Nearly 35000 Moroccans Acquire Spanish Citizenship

Taroudant – Latest statistics show that 34,807 Moroccan nationals obtained Spanish citizenship in 2014, according to figures published on Friday by the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE).A total of 205,880 foreign nationals acquired Spanish nationality in 2014 with Moroccans being the majority (34,807) followed by Ecuadorians and Colombians, with 32,757 and 25,115 respectively.Foreign nationals who received Spanish Nationality by countryBolivians, Peruvians, citizens from the Dominican Republic and Argentineans followed in the ranking.According to the Spanish Institute, about 26,777 people who acquired Spanish nationality were born in Spain, mainly children under 10 years of age. The INE revealed that more than 95 percent were younger than 10 years old, while 79 percent of new citizens were granted Spanish nationality after having lived legally in Spain for 10 years or more.During the period from January to June 2015 the pace of acquisitions of Spanish nationality was lower compared to the previous year.Statistics found that the same top three countries as in 2014 were the most naturalized nationals in the first quarter of 2015, with Morocco (13,858 people), Ecuador (8387) and Colombia (7,036) leading the charts.The 10 most common nationalities to acquire Spanish citizenship. First semester 2015The majority of new citizens live either in Barcelona or Madrid, the two largest cities in Spain, while just over 1,000 live in the rural region of Extremadura.After Spain introduced the Citizenship test, those requesting Spanish nationality are required to pass an exam on Spanish history, culture, geography and politics in order to be qualified for Spanish citizenship read more

Guinean National Arrested in Casablanca Airport for Drug trafficking

Rabat – Moroccan security services arrested, Sunday in the Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport, a Guinean national for attempted international drug trafficking, the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) said. After searching the luggage of the suspect, 30, who arrived Sunday in Casablanca from Conakry, the authorities discovered of 26 kg of hashish leaves, the DGNS pointed out in a statement. Showing signs of a health malaise, the man was carried to the Berrechid provincial hospital to receive the necessary care and check if he has not ingested drugs, the same source added. read more

Sound Energy Announces Higher Than Anticipated Gas Deposits in Morocco

Rabat – The British firm Sounds Energy said on Thursday that the results of a test drill in the newly discovered Tendrara gas field exceed capacity expectations, according to a new report by Medias24.A 24-hour test, conducted right after the company received an exploration permit from the Moroccan government on Wednesday, revealed a flow rate of 8.8 million standard cubic feet per day.Last month, Sound Energy’s CEO James Parsons said he believed his company had stumbled upon a “super-giant” gas field in the North African kingdom. Tendrara’s deposits – located near Morocco’s border with petrostate Algeria – could be equal in magnitude to some of the largest fields in the region, the CEO added.“Specifically this discovery could be of the order of the Zuhr gas field controlled by [the Italian company] ENI,” he said. The field, which sits off the coast of Egypt in the Mediterranean, is the largest in the oil-rich body of water.Parsons said the company was in the process of organizing new tests to confirm the results, which suggested large parts of Tendrara sat on the same gas gradient – a rare phenomenon that suggests massive reserves in the area.Sound Energy’s stock price (SOU) has nearly quadrupled over the past six months on the London Stock Exchange due to the Moroccan discovery.As a net energy importer, the exploitation of natural gas deposits will contribute to the kingdom’s energy independence.The nation is set to host the United Nations Convention of the Parties 22 (COP22) in the tourist city of Marrakesh next week. read more

Moroccan Medical Laboratory Releases Homegrown Hepatitis B Drug

By Safaa KasraouiRabat – The Moroccan medical laboratory Pharma 5 has launched a new, made-in-Morocco drug for fighting Hepatitis B at an affordable price.The new medication to cure Hepatitis B will be available at MAD 300, 10 times cheaper than Tenofovir, its American-made competitor, said Pharma 5 “We will no longer depend on foreign laboratories for Hepatitis B medicines,” said Myriam Lahlou-Filali, executive director of Pharma 5, during a press conference Tuesday in Casablanca. “It is very encouraging, especially for social peace. This drug equals life.” Hepatitis B is a liver virus transmitted through contact with blood or other body fluids from an infected person. No symptoms occur during the acute phase of infection. Approximately 600,000 people in Morocco, or 1.9 percent of the population, are living with Hepatitis B.“This [serious] disease requires a lifetime treatment which was not available in Morocco until now,” added Pharma 5. The group also announced the launch of a new medication, which combines “for the first time” active substances including Sofosbuvir, a molecule designed to cure Hepatitis C.The drug will come out before the annual World Hepatitis Day scheduled for July 28. The medical company had launched in 2015 and 2016 three Moroccanmade medications, Le SSB 400, Dakasvir, and Rivabir, in order to fight against Hepatitis C.Since its launch, Le SSB 400 has treated approximately 10,000 patients in Morocco, according to Pharma 5. The medication is now marketed in 12 African countries, including Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, and Mali. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 257 million people are living with hepatitis B. read more

