such as soybeans in a deliberate effort to inflict pain on Trump supporters in the U.S. heartland.___WEREN’T THE TWO SIDES MAKING PROGRESS?Yes. Last week, Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who has been briefed on the negotiations, told reporters that “94.5%” of the issues had been resolved and that talks had reached the “end game.” China was expected to beef up protection for trade secrets and offer foreign firms wider access to the Chinese market.But stumbling blocks remained — even before Trump accused China of backsliding on what it had already agreed to.U.S. officials are insisting that any deal be strictly enforced so that China lives up to its promises — something they say Beijing has repeatedly failed to do in the past. Also unclear is what would happen to the U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports. China wants them lifted; the U.S. wants to keep tariffs as leverage to pressure the Chinese to comply with any agreement.___WHAT ARE THE PROSPECTS FOR A RESOLUTION?Both countries have an incentive to reach a deal. China’s economy is decelerating; the International Monetary Fund expects Chinese economic growth to slip from 6.6% last year to 6.3% in 2019 and 6.1% in 2020. The trade war with the United States has hurt Chinese exporters and eroded business and consumer confidence.The trade tensions have also rattled financial markets, jeopardizing a U.S. stock market rally that Trump sees as a vote of confidence in his economic policies. And China’s retaliatory tariffs are inflicting pain on farmers, a key part of Trump’s political base.Still, business groups and congressional Democrats are insisting that Trump, having taken U.S.-China relations to the brink, hold out for a deal that requires the Chinese to genuinely change their behaviour, reform their economy and open up to foreign companies.Chinese President Xi Jinping runs a one-party state and doesn’t have to answer directly to voters. But he, too, faces pressure not to cave in to American demands. “They have their internal politics, too,” said Michael Pillsbury, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center on Chinese Strategy and an adviser to the Trump White House.___WHAT IS THE ECONOMIC FALLOUT?Forecasters at the IMF and World Bank have already downgraded the outlook for the global economy. The U.S.-China standoff is reducing global trade and creating uncertainty for companies deciding where to buy supplies, build plants and make investments.Friday’s scheduled increase in tariffs could intensify the economic pain. Steven Cochrane, chief Asia-Pacific economist at Moody’s Analytics, said that fallout from Friday’s planned tariff increase could reduce U.S. economic growth — 2.9% last year — by 1.8 percentage points. And it could shave Chinese growth to around 5%. “If Trump’s threat becomes reality,” Cochrane said, “it will be a game changer for the global economy.”___Follow Paul Wiseman on Twitter at Wiseman, The Associated Press read more

Jailed Citgo executives ordered to stand trial in Venezuela


CARACAS, Venezuela — A judge in Venezuela has ordered a trial in the case of six American oil executives held for 18 months on corruption charges that have contributed to tensions with the U.S.During a hearing Friday, judge Rosvelin Gil dismissed a defence request that the six employees of Houston-based Citgo be released from prison and the charges against them dropped. Fifteen previous hearings had been cancelled.The executives, five of whom are American citizens, flew on a corporate jet to Caracas in 2017 to attend a board meeting. Once there they were arrested by masked security agents.President Nicolás Maduro’s government later accused them of embezzlement stemming from a proposal to refinance billions in Citgo bonds by offering up a 50 per cent stake in the company as collateral.The Associated Press read more

