Moroccan government revenues reach MAD 222.7 Billion in 2017

Rabat� The Moroccan government income reached MAD 222.7 billion in 2017, up 5.6 percent from MAD 210.8 billion at the end of December 2016, revealed the General Treasury of Morocco.

According to the Treasury, the increase is tied to the rise in direct taxes by 8.1 percent, indirect taxes by 6.7 percent, and non-tax revenue by 1.5 percent, along with a reduction in customs duties by 5.1 percent and registration and stamp duties by 1 percent.

Tax revenues in 2017 reached MAD 200.5 billion, up 6.1 percent from MAD 189 billion at the end of December 2016. This shift is the result of an increase in customs revenue by 4.3 percent and domestic taxation by 6.9 percent.

Customs revenues, which include customs duties, import VAT, and energy products, reached MAD 60.3 billion dirhams at the end of 2017, up 4.3 percent from MAD 57.8 billion dirhams a year earlier.

Meanwhile, revenue generated from customs duties in 2017 amounted to 8.6 billion dirhams, compared to MAD 9.1 billion dirhams a year earlier, a decrease of 5.1 percent or MAD 465 million.

The revenues created from Domestic Value Added Tax (VAT) on imports reached MAD 36 billion at the end of December 2017 against MAD 33.5 billion at the end of December 2016, registering an increase of 7.4 percent, or MAD +2.5 billion. Similarly, VAT on energy products registered an increase of 20.1 percent or +1 billion.

In terms of domestic taxation, the government registered revenue amounting to MAD 128.6 billion at the end of December 2017, a 6.9 percent increase, to 120.2 billion at the end of December 2016.

Due to the increase of activity in the financial sector and oil companies, sugar companies, and telecommunications companies, income induced from corporation tax reached MAD 50 billion at the end of December 2017 against 43 MAD billion a year earlier, up 16.3 percent.

Income generated by the Interest Rates (IR) at the end of December 2017 recorded a 0.7 percent increase at MAD 39.3 billion, compared to 2016 revenues, which stood at MAD 39 billion.

However, IR revenue from real estate profits dropped by 5.6 percent, or 243 million dirhams, reaching MAD 4.089 million, compared to 2016 revenues of 4.332 million DH.

IR revenue collected by the Expenditure Department of Personnel (DDP) under the General Treasury also recorded a decrease, at 6.9 percent.

Domestic Value Added Tax made MAD 20.9 billion in 2017 against 19.3 billion a year earlier, an increase of 8.1 percent, or +1.6 billion.

Revenue from registration fees and stamps hit MAD 15.7 billion at the end of 2017, up from MAD 15.8 billion a year ago, a decrease of 1 percent.

Revenues generated from Income Investors reached MAD 8.2 billion dirhams at the end of December 2017 against MAD 8 billion at the end of December 2016, up 2.2 percent or MAD +175 million.

These revenues were mainly generated by the National Agency of Land Conservation (MAD 2.4 billion), Maroc Telecom (MAD 1.4 billion), OCP (MAD 1.3 billion), ONDA (MAD 600 million), Bank Al-Maghreb (MAD 556 million) and Marsa Morocco (MAD 299 million).

Source: International Islamic News Agency

Rabat� The Moroccan government income reached MAD 222.7 billion in 2017, up 5.6 percent from MAD 210.8 billion at the end of December 2016, revealed the General Treasury of Morocco.

According to the Treasury, the increase is tied to the rise in direct taxes by 8.1 percent, indirect taxes by 6.7 percent, and non-tax revenue by 1.5 percent, along with a reduction in customs duties by 5.1 percent and registration and stamp duties by 1 percent.

Tax revenues in 2017 reached MAD 200.5 billion, up 6.1 percent from MAD 189 billion at the end of December 2016. This shift is the result of an increase in customs revenue by 4.3 percent and domestic taxation by 6.9 percent.

Customs revenues, which include customs duties, import VAT, and energy products, reached MAD 60.3 billion dirhams at the end of 2017, up 4.3 percent from MAD 57.8 billion dirhams a year earlier.

Meanwhile, revenue generated from customs duties in 2017 amounted to 8.6 billion dirhams, compared to MAD 9.1 billion dirhams a year earlier, a decrease of 5.1 percent or MAD 465 million.

The revenues created from Domestic Value Added Tax (VAT) on imports reached MAD 36 billion at the end of December 2017 against MAD 33.5 billion at the end of December 2016, registering an increase of 7.4 percent, or MAD +2.5 billion. Similarly, VAT on energy products registered an increase of 20.1 percent or +1 billion.