French Hospitals Moroccan Patients Second Bad Payers After Algerians

By Sanae ElouaziRabat – Moroccans seeking treatment in France are no longer welcome in French hospitals since they have been declared as “bad payers” after accumulating a total of debt EUR 7.3 million. According to a report conducted by the Public Assistance-Hospitals of Paris (AP-HP) on unpaid bills in French hospitals, Algerians ranked first on the list with a debt of EUR 28 million, equivalent to MAD 308 million. The United States of America and Tunisia’s nationals have also been reported to not pay their French hospital bills with a total of EUR 3.95 million and EUR 2.97 million respectively. These considerable amounts concern only foreign patients who are not residing in France, and whose pathology requires treatment in Paris’ hospitals. French hospitals, which never required advance payment of hospitalization for foreigners in the past, decided to restrict the hospitalization of foreign nationals in France by changing the payment method.Foreigners are now required to submit documents proving their solvency before receiving any form of care. This new provision only concerns scheduled hospitalizations, not emergency cases.Over the years, foreign patients have left behind a EUR 120 million debt to Paris hospitals by late 2014.  Top foreign officials who go to France for treatment were also reported as bad payers. In 2015, Saudi’s King visit to France stirred controversy over the alleged nonpayment of a EUR 3.7 million bill to Paris Hospitals. In a tweet, the well-known French physician and activist, Patrick Pelloux, recalled that the Arabian kingdom owed EUR 3.7 million to the Public Assistance-Hospitals of Paris (AP-HP).“Before leaving, the King of Saudi Arabia could pay his bills of EUR 3.7 million to Hôpitaux de Paris. A gesture of courtesy!” the tweet read.  The polemic tweet reached representatives at Hôpitaux de Paris who have confirmed the allegations. According to French media outlets, the debt is not only King Salmane’s responsibility. The EUR 3.7 million include many Saudis treated in Paris.These types of debts are a recurring problem since foreign officials are not required by law to pay these hospital bills at time of service. read more

A Bountiful Year for Moroccos Wheat

Rabat – Despite a sluggish start, Morocco’s 2018 agricultural campaign has experienced an impressive upswing in production levels in recent months, suggesting that a bountiful harvest that may double returns in May 2018, exceeding the expectations of Moroccan authorities, according to Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture, Aziz Akhannouch, on the sidelines of a conference held yesterday in Meknes.Speaking about the challenges in Moroccan agriculture over the last ten years, Mr. Akhannouch said that productivity this year may produce the best agricultural yield in last decade, with productivity levels set to reach 98.2 million quintals. According to the minister, this provisional figure represents an increase of 3 percent compared to 2017 results.The figures entail three different categories of cereals: 48.1 million quintals of soft wheat, 22.8 million for durum wheat, and 27.3 million of barley. The crop yield stands out this year, as a smaller total area of arable lands has decreased results in previous years. While farmers and wheat growers worked on 5.4 million hectares last year, only 4.5 million hectares were used in this year agricultural campaign, the Minister reported, further hinting that this means an average of 21.8 quintals per hectare—an increase of 23 percent with respect to the previous campaign.For the agriculture minister, these improved and “exceptional results” reveal the massive human and financial efforts invested by farmers and agricultural officials. “This exceptional result showcases [Morocco’s] great and intervention capabilities, which have developed since the launching of the Green Morocco Plan.Launched in 2018, the Green Morocco Plan has been instrumental in transforming Moroccan agriculture, with grand investments and consequential results.Presenting the plan’s results from the last ten years, the minister said that the Green Morocco Plan has invested MAD 105 billion in the agriculture sector over the past decade. He went on to mention that such a considerable investment has been particularly pivotal in helping the sector grow by 7.3 percent since 2008, a figure that is more than double of Morocco’s average growth rate of 3.2 percent.More than a noticeable improvement in crop yields, however, the Green Morocco Plan has also helped employ over 250,000 persons, thus considerably decreasing the rate of rural depopulation. With job and food security, less people are willing to migrate to bid cities, Mr. Akhannouch noted.Reporting yesterday on Morocco’s “bountiful harvest,” Bloomberg hailed the country’s impressive “wheat outlook,” saying that such results allow Morocco’s wheat market to shed dependence on products from France, Russia, or Ukraine—Europe’s and the world’s top exporters of wheat and wheat-related products.“Morocco is poised to have a bountiful wheat harvest in 2018, and that may mean another slow year for the North African country’s top suppliers from Russia to France and Ukraine,” the outlet wrote, suggesting that the Green Moroccan Plan can, if the recent performance is sustained, propel Morocco beyond self-sufficiency into the category of wheat exporter. read more

