New Delhi: State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Thursday signed a contract for the prolific Chinnewala Tibba gas field in Rajasthan, which it had discovered around 15 years ago but was taken away and auctioned by the government.ONGC won back five out of the 23 discovered oil and gas fields that the government took away from the state-owned firm and Oil India Ltd (OIL) for auctioning in the second round of discovered small field (DSF). Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in SepThe 72-square kilometer field near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan has 1,900 million standard cubic metres of reserves, an official of the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons said at the contract-signing ceremony with the winners of the 23 fields auctioned in DSF-II. The 23 fields, made up of some 57 discoveries by ONGC and OIL, hold 190 million tonnes of oil and oil-equivalent gas resources, the official said. Speaking on the occasion, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said DSF bid rounds are aimed at raising domestic production to cut dependence on imported oil. Also Read – Ensure strict implementation on ban of import of e-cigarettes: revenue to CustomsIndia is 83 per cent dependent on imports to meet its oil needs. “Maximising production is the most important priority now,” he said. While ONGC and OIL could not monetise the discoveries auctioned in the DSF round mainly due to they being financially unviable on prevalent fiscal terms, DSF round winners will get complete pricing and marketing freedom that will make the finds economically viable. Pradhan said ONGC was asked to largely stay away from DSF-I round last year but was given freedom to bid in DSF-II and he was happy that the company walked away with the most number of fields. Chinnewala Tibba was the most-contested field in DSF-II with as many as 17 bids being put in. ONGC won the field as also four others after bid evaluation and award was completed last week. Contracts for the same were signed Thursday. OIL and Vedanta Ltd signed contracts for two fields each they had won while lesser known Ganges Geo-Resources Pvt Ltd signed for five fields. State-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC) and its partner Hindustan Oil Exploration Company Ltd (HOEC) signed for one field they won in the auction. Arch Softwares Pvt Ltd, a firm backed by former Cairn India executive Suniti Bhat, won two offshore fields. The remaining fields went to little-known firms such as Shanti GD Ispat Power, Arsh Corporate Services, Invenire Energy, Keerthi Industries, and Gem Petro E&P. On the contract signing, Vedanta Resources Ltd Executive Chairman Anil Agarwal said: “The Government of India has taken concrete steps to encourage and thus enhance domestic crude oil production, in line with Minister Pradhan’s vision of energy self-sufficiency. The discovered small fields Round-II auction is another significant step in this direction. We remain committed to optimising exploration and production from the fields awarded to us. These reformative steps and our demonstrated success will pave the way for attracting future foreign investments as well.” Sudhir Mathur, chief executive officer of oil and gas business of Vedanta Ltd, said the company is known for its engineering strength and innovation, especially in the tight oil and tight gas domain. “We are excited to bring these strengths to bear in the two new DSF fields awarded to us. We congratulate the government on all of these progressive initiatives that will lead to growth in the sector, job creation, and prosperity for our country.” As many as 39 firms, including six foreign players, had put in 145 bids for 24 out of the 25 oil and gas fields on offer in DSF-II at the close of bidding on January 30. Mining giant Vedanta put in the highest number of bids for 21 fields. A DGH statement said one bid for a field has been kept in abeyance as the matter is sub-judice. ONGC and OIL had put in bids for 10 fields each while Indian Oil Corp (IOC) bid for 3. British company Soco International made its foray into India, bidding for one field but it failed to make a dent. Arch Softwares had put in bids for 15 fields.
Islamabad: Nine Pakistani nationals have been killed in the terror attack on two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand, authorities here said on Sunday. At least 50 worshippers were killed on Friday in attacks on the Al Noor Mosque in central Christchurch and the Linwood Mosque in the city’s outer suburb, in what appeared to be the worst attack on Muslims in a western country. Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said that the number of dead rose to nine after three more persons were confirmed dead by the New Zealand authorities. “A total of 9 Pakistanis were killed in New Zealand terror attack,’ he said. Faisal said on Saturday that six Pakistanis were confirmed as dead while three were still missing. Prime Minister Imran Khan extended support to the families and also announced to award a Pakistani who tried to tackle the attacker but was killed. “Pakistan is proud of Mian Naeem Rashid who was killed trying to tackle the White Supremacist terrorist & his courage will be recognised with a national award,’ he tweeted. Earlier, foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua telephonically spoke to New Zealand’s Tehran-based ambassador who is also accredited to Pakistan ambassador Hamish McMaster. Faisal said that she “conveyed condolences on tragic loss of life in the terrorist attack in Christchurch and requested for facilitation in assisting families of affected Pakistanis.” The 28-year-old gunman, identified Brenton Tarrant, live-streamed footage of himself going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away. The attack has shocked New Zealanders, who are used to seeing around 50 murders a year in the entire country of 4.8 million and pride themselves on living in a secure and welcoming place. Police warned Muslims all over the country not to visit mosques anywhere in New Zealand in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.
