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Saturday, May 31, 2014

UPDATE 1-Qatar Airways delays taking first A380 by several weeks

UPDATE 1-Qatar Airways delays taking first A380 by several weeks Fri, May 30 14:15 PM EDT * Qatar superjumbo delivery delayed by cabin "issues", says CEO * Delay pushes delivery beyond IATA airlines meeting (Adds quotes, Airbus comment, background) DOHA/DUBAI, May 30 (Reuters) - Qatar Airways has delayed taking delivery of its first Airbus A380 by "several weeks" while the planemaker tackles last-minute problems with the cabin, the airline's chief executive told Reuters. The airline has asked Airbus to address requests it made after the usual pre-delivery customer inspection, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said on Friday. Al Baker was responding to a Reuters query after delegates gathering for the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the world's largest passenger jet - the first of 10 ordered by Qatar Airways - was widely expected to arrive in time for the meeting in Doha. Qatar Airways is hosting the June 1-3 gathering of more than 200 airlines, which is expected to include lavish celebrations marking 100 years of commercial aviation. "It is customary for the inspection process of delivering a new aircraft to an airline to go through several rounds, and this is not deemed to be an unusual case, though this will lead to a delay of several weeks before its first scheduled commercial route will commence service," Al Baker said in an emailed statement. The delay is because of "issues with the interior of the cabin", he added. Airbus confirmed the delay, with a spokeswoman saying: "Qatar Airways and Airbus have agreed to some fine-tuning elements on the first A380 to be delivered to Qatar ... New dates will be communicated once confirmed." Delays in jetliner deliveries can cause disruption and extra cost for airlines as they reassign aircraft to fill the gap. The A380 was designed with a cabin that can be heavily customised to support a luxury brand, but this requires complex configuration when preparing the first model for a new airline. LOST OPPORTUNITY Delegates in Doha said the inability to deliver the superjumbo in time for the airline industry's biggest annual event would represent a lost marketing opportunity for Airbus, which is trying to boost weak sales of the 525-seat jet. However, in a rare move, Airbus said it would make a plane order announcement on the sidelines of the IATA event on Sunday. Singapore Airlines began long-awaited first A380 services to India with flights to Delhi and Mumbai on Friday. Qatar Airways, which began services to a new $15 billion Doha airport this week, is competing with Gulf rivals that have also bought the A380 as part of efforts to support their own fast-growing hubs: Dubai's Emirates and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad. Al Baker said in Berlin in March that Qatar Airways would take the first three of 10 A380s it has on firm order in June and would first deploy the jet on services to London. It is not the first time Qatar Airways, which is seen as one of the most influential but meticulous buyers of jets, has kept the industry in suspense over the addition of new capacity. In 2011, European cargo carrier Cargolux rejected delivery of a freighter version of Boeing's 747-8 shortly after Qatar Airways took a 35 percent stake in Cargolux, which it subsequently sold. The delay was blamed on a contractual spat over fuel consumption. (Reporting by Tim Hepher and Praveen Menon; Editing by David Goodman)

Exclusive: Shift by hard-line Taliban factions may have sealed prisoner exchange

Exclusive: Shift by hard-line Taliban factions may have sealed prisoner exchange Sat, May 31 22:45 PM EDT image 1 of 2 By Missy Ryan and Warren Strobel WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The breakthrough leading to Saturday's surprise exchange of a U.S. prisoner of war for five Guantanamo detainees suddenly became possible after harder-line factions of the Afghan Taliban apparently shifted course and agreed to back it, according to U.S. officials. The United States had tried diplomacy since late 2010 to free Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held captive in Afghanistan for nearly five years. But the efforts came to little until now. Mistrust between Washington and the insurgents had blocked progress, U.S. officials said. So did the deep-seated fears of Afghan President Hamid Karzai that a deal between the Americans and the Taliban would undercut him and his fragile government. Complicating the talks, U.S. officials said, was an internal split between Taliban factions willing to talk to Americans and those staunchly opposed. After the details of earlier diplomatic efforts became public in late 2011, the Taliban's leadership struggled to contain internal splits over a potential peace deal, U.S. officials said. All of that changed in recent weeks - the exact time-frame is unclear - when Taliban hard-liners reversed position, officials said. The shift cleared the way for the dramatic pick-up of Bergdahl on Saturday by U.S. Special Operations forces in remote eastern Afghanistan and the freeing of five Taliban detainees, who flew aboard a U.S. military aircraft from Guantanamo to the Gulf emirate of Qatar. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have long acknowledged a fragmented understanding of the Taliban's internal politics. But the Taliban's reclusive leadership may have realized that this was their last and best chance to retrieve its prisoners. Another contributing factor was presidential politics. Both contenders in the second round of Afghanistan's presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have pledged to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement allowing a small U.S. force to stay after NATO combat operations end in December. RENEWED HOPE FOR PEACE TALKS The question now, two U.S. officials say, is whether the prisoner swap could lead to broader peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government for a negotiated end to the Afghan conflict. The officials expressed hope that it might. "We do hope that having succeeded in this narrow but important step, it will create the possibility of expanding the dialogue to other issues. But we don’t have any promises to that effect," said one senior U.S. official deeply involved in the diplomacy. After a five-month diplomatic freeze, last November the Taliban signaled to the United States, via intermediaries, its willingness to talk, the official said. Leaders made clear they were only willing to discuss a prisoner exchange. In January, after the Taliban produced a "proof of life" video confirming Bergdahl was alive, U.S. negotiators told the Afghan fighters they would proceed with the swap. Then the Taliban introduced a new roadblock, refusing to meet directly with the Americans. Envoys from Qatar would be present at every step, passing messages between the sides and ultimately escorting the five Guantanamo detainees aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft bound for the Gulf nation. Many details about the talks remain unknown. But some U.S. officials said the Americans were surprised at the deal's speedy conclusion, after nearly four years of stalemate. U.S. President Barack Obama was regularly briefed, including while on a surprise Memorial Day weekend visit to Afghanistan last Sunday, a second senior U.S. official said. At that moment, talks of prisoner releases, taking place in the Qatari capital of Doha, were entering what U.S. officials called their "terminal phase". Final arrangements were made for Berghdal's release, and Obama on Tuesday spoke with Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. The two personally reviewed and agreed on restrictions for the movements and activities of the Taliban prisoners. The five are expected to live on compounds in Qatar, and their families will be brought there to live with them, officials said. There are indications that the Taliban will be more willing to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government once Karzai leaves office, the officials said. But given the tortured diplomatic path needed to release five Afghans and an American, those talks are likely to be difficult. (Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Jeremy Laurence)

Pakistan PM: honor killing of pregnant woman was ‘unacceptable’

Thu, May 29 13:25 PM EDT By Katharine Houreld and Shafait Raja ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif demanded to know on Thursday why police stood by while a pregnant woman was beaten to death by her family in front of one of the country's top courts. Farzana Iqbal, 25, was killed by a group of attackers, including her father, on Tuesday because she had married the man she loved and prompted the anger of her family. An investigation into the case showed that her husband had earlier killed his first wife, said a source in Sharif's administration. A statement from Sharif's office described Iqbal's death as a "brutal killing" and said it was "totally unacceptable". "I am directing the chief minister to take immediate action and a report must be submitted by this evening to my office," it quoted Sharif as saying. Her husband said that police did nothing during the 15 minutes the violence lasted outside Lahore High Court. "I begged them to help us but they said, this is not our duty," Muhammed Iqbal told Reuters. "I took off my shirt (to be humble) and begged them to save her." Later a source in Sharif's administration quoted a Lahore police report as saying that Iqbal had killed his first wife. "The person, Iqbal, who she had married ... had actually killed his own wife in an earlier case and remained a proclaimed offender. He was later arrested and was released on bail. Not a pristine character," the source told Reuters. The husband was not immediately available for comment. In parts of Pakistan, a largely Muslim nation of 180 million people, women are expected to agree to arranged marriages and refusal can mean an "honor killing". Many Pakistani families think it dishonorable for a woman to fall in love and choose her own husband. The case drew condemnations from around the world. "I do not even wish to use the phrase honor killing," said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a statement in Geneva. "There is not the faintest vestige of honor in killing a woman in this way." Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a senior minister of state in the British government and of Pakistani origin, said she was appalled by the killing. "Perpetrators must be brought to justice," she said. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said 869 such attacks were reported in the media last year - several a day. But the true figure is probably much higher since many cases are never reported. Lahore police chief Shafiq Ahmad said no police were present at the scene. "They arrested the father, the main accused, a few moments after the incident," he said. "... by the time police reached the scene, the lady had been murdered." Police initially said Farzana had been stoned, but Iqbal told Reuters that relatives had swung bricks, not thrown them. All the suspects, except the father, who has been detained, have disappeared. A police officer on Tuesday quoted the father as saying it had been an honor killing. The 25-year-old had offended her family by marrying Iqbal instead of a cousin selected for her. In Pakistan, reaction has been muted - in stark contrast to the public grief and outrage caused by the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in neighboring India in 2012. In the capital Islamabad, about 40 activists protested against brutality against women, shouting "Hang the killers of Farzana!" and "We don't accept this injustice". "Violence against women is on the rise. Women are being killed in the name of honor," said Farzana Bari, an activist. "This particular incident was very brutal. Police were there and the poor woman was killed." "DON'T KILL ME" Muhammad Aurangzeb, Farzana's 20-year-old stepson, described how one relative had tried to shoot her, then grabbed her head scarf, causing her to fall over. While a member of Iqbal's party wrestled the gun away, a female cousin grabbed a brick and hit Farzana with it, he said. "She was screaming and crying 'don't kill me, we will give you money'," said Iqbal. He said he tried to save her but the mob of more than 20 beat him back. At one point, six people were beating her with bricks as she screamed, he said, and he and his stepson begged police to help. Finally she stopped screaming. The attack happened near the gate of the heavily guarded court, the two men said, on one of the busiest roads in Lahore. The couple had been due to testify there that morning that their marriage was genuine in response to a false charge of kidnapping brought by Farzana's family. "She was afraid of being killed," said her lawyer, Rai Ghulan Mustafa. (Additional reporting by Sheree Sardar, Writing by Katharine Houreld and Maria Golovnina, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