US companies tax windfall fuels record share buybacks

U.S. corporations spent a record amount buying back their own shares last year, using 2017’s tax-cut windfall to reward shareholders rather than to invest or expand their businesses.Companies in the S&P 500 spent $806 billion on stock buybacks in 2018, blowing away the previous record of nearly $590 billion set in 2007. The information technology and financial service sectors were the biggest spenders, with Apple leading the pack. When share prices plunged in the fourth quarter it only encouraged companies to spend more, setting a fourth consecutive quarterly record for buybacks.Companies can return profits to shareholders either via dividends or buybacks. Buying back shares has the advantage of reducing the number of shares outstanding, which often gives a boost to closely watched financial metrics such as earnings per share.“Buybacks were again favoured over dividends in both the rate of growth and aggregate dollars spent,” said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.2017’s tax overhaul was trumpeted as a way to give companies more cash to invest to grow their businesses. But its timing coincided with signs that the global economy had begun to slow, an incentive for companies to instead give the cash back to investors.The practice has come under scrutiny by members of Congress, who criticized companies for using their extra tax benefits to boost the value of their own shares instead of investing in outside growth or their workers.In the short term, the buybacks won’t make much of a difference for the broader market, said Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. But, it will help companies deal with a broadly uncertain market.“They want to keep the ball moving down the field and if they feel like there are headwinds organically, they’ll do a bit financial engineering,” said Wren said. “Companies have done a good job over this long cycle playing the hand they’re dealt,” he said. “Buybacks are part of that.”Damian J. Troise, The Associated Press read more

Massire Project to Promote Innovative Water Solutions for Farming in Morocco

Rabat – The MAD 19.5 million ($2 million) project coordinated by French research institute CIRAD will run for four years and is funded by the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).It’s purpose is to identify and reinforce small-scale innovative projects in the water management sector in rural Morocco, focusing in particular on successful small-scale farming irrigation practices. These may include drip irrigation, new solar water pump technology, and recycling waste water, as well as innovative water governance measures.The project also aims to identify any other agricultural practices with the potential to reinforce Morocco’s resilience towards water shortages, stated CIRAD in a press release. Once these innovative projects have been identified, CIRAD aims to develop and reinforce them.The Massire project will pair small scale farmers with key players in sustainable development such as irrigation companies, agricultural cooperatives, NGOs, researchers and local Moroccan start-ups, to give them access to the technologies and services needed to develop sustainable farming.Read also: Moroccan Agriculture Minister Predicts Average Cereal ProductionWater management is a key issue for Morocco as the country regularly faces droughts. In 2016, a particularly severe drought seriously impacted agricultural production and the country’s GDP dropped by 3.3%. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 83% of agricultural land in Morocco is not irrigated. Crop yields therefore suffer significantly from variations in rainfall and droughts.This vulnerability will only increase, as the FAO predicts a 30% drop in rainfall by 2050, making water management an urgent issue for Morocco. read more

Car Violently Rams into Tramway in Casablanca

Rabat – A car driver rammed this morning, September 3, into a tramway wagon near Ain Sebaa prefecture, in Casablanca, stated a release from RATP Dev, the company in charge of managing Casablanca tramways. No one was harmed in the incident. The crash caused the wagon to derail for 15 meters.“A car driver, driving at a very fast pace, lost control of his vehicle for unknown reasons and came crashing into a tramway of the T2 line at Ain Sebaa prefecture,” says the release issued by RATP Dev.The accident occurred early in the morning and caused traffic disruption. RATP Dev Casablanca shared a video on social media showing technicians intervening to put the tramway wagon back on its tracks. Traffic circulation was back to normal by around 9 am. In the press release, RATP Dev recalled “the importance of complying with traffic laws for all road users. It is the guarantee for everyone’s safety.” read more