In terms of domestic taxation, the government registered revenue amounting to MAD 128.6 billion at the end of December 2017, a 6.9 percent increase, to 120.2 billion at the end of December 2016.

Due to the increase of activity in the financial sector and oil companies, sugar companies, and telecommunications companies, income induced from corporation tax reached MAD 50 billion at the end of December 2017 against 43 MAD billion a year earlier, up 16.3 percent.

Income generated by the Interest Rates (IR) at the end of December 2017 recorded a 0.7 percent increase at MAD 39.3 billion, compared to 2016 revenues, which stood at MAD 39 billion.

However, IR revenue from real estate profits dropped by 5.6 percent, or 243 million dirhams, reaching MAD 4.089 million, compared to 2016 revenues of 4.332 million DH.

IR revenue collected by the Expenditure Department of Personnel (DDP) under the General Treasury also recorded a decrease, at 6.9 percent.

Domestic Value Added Tax made MAD 20.9 billion in 2017 against 19.3 billion a year earlier, an increase of 8.1 percent, or +1.6 billion.

Revenue from registration fees and stamps hit MAD 15.7 billion at the end of 2017, up from MAD 15.8 billion a year ago, a decrease of 1 percent.

Revenues generated from Income Investors reached MAD 8.2 billion dirhams at the end of December 2017 against MAD 8 billion at the end of December 2016, up 2.2 percent or MAD +175 million.

These revenues were mainly generated by the National Agency of Land Conservation (MAD 2.4 billion), Maroc Telecom (MAD 1.4 billion), OCP (MAD 1.3 billion), ONDA (MAD 600 million), Bank Al-Maghreb (MAD 556 million) and Marsa Morocco (MAD 299 million).

Source: International Islamic News Agency

Pakistani Doctor Who Aided Hunt for bin Laden Languishes in Jail

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

Shakil Afridi has languished in jail for years � since 2011, when the Pakistani doctor used a vaccination scam in an attempt to identify Osama bin Laden’s home, aiding U.S. Navy Seals who tracked and killed the al-Qaida leader.

Americans might wonder how Pakistan could imprison a man who helped track down the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Pakistanis are apt to ask a different question: How could the United States betray its trust and cheapen its sovereignty with a secret nighttime raid that shamed the military and its intelligence agencies?

“The Shakil Afridi saga is the perfect metaphor for U.S-Pakistan relations” � a growing tangle of mistrust and miscommunication that threatens to jeopardize key efforts against terrorism, said Michael Kugelman, Asia program deputy director at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

The U.S. believes its financial support entitles it to Pakistan’s backing in its efforts to defeat the Taliban � as a candidate, Donald Trump pledged to free Afridi, telling Fox News in April 2016 he would get him out of prison in “two minutes. … Because we give a lot of aid to Pakistan.” But Pakistan is resentful of what it sees as U.S. interference in its affairs.

Mohammed Amir Rana, director of the independent Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies in Islamabad, said the trust deficit between the two countries is an old story that won’t be rewritten until Pakistan and the U.S. revise their expectations of each other, recognize their divergent security concerns and plot an Afghan war strategy, other than the current one which is to both kill and talk to the Taliban. Shakil Afridi [is] part of the larger puzzle,” he said.

Afridi hasn’t seen his lawyer since 2012 and his wife and children are his only visitors. For two years his file “disappeared,” delaying a court appeal that still hasn’t proceeded. The courts now say a prosecutor is unavailable, his lawyer, Qamar Nadeem Afridi, told the Associated Press.

“Everyone is afraid to even talk about him, to mention his name,” and not without reason, said Nadeem, who is also Afridi’s cousin.

In Nadeem’s office, the wind whistles through a clumsily covered window shattered by a bullet. On another window, clear tape covers a second bullet hole, both from a shooting incident several years ago in which no suspects have been named. Another of Afridi’s lawyers was gunned down outside his Peshawar home and a Peshawar jail deputy superintendent, who had advocated on Afridi’s behalf, was shot and killed, said Nadeem.

Afridi used a fake hepatitis vaccination program to try to get DNA samples from bin Laden’s family as a means of pinpointing his location. But he has not been charged in connection with the bin Laden operation.

He was accused under tribal law alleging he aided and facilitated militants in the nearby Khyber tribal region, said Nadeem. Even the Taliban scoffed at the charge that was filed to make use of Pakistan’s antiquated tribal system, which allows closed courts, does not require the defendant to be present in court, and limits the number of appeals, he said.