UPDATE 1-Emaar Properties to list mall unit on Dubai bourse

Mon, May 26 03:06 AM EDT (Adds details) DUBAI, May 26 (Reuters) - Dubai's Emaar Properties said on Monday it will list up to 25 percent of its malls business on the Dubai Financial Market (DFM), a shift from earlier plans to list on the emirate's smaller Nasdaq Dubai exchange. The builder of one the world's largest malls - Dubai Mall - said it had received regulatory approval for the primary listing of up to a quarter of Emaar Malls Group. Companies listing on DFM are normally required to float stakes of at least 55 percent but exceptions to the rule have been made in the past. Nasdaq Dubai has a much lower free float requirement of 25 percent, but it attracts less trading activity than the DFM and has only 10 listed equities. Timing of the offering and listing would be announced later, the statement said. It is expected to raise 8 to 9 billion dirhams ($2.18-$2.45 billion), making it one of the region's largest equity offers since 2008. Company officials previously said there might be a dual listing on Nasdaq Dubai, the smaller of the emirate's two exchanges, and on the London Stock Exchange. It was not clear whether the company still plans to list in London. Dubai luxury developer DAMAC, the only real estate firm from the emirate to list in London, got a lukewarm response to its share offering in a sign that international investors are still wary of the emirate's property market despite a recent recovery in prices. Sources told Reuters in April that the developer is talking to regulators about the possibility of listing its shopping malls unit on the DFM. The listing is a boost for the Dubai bourse where new IPO activity had died down after the emirate's financial crisis in 2009. A recovery in the economy has prompted more companies to consider new listings. (Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by David French and Jason Neely) ============================== UAE mid-table in property transparency index Lucy Barnard June 22, 2014 Updated: June 23, 2014 09:09:00 Dubai came 49th and Abu Dhabi 53th in a transparency index of 102 global real estate markets. ■ ‘Property booms are good for UAE economy’, says Damac boss ■ Dubai landlord insists on rent rise at any time if ‘Rera calculator says so’ Photos In pictures: Dh44 million penthouse at Elite Residence is ‘cheap’ ■ Dubai Courts list sheds light on 36 cancelled projects ■ Dubai and Abu Dhabi rental yields may indicate overheating, says UAE Central Bank The new table – which measured real estate markets, most of them national, based on the ease with which property could be bought, sold and valued – ranks Dubai and Abu Dhabi as retaining their places as the top two markets in the Middle East and North Africa. When the study was last conducted in 2012, Dubai ranked 47th and Abu Dhabi came 52nd out of 97. “The UAE has retained its position as the most transparent real estate market in the region, although there has been little further progress made over the past two years,” said JLL, the property consultancy that prepared the index. Overall, the UAE placed behind countries including India, China, Botswana and Thailand in the index. Libya came bottom of the table of the 102 countries surveyed, preceded by Senegal and Myanmar. JLL said that Dubai, which had featured among its “top improvers” in previous surveys “appeared to have lost some impetus” and to have been ”treading water” over the past couple of years. The assessment comes despite the Dubai Land Department putting forward a series of measures aimed at improving the legislative and regulatory environment in an attempt to avoid another real estate bubble. These include a doubling of property transfer fees last year, the announcement of unified real estate contracts and a move by the Central Bank to introduce loan- to-value ratios on mortgages. The report found that Abu Dhabi had a more regulated planning system than Dubai and the quality of real estate was higher than Dubai in several sectors, reinforcing Abu Dhabi’s position as the second most transparent market in the Mena region. However, the report found that there had been “disappointingly little progress elsewhere” in the region. “The Middle East and North Africa remains one of the least transparent regions in the world,” JLL said in its report. “Following encouraging signs of improvement in transparency prior to the global financial crisis, the region has not maintained momentum. While there is increasing recognition across Mena of the importance of improving real estate transparency, in most cases this has failed to translate into firm action.” The Dubai Land Department was unavailable to comment when contacted by The National, while Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council declined to comment. A partner in real estate at the law firm DLA Piper said the emirates would benefit from updated property laws. “The fact that both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have not improved in the rankings in this report probably reflects the fact that there has not really been any new real estate legislation enacted in the emirates over the last two years,” Duncan Pickering said. “In Abu Dhabi the market has been expecting five new real estate laws since 2007 or 2008 on issues such as strata title, an interim register of off-plan sales and escrow accounts. In Dubai there are also laws which have been proposed but not enacted yet,” he said. “And there are a number of issues surrounding successfully implementing existing legislation.” Mr Pickering said transparency attracts investors by reducing perceived risk. “International investors take a global view and compare lots of different markets when they are deciding where to put their money,” he said. “They are usually attracted to markets which have higher levels of transparency so that they can reduce risk. At the moment this is a very competitive market with lots of countries attempting to attract that cash.” JLL singled out Qatar, placing the country on its global top 10 improvers list alongside Zambia, Serbia and Colombia. The improvement came after Qatar announced a new “open data” policy earlier this year which involves plans to release a large quantity of government held, non-personal data to residents and to improve public access to the land registry and other real estate data. Countries were given a composite score based on 115 individual data points and questions for each market. These were based around each country’s transaction processes, regulatory and legal transparency, governance of listed vehicles, the amount of reliable property market data available and the way in which property performance is measured. The United Kingdom retained top spot in the global survey, followed by the United States and Australia. JLL said that over the past two years, it had noted an improvement in transparency from more than 80 per cent of the markets it surveyed as developing countries attempt to attract inward investment to their real estate markets. “The world’s dominant commercial real estate markets are in better shape than at any time since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09,” JLL added. “Levels of capital markets activity are returning to pre-crisis levels and real estate investors are moving up the risk curve into new geographies and property types. Meanwhile, corporates are now executing long-term portfolio strategies and selectively extending their footprints into emerging markets.” “As momentum builds across the global real estate markets, investors, developers and corporate occupiers are demanding (and expecting) ever greater levels of real estate transparency – in terms of legal and regulatory enforcement, financial disclosure, fairness of transaction processes and access to high-quality market data and performance benchmarks.” lbarnard@thenational.ae Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/business/industry-insights/property/uae-midtable-in-property-transparency-index#ixzz35WbgCqVp Follow us: @TheNationalUAE on Twitter | thenational.ae on Facebook ==================================

Dubai Residents Feel Tremors, Officials Confirm Earthquake In Iran Earthquake measuring 5.2 took place in Iran, tremors felt in the UAE.

ByAarti Nagraj 53 mins ago -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tremors were felt in Dubai on Tuesday morning, following an earthquake in Iran, officials at UAE’s National Center of Meteorology & Seismology (NCMS) confirmed. The quake, measuring 5.2 on the richter scale, took place in Qesham in Iran. A spokesperson from NCMS said they are still analysing the data. Many buildings were evacuated in Dubai and residents took to social media to report the tremor. “Am I on no sleep or did I just feel my building shake?,” tweeted Omar Abou Ezzeddine. “Anybody feel a Tremor just a minute ago?,” asked Rashid Shamim on Twitter. Gulf Business also felt a tremor in our office in Media City. More details to follow. it was strong enough for persons on the higher floors to feel the tremor. Most staff reacted as trained to do so:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Train crash in northern India kills at least 40, many trapped

Mon, May 26 06:43 AM EDT By Sharat Pradhan LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - A passenger train collided with a stationary goods train in India's most populous state on Monday, killing at least 40 people and injuring more than 150, police and railway officials said. Mangled passenger coaches climbed on top of the goods train and many people were trapped inside near Churaib station, in the Sant Kabir Nagar district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, said a police spokesman in the state capital, Lucknow. Monday's crash is the latest to highlight India's ailing infrastructure, a problem that Narendra Modi, due to be sworn in as prime minister on Monday, has vowed to make a top priority. "My condolences to families of those who lost their lives in the Gorakhdham Express tragedy. Prayers with the injured," Modi tweeted on Monday. The Gorakhdham Express is the name of the passenger train. Modi has promised to build new inter-state highways and a network of bullet trains, as well as addressing severe electricity shortages. At least 19 people were killed and 130 injured when a train derailed in western India earlier this month. (Writing by Shyamantha Asokan; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Qatar Rail Development Program: progress update