North American stocks tumble as USChina trade war escalation looms

The Canadian Press Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) TORONTO — Canada’s main stock index posted a triple-digit decline in late-morning trading as U.S. stock markets also tumbled ahead of a possible escalation in the U.S.-China trade war.The S&P/TSX composite index was down 120.68 points at 16,276.72.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 387.62 points at 25,579.71. The S&P 500 index was down 35.67 points at 2,843.75, while the Nasdaq composite was down 109.84 points at 7,833.48.The Canadian dollar traded for 74.14 cents US compared with an average of 74.26 cents US on Wednesday.The June crude contract was down 89 cents at US$61.23 per barrel and the June natural gas contract was down 3.7 cents at US$2.57 per mmBTU.The June gold contract was up US$4.40 at US$1,285.80 an ounce and the July copper contract was down 2.7 cents at US$2.75 a pound. read more

The Latest Apple previews new space show for subscription

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Latest on Apple’s developers conference (all times local):10:25 a.m.Apple is opening its annual developers conference with another sneak peek at its upcoming Apple TV Plus video subscription.CEO Tim Cook showed a snippet from a new show from Ron Moore, the executive producer of “Battlestar Galactica.” The show, “For All Mankind,” appears to be an alternative take on the U.S.-Russia space race in which a Soviet Cosmonaut is the first person to set foot on the moon.Apple TV Plus was announced in March and is due out the fall. Pricing details haven’t been released. Oprah, Jason Momoa, Big Bird, Steven Spielberg and a host of other stars have also lent themselves to original Apple shows.Apple also announced Monday that its Apple TV streaming device will soon offer support multiple users, so that individual members in a household can have their custom list of shows and how far they have watched. In the past, all the preferences have been tied to whoever set the device up.Apple is also announcing updates for its iPhone, Mac and other software at its event in San Jose, California.___6:40 a.m.Apple will preview upcoming changes to its phone and computer software Monday as it undergoes a major transition intended to offset eroding sales of its bedrock iPhone.The company’s software showcase is an annual rite. But Apple is currently grappling with its biggest challenge since its visionary co-founder, Steve Jobs, died nearly eight years ago.Many of the software updates are expected to be tailored for the digital services that Apple is rolling out to lessen its iPhone dependence.Although still popular, the iPhone is no longer reliably driving Apple’s profits higher. Sales have Sales have fallen sharply for the past two quarters and there’s little reason to expect a quick turnaround.The Associated Press read more

Turkey UN agency deeply regrets deportation of Iraqi refugee

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed “deep regret” over Turkey’s deportation of an Iraqi, although the agency had accorded him refugee status and issued him the relevant documentation.“UNHCR urged the government of Turkey to allow the refugee to remain in Turkey,” spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva, noting that the refugee, who was deported on 3 March, came from violence-wracked central Iraq. “Regretfully, the Government did not respond to our letter or other attempts to communicate with them on this case.”UNHCR has advised governments that Iraqis from southern and central Iraq should be favourably considered as refugees under the 1951 Convention, given the high prevalence of serious human rights violations, and has called upon States not to forcibly return any Iraqi from those areas.“UNHCR appeals to the Turkish authorities to refrain from any such deportations and to all governments in the region to keep their borders open for Iraqis fleeing persecution,” Ms. Pagonis said.UNHCR estimates that some 4 million Iraqis have fled their homes fearing generalized violence and targeted persecution. Of these, 1.9 million are displaced inside Iraq, while some 2 million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries such as Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey.As of 1 January, UNHCR Turkey had registered 2,719 Iraqi refugees, most of them living in Istanbul and provincial cities in Central Anatolia where the authorities assign refugees and asylum-seekers. The agency believes the actual number of Iraqis in Turkey may be much higher. 13 March 2007The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed “deep regret” over Turkey’s deportation of an Iraqi, although the agency had accorded him refugee status and issued him the relevant documentation. read more