If charged with treason � which Pakistani authorities say he committed � Afridi would have the right to public hearings and numerous appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, where the details of the bin Laden raid could be laid bare, something neither the civilian nor military establishments want, his lawyer said.

Pakistan and the Taliban

Tensions have grown between Pakistan and the U.S. since Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet in which he accused Pakistan of taking $33 billion in aid and giving only “deceit and lies” in return while harboring Afghan insurgents who attack American soldiers in neighboring Afghanistan. Days later, the U.S. suspended military aid to Pakistan, which could amount to $2 billion.

Infuriated by Trump’s tweet, Pakistan accused Washington of making it a scapegoat for its failure to bring peace to Afghanistan.

The Wilson Center’s Kugelman advocated a “scaled-down relationship” between the two countries. He said both sides need to agree to disagree on some issues and instead focus on those areas where they can agree to cooperate against terror groups that both regard as threats, including the Islamic State group and al-Qaida.

Pakistan and the Taliban sanctuaries it provides are a big part of the insurgents’ success in Afghanistan, but it’s only one of many factors, Kugelman said.

“It’s foolish to suggest that if the Pakistani sanctuaries were eliminated, the insurgency would magically go away and the U.S. would be able to prevail in Afghanistan,” he said. “The Taliban has persevered because the U.S. still struggles to fight wars against non-state actors, and because the Afghan government has remained a weak and corrupt entity that has failed to convince a critical mass of Afghans that it’s a better alternative to the Taliban.”

‘Unjustly imprisoned’

Afridi spends his days alone, isolated from a general prison population filled with militants who have vowed to kill him for his role in locating bin Laden, said Nadeem. Still, Nadeem said authorities are treating Afridi well and he is in good health, according to those who have seen him.

There was a no indication whether U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells brought Afridi’s case up in recent meetings in Pakistan. But in a statement, the U.S. State Department told the AP that Afridi has not been forgotten.

“We believe Dr. Afridi has been unjustly imprisoned and have clearly communicated our position to Pakistan on Dr. Afridi’s case, both in public and in private,” it said.

In the past, Pakistan has compared Afridi’s dilemma with demands for the release of Afia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who is in U.S. custody convicted of trying to kill an American soldier in Afghanistan.

“To America, she [Siddiqui] is a terrorist,” said Kugelman. “To Pakistan, she is a wrongfully imprisoned innocent.”

Source: Voice of America

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

Shakil Afridi has languished in jail for years � since 2011, when the Pakistani doctor used a vaccination scam in an attempt to identify Osama bin Laden’s home, aiding U.S. Navy Seals who tracked and killed the al-Qaida leader.

Americans might wonder how Pakistan could imprison a man who helped track down the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Pakistanis are apt to ask a different question: How could the United States betray its trust and cheapen its sovereignty with a secret nighttime raid that shamed the military and its intelligence agencies?

“The Shakil Afridi saga is the perfect metaphor for U.S-Pakistan relations” � a growing tangle of mistrust and miscommunication that threatens to jeopardize key efforts against terrorism, said Michael Kugelman, Asia program deputy director at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

The U.S. believes its financial support entitles it to Pakistan’s backing in its efforts to defeat the Taliban � as a candidate, Donald Trump pledged to free Afridi, telling Fox News in April 2016 he would get him out of prison in “two minutes. … Because we give a lot of aid to Pakistan.” But Pakistan is resentful of what it sees as U.S. interference in its affairs.

Mohammed Amir Rana, director of the independent Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies in Islamabad, said the trust deficit between the two countries is an old story that won’t be rewritten until Pakistan and the U.S. revise their expectations of each other, recognize their divergent security concerns and plot an Afghan war strategy, other than the current one which is to both kill and talk to the Taliban. Shakil Afridi [is] part of the larger puzzle,” he said.

Afridi hasn’t seen his lawyer since 2012 and his wife and children are his only visitors. For two years his file “disappeared,” delaying a court appeal that still hasn’t proceeded. The courts now say a prosecutor is unavailable, his lawyer, Qamar Nadeem Afridi, told the Associated Press.

“Everyone is afraid to even talk about him, to mention his name,” and not without reason, said Nadeem, who is also Afridi’s cousin.

In Nadeem’s office, the wind whistles through a clumsily covered window shattered by a bullet. On another window, clear tape covers a second bullet hole, both from a shooting incident several years ago in which no suspects have been named. Another of Afridi’s lawyers was gunned down outside his Peshawar home and a Peshawar jail deputy superintendent, who had advocated on Afridi’s behalf, was shot and killed, said Nadeem.