Washington DC: Donald Trump’s campaign did not conspire with Russia during the 2016 election won by him, according to a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report submitted to Congress on Sunday, in a major relief to the embattled US President on an issue that has cast a shadow on his presidency for nearly two years. In a four-page letter to top lawmakers on Sunday, Attorney General William Barr highlighted two sections of the long-awaited Mueller report — Russia’s efforts to affect the 2016 presidential election and whether President Trump obstructed justice. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince ‘snubbed’ Pak PM, recalled jet from USThe report was submitted on Friday to Barr, who reviewed the document before handing a summary to Congress. Trump, who repeatedly described the inquiry as a “witch hunt”, said on Sunday “it was a shame that the country had to go through this”, describing the inquiry as an “illegal takedown that failed”. Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and other actions throughout the probe raised concerns about the president trying to end the investigation. Also Read – Record number of 35 candidates in fray for SL Presidential pollsMueller, who spent nearly two years investigating Moscow’s determined effort to sabotage the last presidential election, found no conspiracy “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign,” Barr wrote in the letter to lawmakers. Mueller’s team drew no conclusions about whether Trump illegally obstructed justice, Barr said, so he made his own decision. The attorney general and his deputy, Rod J Rosenstein, determined that the special counsel’s investigators had insufficient evidence to establish that the president committed that offense. Barr cautioned that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” on the obstruction of justice issue. The investigation had cast a shadow over the Trump presidency for nearly two years with the Democratic leadership alleging that Russian interference helped him in the 2016 polls. Barr said that Mueller found no proof of such a conspiracy “despite multiple offers from Russia-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign”. “The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election,” the attorney general said. “For each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Barr said, adding Mueller “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment”. The release of the findings was a significant political victory for Trump who described it as a “complete and total exoneration”. Terming the allegation of collusion “the most ridiculous thing ever”, Trump said, “It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest it’s a shame that your president had to go through this.” “This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody is going to be looking at their other side,” Trump said. “After a long look, after a long investigation, after so many people have been so badly hurt, after not looking at the other side where a lot of bad things happened… it was just announced there was no collusion with Russia,” he said. The Democrats were banking heavily on the results of Mueller’s investigation to defeat Trump in the 2020 elections. Many were also talking about impeaching the president if the report reveals collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. While the president and his allies saw vindication in Barr’s letter, Democrats questioned how Barr came to his conclusions and called for more information from Mueller’s report. Citing “concerning discrepancies”, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said he planned to call the attorney general to testify. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement that Barr’s letter “raises as many questions as it answers” and called for access to the full report. “For the president to say he is completely exonerated directly contradicts the words of Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility,” the statement said. Barr’s letter could be just the beginning of a lengthy constitutional battle between Congress and the Justice Department about whether Mueller’s full report will be made public. Democrats have also called for the attorney general to turn over all of the special counsel’s investigative files. Barr’s letter said that his “goal and intent” was to release as much of the Mueller report as possible, but warned that some of the report was based on grand jury material that “by law cannot be made public”. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the report has justified the president’s stand. Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said this is a great day for all Americans. “As we have said all along, there was no collusion and no obstruction. Now that this investigation is over, Democrats need to finally end their baseless investigations and political crusade against President Trump for the good of the country,” she said.