Nepal UN to start second phase of monitoring Maoist army personnel

12 June 2007The senior United Nations envoy to Nepal today announced the planned start this week of the second phase of monitoring Maoist army personnel in the country to ensure that no minors are serving. “This is a crucial stage of the implementation of the Agreement on the Monitoring of Arms and Armies,” said Ian Martin, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, announcing that the process will begin Thursday in Ilam, in Nepal’s east. Teams led by the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) will individually verify the details of each registered Maoist army member to ensure that they were over the age of 18 before 25 May 2006 and that they joined the Maoist army before this cut-off date. Child protection officers from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and registration personnel from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) will participate in the effort.UNMIN teams completed the first phase of registering weapons and personnel in mid-February, when more than 30,850 Maoist personnel were registered and 2,855 weapons were stored under 24-hour UN monitoring. An equivalent number of weapons of the Nepal Army was also stored under UN-monitoring as part of this process.The verification process will be undertaken through individual interviews of each person registered as a Maoist combatant, and will be done in each of the seven main cantonment sites one after the other, the mission said.“As soon as the findings of verification at the first site are complete, they will be discussed with Maoist representatives so that the orderly discharge and reintegration of those who are to leave the cantonments can be carried out as soon as possible,” said Mr. Martin. “UNICEF and its partners will be making arrangements for the reintegration of those found to be minors.”In his first public statement since the eight parties agreed that the Constituent Assembly election should be held before mid-December, the envoy stated that “UNMIN’s presence in Nepal and all aspects of its work are for the purpose of assisting in creating a free and fair atmosphere for this election.”He emphasized that “the challenges involved in creating satisfactory conditions for a late November election are very considerable,” noting that “they require not just the fixing of a date, but a realistic plan and timetable to which all parties commit themselves, and which will ensure rapid progress on simultaneous fronts…encompassing not only the technical and logistical preparations but also political and security issues.”The major electoral issue currently before the Interim Legislature-Parliament is to determine the electoral system. Mr. Martin called for dialogue with traditionally marginalized groups – Madhesis, Janajatis, Dalits, women and others – so that they are able to gain a reasonable degree of assurance that their legitimate demands for representation are being met by the electoral system.“To ensure a successful election there is no substitute for a process which commands broad confidence,” he said.Mr. Martin also pressed for talks and cooperation between the Home Ministry, the police, the Maoists and others on how to achieve public security, especially in districts and villages, in order to allow all parties to conduct their activities without facing intimidation and violence.On the Young Communist League, the youth wing of the Maoist party, the envoy said he had had recent meetings with Maoist chairman Prachanda and that he has “urged that he make public the instructions under which the YCL operates, making clear that these are fully in accordance with the law and with human rights standards – in particular, that they must no use violence of any kind and must assist law enforcement only by acting as citizens cooperating with the police within the law.”Mr. Martin also referred to the first visit of the UN Electoral Expert Monitoring Team, which arrived in Nepal this week. The five-member team, led by Spanish expert Dr Rafael Lopez-Pintor, will make a series of visits to Nepal during electoral process in order to determine whether it is proceeding in a manner which will lead to a result that accurately reflects the will of the Nepalese people.The team reports to the Secretary-General who will make its findings available to the Government and the Election Commission.Separate to the Electoral Expert Monitoring Team, UNMIN provides technical assistance to Nepal’s Election Commission for the planning, preparation and conduct of the Constituent Assembly election.UNMIN is a special political mission established by the Security Council in January to support the peace process in Nepal, especially by assisting in the conduct of the Constituent Assembly election in a free and fair atmosphere. read more

Over 5500 Chadians relocated to refugee camp in northeastern Cameroon – UN

Another 10,000 refugees are expected to be transferred to the camp from the town of Kousséri, which at one point was hosting some 30,000 Chadians – who left their homeland due to fighting between Government forces and armed opposition groups – in two temporary sites, as well as in local schools, churches and private homes. The UN Resident Coordinator for Cameroon reports that many have returned to Chad. “At present, along with the Cameroonian authorities, we plan to continue providing assistance and protection to an estimated 15,000 refugees, until they feel comfortable enough to return home,” said Sophie de Caen.Jacques Franquin, Representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country added that “the camp will enable us to provide assistance and protection in the best possible way.”UNHCR reports that a total of 4,600 families – comprising around 20,000 people – have registered with the agency and indicated that they want to stay in Cameroon for the time being.The relocation to Maltam camp, which has been made possible thanks to a $4.7 million grant from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), began on 16 February. Upon their arrival, the refugees received essential non-food items from UNHCR, such as plastic sheeting, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets, jerry cans, cooking stoves, soap, and sanitary items. A cargo plane chartered by UNHCR is set to leave on Wednesday from Denmark to Cameroon carrying some 40 tonnes of relief items. This is the third airlift organized by the agency for Chadian refugees in Cameroon. Two similar flights took place earlier this month, bringing 90 tonnes of essential supplies.In addition, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed a total of 28 tonnes of food and is providing logistical support for the relocation. “So far, we have completed five general food distributions, targeting all refugees newly arrived in Maltam,” said Abdoulaye Baldé, acting WFP Representative in Cameroon. Refugees arriving in Maltam are being provided with nutritional screening thanks to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partner non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). About 25 cases of moderate malnutrition and nine of severe malnutrition were identified so far. Following a successful measles and polio vaccination drive in Kousséri last week, UNICEF is set to begin a campaign against meningitis this Thursday in the Maltam camp and surrounding areas. The agency is also partnering with the NGO Action Aid to provide recreational and educational opportunities for children in the Maltam camp. 26 February 2008More than 5,500 Chadians who fled fighting in their capital, N’Djamena, earlier this month and have been living in temporary sites in north-eastern Cameroon have now been relocated to a newly equipped camp in the village of Maltam, according to United Nations humanitarian officials. read more