Syria Some 5000 Iraqis queue outside UN refugee office in Damascus to


“We hadn’t expected a crowd quite that big, so all staff – including our drivers – dropped what they were doing and became involved in distributing applications and scheduling appointments,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative Laurens Jolles said.Iraqis first began lining up outside the downtown building on Saturday night, hours after UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres ended a visit to the Syrian capital where he heard the concerns of some of the up to 1 million displaced Iraqis in the country and received assurances from the Syrian government that they would not be forced back across the border into their violence-torn homeland.By this afternoon, UNHCR had handed out registration application papers to several thousand and arranged follow-up appointments. “The huge crowd we have seen over the last two days is an example of how Iraqis are worried and anxious about their stay in Syria and the need to be reassured with regards to their residence permits,” Mr. Jolles said.UNHCR has significantly increased its capacity to register the thousands of Iraqis approaching the Damascus office and created three hotline numbers that Iraqis can ring if they or their immediate family members are facing deportation.“We are approaching UNHCR because we are so afraid that we will be deported back to Iraq as our visas expired and they [the Syrian government] want us to leave for Iraq for one month,” one Iraqi man waiting in the queue said. “We are living with the fear of someone knocking on our door and taking us back to Iraq. Many of my neighbours were deported because they overstayed their visas.”The Government has begun stricter implementation of regulations. People from Iraq get a 15-day permit on arrival after which they must apply for a three-month permit that can be renewed once. Before the expiry of their residence permits, they have to leave the country for one month before they can enter again. Various categories of people, including students and businessmen, are exempt.In former times, many Iraqis drove to the border and had their passports stamped with an exit visa and then re-entered Syria on the same day. Concern is widespread. Fighting back tears, a 35-year old woman explained that when she approached the immigration authorities, she received an exit stamp on her passport which means that she has to leave Syria in three days.“I am a widow with four children. How can I go back to Iraq? This is a death sentence for me and my children,” she said.An estimated 1.8 million Iraqis are currently displaced within their country, while another 2 million are believed to have fled to nearby nations, mainly Syria and Jordan. Last month, UNHCR launched a $60 million appeal to fund its programmes this year to help hundred of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people affected by the conflict. 12 February 2007More than 5,000 Iraqis, fearful of being deported under Syrian immigration regulations, queued up outside the United Nations refugee agency office in Damascus today to register. read more

Security Council condemns attack on UN convoy in Darfur


The Security Council today condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the attack by Sudanese army elements on a supply convoy of the new joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) and voiced its readiness to act against any party impeding its deployment. “The Security Council stresses that any attack or threat against UNAMID is unacceptable and demands that there will be no recurrence of attacks on UNAMID,” the 15-member body said in a presidential statement read out by Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi of Libya, which holds the rotating presidency for January. It welcomed the Sudanese Government’s commitment to undertake a complete and full investigation into the 7 January incident with the UN and African Union (AU), and called on the Government to expedite full compliance with the Council resolution setting up the force by concluding all necessary arrangements for its expeditious deployment and effective use. The Council urged all parties to the conflict between the Government and rebels, which has killed more than 200,000 people and uprooted 2.2 million others since 2003, to respect an immediate and complete ceasefire, and demanded that they cooperate fully with the deployment of UNAMID and respect its security and freedom of movement. “The Security Council expresses its readiness to take action against any party that impedes the peace process, humanitarian aid or the deployment of UNAMID,” the statement said, voicing concern at the deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur and calling on all Member States to contribute the helicopter and transportation units necessary for the success of the critically under-strength mission.At present UNAMID, which took over from an AU mission on 31 December, has only 9,000 troops out of its mandated strength of 26,000 and lacks essential logistics and equipment and top UN officials have repeatedly called on Member States to speed up delivery of vital units and assets. The Council also called on all sides to engage fully and constructively in the search for a political settlement under the leadership of the UN and AU Special Envoys, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, who are scheduled to begin their mission to Sudan tomorrow for consultations with the Government and the rebel movements. The main objective of the trip is to assess the status of preparations of the parties, including the unification efforts among the rebel movements, so as to determine the possibility of substantive peace talks. 11 January 2008The Security Council today condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the attack by Sudanese army elements on a supply convoy of the new joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) and voiced its readiness to act against any party impeding its deployment. read more

Security Council welcomes accord to end Lebanese political crisis


22 May 2008The Security Council has welcomed this week’s accord to resolve the long-running political stand-off in Lebanon and called for the agreement, which paves the way for a president to finally be elected and a national unity cabinet to be established, to be implemented fully. In a presidential statement issued today, the Council congratulated the leaders and people of Lebanon for the deal, reached yesterday in Doha, Qatar, under the auspices of the Arab League.It “constitutes an essential step towards the resolution of the current crisis, the return to the normal functioning of Lebanese democratic institutions, and the complete restoration of Lebanon’s unity and stability,” according to the statement, read out by Ambassador John Sawers of the United Kingdom, which holds the Council presidency this month.The agreement has been reached after deadly violence between pro- and anti-Government militias erupted recently in the capital, Beirut, and elsewhere. Since last November, when the office became vacant, there have been 18 failed attempts to conduct a parliamentary vote to select the next president.Under the accord, a new president will be chosen, a national unity cabinet will be set up and the country’s electoral laws will be addressed.Council members said they also welcomed the decision to continue the national dialogue on ways to reinforce the authority of the State over the entire territory so as to guarantee the sovereignty and safety of the State and the people.In addition, they noted the agreement bans the use of weapons and violence as a means to settle disputes, regardless of their nature or the circumstances.The statement, which echoes a similar statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday, stressed the need for the accord to be implemented in its entirety, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions and with the 1989 Taef agreement ending the civil war. read more

