Archive for October, 2014
Dubai, UAE (SPX)
Sep 15, 2014
A high level delegation from the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) visited recently the National Space Agency of Kazakhstan, Kazcosmos. The delegation, headed by H.E. Yousuf Al Shaibani, Director General of EIAST, also included Eng. Salem Al Marri, Assistant Director General for Scientific and Technical Affairs.
The UAE delegation met with their counter parts in the Kazcosmos and a number of representatives from space science and space industry institutions including Talgat Mussabayev, Chairman of Kazcosmos; Marat Nurguzhin, Acting President of JSC – National Company, Kazakhstan Garysh Sapary; Viktor Lefter, President of National Center for Space Communications; and Zhumabek Zhantayev, President of National center of space Communication and Technology in Kazakhstan.
The purpose of the visit was to enhance and strengthen cooperation between both parties in the field of remote sensing and establish mutual benefits through laboratories and satellite manufacturing cooperation, including image use of both DubaiSat-2 and Kazakhstan satellites, in order to accomplish their common development goals.
This visit comes following an official Kazakhstan delegation that came to EIAST recently during which parties discussed opportunities of cooperation between them in the field of exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.
During that visit, the Kazakhstani delegation discovered the latest achievements realized by EIAST with the launch of Dubai Sat-1 and Dubai Sat-2; in addition to current and future projects, including the building of KhalifaSat which will be developed in the UAE by Emiratis.
Following the discussions, Al Shaibani confirmed that the UAE has reached an advanced position in the field of space sciences and intends to build on these achievements by keeping up with the latest space science research and by exchanging technical and scientific skills with leading local, regional and global institutions in the field.
He further stated that “EIAST seeks to keep up with the rapid growth of advanced technology and space industry to meet the needs of the UAE. The statement follows the recent announcement of the establishment of the Emirates Space Agency by, which will officially signal the start of exploration in outer space. This will be the first Arab probe to Mars with a team of Emiratis in the coming seven years.”
“We value the achievements made by Kazakhstan, as it is one of the advanced countries in the field of space science. It has modern satellites and extensive experience in space science and we look forward to having a solid cooperation with Kazcosmos and to activating the strategic partnership. Likewise; the Kazcosmos team admired the achievements of the UAE and the advanced level of the country in terms of space activities and ambitious future plans”, he added.
During the visit, Al Shaibani and al Marri visited the headquarters of Kazcosmos, Kazakhstan Garysh Sapary, the National Center for Space Communications and the National center of space Communication and Technology. They were also briefed about the main projects, achievements and future plans of each entity.
In December 2011, EIAST signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Kazcosmos, aimed at enhancing a better exchange of scientific skills and the development of human resources in the fields of space science, remote sensing, space communications, and global satellite navigation systems.
By virtue of this MoU, both parties will cooperate to use the infrastructure needed for space researches and all other activities related to the manufacture and launch of satellites.
EIAST was established by the Dubai Government in 2006 with the goal of promoting a culture of advanced scientific research and technology innovation in Dubai and the UAE, and enhancing technology innovation and scientific skills among UAE Nationals.
It is mainly involved in outer space research and development, satellite manufacturing and systems development, space imaging, and ground station services and support for other satellites.
Source: Space Mart.
October 21, 2014
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised on Tuesday that Iran will stand by Iraq in the neighboring country’s fight against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group.
Rouhani told visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Heidar al-Abadi that Iran “will remain on the path until the last day,” according to a report by the official IRNA news agency. Rouhani says Iran will continue to provide Baghdad with military advisers and weapons. He also criticized the U.S. for allegedly failing to sufficiently support Iraq against an escalating Sunni insurgency.
That insurgency continued its wave of attacks on Tuesday as a string of bombings in and near Baghdad killed 26 people. Police officials said the deadliest attack took place Tuesday afternoon when a double car bomb attack hit Habaybina restaurant in the Shiite-majority district of Talibiya in eastern Baghdad, killing 15 people and wounding 32 others.