Written by Alexa Hall and Laura Warren Insight What's new? Legal updates Client newsletters Articles Events BLG archive A significant proportion of Qatar’s infrastructure investment is currently focused on the development of a modern rail network via execution, under the control of the Qatar Rail Company (Qatar Rail), of the Qatar Rail Development Program (QRDP). The QRDP consists of a two phase metro network, a light rail transit system and a long distance passenger and freight rail network. Qatar Rail has awarded USD 32 billion in contracts to date with the aim of delivering one of the most sophisticated rail networks in the Middle East region, whilst simultaneously supporting national infrastructure development including the construction of the New Doha International Airport and the New Doha Port. One of the key drivers is the provision of rail services in advance of the FIFA 2022 World Cup. During a press conference held on Monday 9 December 2013, Qatar Rail released information relating to its plans and progress in developing Qatar’s transport system, and in particular, released route maps and a timeline for the high-speed long distance line between Qatar and KSA. In this article, we provide details of this progress update by reference to the three distinct projects which comprise the QRDP. Doha Metro Qatar Rail intends to deliver an operational metro system, consisting of surface level and underground line sections, with 37 stations, in 2019. The number of stations is set to increase to 56 by 2026. Qatar Rail has confirmed that tunnel boring works (which may operate at up to 20-25 meters below ground) at four interconnected lines are presently underway, and work has officially commenced for the set-up of metro stations at 20 locations. Qatar Rail has also released route maps for three of the coloured metro lines. Gold Line (Historic Line) The Gold Line is to run from east to west initially beneath Al Waab Street, starting from the Villagio mall. The route map shows that thereafter the Gold Line will cut through the residential areas of Fereej bin Mahmoud to follow Al Adhwaa Street into Musheireb station and then curve south to follow Ras Abu Abboud Street past the north end of the Doha International Airport runway. Green Line (Education Line) The Green Line will also run east to west and initially at ground level from the Al Rayyan Stadium before passing underground below the Dukhan Highway and past Education City. Thereafter, the Green Line will stop at the Qatar National Library (currently under construction), turn south at Huwar Street and eventually cross the Hamad Medical Center before turning into Musheireb. Red Line (Coast Line) The Red Line will run at ground level along Al Khor Coast Road, before turning into the Qatar University campus, and then east along the southern boundary of the Doha Golf Club. The Red Line will then descend underground as it passes the Grand Hyatt Hotel before it stops at the Katara Cultural Village. Thereafter, the Red Line is designed to run between the Qatar International Exhibition Center and the Intercontinental Hotel into the Dafna central business district, past the City Center Mall and Doha Convention Center. It will subsequently run along Majlis Al Taawon, parallel to the Corniche, towards Musheireb. Finally, the Red Line will run along Al Matar Street, turning east into the Hamad International Airport. The Doha Metro project also includes the construction of the Musheireb and Education City Stations, the package for which has been let in one "Major Stations" contract. Musheireb Station is located in the heart of Downtown Doha and is designed to be the major interchange station for the Red, Green and Gold lines. Education City Station will link the Green Line with the long distance passenger rail track. The majority of the Phase One (Initial Network Scheme) Doha Metro contracts, including the main construction contracts for the Red Line North, Red Line South, Green Line and Major Stations, were awarded in May 2012. We understand that the Gold Line packages (underground and at-grade) are at the prequalification stage of the tender process. The second phase of this project, due for completion by 2026, will also include the construction of a Blue Line (City Line) which is intended to connect newly built residential and commercial areas of West Bay and Airport City North along the C-Ring Road. Doha Metro Qatar Rail intends to deliver an operational metro system, consisting of surface level and underground line sections, with 37 stations, in 2019. The number of stations is set to increase to 56 by 2026. Qatar Rail has confirmed that tunnel boring works (which may operate at up to 20-25 meters below ground) at four interconnected lines are presently underway, and work has officially commenced for the set-up of metro stations at 20 locations. Qatar Rail has also released route maps for three of the coloured metro lines. Gold Line (Historic Line) The Gold Line is to run from east to west initially beneath Al Waab Street, starting from the Villagio mall. The route map shows that thereafter the Gold Line will cut through the residential areas of Fereej bin Mahmoud to follow Al Adhwaa Street into Musheireb station and then curve south to follow Ras Abu Abboud Street past the north end of the Doha International Airport runway. Green Line (Education Line) The Green Line will also run east to west and initially at ground level from the Al Rayyan Stadium before passing underground below the Dukhan Highway and past Education City. Thereafter, the Green Line will stop at the Qatar National Library (currently under construction), turn south at Huwar Street and eventually cross the Hamad Medical Center before turning into Musheireb. Red Line (Coast Line) The Red Line will run at ground level along Al Khor Coast Road, before turning into the Qatar University campus, and then east along the southern boundary of the Doha Golf Club. The Red Line will then descend underground as it passes the Grand Hyatt Hotel before it stops at the Katara Cultural Village. Thereafter, the Red Line is designed to run between the Qatar International Exhibition Center and the Intercontinental Hotel into the Dafna central business district, past the City Center Mall and Doha Convention Center. It will subsequently run along Majlis Al Taawon, parallel to the Corniche, towards Musheireb. Finally, the Red Line will run along Al Matar Street, turning east into the Hamad International Airport. The Doha Metro project also includes the construction of the Musheireb and Education City Stations, the package for which has been let in one "Major Stations" contract. Musheireb Station is located in the heart of Downtown Doha and is designed to be the major interchange station for the Red, Green and Gold lines. Education City Station will link the Green Line with the long distance passenger rail track. The majority of the Phase One (Initial Network Scheme) Doha Metro contracts, including the main construction contracts for the Red Line North, Red Line South, Green Line and Major Stations, were awarded in May 2012. We understand that the Gold Line packages (underground and at-grade) are at the prequalification stage of the tender process. The second phase of this project, due for completion by 2026, will also include the construction of a Blue Line (City Line) which is intended to connect newly built residential and commercial areas of West Bay and Airport City North along the C-Ring Road. Lusail Light Rail Transit project The Lusail Light Rail Transit (LRT) project is designed to consist of a 30.5km track and 37 stations. The majority of the track will be at grade but four of the lines include 10km of underground tunnels and a 1km section is elevated. Passengers will be able to transfer between the Lusail LTR lines and the Doha Metro lines at the Lusail Marina/Pearl station. Qatar Rail’s objective is to create an integrated transport system for the visitors, employees and residents of the Lusail city. We understand that this project is at an advanced stage with 60% of the tunnelling works and 50% of the Al Khor Bridge works complete at present. Qatar Rail’s anticipated completion date is 2017 although it is rumoured that trains may start running between 3 stations as part of the first phase in 2016. Long distance An important part of the QRDP’s vision is the construction of a long distance passenger and freight rail network which serves two purposes: (1) the connection of densely populated and industry heavy centres in Qatar; and (2) linking the 6 GCC (Gulf Corporation Council) countries (Qatar, KSA, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman) as part of the wider GCC rail network. The long distance network is to be phased in order to meet GCC commitments and domestic demands. We understand that Qatar Rail is currently in the process of awarding a design contract for the first phase of the network, namely the mixed (passenger and freight) track connecting Doha to KSA. Qatar Rail anticipates that construction will commence in the third quarter of 2015, with completion due in approximately 2017-2018, before the onset of testing and final fit-up works. The remainder of the long distance rail network consists of: Freight rail line from Port Mesaieed to Ras Laffan High speed passenger rail line connecting Doha and Bahrain Mixed (passenger and freight) rail line from Doha to Dukhan Mixed (passenger and freight) rail line from Doha to Al Shamal Qatar Rail expects that the rail network will be at least 350km long, with a scheduled completion date of 2029. Conclusion Qatar Rail has undertaken to achieve economic viability, social responsibility, environmental effectiveness and operational excellence in delivering the QRDP. The intention is to establish a high quality and integrated public transport network that results in a shift from private vehicles to public transport across Qatar, whilst recognising freedom of choice in transport. In particular, the rail network is designed to achieve more efficient movement of people and goods, with the objective (fittingly termed "keep traffic moving") of reducing traffic congestion, including heavy urban traffic and construction site traffic. The rail network will offer a quick and safe mode of public transport, significantly reducing private car trips and saving commuting time, and with the side effect of reducing traffic pollution and accident rates. The QRDP is a manifestation of Qatar’s commitment to delivering a sustainable future for a growing economy and an increasing population, and a continual upward surge in infrastructure development. The project is designed to align with the transportation objectives contained in the Qatar National Development Framework 2012-2032 and additionally, Qatar’s National Vision 2033 strategy. This is aimed at transforming Qatar into an advanced, sustainable country with a high standard of living for future generations with focus on the four "pillars" of economic, environmental, human and social development. The citizens of Qatar and QRDP stakeholders alike eagerly wait to see how Qatar Rail will successfully deliver this leading-edge rail project within the confines of an ambitious programme and how this will impact on doing business in Qatar and the daily lives of many more generally. Published on 30 January 2014 Authors: Laura Warren Jurisdictions: Middle East Areas of expertise: Projects and construction, Major projects, Infrastructure, Transport infrastructure, Rail ======================= Train crash in northern India kills at least 40, many trapped Mon, May 26 06:43 AM EDT By Sharat Pradhan LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - A passenger train collided with a stationary goods train in India's most populous state on Monday, killing at least 40 people and injuring more than 150, police and railway officials said. Mangled passenger coaches climbed on top of the goods train and many people were trapped inside near Churaib station, in the Sant Kabir Nagar district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, said a police spokesman in the state capital, Lucknow. Monday's crash is the latest to highlight India's ailing infrastructure, a problem that Narendra Modi, due to be sworn in as prime minister on Monday, has vowed to make a top priority. "My condolences to families of those who lost their lives in the Gorakhdham Express tragedy. Prayers with the injured," Modi tweeted on Monday. The Gorakhdham Express is the name of the passenger train. Modi has promised to build new inter-state highways and a network of bullet trains, as well as addressing severe electricity shortages. At least 19 people were killed and 130 injured when a train derailed in western India earlier this month. (Writing by Shyamantha Asokan; Editing by Nick Macfie) ======================== Monday, August 13, 2012 QRC awards Doha Metro contracts Written by Keith Barrow inShare. QATAR Railways Company (QRC) signed five contracts worth a total of Riyals 1.48bn ($US 406.6m) on August 12 for preliminary works and project management on Phase 1a of the Doha Metro. A consortium of Porr, Saudi Binladin Group, and Hamad Bin Khaled Contracting Company, has been awarded a Riyals 288m contract to carry out enabling works, while three consulting groups have been selected to provide engineering and project management services. These comprise Louis Berger/Egis Rail; Jacobs Engineering Group; and Hill International. Lloyds Register Rail has also been awarded a Riyals 55m contract to act as independent security and safety consultant. Construction is due to start in the first quarter of next year on Phase 1a, which comprises four lines totalling 75km with 26 stations. This will include 56km of underground lines in single bore tunnels, 17km on viaduct, and 5.3km at grade. The initial phase is due to be completed by October 2019. =======================