Afridi used a fake hepatitis vaccination program to try to get DNA samples from bin Laden’s family as a means of pinpointing his location. But he has not been charged in connection with the bin Laden operation.

He was accused under tribal law alleging he aided and facilitated militants in the nearby Khyber tribal region, said Nadeem. Even the Taliban scoffed at the charge that was filed to make use of Pakistan’s antiquated tribal system, which allows closed courts, does not require the defendant to be present in court, and limits the number of appeals, he said.

If charged with treason � which Pakistani authorities say he committed � Afridi would have the right to public hearings and numerous appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, where the details of the bin Laden raid could be laid bare, something neither the civilian nor military establishments want, his lawyer said.

Pakistan and the Taliban

Tensions have grown between Pakistan and the U.S. since Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet in which he accused Pakistan of taking $33 billion in aid and giving only “deceit and lies” in return while harboring Afghan insurgents who attack American soldiers in neighboring Afghanistan. Days later, the U.S. suspended military aid to Pakistan, which could amount to $2 billion.

Infuriated by Trump’s tweet, Pakistan accused Washington of making it a scapegoat for its failure to bring peace to Afghanistan.

The Wilson Center’s Kugelman advocated a “scaled-down relationship” between the two countries. He said both sides need to agree to disagree on some issues and instead focus on those areas where they can agree to cooperate against terror groups that both regard as threats, including the Islamic State group and al-Qaida.

Pakistan and the Taliban sanctuaries it provides are a big part of the insurgents’ success in Afghanistan, but it’s only one of many factors, Kugelman said.

“It’s foolish to suggest that if the Pakistani sanctuaries were eliminated, the insurgency would magically go away and the U.S. would be able to prevail in Afghanistan,” he said. “The Taliban has persevered because the U.S. still struggles to fight wars against non-state actors, and because the Afghan government has remained a weak and corrupt entity that has failed to convince a critical mass of Afghans that it’s a better alternative to the Taliban.”

‘Unjustly imprisoned’

Afridi spends his days alone, isolated from a general prison population filled with militants who have vowed to kill him for his role in locating bin Laden, said Nadeem. Still, Nadeem said authorities are treating Afridi well and he is in good health, according to those who have seen him.

There was a no indication whether U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells brought Afridi’s case up in recent meetings in Pakistan. But in a statement, the U.S. State Department told the AP that Afridi has not been forgotten.

“We believe Dr. Afridi has been unjustly imprisoned and have clearly communicated our position to Pakistan on Dr. Afridi’s case, both in public and in private,” it said.

In the past, Pakistan has compared Afridi’s dilemma with demands for the release of Afia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who is in U.S. custody convicted of trying to kill an American soldier in Afghanistan.

“To America, she [Siddiqui] is a terrorist,” said Kugelman. “To Pakistan, she is a wrongfully imprisoned innocent.”

Source: Voice of America

64 migrants feared dead in Mediterranean

Geneva, (UNA-OIC) – Sixty-four migrants are feared drowned after a rubber dinghy sank off the coast of Libya over the weekend, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Monday.The migrants lost their lives in the shipwreck that occur…

Geneva, (UNA-OIC) – Sixty-four migrants are feared drowned after a rubber dinghy sank off the coast of Libya over the weekend, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Monday.

The migrants lost their lives in the shipwreck that occurred Saturday. According to testimonies gathered by IOM Italia staff in Catania, the rubber dinghy, at the time of departure, was carrying 150 migrants. Survivors total 86. Eight corpses have been recovered and there are 56 missing migrants,” IOM’s Italy spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo said on Twitter.

The deaths represent the first major migrant tragedy of 2018 in the Mediterranean Sea. A total of 171,635 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea during 2017 compared with 363,504 arrivals across the region in 2016, according to the UN migration agency.

The number of deaths during the perilous journey across the Mediterranean totaled 3,116 last year, marking a significant drop from 5,143 deaths in 2016.

According to the IOM, some 119,310 people arrived by sea as irregular migrants to Italy in 2017, the lowest total in four years.

Source: Interantional Islamic News Agency

Erdogan in Chad; discusses with President Deby Jerusalem, terrorism

N’Djamena – The visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chadian President Idriss Deby held wide ranging talks. In a joint declaration following the talks, the two countries spoke in unison on a host of international issues including Jerusal…

N’Djamena – The visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chadian President Idriss Deby held wide ranging talks. In a joint declaration following the talks, the two countries spoke in unison on a host of international issues including Jerusalem and terrorism besides reiterating their determination to forge closer bilateral ties.