UN agency for Palestinian refugees running on empty due to cash shortfall

“Effectively we are now running on empty,” UNRWA Deputy Commissioner General Filippo Grandi told the agency’s annual pledging conference at UN Headquarters in New York. “As everyone can understand, driving a complex machine such as ours on little or no fuel dramatically raises the odds, sooner or later of a breakdown.”On present projections, UNRWA is facing a deficit next year in excess of $150 million to its overall budget, with it General Fund requirement for 2009 standing at $545 million.“The social, humanitarian and potentially political repercussions in this already volatile region do not need to be spelt out,” Mr. Grandi said. “These new financial pressures come at a precarious time. Refugee needs are growing and becoming increasingly complex.“Unless we get significant new or increased pledges in the next six months, there will be serious consequences for the refugees.” Meanwhile UNRWA managed to get 13 trucks into the Gaza Strip today with medicine and cooking oil, but the Agency said this was still not enough for the area, whose 1.5 million inhabitants have been subjected to a series of Israeli closures in recent months.Last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced regret that Israel had not heeded his call to urgently permit the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza’s civilian population. At the same time he reiterated his condemnation of rocket and other attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza against Israeli civilian targets, which Israel has cited as a reason for the closures. 10 December 2008Cash reserves of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees have plummeted from $60 million in 2006 to just $1 million, enough for less than one day’s average expenditure, a senior official said today, warning of “the very real prospect” of having to make cuts in basic education and health services. read more

UN mission reports calm as Sudanese President visits strifetorn Darfur region

During the visit to the capital of North Darfur, El Fasher, where the hybrid African Union-UN peacekeeping operation in the region (UNAMID) is based, the President addressed the local population at a rally. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan Ashraf Qazi arrived in El Fasher with Mr. Bashir, who the ICC has issued an arrest warrant against for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the western region of Sudan.Since the ICC made its decision, several humanitarian agencies, aiding some 4.7 million people in Darfur, have been barred from working in the region by Khartoum.“The Government of Sudan”s order suspending 16 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will have devastating implications for the citizens of Darfur,” said a joint statement issued by six UN agencies, including UN Children”s Fund (UNICEF) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).“Aid operations in North Sudan, the largest humanitarian emergency in the world costing over $2 billion annually, will be irrevocably damaged,” read the statement.Meanwhile UNAMID reported that the security situation in Darfur remains relatively calm with the exception of an increase in banditry in El Geneina, West Darfur.The UNAMID force and police continue to conduct their normal activities throughout the region and over the past 24 hours the blue helmets conducted 25 confidence-building patrols, seven escort convoys, 11 night patrols covering 40 villages/IDP camps, and 87 police patrols in and around camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). On 6 March, UNAMID Police Commissioner Micheal Fryer led a night patrol to Zam Zam IDP camp, where he met the Umda, a traditional leader. An estimated 300,000 people have died in Darfur, either through direct combat or because of disease, malnutrition or reduced life expectancy, over the past five years in Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Government forces and allied Arab militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, since 2003. 8 March 2009Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) earlier this week, visited the war-ravaged Darfur region today, accompanied by the top United Nations official for Sudan among other members of the diplomatic corps. read more