Earlier, a bomb struck at an outdoor market in the southern district of Abu Dashir, a mostly Shiite neighborhood, killing four people and wounding nine, police officials said. A little bit later, a bomb that went off near a small restaurant in central Baghdad killed five people and wounded 12, the officials said. Another bomb exploded at a commercial street in the town of Madian, just south of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding four.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attacks but they bore the hallmarks of the al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State group which has captured large chunks of territory in western and northern Iraq, plunging the country into its worst crisis since U.S. troops left at the end of 2011.
On Monday, militants unleashed a wave of deadly attacks on Iraq’s majority Shiite community, killing at least 43 people. In the Shiite holy city of Karbala — home to the tombs of two revered Shiite imams and the site of year-round pilgrimages — four separate car bombs went off simultaneously, killing at least 26 people.
The attacks on the Shiites are likely calculated by the Sunni extremists to sow fear among Iraqis on both sides of the sectarian divide.
Yacoub reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writer Murtada Faraj in Baghdad contributed to this report.
October 21, 2014
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A leading Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Mohammadreza Mahdavi Kani, who headed the country’s most influential clerical body charged with choosing or dismissing the nation’s supreme leader, has died. He was 83.
Kani was the chairman of the Assembly of Experts, a body of 86 senior clerics that monitors the supreme leader and picks a successor after his death. That makes it potentially one of the most powerful institutions in Iran, although it does not involve itself the daily affairs of state.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani declared two days of national mourning. Kani held the top post at the Assembly of Experts since March 2011, after his predecessor, Iran’s influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was forced out following a dispute with hard-line clerics who backed then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Kani also served as acting prime minister and interior minister in the 80s. He had been in a coma since June, after being hospitalized for heart failure. Kani was considered a moderate conservative and had backed Rouhani in his bid for the presidency in 2013.
The Assembly of Experts has only once picked a supreme leader since the 1979 Islamic Revolution — in 1989, when it chose Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to succeed his late mentor, the Islamic Revolution patriarch Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Khani’s family said he will be buried on Thursday.
October 20, 2014
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s defense minister said his country is ready to ship defensive materials to Lebanon to aid its army in the fight against Sunni extremists on Monday, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.
The report quoted Gen. Hossein Dehghan, speaking at a joint briefing with visiting Lebanese Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, as saying the shipment would help thwart extremists who plan to commit “inhuman crimes” in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
“We will provide an Iranian-made consignment of defensive items to the Lebanese army for their use in fighting the group and other terrorist groups,” Dehghan said. The Lebanese troops have been fighting militants from the Islamic State group since fighting spilled into the Mediterranean country from neighboring Syria.
Dehghan did not elaborate on the contents of the shipment but said it was a gift intended for “swift action against a possible threat.” The United Nations imposed an arms embargo on Iran in 2007, banning it from importing and exporting weapons.
“The aid mainly includes items for ground forces — for confronting terrorist currents,” he said, adding that Iran was also ready to provide training to the Lebanese army. The shipment now awaits approval from Lebanon, Dehghan said, a country he described as having a “special position” in Iran’s foreign policy. Shiite Iran backs Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group now fighting alongside forces of key Iran ally President Bashar Assad against the Sunni extremists in Syria.
Iran’s former ambassador to Beirut, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, said the U.S. and some groups in Lebanon are worried about the aid because they are concerned it could be used against Israel. “They say the aid breaks sanctions, but it is just a gift and there is no money in return,” said Roknabadi, adding that Iran had proposed gifting the aid years ago.
Iran, a major weapons manufacturer in the region, has in the past said it exported military products to scores of countries, although it has never revealed details.
06 October 2014 Monday
Saudi Arabia breathed a sign of relief on Monday as the huge annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage neared its close.
The kingdom said this year’s tighter security and sanitary precautions had paid off, allowing 2.085 million pilgrims to visit Mecca and other holy sites in safety this year, just slightly higher than the 1.98 million pilgrims last year.
The hajj, a spiritual journey that draws Muslims from around the world, had been tinged with concerns about the Ebola epidemic and other threats, especially after Saudi Arabia joined a U.S.-led alliance against ISIL militants and participated in air strikes against targets in Syria.
The pilgrimage, which culminates in the three-day feast of Eid al-Adha, officially ends on Tuesday. Security has been much tighter than in previous years, with more checkpoints on roads to the holy sites and more special forces deployed there.