Saturday, May 24, 2014

UPDATE 3-China and Qatar seek more Russia investment as U.S. interest fades

UPDATE 3-China and Qatar seek more Russia investment as U.S. interest fades Fri, May 23 13:47 PM EDT * Russia's state private equity fund has raised most funds from Middle East, Asia * China's CIC keen to commit more to Russia * Russia's major investment forum has absence of large U.S. buyout firms (Adds Qatar investment) By Megan Davies ST PETERSBURG, Russia, May 23 (Reuters) - Sovereign wealth funds in China and Qatar on Friday signalled their increased commitment to Russia, boosting Moscow's hopes of strengthening ties with Asia and the Middle East as relations with the West deteriorate. Major sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia have invested in Russian businesses and backed its state-funded private equity fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). By contrast, U.S. financial investors in the country remain few. "CIC has invested several billions of dollars in Russia," said Ding Xuedong, chairman of the $575 billion CIC, on the sidelines of the country's main annual investment conference in St Petersburg. "We will continue to increase our investment in Russia, not only in the public markets, but in direct investments," he said. Russia's RDIF separately announced that Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, is allocating $2 billion to investments with the fund. Numerous U.S. financiers avoided the annual investment conference in St Petersburg on advice from the White House. Washington and the European Union have imposed sanctions against various individuals deemed close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in response to the situation in Ukraine. "In our platforms - we raised $10 billion from our partners - around 90 percent came from Asia and the Middle East," said Kirill Dmitriev, the RDIF chief executive. "Those longer-term investors ... take a longer-term view on Russia. They see some turbulence but realise it is impossible to isolate the sixth-largest economy in the world." Among those present on a panel discussion on Friday were senior executives at Korea Investment Corporation and Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA). European funds, facing less government pressure than their U.S. counterparts, also showed commitment to Russia. "We think there is a lot of potential in this country," said Laurent Vigier, CEO at France's CDC International Capital. "We are looking actively at the moment at opportunities in this country and are optimistic about the medium and long term." BUYOUT BLUES Private equity firms have in general found Russia a tricky place to invest, citing concerns about corporate governance, the rule of law and finding a lack of opportunities. U.S. giant TPG is the notable exception, making several times its money on its investment in supermarket chain Lenta. "The history of private equity in Russia is about 20 years old - in that period we have had at least two tsunamis of global political events and upheaval and we are now in the middle of the third," said Drew Guff, founding partner of New York-based Siguler Guff & Co, which has invested in Russia for many years. "There were at one point 30 different private equity funds raising money (in Russia) at the same time. And then the global crisis of '98 came and the tsunami wiped out many of the competitors." Anatoly Chubais, the architect of Russia's post-Soviet privatisations, said a problem is that limited partners (LPs) - the investors in private equity firms - use foreign money rather than Russian investors. He said the solution was a major restructuring of non-government pension funds. "It's ironic when the entire private equity industry that exists here, while investing in Russia, makes almost no use of Russian LPs," Chubais said. "It is totally wrong and the situation could be radically changed." CHINA COMMITMENT CIC, which invests in Russia directly as well as via a joint venture with the RDIF, has a minority stake in Russian potash company Uralkali and has done deals with the RDIF to invest in projects such as infrastructure for senior citizens and forestry. "Our exposure to Russia is relatively small, which means the potential is big," said Xuedong, who is particularly focused on agriculture and energy. "We focus on the long term and on increasing our exposure to Russia." Xuedong said that in the coming 10 to 20 years infrastructure will provide lucrative opportunities and said that Russia should "renew and update" its infrastructure. Using government money for such projects would not be sufficient, he said, and other instruments, such as public-private partnerships, could be used. "Governments should sell some of the businesses ... to private investments and the money received for the sale of such businesses could be rechanneled into projects," Xuedong said. "If we take this approach, we could speed up the infrastructure development rates." Still, some were sceptical that Asian investors would commit heavily given Russia's slowing growth and the risk of recession. "I suspect most Asian and Middle East investors are going to look at this picture and see the same things that everyone else does - that you had growth slowing before the annexation of Crimea and the conflict with the West," said Bernard Sucher, board member of Russian investment group Aton. (Reporting by Megan Davies, additional reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by David Goodman and Sophie Walker)

Rafsanjani offers road map for Iran-Saudi ties

Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani attends Iran's Assembly of Experts' biannual meeting in Tehran, March 8, 2011. (photo by REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi) Rafsanjani offers road map for Iran-Saudi ties Author: Ali Hashem Posted May 21, 2014 BEIRUT, Lebanon — Amid months of tensions, bombings and skirmishes, Beirut looks calm and safe. Only the presidential elections interest journalists, even though the subject isn't that hot. Only a few days are left before outgoing President Michel Suleiman is to leave Baabda Palace. Summary⎙ Print Iran's former president may be the decisive broker in Iran-Saudi relations.Author Ali Hashem Posted May 21, 2014 Suddenly, tourists have started pouring to the Lebanese capital, and soon gulf nationals will fill the country's hotels as reports indicate that both the Saudi and the UAE governments are considering lifting their bans on travel to Lebanon. Some might question the reason behind the rapid improvement, but whenever Tehran and Riyadh are talking, Beirut will have to quietly listen. In the new Middle East that emerged after the Arab Spring, it's believed that both Iran and Saudi Arabia, now more than ever, have emerged as main regional players who together can either help stabilize the region or further ignite its tensions. Now that news from Riyadh and Tehran is suggesting a new phase in Saudi-Iranian relations is about to start, it's important to understand what changed, what might change and who helped both sides go the extra mile. "Iran and Saudi Arabia are capable of restoring stability in the region," Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian told Al-Monitor. "We are looking forward to erase any misunderstandings and promote bilateral relations," he said. Abdollahian, who oversees his country's relations with the Arab world, was expected to visit Saudi Arabia two months ago. The visit was canceled over scheduling differences, but a parallel path was already led by their common neighbor Oman, which seems to be playing a leading role with respect to Iran's foreign relations with the world. An official Iranian source told Al-Monitor that thanks to regional friends and genuine goodwill, ties were restored on both shores of the Persian Gulf. He said, "In Iran, there's always a will to open direct lines with the Saudis. There are several points of interest between the two countries and miscommunication is heating tensions. Why not meet and discuss — as a beginning, let's call it an effort to organize differences and later coordinate moves." According to this source, the Omani government played a vital role in making this rapprochement a reality. He said, "There was an exchange of messages via the Omani link. Then some direct talks happened, and both sides agreed to take the talks to a higher level, given that the path had the blessings of the higher leadership in both countries." Another source in Tehran, one close to former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said the strongman is leading a separate but coordinated path to put an end to the worst phase in the relations between the two countries. The source told Al-Monitor, "Before taking any step, Rafsanjani got the blessings of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He received several serious messages from Riyadh, and he sent similar ones, but he advised from the beginning that reaching common ground will need time and putting the heated issues on hold, mainly Syria. Why Syria? Because it's where both sides are on completely opposite sides." The Rafsanjani road map suggested that they start discussing Bahrain and Lebanon, then Yemen and at the final stage after building a rapport, Syria. "In Lebanon and Bahrain, conflicts are much easier to solve; there's less bloodshed and differences can be bridged, where a consensus is possible. The formation of a Lebanese cabinet after months of delay was a litmus test. Then things halted for a while when the Syrian dilemma jumped into the path, before they resumed again." The source said, "Helping the Lebanese choose a new president shall be the next step. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia understand the need to stabilize the situation in Lebanon. A candidate accepted by both sides inside the country needs regional effort and therefore, both countries can cooperate on this." In Bahrain, both see a need to arrive at an agreement the government and the opposition see as fair. "A new cabinet with both sides represented can end the confrontation. This will be the next step, but it needs patience and readiness for sacrifices," the source indicated. "Iran will exert genuine effort to persuade the opposition to resume talks with the government, and the Saudis are very influential and on their side. They can push for reforms. If this phase ends successfully, then a tougher file like Yemen can be discussed," he said. For years, Saudi Arabia regarded Yemen as part of its national security. A country on the kingdom's southern borders with several armed groups fighting separate wars — some looking for autonomy, others linked with al-Qaeda. A third group, the Houthis, is gaining power and looking for a share in the government. This group is accused of being Iran's strong ally and for years it has been a main concern for Riyadh. According to the source, there's been nothing said on this, "But whenever it is placed on the table, this will need time to be solved or at least defuse tensions." Defusing tensions is now the priority for both sides, and as part of the efforts to do so, Rafsanjani's road map suggests a halt in media warfare. A next step will see him visit Riyadh and meet King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and his crown prince. On April 22, Saudi Ambassador to Tehran Abdulrahman Bin Groman Shahri visited Rafsanjani and extended to him an invitation from the king to visit the kingdom. The meeting made headlines with pictures of the Saudi guest kissing his host's forehead. Was this the kiss of life to Saudi-Iranian relations? Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/05/iran-saudi-arabia-relations-road-map-rafsanjani-regional.html#ixzz32da5ZBvf

Gazprom CEO says China gas deal will affect European market

Gazprom CEO says China gas deal will affect European market Fri, May 23 15:03 PM EDT ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's landmark deal to supply natural gas to China will affect prices in Europe and have an impact on international liquefied natural gas projects, the chief executive of state-run Gazprom said on Friday. Russia and China signed a 30-year gas supply contract on Wednesday worth a total of more than $400 billion, during a visit by President Vladimir Putin to Shanghai. "Literally a day ago a really historical event took place, an epoch-making event. We, Russia and Gazprom, have discovered the Asian gas market for ourselves," Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller said at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. "It can be assumed that the signing of the contract will affect gas prices on the European market," he said without giving any details. Miller added that the deal will also have an impact on LNG projects in eastern Africa, Australia and western Canada. Fitch Ratings said on Thursday that the deal "sets a new benchmark for what China is willing to pay for natural gas over longer-term contracts". The deal opens up a huge new market for Gazprom, which generates around 80 percent of its revenue from Europe, where demand is stagnating and profits are falling. "This is the contract, which will influence the whole gas market," Miller said. Neither side disclosed the price in the Russia-China contract, but industry sources said it was between $350 and $380 per 1,000 cubic meters, similar to what most European utilities pay under discounted long-term contracts signed in the last two years. Gazprom has yet to build a pipeline to carry 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually to China from 2018. Russia and China have agreed on a $25 billion prepayment under a supply deal, Alexander Medvedev, chief executive of Gazprom Export, said on Friday. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Katya Golubkova and Jane Baird)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