Global solidarity vital in age of multiple crises Ban tells former UN


21 May 2009Global solidarity is needed more than ever at a time when the world faces numerous crises, ranging from the economic downturn to climate change, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed to a group of former United Nations staff members today. “You gather at a time when the world faces a number of serious multiple crises,” Mr. Ban told the annual meeting of the Association of Former International Civil Servants, in a message delivered by the Chief of Human Resources Services, Netta Avedon.“In the blink of an eye, we have seen a housing crisis in the United States turned into the biggest global economic crisis in the history of the United Nations. Our world is warming faster than the world’s top scientists had forecast. We face a possible cascade of nuclear proliferation, as well as extremism and terrorism. “If we fail to deal effectively with these crises, there is a real prospect of instability and insecurity as governments are weakened, and as people lose faith in their leaders and their own futures.Mr. Ban stressed the need for global solidarity in addressing today’s challenges. “I have been calling on Member States to take multilateralism to the next level. I want to see a new multilateralism take hold – one that is focused on delivering global goods such as health, education, freedom from hunger, peace.“A multilateralism that combines power with pragmatic principle. And one whose instruments of service – the United Nations above all – have the authority and the funding needed to do the jobs asked of them,” he stated.He added that UN staff are his main allies in carrying out that vision. “But I continue to rely on the achievements, wisdom and institutional memory of those who came before – former civil servants such as you, whose formal careers with the Organization may have ended but who remain vital members of the UN community.” read more

At least 28 UN staff members killed in violent attacks worldwide in


5 January 2010Dozens of United Nations personnel made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty last year with at least 28 civilian staff members and seven peacekeeping troops killed in deadly attacks, the world body’s staff union said today, urging nations to sign a global treaty protecting UN staff. Some 17 UN civilian staff members were killed in separate violent incidents in Pakistan and Afghanistan alone, as well as five who died working for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) during the Israeli military operation against militants in the Gaza Strip and two who lost their lives in Somalia.Among the dead was a 23-year-old Palestinian English teacher working at a UN-run school in Gaza, a Somali monitor for the World Food Programme (WFP) who was shot and dumped onto the road from the WFP truck which the gunmen used to escape, and a Pakistani driver with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who was gunned down during the abduction of John Solecki, the head of the UNHCR office in Quetta in Balochistan province.More than two-thirds of the victims were national staff members employed by UN agencies to contribute to humanitarian efforts in their own countries.One of the most deadly incidents occurred when a UN guest house in Kabul was attacked by gunmen, killing five staff members, including two security officers who fought a running battle with the shooters to allow many of their colleagues to escape.In addition, six blue helmets deployed with the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) died in three separate incidents, and the Deputy Force Commander of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) was killed while on leave in Pakistan.“Once again, United Nations personnel had to pay with their lives for their effort to assist populations in distress,” said UN Staff Union President Stephen Kisambira. “A particularly disturbing trend continued last year: deliberate attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Darfur to intimidate and undermine the United Nations,” added Mr. Kisambira. “It is frustrating that hardly has anyone responsible been brought to account.”The Union noted that 2007 witnessed one of the highest death tolls of UN staff, reaching 42 dead, including 17 personnel killed in a terrorist bombing on UN premises in Algiers, and slightly fewer died in 2008 with at least 34 staff members losing their lives. Mr. Kisambira stressed that 15 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel, fewer than half of the UN’s 192 Member States have ratified it.“The ratification of both the Convention and the Optional Protocol by all Member States would make a statement that Member States take seriously their primary responsibility to protect United Nations personnel and that they appreciate the United Nations’ role in maintaining peace and fostering development in far-flung areas of the world,” he said. read more