“Everything went as planned … and security was at its best situation,” said Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki.
“I’m pleased to announce that this year’s hajj was free from epidemic diseases,” acting Saudi Health Minister Adel Faqih told a news conference in Mena.
Saudi Arabia enforced control this year by cracking down on domestic pilgrims traveling to holy sites without permits, Turki said. That helped keep the number of pilgrims well below the 3.2 million who packed Islam’s holiest sites in 2012.
“We worked well on illegal pilgrims staying inside the kingdom, dealing with such illegal cases the number of pilgrims was reduced,” Turki said.
In addition to cracking down on illegal travelers to the hajj, the kingdom’s Health Ministry had to grapple with a potential threat of an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus that has killed 3,300 people this year in West Africa.
In April, the kingdom barred pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the three countries worst hit by Ebola, from applying for hajj visas. More than 7,000 Muslims in those countries had applied, said the United Nations.
Health officials said there had been no confirmed cases at the hajj of Ebola or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), another deadly disease that is believed to be carried by camels.
Faqih said there were 170 suspected MERS Coronavirus cases among the pilgrims but test results were negative.
The health ministry had advised slaughterhouses, which usually experience a busy period during hajj when Muslims are required to sacrifice an animal and distribute its meat to the needy, on how to comply with health regulations.
“We have advised them not to slaughter camels this year because 3 percent of the virus cases are linked with camels,” Tariq Ahmed Madani, a special MERS consultant to the Health Ministry, told Reuters.
As hajj drew to a close, pilgrims in the holy city of Mena began to shave their heads, the last step in performing the hajj in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad.
Unlike in previous years when unlicensed barbers lined the streets, a government crackdown appears to have borne fruit.
“Safety is very important. That’s why I made sure to go to a barber shop that uses disposable razors,” said Arie Naufal, an Indonesian oil company employee. “As for the other virus, I won’t wear a mask because it doesn’t really help much.”
Source: World Bulletin.
October 03, 2014
MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Some 2 million Muslims from around the world gathered Friday at a desert hill near Mecca in Saudi Arabia in an act of faith and repentance during the climactic emotional and spiritual moment of the annual hajj pilgrimage.
Men and women wept openly at Mount Arafat as they stretched their hands out in prayer and supplication, saying “Labayk, Allahuma, labayk,” — “Here I am, God, answering your call. Here I am.” The faithful believe that on this day the gates of heaven are open, prayers are answered and past sins can be forgiven.
The pilgrimage is physically demanding and involves performing several rites, such as circling the cube-shaped Kaaba seven times at the start and finish of the hajj. It is a main pillar of Islam and one that all able-bodied Muslims must perform once in their lives.
Abdullahi Mu’azu K/Na’isa from Nigeria said he paid $5,000 to perform the hajj, and would do it again if he could. He said the day spent in Mount Arafat is his favorite moment of hajj because it is the best example of unity and diversity.
“Hajj brings happiness and (the) oneness of all Muslims because you can see that all races are here, and it is a way to mingle with them and have a connection somewhere else,” he said. All male pilgrims, regardless of wealth or status, wear seamless terry white cloths to symbolize equality before God during the hajj. Women cover their hair and wear long loose clothing, forgoing makeup and other adornments to help them detach from worldly pleasures and outward appearances.
It was at Mount Arafat some 1,400 years ago that the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have delivered his last sermon during hajj. He called for equality and for Muslims to unite. He reminded his followers of women’s rights and that every Muslim life and property is sacred.
While following a route that the prophet once walked, the rites are believed to ultimately trace the footsteps of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, or Abraham and Ishmael as they are named in the Bible. The journey of hajj brings together Muslims of all stripes and backgrounds, praying side-by-side in and around Mecca for about five days.
Sectarian bloodletting between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Syria weighed heavily on the minds of pilgrims in Mount Arafat, as did the challenges posed from extremist groups who claim to use Islam to justify brutal acts of beheadings and killings.
“Those extremist groups have destroyed our country. ISIL will destroy Iraq like it did with Syria,” said Syrian pilgrim Negm Eldin Tarabish, referring to the Islamic State group that has taken over parts of Syria and Iraq.