U.S. mortgage collectors gag homeowners in loan deals

By Michelle Conlin Wed May 21, 2014 4:24am EDT A bank-owned property for sale sign in Arvada, Colorado June 23, 2009. Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking Related Video 10 million Americans still under water on mortgages-Zillow Tue, May 20 2014Related TopicsMoney » Housing Market » (Reuters) - Joseph and Neidin Henard thought they had finally fixed the mortgage that was crushing them. In January, the couple reached a settlement with every company that had a stake in the mortgage on their house in Santa Cruz, California, a deal that would have slashed their monthly payment by almost 40 percent to $3,337. It was the end of a process that started with their defaulting in 2009. But when they saw the final paperwork for their settlement, they found that Ocwen Financial Corp, the company that collected and processed their mortgage payments, had added an extra clause: they could not say or print or post anything negative about Ocwen, ever. The Henards' experience was not unusual. Mortgage payment collectors at companies including Ocwen, Bank of America Corp and PNC Financial Services Group are agreeing to ease the terms of borrowers' underwater mortgages, but they are increasingly demanding that homeowners promise not to insult them publicly, consumer lawyers say. In many cases, they are demanding that homeowners' lawyers agree to the same terms. Sometimes, they even require borrowers to agree not to sue them again. These clauses can hurt borrowers who later have problems with their mortgage collector by preventing them from complaining publicly about their difficulties or suing, lawyers said. If a collector, known as a servicer, makes an error, getting everything fixed can be a nightmare without litigation or public outcry. A 2013 report by the National Consumer Law Center found that servicers routinely lost borrowers' paperwork, inaccurately input information, failed to send important letters to the correct address—or sometimes just didn't send them at all. "If your servicer screws up, you can't say anything about it," said homeowner attorney Danielle Kelley in Tallahassee, Florida. "The homeowner has no defense." Gag orders and bans on suing are appearing when borrowers use litigation to settle foreclosure and loan modification cases. But they are also popping up when servicers modify loan terms outside of the courts, known as "ordinary loan modifications," according to consumer lawyers. Bank of America doesn't include non-disparagement clauses and releases of claims in the course of ordinary loan modifications - just in ones involving negotiated legal settlements, spokesman Rick Simon said. Waivers don't preclude customers from filing suits on post-settlement issues, he said. PNC's vice president of external communications, Marcey Zwiebel, said "these clauses are part of the consideration we receive for agreeing to settle the case. This helps to ensure that the discussion is not re-opened in public after the case has been settled." Ocwen declined to comment, citing pending litigation. Attorneys for lenders and servicers say consumer lawyers are overstating the importance of these clauses. Banks are looking to avoid being sued again for the issues resolved in the settlement, but understand they may be sued if they are responsible for a future wrong, said Martin Bryce, a partner with Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia who specializes in consumer finance and banking. Bryce acknowledges that the language is ambiguous - under the waivers, homeowners often give up the right to sue on claims "whether existing now or to come into existence in the future." The non-disparagement clauses are meant to protect banks from public insults from borrowers, which the lender can often not respond to without violating privacy laws, Bryce said. Banks and servicers have been facing bad publicity along these lines for years, and while quantifying the impact of this bad-mouthing is difficult, few banks would choose to face it.
On a Facebook page devoted to denigrating Bank of America, one homeowner said, "They are without a doubt the worst organization I have ever dealt with. Keep suing them America! They deserve it!!"
JUST WANTING IT TO END Clauses preventing future disparagement and lawsuits first started appearing after the housing crash, but they have grown more widespread in the last six months, said Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates in Washington. In January, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a U.S. government agency, said it examined two servicers who were requiring homeowners to give up their right to sue as part of ordinary loan modifications. The CFPB said the practice was "unfair," and required the two servicers to cease the practice. The agency also directed the servicers to stop enforcing existing waiver clauses and "to provide notice to the borrowers that it would not enforce these waivers in the future," according to a CFPB Supervisory Highlights bulletin. The agency didn't name the two servicers. These clauses are likely more popular because mortgage companies are trying to stem their expenses from the housing crisis, which triggered some 5.1 million foreclosures, consumer lawyers said. Having helped create the foreclosure epidemic, banks are now paying the price, spending billions of dollars on fines, penalties, mortgage settlements with borrowers, and other charges associated with working through the glut of bad loans. Since 2009, Bank of America alone has logged some $50 billion of expenses for settlements of lawsuits and related legal costs, many of them linked to mortgages. Without those charges, its income before taxes would have been about three times higher. Homeowner attorneys say they advise their clients not to sign non-disparagement agreements. But some of them do so just end the ordeal. "I try to talk my clients out of agreeing to it, but a lot of times they will agree," said Pamela Simmons, an attorney with the law office of Simmons & Purdy in Soquel, California. LOAN MODIFICATIONS During the past few years, loan servicers have been renegotiating mortgage terms with borrowers who have fallen behind on their payments. Since the housing crash, there have been about 1.3 million loan modifications done under the government's Home Affordable Modification Program, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury. Servicers have done an additional 5.6 million modifications in-house. Companies like Ocwen say that modifying mortgages is cheaper than foreclosing. Servicers modify mortgages through some combination of changing monthly payments or interest rates, lengthening the terms of loans, and changing the principal owed, either by forgiving some of the loan or by adding on penalties and fees to make it bigger. The 2012 National Mortgage settlement, which covered Ally Financial Group, Bank of America, Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co prohibited the use of waivers during the course of offering normal loan modifications—though it did allow for waivers in the event of litigation. Waivers were also forbidden under HAMP modifications. That still leaves plenty of room for servicers to try to block borrowers from suing, or to use gag clauses. Attorneys say the experience of the Henards was typical: the gag orders often pop up after borrowers think deal negotiations have been completed. The Henards balked when they saw the Ocwen clause stating that they were to "not make any derogatory and/or disparaging comments about Ocwen or publish or discuss this Agreement or the settlement and compromise evidenced hereby on the internet or with the media." "We are worried about them coming back against people in the future," said Dan Mulligan, the Henards' attorney. "It's just a risk you don't want to take." The Henards have about $680,000 outstanding on their mortgage. Ocwen responded in court documents that the language was "standard boilerplate." The Henards haven't signed the non-disparagement clause. The issue is still being dealt with by the two sides' lawyers. Consumer lawyers also object to being gagged themselves. Some lawyers challenge the banks to strike the language — or water it down. Attorneys also sometimes instruct their clients to fire them. That way, the homeowner can agree to the terms while the attorney doesn't have to. "The banks are attempting to hold our clients hostage with a provision they know we cannot agree to," said University of Notre Dame law professor Judith Fox, who runs a clinic for troubled homeowners and who has also petitioned the Indiana Bar Association over attempts to muzzle attorneys. "It is coercive and unethical." (Reporting by Michelle Conlin, Editing by Dan Wilchins and John Pickering)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tamils say barred from commemorating war dead, Sri Lanka denies

Sun, May 18 16:20 PM EDT image By Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal COLOMBO (Reuters) - Minority ethnic Tamils said on Sunday they had been banned from commemorating the deaths of their relatives five years ago in the final battle of a 26-year war with Sri Lanka's military, a charge denied by the army. While President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is under international pressure to investigate war crimes in the battle, watched a victory parade in the south of the island, Tamils said they had been barred from attending Hindu temples in the north. Ananthi Sasitharan, wife of a rebel leader missing since his Tamil Tiger separatists surrendered to the army on May 18, 2009, said the military used "abusive language" when she tried to enter the temple in Keerimalai. "They didn't allow me to Keerimalai Hindu temple to conduct my usual rituals to remember my relatives killed in the war and my husband. This is a blatant human rights violation. It exposes the government's heavy military control over Tamil civilians," she said. Five other residents also said they had been banned, but declined to be identified due to possible reprisals. They said security was tightened across the northern Jaffna peninsula, with roads closed to prevent any commemorative events. They said the military had ordered Tamils not to hold any commemorations. Military spokesman Ruwan Wanigasooriya said families had not been barred from their rites, but some additional security had been established to maintain stability as some parties were trying to create what he described as an "unwanted situation". "There was no prevention of individual families commemorating their dead. Our concern was mainly about any organized move to politically incite people and ... commemorating terrorists would not be allowed," he said. Wanigasooriya said the military saw some Tamil families observing religious rituals in temples, including in Keerimalai. ELECTION LANDSLIDE While both sides mark the end of the war every year, this fifth anniversary comes after the main ethnic Tamil party secured a landslide in a provincial poll in September, rekindling the animosity between the sides. The Tamil National Alliance, the former political proxy of the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, won 30 seats in the 38-member council in the former northern war zone. The TNA victory showed the defeat of the rebels in 2009 did nothing to subdue calls for autonomy among Tamils, who make up about 14 percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million people. "When we are suffering with the loss of lives and other properties, how can this government justify their victory?" Sasitharan, a TNA councilor, told Reuters. More than 100,000 people were killed in the war and thousands, mainly from the minority Tamil community living mostly in the north, are still missing. The United Nations in March approved an international probe into the war crimes allegedly committed by both Sri Lankan state forces and Tamil rebels during the conflict, saying the government had failed to investigate properly. A U.N. panel has said around 40,000 mainly Tamil civilians died in the ferocious final months of the conflict, but Sri Lanka has disputed that figure. Both sides committed atrocities, but army shelling killed most victims, it concluded. Despite concerns raised by international community about marking the victory, Rajapaksa went ahead with the celebrations in the town of Matara. "We celebrate the victory of peace and not the victory of war. The best way of respecting the war heroes is maintaining the peace," Rajapaksa told the victory day celebration. Tight security has been in place in Jaffna since March. The military killed three Tamil militants in April in the first combat since 2009. (Additional reporting by Dinuka Liyanawatta in MATARA; Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Alison Williams)

Emaar plans JV with Dubai Holding for new project

Sun, Jun 09 01:23 AM EDT DUBAI, June 9 (Reuters) - Emaar Properties will form a joint venture with conglomerate Dubai Holding to build a 6.5 million square metre "urban district" in the emirate, the developer said in a statement on Sunday. The new project, Dubai Creek Harbor, will include a business district, shopping, sporting and entertainment facilities, according to the statement. Emaar said it was in the final stages of negotiations with Dubai Holding for the project. Emaar, Dubai's largest listed developer, is part government-owned, while Dubai Holding is part of the Dubai ruler's personal business empire. Separately, Emaar said on Saturday that it formed a joint venture with Meraas Holding to build a huge residential and commercial area near the city's downtown area. (Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Dinesh Nair)