African UnionUN envoy and Sudanese official discuss recent fighting in Darfur

Marie Okabe told reporters in New York that the AU-UN Joint Special Representative, Rodolphe Adada, met with Minni Minawi, a former rebel who is now the Senior Assistant to the Sudanese President. “They discussed the latest developments in Darfur, particularly the recent fighting between the Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/MM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). They also discussed rising tensions between Chad and Sudan,” Ms. Okabe said.Fighting between the two groups flared up some ten days ago in the north Darfur town of Umm Baru. Mr. Adada said the AU-UN peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, had taken 26 people injured in the fighting to the North Darfur capital of El Fasher for treatment at a military hospital. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday voiced his concern at recent violence and tensions in the border area between Chad and Sudan and called on all parties to cease fighting.“He underscores that there is no military solution to the situation in the sub-region and urges the Governments of Chad and Sudan to refrain from any act that may lead to a further escalation of tensions,” his spokesperson said in a statement.Last week Mr. Adada met with the Under-Secretary of the Sudanese Foreign Affairs Ministry, Mutrif Siddiq, and Presidential Adviser, Mustafa Osman Ismail, during separate meetings in Khartoum. In a briefing to the Security Council in April, Mr. Adada estimated that around 2,000 civilians have been in killed in Darfur since UNAMID deployed last year. Some 15 peacekeepers have also lost their lives since the Security Council established UNAMID to protect civilians in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million forced from their homes in more than five years of fighting, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen. Ms. Okabe said that in the past 24 hours, the military component of UNAMID conducted 72 confidence-building patrols, escorts, night patrols and investigative patrols in and around villages and camps for internally displaced persons. 19 May 2009The joint African Union-United Nations envoy to Darfur met with a senior Sudanese official today to discuss recent fighting in the strife-torn region and rising tensions between Sudan and Chad, a spokesperson for the world body said. read more

Ban keeping close eye on developments in postelection Iran

15 June 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he is keeping an eye on the situation in Iran, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory over opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in last week’s election is being contested. “I have been closely following the situation, particularly right after the election, on the demonstrations and controversies,” Mr. Ban told reporters in New York. “At the same time, I have also taken note of the instruction by the religious leaders that there should be an investigation into this issue.“In any country, when there is an election, the genuine will of the people should be reflected and respected in a most transparent and fair and objective manner,” he added. According to media reports, hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in the past several hours following the announcement of the election results. Mr. Mousavi has said he believes the vote was fixed in favour of President Ahmadinejad, while the incumbent said the vote was fair.Meanwhile, the head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today urged the Government of Iran to allow better monitoring of its disputed nuclear programme, and to accept a new initiative of the United States to engage in direct dialogue.Iran’s nuclear programme – which its officials have stated is for peaceful purposes, but some other countries contend is driven by military ambitions – has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that the country had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).In a speech to the Agency’s Board of Governors in Vienna, Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said that Iran has not implemented any of the measures called for by the Security Council and by the Board.“And there has been no movement by Iran on outstanding issues which need to be clarified to exclude the possibility of military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme,” he added. “Without implementation by Iran of the additional protocol and the required safeguards measures, as well as the clarification of outstanding issues, the Agency will not be able to provide assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear activities in Iran.”At the same time, Mr. ElBaradei said he is encouraged by the new initiative of the US to engage Iran in direct dialogue, without preconditions and on the basis of mutual respect. “This gives reason for hope that a genuine dialogue may lead to a comprehensive settlement of many security, political and economic issues spanning over 50 years.”In a related development, the head of the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme today updated the 15-member body on the panel’s latest work, including the efforts of States to implement those measures.Ambassador Yukio Takasu of Japan presented the report, which covers the period 11 March to 15 June, of the committee established by resolution 1737 of December 2006, which banned trade with Iran in all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology which could contribute to the country’s enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy water-related activities, or to the development of nuclear-weapon delivery systems. read more