Kurdish pilgrim Deldar Rashid said he believes God will punish those terrorist groups for the damage they have done. “They have destroyed the Arab and Islamic world and gave a bad image of Islam, and by God we will defeat them in the near future,” Rashid said.
The pilgrims will leave Mount Arafat — about 12 miles (20 kilometers) east of Mecca — around sunset to collect pebbles to be used in a symbolic stoning of the devil on Saturday, which marks the first day of the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha.
Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
October 02, 2014
MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia sought to assure the public that the kingdom was safe and free of health scares as an estimated 2 million Muslims streamed into a sprawling tent city near Mecca on Thursday for the start of the annual Islamic hajj pilgrimage.
Earlier this year, Saudi authorities banned people from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — the countries hardest hit in the Ebola epidemic — from getting visas as a precaution against the virus. The decision has affected a total of 7,400 pilgrims from the three countries.
Ebola is believed to have sickened more than 7,100 people in West Africa and killed more than 3,300, according to the World Health Organization. The hajj sees massive crowds every year from around the world gather around the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca as part of a five-day spiritual journey meant to cleanse the faithful of sin and bring them closer to God. All male pilgrims dress in simple, white robes as a sign of equality before God.
The kingdom has not discovered a single case of Ebola so far and is taking all measures to ensure the safety and health of the pilgrims, said Manal Mansour, the head of Saudi Health Ministry’s department for prevention of infectious diseases.
“The most important precaution that (the kingdom) has taken was to restrict visas from the affected areas,” she told The Associated Press. Upon arrival to the kingdom, pilgrims were asked to fill out “medical screening cards with data” and asked about their travels in the past 21 days, Mansour said.
There were other health concerns related to the hajj earlier this year. The kingdom had to improve its anti-infection measures after it was hit by an upswing in the number of people who had contracted a respiratory virus known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in the spring. There have been more than 750 cases of MERS in the kingdom since 2012, of which 319 people died, including several health workers.
Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry, told the AP that the kingdom is also facing continuous threats from terrorists, but is prepared to ensure a safe hajj. Saudi Arabia and four other Arab countries are taking part in U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida fighters in Iraq and Syria. Militants have vowed revenge.
Al-Qaida militants launched a series of deadly attacks in Saudi Arabia aimed at toppling the monarchy around a decade ago, though none were directed at Mecca. No major attacks have happened in recent years during the hajj.
“We have confronted al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia and we have defeated them,” Al-Turki said. “But of course at the same time being we are still considering the threat, which is a continuous threat, and therefore we have actually enforced our security readiness at all the borders of Saudi Arabia.”
Pilgrim Zaid Ajaz Amanea from the United Kingdom said he felt safe. “I don’t have to fear anything from anybody because I’m coming to God’s house,” he said. The routes for hajj pilgrims and inside the Grand Mosque housing the Kaaba have thousands of security cameras, many of them hidden. The kingdom says there are some 70,000 security personnel guarding the hajj this year. Saudi’s interior minister toured hajj sites to check on their readiness over the weekend.
The state-owned Saudi Gazette newspaper reported that the commander of hajj security forces has warned pilgrims against politicizing the pilgrimage. He said anyone who tries to propagate political views during the hajj, which brings Sunnis, Shiites and Muslims of all schools of thought to Mecca, will be severely punished.
The pilgrimage is a central pillar of Islam and all able-bodied Muslims are required to perform it once in their lives. Saudi authorities said there are 1.4 million international visitors for the hajj this year. Some 600,000 pilgrims from the kingdom itself are also expected to take part.
On Thursday, pilgrims headed to Mina, about five kilometers (three miles) from Mecca, where they will spend the night in prayer and supplication. Some pilgrims wore surgical blue masks to be extra careful.
“I’m afraid of the normal flu, I’m not scared of Ebola or anything like that,” said Nayef Aboulein, a Saudi pilgrim.
Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
September 08, 2014
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Dubai’s ruler has endorsed a $32 billion expansion plan for the city’s second airport that aims to make it the world’s biggest, the emirate’s airport operator said Monday in the latest sign that the Middle East’s brash commercial hub is determined to move on from its 2009 financial crisis.