Bilawal heads for his first brush with the law

Bhagwandas Published May 20, 2014 05:21am‹ › Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. — File photo KARACHI: Patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is heading for his first brush with the law as his partner in business, Bahria Town, enters into litigation with the Cantonment Board Karachi (CBK) over the construction of a high-rise on a plot owned by the Zardari family in the Saddar area. According to sources, the CBK has raised various objections to the proposed commercial building which is to be built on the plot where once stood the Zardari House (Plot No 225, E.I. Lines) on Dr Daudpota Road, between Lucky Star and the Mehran Hotel intersection that connects Saddar with the Cantonment Railway Station and falls within the jurisdiction of the CBK. The sources said the Bahria Town Private Limited said to be a partner of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s concern – Zardari Group Pvt Ltd – which was executing the project had moved court over the CBK’s objections. The Bahria Town contended that hindrances were being made to its work on the high-rise, which according to it, was being carried out according to the CBK’s approved building plan, said the sources. Led by young politician Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the Zardari Group, as printed on its letterhead, deals in various fields including industrial, agricultural, housing and investment. The sources said the subject property – bungalow with compound, 225 E.I. Lines, Karachi Cantt – had been at the centre of controversies more than once. Lease of this 1.23 acre plot was first granted to Framji Kunwarji Limbuwala around a century back on an annual rent of Rs8.25. In June 1994, Rustom Byramji Limbuwala, a grandson of the late F.K. Limbuwala, who lived in the United Kingdom, gave a special power of attorney to a Zardari family member, who on Mr Limbuwala’s behalf, entered a “deed of conveyance of immovable property valued at Rs1.55 million” with the other Zardari family members including herself and the Zardrai Group. The sale process which started in 1978 suffered hiccups from the outset when it was brought into litigation in 1979 which was eventually disposed of under a compromise in 1994 and soon afterwards the sale process was concluded. The sources said that in March 1995 the director general of military lands and cantonments increased the plot area from the original 1.23 acres to 1.4 acres. Some time afterwards the Zardari Group started the process of the land-use change by moving an application, signed as “I have the honour to be, sir, your most obedient servant” to the Military Estates Officer for the conversion of land from “residential” to “commercial” purposes, said the sources. The application reads: “I request that the land may be granted to me by private agreement without auction for the following reason: we are the grantees of the subject property and ready to pay the residential-cum-commercial charges as referred to in MEO Karachi letter No. K-7/225/58, dated Aug 7, 1996.” In June 2010, after a lapse of over a decade and a half, the request was approved by the authorities concerned and the information was conveyed by Rawalpindi-based Dr Saima Shah (additional director general of lands) that the land – 1.4 acres or 6813.74 square yards – was being converted from residential to commercial for which over Rs39 million had to be paid as premium and Rs27,255 as annual ground rent. The lease, according to MEO Naeem Jan Khan, was to expire on June 23, 2109, said the sources. The sources said that according to the table showing the calculation out of total 6,813 square yards, 523 sq yards was covered area and premium calculated as per valuation table of DC rates was Rs13,800 per yard and 50 per cent of which was 6,900, and the premium became over Rs3 million for the covered area. For 6,291 square yards open area the DC valuation rates were; 11,500 per yard and its 50 per cent came to Rs5,750, on the basis of which the premium calculated came to Rs36 million. Total of both the premiums came to over Rs39 million. Besides the premium of Rs39 million the Zardari Group also paid around Rs13 million as dues, said the sources. A special meeting of the Zardari Group held in December 2009, chaired by Hakim Ali Zardari and attended by its director Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, authorised the group’s legal adviser Abu Baker, son of Muku Khan, to obtain commercialisation letter/ order/ documents from the MEO in connection with property 225 E.I. Lines, Karachi. A few months later in October 2010 the Zardari Group held another special meeting chaired by its chief executive Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and attended by its director, a Zardari family member and authorised the family member to execute and sign commercial lease and other related documents relating to 225 E. I. Lines. Then the group started the process of getting the plans for the high-rise commercial complex building approved from the CBK, which eventually accorded approval to the group in November 2012 to construct a building having six basement floors for parking plus ground floor, first floor (maintenance and food court), second floor to seventh floor (retail shops), eight floor (mechanical floor), ninth to 12th floor (offices) and 13 floors (hotel), said the sources. Soon afterwards the physical work on the project started, the old colonial style house was razed and a deep ditch was dug up to accommodate the underground parking and subsequently raise the structure, said the sources. The sources said that by this time the CBK started to raise objections to the project work, saying the advertisements for the project had been placed by some other firm, Bahria Town, unknown to the CBK, which recognized only the Zardari Group in relation to the project. The CBK said the movie theatre, swimming pool etc were being advertised as part of the building plan which were not provided in the approved plan. The permission for the advertisements was also not taken, said the sources. The CBK said that it was not informed about the ongoing work on the construction and subsequently the board started its process against the Zardari Group. Meanwhile, over 40 military officials residing, along with their families, next to the under-construction building have also raised concerns about security, safety as well as privacy with regard to the high-rise. The sources said the CBK started issuing notices and letters to the Zardari Group over violations. Therefore, the Bahria Town went into litigation as a partner in the project to check the CBK in its tracks, said the sources. The Bahria Town took the plea that the work on the project was being carried out according to the CBK’s approved building plan still the board was creating hindrances to the work and harassing it, the sources added. Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2014

Record-visitors-expected-at-cityscape

http://thepeninsulaqatar.com/business/qatar-business/284334/record-visitors-expected-at-cityscape

Monday, May 19, 2014

Iraq approves S.Korea's Daewoo $588.8 million oilfield contract

Iraq approves S.Korea's Daewoo $588.8 million oilfield contract Tue, Apr 15 09:44 AM EDT BAGHDAD, April 15 (Reuters) - Iraq's cabinet approved Tuesday an $588.8 million oilfield service contract with South Korea's Daewoo Engineering & Construction (047040.KS) for the development of the Zubair oil field, the cabinet said in a statement. Under the contract, Daewoo E&C will handle engineering, procurement and construction work for a gas separation facility at the giant Zubair oilfield in Iraq's south, whose output is forecast to reach 850,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) in 2017. Italy's ENI, U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum Corp and South Korea's KOGAS signed a 20-year deal with Iraq in 2010 to develop Zubair, whose production is currently at 320,000 barrels per day (bpd). (Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, editing by Ned Parker)

Does Saudi defense reshuffle signal change in Syria policy?

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (C) is welcomed by Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Salman bin Sultan (2nd L) upon his arrival at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, May 13, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Mandel Ngan) Author: As-Safir (Lebanon) Posted May 16, 2014 In a short period of time, Saudi Arabia keeps introducing one surprise after another. The royal decrees that were announced by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz yesterday [May 14] were unprecedented since he came to power 10 years ago. They affected many of the political, military and family positions. Summary⎙ Print S audi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has made a number of surprising changes in the country’s top defense posts, indicating a possible shift in Riyadh’s Syria policy.Author Khalil Harb Posted May 16, 2014 Translator(s)Sahar Ghoussoub Original Article اقرا المقال الأصلي باللغة العربية Through the royal decrees, the king has managed to push his sons further to the forefront of the Saudi political scene, as he appointed his son, Prince Turki, as an emir of the Riyadh region, in a move observers say it may provoke confusion in the ranks of the ruling family. At the same time, the “Bandari line” is being disposed of by removing Prince Salman bin Sultan, the half-brother of the deposed Prince Bandar bin Sultan, from his post as deputy secretary of defense, only one month after removing Bandar himself from his position as head of intelligence. An informed Gulf source told As-Safir that the orders of the Saudi king fall, in part, in the context of re-arranging the turbulent internal affairs, especially in relation to his children. In other aspects, they constitute shocking surprises, especially on the military level, and given the amendments at the head of the General Staff and the leadership of the air force and navy. It was interesting that these military amendments came about two weeks after the announcement of the conclusion of the biggest military maneuvers on the part of the Saudi armed forces, while the king’s decrees were issued in conjunction with a relatively lengthy visit made ​​by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to the kingdom. Observers are wondering whether these steps will pave the way for large-scale changes in the military leadership in a country, especially in light of the presence of the defense minister of major country like the United States, that was involved in a meeting with defense ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the city of Jeddah. However, the surprise of the king of Saudi Arabia is not purely internal. At the regional level, the removal of Prince Salman, the son of late Crown Prince Sultan, as deputy minister of defense suggests that he is being distanced from the Syrian issue, which he was entrusted with from the Saudi operations room in Jordan. This move came one month after officially removing Bandar bin Sultan from his post in the intelligence. A few months ago, the Syrian file was transferred to Prince Mohamed bin Nayef, as it has turned out that terrorism in Syria is turning into an uncontrollable Saudi problem, which is seen as part of Bandar’s unrestrained policies. So far, there is no alternative to Bandar in the leadership of Saudi intelligence. Youssef bin Ali Idrissi continues to manage the intelligence apparatus since a month ago. However, according to observers, the failure of the Saudi military operations in Jordan contributed to the removal of this half-brother Prince Salman bin Sultan, as millions of dollars were spent on opposition armed rebels in the south of Syria to no avail. The opposition was dealt a major blow in eastern Ghouta in late 2013. Back then, the Syrian army and Hezbollah prevented the fall of the city in the hands of the opposition and secured the protection of the Syrian capital and its airport. This was the magical Western expression that was used throughout last year and the beginning of 2014. Brothers Bandar and Salman knew that this password required a change in the balance of power on the ground. It was clear that the balance was not tipping in favor of scores of armed factions funded by Saudi Arabia and the West in the hope of compelling the regime to make concessions during the last spring negotiations of Geneva II. Prince Salman is following the lead of his eldest brother, Bandar, who has raised the ire of the United States in the past month after long years of good relations. Bandar is a holder of a BA in military sciences from the King Abdulaziz Military College. He was appointed as a lieutenant in the Saudi air force. He led the fourth group of air defense in the Khamis Mushait base only to later join the Saudi Embassy in Washington as a military attache. Then, he was appointed as an assistant to the secretary-general of the Council of Security and Intelligence Affairs affiliated with the National Security Council. Observers believe that distancing Salman after the dismissal of Bandar raises questions about whether Saudi Arabia is bringing about radical changes in its policy toward Syria, or if it is only making amendments that take into consideration the growing security requirements of the kingdom, which is concerned about the spillover of surrounding unrest. Saudi Arabia is also taking into consideration the new US interests, which were reflected through the decision of Saudi Arabia to issue terrorism lists including terrorist organizations in Syria, prior to the decisive visit of US President Barack Obama to Riyadh last March. Whatever the situation, the Saudi surprises will not be limited to this. Yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud al-Faisal announced suddenly openness toward holding a dialogue with Iran. The Saudi king made an important move at the end of last March, when he announced the appointment of his brother Prince Muqrin as deputy crown prince. As such, all his sons are now assuming key positions in the power structure. Now, Prince Turki has been appointed the emir of Riyadh in the capacity of a minister, a step that may not be acceptable by many due to his relatively young age (43). A few months ago, the king also appointed his son Mishaal as emir of Mecca. In addition to this, Prince Mutaib is the head of National Guard in the capacity of a minister. His other son, Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, is deputy foreign minister and is known for his calm diplomacy and regional openness, and many consider him as the likeliest candidate to become a foreign minister as a successor to Saud al-Faisal. The Saudi statement King Abdullah declared the following orders: “Based on what has been submitted by the crown prince, deputy premier and minister of defense (Prince Salman): Relieving Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the deputy minister of defense, of his post upon his request. Relieving Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the governor of Riyadh region, of his post and appointing him as deputy minister of defense. Prince Turki bin Abdulaziz al-Saud was appointed as the emir of the Riyadh region, as a minister.” There have been amendments in the leadership of the general Staff and the air force and navy. “Chief of staff Hussein Abdullah bin Hussein who is about to retire shall be dismissed, while his deputy Abdul Rahman bin Saleh bin Abdullah al-Binyan shall be be appointed as chief of staff.” “Lt. Gen. Fayadh bin Hamad bin Ruqad Ruwaili shall be appointed deputy chief of the general staff. Deputy air force commander, Maj. Gen. Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Abdul Rahman al-Shaalan shall be promoted to lieutenant general and commander of the air force.” The king forced “navy commander Admiral Dakheel-Allah al-Wakadani into retirement and appointed in his place Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed al-Sultan after being promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.” Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/05/saudi-arabia-defense-reshuffle-syria-policy-iran.html#ixzz329Y0c992 ================== Here Comes The Saudi Dynasty Succession Crisis ... Michael Kelley 42 minutes ago 0facebook linkedin twitter google+ print email print email share share tweet share print email Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin share print email REUTERS Saudi royal guards stand on duty during the Janadriya culture festival at Der'iya in Riyadh The Saudi dynasty is facing its biggest dynastic challenge in 50 years, and Game of Thrones-style cracks are showing in the imminent transition from King Abdullah’s rule. Liz Sly of The Washinton Post details growing discontent in the royal family after the contentious appointment of the king’s youngest brother, Muqrin, as the deputy heir. The choice of Muqrin, a British-educated fighter pilot who has close ties to the U.S., is controversial partly because he is the son of a Yemeni concubine who was never formally married to his father, King Abdulaziz Al-Saud, who founded the Saudi state in 1932. “He is not a real prince; his mother was a slave and there are other brothers who are more competent,” a former Saudi official told Sly. “Nobody believes Muqrin can become king.” The newly-created title effectively allows Muqrin, 69, to bypass at least two other brothers, which goes against the unspoken rule that succession passes down according to age. King Abdullah is believed to be around 90 and his immediate successor, Crown Prince Salman, is 79. Both are in poor health. Over the last six decades, the succession mostly passed brother to brother in order of their age. But the last of the current line of brothers will die soon, passing power to the third generation of the family. Sly explains the problem that consequently arises: "Given that there are scores of princes in [the third generation], the potential for discord is high. Whoever inherits the throne is likely to anoint his own brothers as future heirs, thereby cutting out multiple cousins from access to the throne and the patronage it provides." This chart from The Washington Institute lays out the line of succession up to this point (Murquin is one of the "19 other surviving sons": Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-saudi-dynasty-succession-crisis-2014-5#ixzz32vJqyTJB ==========================