Raising the legal age for tobacco purchase from 18 to 21 years is likely to reduce smoking rates in young people and make the generation smoke-free, experts suggest. Most smokers start smoking during childhood and two-thirds of those who try smoking early will become regular smokers later, said the study published in The BMJ. Increasing the legal age to 21 would make it harder for children to obtain cigarettes and take the legal age beyond school age, said Nicholas Hopkinson, respiratory specialist from the Imperial College London. “Smoking is a contagious habit transmitted within peer groups, and the age increase will protect younger children from exposure to older pupils in school who smoke. It will also remove a potential source of supply within schools,” said Hopkinson. He stressed that besides helping existing smokers to quit, preventing young people from taking to smoking is imperative. Hopkinson also suggested that a “polluter pays” tax set to raise around $198 million per year from tobacco manufacturers will help to pay for a revitalised, evidence-based set of tobacco control policies.
Rabat – Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti posted a video on his official Facebook page in which he expressed his gratitude to Moroccan fans of Real Madrid, also known as Madridistas.Speaking in French from what seems to be a hotel balcony, the Italian coach said in the video that he is very impressed with the support of Real Madrid fans in Morocco and Africa, in general.“I thank you all and goodbye,” he added. He also said in a press conference held after the semifinal match against Cruz Azul: “I applaud the Moroccan public for supporting us in this match. Real Madrid is a global team, and whenever we go, we find fans who support us.”In addition to the coach, many Real Madrid players expressed their appreciation and gratitude to Moroccan Madridistas.Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale also expressed his gratitude to Moroccan fans who were present during the Los Blanco Tuesday semifinal clash with Cruz Azul from Mexico.The Welshman, who scored a header during yesterday’s match ended 4-0 for the Whites, wrote on his facebook page that the Moroccan fans in the Marrakech stadium were incredible.“Starting to feel a bit like #Alan Shearer with these headers! Moroccan Madridistas were incredible tonight #21 #halamadrid”The Los Blancos were impressed by the atmosphere in the red city in addition to the graciousness and the warmth of the Moroccan fans.
Fez – Moroccan composer and musicologist Nabil Benabdeljalil and the Zakharif Ensemble delivered an outstanding performance on Thursday afternoon at the Batha Museum, marrying oriental and occidental melodies and taking the audience on a voyage across cultures.The ensemble approaches music holistically and interprets it as a harmony of intricate, polyphonic compositions and arrangements that connect with the spirit of tradition. The ensemble plays jazz, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, and Arabic music, classical music of the Romantic era, and classical 20th century music.Although the groups participating in the Festival this year may differ in name, kinds of music, and rhythm, they all share a pivotal theme in common: the journey of Hassan Al Wazan and his migration from Andalusia to Africa and back again to Europe. Nabil Benabdeljalil and the Zakharif Ensemble emphasized this theme performing pieces from the classical Arab repertoire infused with western tunes.Before the concert began, the organizers experienced difficulties due to rain and the heavy wind which blew tree leaves all over the tiled courtyard of the venue, causing a delay. Responding to the discomfort with the weather conditions, one spectator commented: “This is part of the sacred,.” urging listeners to smile.Finally, the group appeared on stage to a warm applause.The first two pieces were “Romance without Speech” and “The Impossible Dance,’’ both composed by Nabil Benabdeljalil. The pieces were deftly and musically played although they sounded as if they were composed of a hodge-podge of intricate musical notes, mixing Austrian, Egyptian, American, and Moroccan rhythms and tunes. The audience noticed the meticulous precision with which the group of artists played their instruments (piano, percussion, Ooud , saxophone, and percussions) to create the uncanny harmony of which Nabil Benabdeljalil is fond of. The quartet whetted the viewers’ appetite for more, transporting them to different parts of the world.The Oud player, Ozzahr Noureddine, took the audience to the winding alleys of Egypt’s old Medinas with a stunning piece of music. which took the listeners to the winding alleys of Egypt’s old Medinas. The percussionist, Youssef Outamrich, leaving his instrument for a spell, perfectly sang a captivating Mawal “Ya Lili Ya Lili.” He was much appreciated by the audience and precipitated several minutes of applause.One of the best performances of the concert was, the group played a piece called “The Child from Mrirt” (enfant de Mrirt ). Mrirt is originally a name of a small city in the Atlas Mountains whose dwellers are purely Amazigh. This captivating piece, carried the audience back to Morocco and its sacrosanct and nostalgic Amazigh roots.In an exclusive interview with Morocco World News, Nabil said that music goes beyond just entertainment. When asked about the connection with sacred music, he said that music should be spiritual in the first place, and then other indicia of the spirituality will follow.Photo Credit: Zoubir Ali© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