The approval sets in motion a vast building project that will boost capacity exponentially at the airport known as Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central. Backers envision it will eventually handle more than 200 million passengers per year.
The first phase of the expansion alone aims to build enough runway and terminal space to handle 120 million passengers a year and 100 mammoth Airbus A380 double-decker jets at any given time. The world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, handled 94.4 million people last year.
Paul Griffiths, chief executive of state-backed airport operator Dubai Airports, said he aims to have the first phase of the expansion complete in six to eight years. That part of the project includes adding two new runways and two large concourses housing dozens of aircraft gates each.
“It’s a very aggressive time scale … but I think that we have a track record here of doing remarkable things in a remarkably challenging time frame,” Griffiths said in his office at the city’s main airport, Dubai International.
As later phases are completed, the new airport will eventually boast five parallel runways spaced far enough apart so they can all be used at the same time, and have enough gates for hundreds of wide-body planes.
Dubai World Central opened for cargo flights in 2010 with a single runway in the desert south of central Dubai. It received its first passengers in October at a single terminal that is mainly used by smaller airlines and low-cost carriers.
The currently larger Dubai International ranked as the world’s seventh busiest airport last year, handling 66.4 million passengers. It too is being expanded, with a new concourse expected to open next year.
Griffiths says Dubai needs to expand to keep pace with the rapid growth of airline traffic into the emirate. Much of the increase comes from hometown airline Emirates, the region’s largest carrier and the world’s biggest user of both the A380 and Boeing 777 long-haul jets.
Emirates is expected to move its hub to the new airport shortly after the first expansion phase is complete, freeing up space in the older airport for the well over 100 other airlines that already operate from it.
Griffiths is confident Dubai will be able to generate the funding needed to complete the project given the importance of aviation to Dubai’s economy. Officials say the industry contributes $22 billion annually to the local economy and supports some 250,000 jobs.
“The aviation sector has demonstrated that there is a very compelling economic case to suggest creation of further capacity is a very sensible thing to do,” Griffiths said. “I’m sure that the government will come up with the appropriate funding to make the project a reality.”
Dubai is still recovering from the effects of its financial crisis, which sent property prices plunging and forced it to accept a multibillion-dollar bailout from neighboring Abu Dhabi. The local economy has bounced back strongly since, though Dubai and its state-linked companies still carry tens of billions of dollars in debt. The International Monetary Fund has warned of the possibility of another property bubble forming, and analysts question how Dubai can make good on the debt it still owes.
“There are still plenty of reasons to think that the emirate’s debt problems are far from over,” Jason Tuvey, an analyst at London-based Capital Economics, wrote in a research note last week. That has not stopped officials from announcing plans for headline-grabbing projects reminiscent of the pre-crisis boom.
On Sunday, a property development company controlled by Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum laid out plans for a $2.7 billion theme park and resort complex near the new airport and the site of the World Expo that Dubai is due to host in 2020.
The expansion of the new airport is unlikely to be ready by the time the Expo kicks off, Griffiths said.
September 19, 2014
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the tiny island nation of Bahrain on Friday to protest a proposal by the country’s leadership for legislative, security and judicial reforms.
The rally by members of the Shiite opposition came a day after the crown prince, Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, issued a statement summarizing proposed changes that included redefining electoral districts, promises of judicial reform and new codes of conduct for security forces.
The statement follows on-and-off again talks between opposition members and the government aimed at bringing about a political solution to more than three years of unrest. Bahrain is a strategically important Western ally, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. An opposition movement dominated by the country’s Shiite majority is demanding greater rights from the ruling Sunni monarchy.
The government moved to crush an Arab Spring-inspired uprising in 2011 with the help of security forces from Saudi Arabia and other neighboring Gulf Arab states. Dozens of protesters have been killed, as have some members of the security forces.
Protesters and opposition leaders on Friday dismissed the government’s plan as offering too little toward their goal of greater power-sharing in the kingdom. “We consider this letter to be a unilateral approach,” said Abdul-Jalil Khalil, a leading member of the main Shiite opposition bloc, al-Wefaq.