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Swimming against the El Sisi tide

World Middle East and North Africa Connect: Radio: Feed: Presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabahi greets his supporters after Friday prayers in Baltim city, 212km north of Cairo. With only two people – former army chief Abdel Fattah El Sisi and leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi - vying for the country's top post, the Egyptian election commission set the first round of voting for May 26 and 27, with results expected by June 5. Amr Nabil / AP Photo The veteran socialist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi spends the weekend drumming up support for Egypt’s upcoming presidential showdown against the former defence minister. May 18, 2014 Updated: May 18, 2014 22:51:00 Save this article Nadine Marroushi Related■ Egypt’s El Sisi makes rare plea to youth ■ El Sisi: ‘Brotherhood will no longer exist, just like that’ More so than ever, Egypt needs a lively political landscape ■ El Sissi formally submits signatures for presidential bid Despite pessimism, Egypt’s presidential race can offer hope Topic Egypt election, Egypt, Foreign Correspondent ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT // Hamdeen Sabahi knows this city and its surrounding areas well. He campaigned here for the presidency two years ago – but his reception then was different from what he’s receiving today. His supporters are outwardly just as enthusiastic, but among the people of Egypt’s second city there seems less appetite for the veteran socialist, the only politician prepared to take on Abdel Fattah El Sisi. “I’ve heard it all before, and none of these promises have been met,” says Ahmed Hassan, a 43-year-old window fitter from Wadi El Qamar, a town in west Alexandria. “I’m giving my vote to Sisi. Even if he doesn’t have an electoral programme, I trust simply by looking at him that he will implement what he says.” Mr Sabahi, a 60-year-old veteran political activist, spent the weekend drumming up support for Egypt’s upcoming presidential showdown against former defence minister Abdel Fattah El Sisi. It was in Alexandria and its surrounding industrial towns where Mr Sabahi picked up most of his 4.8 million votes that took him to third place in the 2012 election won by the Islamist Mohammad Morsi. Mr El Sisi removed Morsi from power in June after unprecedented protests against his rule. An interim government has since overseen the banning of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s path to a new constitution and next week’s presidential elections, which Mr El Sisi is expected to win easily. Despite Mr Sabahi’s best efforts, the face of his rival overshadows him at every turn. In Alexandria, as in Cairo, the number of Mr El Sisi posters, dwarfs the images of Mr Sabahi. Undeterred, Mr Sabahi appeared in Alexandria on Friday in front of roaring crowds of youths chanting familiar slogans from the 2011 uprising. Hundreds gathered in a conference hall late in the evening to hear Mr Sabahi’s platform on social justice and democracy. In an interview with The National just before he took to the stage, Mr Sabahi said his campaign was “the expression of the revolution that the people made happen”, in reference to both the uprising against Mr Mubarak, and the subsequent vast protests that eventually ousted Mr Morsi. He claims his campaign has the support of “the majority and the mainstream”, in particular its youths, the poor, and a middle class “looking forward to a democratic system”. Mr Sabahi said his four-year presidential term would be enough to improve living standards. He spoke of a plan to revive the“incompetent and corrupt” public sector into profitmaking and free of corruption. To tackle Egypt’s unemployment rate of 13.4 per cent, with almost 70 per cent of those out of work aged between 15 and 29, Mr Sabahi planned 5 million small, medium and micro-sized projects. Mr Sabahi said he would like to create a balance between national and foreign investments through “clear legislative frameworks for a state free of corruption.” He also plans to implement a progressive income taxation system ranging between 20 to 40 per cent, unlike the current standard income tax rate of 20 per cent. On Egypt’s relations with GCC countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which have been major financial backers of the government that followed Mr Morsi’s removal, Mr Sabahi said he is in favour of strong relations with all the Arab world and a union, modelled on the European Union, to “overcome the current shortcomings of the Arab League”. “I also support Egypt giving assurances to the Gulf states to open the door for more investments from them,” Mr Sabahi said. “We don’t want to rely on aid but depend on opening the opportunities for investments, so that the situation is win-win for both sides.” Page 2 of 2 Mr El Sisi’s confrontation against the Muslim Brotherhood, his promises of rebuilding the economy and improving security have been among the driving forces behind the wave of nationalist fervour that has been the basis of his popularity. Militants have carried out increasingly deadly attacks against the army and police in the Sinai Peninsula and across Egypt since Mr Morsi was removed from power and the subsequent crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated a terrorist organisation in December. Mr Sabahi said he would tackle the militants in Sinai through an alteration of the Camp David Accords, signed in 1978 between Egypt, Israel and the US, which limits the Egyptian military presence in Sinai. The peninsula borders Egypt, Gaza and Israel. He said that while he would support the security forces in its “war on terror” operations, human rights under his rule would be respected through reforming the police. “The police are a victim of a failed state,” he said. “When the state is unable to resolve problems through political or economic means, they put the police on the front line to oppress us.” Prisons in Egypt are a place for “criminals and terrorists, not pacifists”, said Mr Sabahi, promising to pardon all those that have been arrested under a law passed in November that placed broad restrictions on protests. For 27-year-old Ahmed Ghattas, this is just the kind of freedom that makes him want to vote and campaign on behalf of Mr Sabahi and not Mr El Sisi. “If Sisi comes to power, we’ll all be arrested,” Mr Ghattas said, on the campaign bus to Alexandria. As for Mr Sabahi, he said that if he does not win, he will not accept a position in Mr El Sisi’s government. “I’ll be part of a strong opposition, because a democratic state needs it,” he said. Before his evening rally in Alexandria, Mr Sabahi appeared during the day in the factory town of Wadi El Qamar where he thanked the town for supporting him in the 2012 race. “I’ll give my vote to whoever is able to solve this town’s problems,” said Tarek Abdel Latif, a 32-year-old worker at the local cement factory. He complained of the respiratory problems created by the town’s heavy industries. As Mr Sabahi and his team left Wadi El Qamar to the campaign trail’s next stop, many of the residents held up posters of Mr El Sisi. foreign.desk@thenational.ae One-page article Nadine Marroushi Related ■ Egypt’s El Sisi makes rare plea to youth ■ El Sisi: ‘Brotherhood will no longer exist, just like that’ More so than ever, Egypt needs a lively political landscape ■ El Sissi formally submits signatures for presidential bid Despite pessimism, Egypt’s presidential race can offer hope Topic Egypt election, Egypt, Foreign Correspondent ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT // Hamdeen Sabahi knows this city and its surrounding areas well. He campaigned here for the presidency two years ago – but his reception then was different from what he’s receiving today. His supporters are outwardly just as enthusiastic, but among the people of Egypt’s second city there seems less appetite for the veteran socialist, the only politician prepared to take on Abdel Fattah El Sisi. “I’ve heard it all before, and none of these promises have been met,” says Ahmed Hassan, a 43-year-old window fitter from Wadi El Qamar, a town in west Alexandria. “I’m giving my vote to Sisi. Even if he doesn’t have an electoral programme, I trust simply by looking at him that he will implement what he says.” Mr Sabahi, a 60-year-old veteran political activist, spent the weekend drumming up support for Egypt’s upcoming presidential showdown against former defence minister Abdel Fattah El Sisi. It was in Alexandria and its surrounding industrial towns where Mr Sabahi picked up most of his 4.8 million votes that took him to third place in the 2012 election won by the Islamist Mohammad Morsi. Mr El Sisi removed Morsi from power in June after unprecedented protests against his rule. An interim government has since overseen the banning of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s path to a new constitution and next week’s presidential elections, which Mr El Sisi is expected to win easily. Despite Mr Sabahi’s best efforts, the face of his rival overshadows him at every turn. In Alexandria, as in Cairo, the number of Mr El Sisi posters, dwarfs the images of Mr Sabahi. Undeterred, Mr Sabahi appeared in Alexandria on Friday in front of roaring crowds of youths chanting familiar slogans from the 2011 uprising. Hundreds gathered in a conference hall late in the evening to hear Mr Sabahi’s platform on social justice and democracy. In an interview with The National just before he took to the stage, Mr Sabahi said his campaign was “the expression of the revolution that the people made happen”, in reference to both the uprising against Mr Mubarak, and the subsequent vast protests that eventually ousted Mr Morsi. He claims his campaign has the support of “the majority and the mainstream”, in particular its youths, the poor, and a middle class “looking forward to a democratic system”. Mr Sabahi said his four-year presidential term would be enough to improve living standards. He spoke of a plan to revive the“incompetent and corrupt” public sector into profitmaking and free of corruption. To tackle Egypt’s unemployment rate of 13.4 per cent, with almost 70 per cent of those out of work aged between 15 and 29, Mr Sabahi planned 5 million small, medium and micro-sized projects. Mr Sabahi said he would like to create a balance between national and foreign investments through “clear legislative frameworks for a state free of corruption.” He also plans to implement a progressive income taxation system ranging between 20 to 40 per cent, unlike the current standard income tax rate of 20 per cent. On Egypt’s relations with GCC countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which have been major financial backers of the government that followed Mr Morsi’s removal, Mr Sabahi said he is in favour of strong relations with all the Arab world and a union, modelled on the European Union, to “overcome the current shortcomings of the Arab League”. “I also support Egypt giving assurances to the Gulf states to open the door for more investments from them,” Mr Sabahi said. “We don’t want to rely on aid but depend on opening the opportunities for investments, so that the situation is win-win for both sides.” Mr El Sisi’s confrontation against the Muslim Brotherhood, his promises of rebuilding the economy and improving security have been among the driving forces behind the wave of nationalist fervour that has been the basis of his popularity. Militants have carried out increasingly deadly attacks against the army and police in the Sinai Peninsula and across Egypt since Mr Morsi was removed from power and the subsequent crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated a terrorist organisation in December. Mr Sabahi said he would tackle the militants in Sinai through an alteration of the Camp David Accords, signed in 1978 between Egypt, Israel and the US, which limits the Egyptian military presence in Sinai. The peninsula borders Egypt, Gaza and Israel. He said that while he would support the security forces in its “war on terror” operations, human rights under his rule would be respected through reforming the police. “The police are a victim of a failed state,” he said. “When the state is unable to resolve problems through political or economic means, they put the police on the front line to oppress us.” Prisons in Egypt are a place for “criminals and terrorists, not pacifists”, said Mr Sabahi, promising to pardon all those that have been arrested under a law passed in November that placed broad restrictions on protests. For 27-year-old Ahmed Ghattas, this is just the kind of freedom that makes him want to vote and campaign on behalf of Mr Sabahi and not Mr El Sisi. “If Sisi comes to power, we’ll all be arrested,” Mr Ghattas said, on the campaign bus to Alexandria. As for Mr Sabahi, he said that if he does not win, he will not accept a position in Mr El Sisi’s government. “I’ll be part of a strong opposition, because a democratic state needs it,” he said. Before his evening rally in Alexandria, Mr Sabahi appeared during the day in the factory town of Wadi El Qamar where he thanked the town for supporting him in the 2012 race. “I’ll give my vote to whoever is able to solve this town’s problems,” said Tarek Abdel Latif, a 32-year-old worker at the local cement factory. He complained of the respiratory problems created by the town’s heavy industries. As Mr Sabahi and his team left Wadi El Qamar to the campaign trail’s next stop, many of the residents held up posters of Mr El Sisi. foreign.desk@thenational.ae Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/swimming-against-the-el-sisi-tide#full#ixzz328GQFrfx Follow us: @TheNationalUAE on Twitter | thenational.ae on Facebook