Rabat – “Cooperation in the fight against terrorism is unconditional.” In an interview with the Spanish news website “El Español”, Abdelhak Khiame, the Director of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), has warned about the danger posed by jihadists returning from zones of conflicts. Dubbed the “Terrorist Hunter” by some European media, Khiame has built an international reputation for himself as a cunning investigator, intensifying the cooperation between the Moroccan secret services and their European counterparts.In an interview with the Spanish daily, the head of the BCIJ pointed out that the Moroccan secret services said he has repeatedly warned Belgian authorities about the presence of jihadists in their country. In 2008 when Morocco successfully managed to dismantle the Bellirej cell, the Moroccans authorities had warned their Belgian counterparts of the existence of a neighborhood in Brussels “which [could] constitute a real breeding ground for terrorists.” Stressing the key role played by Morocco in the supervision and organization of religious affairs in its neighboring countries, Khiame pointed out that Morocco’s warnings sometimes fall on deaf ears.This was the case with both the Belgian and Spanish authorities, he continued. In the Bellirej case, Belgium had refused to cooperate with the Moroccan secret services, denying their request to extract and question Bellirej and Ali Aarrass, who lived in the country at the time.The BCIJ head also discussed cooperation between Morocco and Spain, warning the Spanish authorities against “laxity and permissiveness” vis-à-vis those returning from the ISIS camps.According to Khiame, Spain had also ignored the warnings of the Moroccan authorities, but when the attacks in Brussels took place, they realized that “the danger is real and that international cooperation is vital.” He added that “fortunately, I believe that the Belgians have learned the lesson and that the level of our collaboration with them is currently on the same line as with Spain.”Khiyame said that the Belgians have realized the effectiveness of the Moroccan model especially at the legislative level. “The Moroccan legislator, and I am tired of repeating it, has been very intelligent because he has put in place a reform of the Penal Code stipulating that people who return from conflict zones can be arrested and be punished with penalties up to 20 years in prison,” he said.He also added that “this vision was not accepted at the beginning with regard to the principle of freedom of movement. But what happened was that the returning jihadists were the perpetrators of the attacks and put under police surveillance. There should be no criticism of the security forces because there was no legislation that allowed them to act or at least question them about the circumstances of their journey abroad. But now they have that legal basis to do it.”As to whether there is a risk of an attack in Spain similar to that of Madrid on March 11, 2004, Khiame assured that if Morocco had such information, its would share on the spot with the authorities of the country concerned, whether or not there is formal cooperation. “These are human lives and it is a consideration that is superior to any other,” he concluded.
Rabat – Spanish police arrested today, September 4 Moroccan athlete, Jaouad Tougane, for alleged robbery. The athlete was caught in the act four times in the past week, in different shopping centers around the city of Valencia, southeast of Spain.Spanish newspaper Las Provincias reported that the athlete was well known for local police of Valencia. Back in July 2019, Tougane was arrested for the same reason, and then released one day later.“Although he expresses his regret after getting caught by security guards, it is the tenth time that the young Moroccan steals electronics and escapes to sell them later in the streets of Valencia,” explains Las Provincias. “On August 18, the young Moroccan committed two robberies in a few hours in the same shopping center. He stole a Virtual Reality set, then came back the afternoon to steal more electronics,” adds the Spanish newspapers.After his first arrest, Tougane spent one night behind bars, but the police released him the next day. The athlete returned a few days later to the same shopping center where he was arrested and stole clothes and other merchandise to the value of more than €800.The Moroccan athlete could face 6 to 18 months in prison for reoffending.In July, Playas de Castellon Athletics Club expelled Tougane after his involvement in the robberies.Born in Morocco, the 27-year-old athlete has lived in Spain since his childhood. He participated in many athletics competitions. Tougane was the champion of Valencia’s Marathon in 2018. He also participated with Morocco’s national athletics team in the 5000m competitions at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Rabat – On Saturday, September 7, two female imams led a Muslim prayer, gathering both men and women. The prayer was the first Muslim prayer led by a woman and involving both genders in France.“This moment is important for Islam in France because this prayer guarantees gender equality in Islam,” said Eva Janadin, one of the two female imams in her opening speech.The room where the prayer was held was full of participants from both genders. The sermons were given in French with translations of Arabic expressions. While some of the women in attendance were wearing a headcovering, others, including the two imams chose not to cover their heads. The female imams wore non-traditional clothing, with one wearing jeans.The two imams, Eva Janadin and Anne-Sophie Monsinay, both converted to Islam years ago. They want to express their vision of a “progressive” and “enlightened” Islam in concrete acts. “Today, with this first prayer, our vision materializes,” said Anne-Sophie Monsinay.The two women are hoping to provide a “dialogue space free of any community or family pressure,” because they understand that “a lot of Muslims have a vital need for emancipation and liberation.”“It is possible to develop an alternative model to counter Islamism and conservatism,” said Eva Janadin.