General Assembly begins debate on UN rights probe into Gaza conflict

4 November 2009The General Assembly today began its debate on the report of the United Nations probe which found that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants were guilty of serious human rights violations during the Gaza conflict earlier this year. The report is the result of a three-month investigation, led by Justice Richard Goldstone, a former prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.The four-member team found evidence that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants committed serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law, which may amount to crimes against humanity, during the conflict in December 2008 and January 2009. The report calls for a number of measures, including its referral to the Security Council, since neither the Government of Israel nor the responsible Palestinian authorities have so far carried out any credible investigations into alleged violations.In addition to the debate, the Assembly is considering a draft resolution, tabled by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Group of Arab States, by which it would endorse the report, and request the Secretary-General to transmit it to the Security Council. The Assembly would also call for independent investigations by both the Israelis and the Palestinians within three months. “What the Goldstone report essentially constitutes is another damning record of the Israeli crimes committed against our people under occupation,” the Palestinian representative, Riyad Mansour, told the Assembly, adding that its recommendations represent a significant contribution to the pursuit of accountability and justice.He called on Member States to support the draft resolution, which was an important step to end impunity and the absence of justice that obstructed peace efforts and prolonged the suffering of civilians.Ambassador Gabriela Shalev of Israel said that the fact-finding mission, with a “one-sided mandate,” was a politicized body set up to reach pre-determined conclusions. “It is the product of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, a body whose obsession with Israel had led it to pass more resolutions against Israel than on all other UN Member States put together.“It makes explosive charges against Israel – yet the evidence provided to support such accusations is at best uncorroborated, and at worst false,” she stated. Opening the meeting, which was slated to hear from more than 40 speakers, Assembly President Ali Treki said that despite the political sensitivities associated with the report, the question before the Assembly was simple.“We have to answer whether the respect of human rights is universal or not? Whether we should be divided on human rights issues or should we remain united behind advocating their respect all over the world?“Let us be clear on what is at stake here: the human rights of nearly 2 million civilians,” said Mr. Treki, adding that “without justice there can be no progress towards peace.” read more

Countries debate Israeli raid on aid flotilla at UN Human Rights Council

The United Nations Human Rights Council is holding an urgent debate in Geneva today, taking up the issue of yesterday’s Israeli raid on a convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid and heading for Gaza.Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang expressed shock “that humanitarian aid would be met with such violence, and we unequivocally condemn what appears to be a disproportionate use of force.”She again appealed for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, causing the suffering of 1.5 million Palestinians, which she characterized as “an affront to human dignity.”Ms. Kang expressed hope that “the Israeli Government will take the necessary decisive actions to demonstrate to the international community a clear commitment to abide by international law.”Yesterday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay emphasized that “nothing can justify the appalling outcome” of the military operation, which killed at least 10 people and injured dozens of others.She joined Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Security Council and others in calling for a probe into the operation, underscoring the need for accountability.Ms. Pillay called on the Israeli Government to heed the “almost unanimous international view that the continued blockade of Gaza is both inhumane and illegal.”The blockade, she pointed out, “lies at the heart of so many of the problems plaguing the Israel-Palestine situation, as does the impression that the Israeli Government treats international law with perpetual disdain.”Without the blockade, the High Commissioner noted, “there would be no need for flotillas like this.”At today’s Human Rights Council debate, which heard from dozens of speakers, Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar of Israel expressed regret over the loss of life in yesterday’s incident, stressing the need for support of moderate parties to build on the momentum generated by the recent start of proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians.He pointed the finger at a Turkish group called Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) for what he said was a pre-meditated act against Israeli forces. The flotilla, he said, was not on a humanitarian mission but was rather seeking to provoke and incite, and convoy passengers had used knives and clubs, shooting two Israeli soldiers.For his part, Imad Zuhairi, representing Palestine, called for legal action to be taken over the operation, saying that Israel’s actions would not help to strengthen the ongoing peace process.Mr. Zuhairi called for a fact-finding commission to look into the raid and underscored the need for Israel to free all those who have been detained and allow the relief supplies on the convoys to reach Gaza.Also speaking out against yesterday’s events was General Assembly President Ali Treki, who said in a statement issued in New York that he is “deeply shocked over this inhuman and totally unacceptable aggression and use of force against humanitarian personnel from around the world, and which is a flagrant violation of all principles and rules of international law.”Dr. Treki urged an “end to impunity,” underlining the importance of an immediate and independent probe into yesterday’s events. He also repeated the call by UN officials and others to lift the blockade.For its part, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) today again appealed for unimpeded access of life-saving medical supplies into Gaza.Hundreds of items of equipment – including CT scanners, x-ray machines and laboratory supplies – have been waiting to enter the area for up to a year, said Tony Laurance, who heads the agency’s Gaza office.“It is impossible to maintain a safe and effective health-care system under the conditions of siege that have been in place now since June 2007,” he said. “It is not enough to simply ensure supplies like drugs and consumables. Medical equipment and spare parts must be available and be properly maintained.”Mr. Laurance also said the blockade prevents the sending of medical equipment, such as defibrillators, out of Gaza for routine safety inspections. “Such disruptions and the fragmented supply chain brings and an unpredictability in scheduling live-saving procedures at a time and place when they are need to save lives,” he stressed. 1 June 2010The United Nations Human Rights Council is holding an urgent debate in Geneva today, taking up the issue of yesterday’s Israeli raid on a convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid and heading for Gaza. read more