Saturday, May 17, 2014

U.S. prosecutors drop two more charges against Rajaratnam's brother

Fri, May 16 18:18 PM EDT By Joseph Ax NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors have dropped two insider trading-related charges against former Galleon Group hedge fund portfolio manager Rengan Rajaratnam, the second time in two weeks the government has whittled down its case against him. In a new indictment made public on Friday, prosecutors eliminated two securities fraud charges against Rajaratnam, but he is expected to go to trial on other criminal charges. Rajaratnam is the younger brother of Galleon founder Raj Rajaratnam, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for his 2011 conviction for insider trading. Two weeks ago, prosecutors dropped two other securities fraud counts against Rengan Rajaratnam following a written opinion from U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald that those charges were "internally inconsistent" with a conspiracy charge in the indictment. It was not immediately clear why prosecutors decided to abandon the additional counts. A spokesman for the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara declined to comment. Rajaratnam's lawyer, Daniel Gitner, declined to comment. Rajaratnam is scheduled to face trial on June 17, the latest case in a broad insider trading investigation that has resulted in 80 convictions since October 2009. The government has accused the 43-year-old of conspiring with his brother to trade on non-public information related to Clearwire Corp and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Rengan Rajaratnam had initially been charged with securities fraud with respect to trades executed in various Galleon funds that prosecutors said netted more than $1 million in illegal profits. All four of those counts have been dropped. Rajaratnam now faces two fraud counts over trades in his own brokerage account, which prosecutors say earned him about $100,000 in illicit gains, and a conspiracy count related to the broader scheme. The case is U.S. v. Rajaratnam, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-cr-00211. (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Grant McCool)

‎Signs_of_Reappearance‬

Who Is Almahdi Very important ‪#Pls read & share Click on the image & Zoom in Who Is Almahdi Sunday 17th April: NATO warplanes instead bombed the area of Al-Hira, 50 km (30 miles) southwest of the capital Tripoli and also hit the city of Sirte, Libyan state television said. Bursts of anti-aircraft fire were heard in Tripoli on Sunday evening. Abbas0 Abbas0 Member Advanced Members 782 posts Religion:Muslim Shia Posted 17 July 2012 - 11:57 PM For all those who doubted the destruction of Syria. Those who's hearts will beat a billion times when Damascus fully collapses. The little movement is already declaring to us the reality. The reality the prophet told us about. A sedition in Sham then another sedition in Damascus and that is Sufyani. Latest topics today http://arabnews.com/...iberate-capital http://www.jpost.com....aspx?id=277850 Let me brief it up too many links. - Iraq tells its citizens in Syria to return home. - Syrian revels declare Free Damascus Movement - Jordan wants to secure risks of chemical weapons spill over from Syria - Assad my give chemical weapons to Hez or Iran to use on Jordan - Assad may use chemical weapons or has already on Syrians - France says last week close friend of Bashar who defected is in France. Wonder why... The truth is, the Syrians are honestly not realizing what's coming to them. This is a serious thing happening in Syria we can't just say nothing is happening. Now Iranian commanders are saying everything good to go and almost on the go to close the river just waiting on the Sayed`s go. Who knows whats to happen that makes us wonder why the hadith says Khorassani(man from Iran), Sufyani(man from Syria) and Yemeni(man from Yemen or maybe not but Yemeni ancestry) come out like race horses racing towards Sham(same day) each declaring separate movements. What`s to happen? “After that there will be a terrible earthquake in Shaam, which will be a blessing for the believers but a punishment for disbelievers. A hundred thousand will die because of it. When this happens, you will see an army mounted on red horses coming from the west, waving a yellow flag and entering Shaam. When this happens, you will see a village of Shaam, named Kharashna sink into the earth. When this happens, you will witness the rising of (Sufyani) the son of Hind, the liver-eater from the Dry Valley.” When Rome and Turks attack you; when armies are prepared and that leader of yours who hoards wealth passes away. He is succeeded by an honest person, but within a few years of his allegiance, he is dismissed from where he was appointed. Turks and Rome confront each other and battles rage everywhere. A caller will call out from the war shelters of Damascus: Perdition is near for humans. The western portion of the Masjid of Damascus caves in and its boundary walls collapse. Three groups will set out from Damascus to seize power.One would be led by a person on a pie bald horse, another on a red horse and a man from the descendants of Abu Sufyan who would bring all the people to Damascus and expel the people of the west to Egypt.When they enter Damascus, it would be the sign for the uprising of Sufyani and before that a person would stage an uprising and call the peopleto Aale Muhammad (a.s.). The Turks would camp in Hira and the Romans would camp at Palestine and Abdullah would march forward till both the armies come face to face at Qurqisa river and a severe battle would ensue. When the king of the west marches, he would kill the men and captivate the women. Then he would return to Qubs till Sufyani enters the peninsula. Then Yamani would move and take over whatever the people had gathered." INTERESTING PARTS: Three groups set out FROM Damascus. When "they" enter Damascus (They here are the people of the west, people of the west could literally mean America) and Sufyani will boot them to Egypt, but when an intervention happens in Syria that's Sufyani's biggest sign. Allahu yallam koolashey. He provided us with hadiths like these for reasons. To use our brains at times like these to see if this stuff starts to happen soon in Syria, we already know whats coming. The reason why Sufyani is going to target us(shias) is because we are going to be the first to recognize him. We will point a finger at him right away so in return he will rage war on the Shias close to him. That is why Yemani and Khorassani come. Because it becomes a battlefield. World War 3. Then Dajjal (the real figure) comes. Edited by Abbas0, 17 July 2012 - 11:59 PM.