After arriving in the capital, Santiago, Mr. Ban told a high-level panel on the Global Partnership for Development that the world has a mixed scorecard at the midpoint of the race to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the series of anti-poverty targets which global leaders agreed to work towards by 2015. While some progress has been made, he noted that almost one billion people still live on less than $1 a day, and that malaria, AIDS, other infectious diseases and malnutrition continue to exact an enormous death toll, especially among children. More than half the population of many cities in poor and developing countries also live in slums, with little or no access to basic services such as sanitation and running water. “Clearly, we are facing an emergency – and we need emergency action, while working with the strategic vision provided by the MDGs,” Mr. Ban told the panel, which included Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Spanish President José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. “The 2015 target date is a goalpost that cannot be moved. The clock is ticking louder every day. To reach the Goals on time, we have to take concerted action now.” Mr. Ban also stressed the need for accelerated international action to deal with climate changes, which he described as “a serious threat to development everywhere.” He urged leaders to play their part to ensure that concrete results can be obtained at next month’s negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. After the panel, the Secretary-General held a meeting with Ms. Bachelet, and then tonight he is scheduled to address the Ibero-American Summit, which is also being held in Santiago. Mr. Ban is expected to discuss how building and strengthening social cohesion, the theme of this year’s summit, is crucial to all the key challenges and issues faced by the UN, from climate change to migration to upholding indigenous rights and those of peoples with disabilities. After leaving Santiago, Mr. Ban is slated to head to Punta Arenas, in southern Chile, and Antarctica to learn more about climate change. Later on the trip, he will travel to Brazil before heading on to Tunisia and Spain. Yesterday, while in Argentina on the first leg of his official trip, Mr. Ban met President Nestor Kirchner and President-elect Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. He also held talks with Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana and several senior Argentine parliamentarians. 8 November 2007The struggle for economic development, the need to do more to tackle climate change and the value of greater social cohesion were all spotlighted today by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he travelled to Chile, the second stop on his tour to South America.
In his message to the Third International Conference on Colombia, held in Bogotá, Mr. Ban said recent progress in both the human rights and development fields “signal Colombia’s resurgence from years of conflict” and pledged to strengthen United Nations support of these efforts. The demobilization of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary group, had helped to dampen violence, while confessions by paramilitary leaders of crimes committed “have brought a degree of closure for victims,” he noted. “And the Government’s ratification of the Ottawa Convention on landmines signalled a renewed push against such deadly and indiscriminate weapons.” The Secretary-General also welcomed the passage of legislation on the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who are legion after decades of conflict between Government forces, paramilitary groups and rebels. But he said that victims of paramilitary violence need greater security and protection so that they feel able to participate in the Justice and Peace Law process, which aims to bring a measure of reconciliation. The country’s ratification of the Ottawa Convention banning landmines “must be supported by real steps on the ground,” he said, calling for a halt to their use by illegal armed groups. Mr. Ban also called for Colombia’s most vulnerable citizens, including its indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, to receive more focus and resources so they can fully engage in society. The message was delivered on Mr. Ban’s behalf by Angela Kane, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Today’s conference brings together members of the international community as well as Colombian society to map out to help the country. 30 November 2007Colombia has taken encouraging steps towards establishing peace and security across the country but these measures must be sustained and reinforced over the next few years if they are to have any lasting effect in the Latin American country, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
24 September 2008Global foreign direct investment (FDI) increased by 30 per cent in 2007 to reach an all-time high of $1.8 billion, but the economic downturn and financial instability is prompting a new sense of caution for the coming years, according to a United Nations report released today. “The worldwide slowdown appears to augur lower FDI activity for 2008,” the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in World Investment Report 2008: Transnational Corporations and the Infrastructure Challenge, its yearly review of investment trends.The 2007 flows surpassed the previous record set in 2000 by some $400 billion, despite the global financial and credit crises which began in the second half of the year.But the number of trans-national corporations (TNCs) planning large increases in investment overseas over the next three years has dropped significantly from 2007, although a majority still plan increases, albeit at a more moderate level, according to the report, based on 226 responses to queries sent to the world’s largest TNCs.The upward trend in 2007 was apparent in nearly all regions and sub-regions and in all three economic groupings: developed countries, developing countries, and transition economies of South-East Europe and the former Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States.The stock of FDI worldwide reached $15 trillion, representing the significant scale of activities of some 79,000 TNCs worldwide which own about 790,000 foreign affiliates. FDI to developed countries amounted to over $1.2 billion, with the United States remaining the largest recipient, followed by the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and the Netherlands.FDI to developing countries reached their highest level ever at $500 billion – a 21 per cent increase over 2006. While South Asia, East Asia, South-East Asia, and Oceania accounted for half of all FDI into developing countries, Latin America and the Caribbean recorded the largest increase – 36 per cent at $126 billion.Inflows to West Asia – $71.5 billion in 2007 – have been growing in recent years and have exceeded those to Africa since 2004. All the same, investment in Africa also reached a historic high at $53 billion. The least developed countries (LDCs) attracted $13 billion, also a record.As for 2008 and beyond, the report demonstrates the quickly growing international ambitions of companies from the developing world, particularly Asia, while FDI prospects for companies from developed countries, especially North America and Japan, have dimmed as compared to a year ago.
The country’s Independent Electoral Commission has set 20 August as the date for the elections, three months after the presidential term expires on 22 May. This has generated “constitutional uncertainty” over the President’s legitimacy after 22 May, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in his latest report on Afghanistan. “There is no higher responsibility in Afghanistan right now than that of the three branches of government to find a solution to the constitutional issue in a way that ensures the existence of a functioning Government between 22 May and the inauguration of the next presidential term,” he stresses.He notes that preparations for the 20 August polls will likely take place during a period of intensified fighting, and says that the elections must be held in as secure an environment as possible, where the freedoms of expression, media and assembly that democracy requires are guaranteed as much as possible.While there are reasons to believe that security in Afghanistan may worsen, there are also some reasons for optimism, Mr. Ban states, adding that a judicious deployment of additional international troops to provide security for the Afghan people would be a welcome development. Despite the reports of violence and instability, there are also some key areas of progress that are “neither accidental nor negligible” and should not be overlooked, he says. These include strengthening Afghanistan’s own security services and efforts to lower poppy production.The Secretary-General also recommends a 12-month extension of the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which is set to expire on 23 March, noting that support for the electoral process is particularly relevant over the coming months. 13 March 2009The Government and people of Afghanistan, as well as their international partners, face a critical test in 2009, as the fledgling democracy prepares to hold credible elections over the coming months, according to a United Nations report released today.
The disasters have also damaged thousands of homes and killed hundreds of livestock, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). At least 15 people lost their lives and over a dozen of others were injured by floods in Herat, Badakhshan, Parwan, Faryab and Takhar provinces. More than 2,000 families were affected by the floods in Herat, while about 800 families were hit in Badghis province and hundreds more in several other provinces. The Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA), along with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the local Red Cross are distributing relief supplies including tents, food and family kits, while the UN World Health Organization (WHO) is delivering medical supplies.Assessments are ongoing but the most urgent needs, said OCHA, are food, drinking water, shelter and health care. A major concern is the depletion of relief stocks across the country, and the Government has called for pre-positioning of relief items in expectation of more flooding in the near future.Aid agencies are also concerned that more rainfall and rapidly melting snow will exacerbate the situation, OCHA stated. 30 April 2009United Nations agencies and their partners are assisting the Government of Afghanistan in responding to flash floods, landslides and earthquakes which have struck various parts of the country in recent days, killing at least 15 people and leaving thousands homeless.