Erdogan’s visit to Chad is the second stop on his three-nation African tour, starting with Sudan and ending with Tunisia.

Deby expressed his pleasure at the historic visit, the first-ever by a Turkish president to the Central African nation. Both presidents unconditionally condemned terrorism and jointly vowed to fight terrorism, and expressed sympathy with Palestine.

In meetings, Chadian officials expressed the expectation that Turkish firms will take part in the construction of two major projects -an airport and a bridge as well as oil research and management in the country.

During their meetings, the two countries’ delegations touched on bilateral cooperation and important regional and international issues. On recent developments concerning Jerusalem, the delegations stressed that the unilateral U.S. decision to recognize the holy city as Israel’s capital is unacceptable and null and void.

They also called on for a just, lasting, and comprehensive peaceful solution for Jerusalem, on the basis of a two-state vision. They stressed that a Palestinian state, one which is independent, sovereign, and has a geographical integrity, with East Jerusalem as its capital and within the 1967 borders, is the main condition for peace and stability in the region.

The delegations also expressed approbation at last week’s rejection by the UN General Assembly of the U.S. move on Jerusalem, stating that it showed a commitment to UN resolutions and international law on Jerusalem, Anadolu Agency reported.

They also expressed grave concern over the current Mideast tensions and urged the parties to act in moderation as the crisis there is a serious threat to global security. In the declaration, the delegations also invited the international community, especially the UN, to combat serious threats and to find a just and equitable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

During the visit, the two countries signed pacts on avoiding double taxation as well as cooperation in youth and sports, technical and development cooperation, mutually encouraging and protecting investments, collaboration in information technology, and cooperation on hydrocarbons, minerals, mines, and energy.

The declaration also said Chad’s president had been invited to pay an official visit to Turkey at a date to be decided later.

Source: International Islamic News Agency

Pakistan Uses Regional Conference to Denounce US Charges

ISLAMABAD A six-nation parliamentary conference has begun in Pakistan to debate challenges of terrorism and inter-regional connectivity. House speakers of Pakistan, China, Russia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran are leading their respective delegations …

ISLAMABAD A six-nation parliamentary conference has begun in Pakistan to debate challenges of terrorism and inter-regional connectivity. House speakers of Pakistan, China, Russia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran are leading their respective delegations at the event underway amid tight security in the national capital.

The chairman of the Pakistani Senate, upper house of parliament, used the high-profile conference to denounce what he called U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy of blaming Pakistan for failures of the United States in Afghanistan. Raza Rabbani went on to criticize the Trump administration for ignoring sacrifices Pakistan has made while fighting terrorism.

“We saw two days ago that the Vice President of the United States has the gall, has the audacity to say that he puts Pakistan on notice. But let the word ring out in clear terms that Pakistan is a sovereign state and is not in the habit of taking notices from anyone, least alone the United States,” Rabbani asserted.

He was referring to Vice-President Mike Pence’s remarks while addressing American troops during a visit to Afghanistan Thursday. Pence said that Pakistan has for too long provided safe haven to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.

“But those days are over,” Pence said. “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the United States and Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”

The Pakistan government swiftly and sharply responded to Pence’s criticism, saying “allies do not put each other on notice”.

“On notice should be those factors responsible for exponential increase in drug production, expansion of ungoverned spaces, industrial scale corruption, breakdown of [Afghan] governance, and letting Daesh gain a foothold in Afghanistan. Finally, externalizing blame should be put on notice,” said a Foreign ministry statement.

U.S. and Afghan officials allege that sanctuaries on Pakistani soil have enabled the Taliban and its ally, the Haqqani terrorist network, to sustain and expand insurgent activities in Afghanistan.

Pakistan rejects accusations of having ties to insurgents and cites its “unprecedented” national counterterrorism gains as its resolve against the menace of terrorism. Islamabad is also touting its deepening relations with China, Russia and other regional countries as proof of its efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan and the region in general.

Source: Voice of America

At least 120 dead, 160 missing in flash floods in Philippines

Zamboanga (OIC-UNA) – A tropical storm in the southern Philippines unleashed flash floods that swept away people and houses and set off landslides, reportedly leaving more than 120 people dead and 160 others missing, officials said Saturday, The Assoc…

Zamboanga (OIC-UNA) – A tropical storm in the southern Philippines unleashed flash floods that swept away people and houses and set off landslides, reportedly leaving more than 120 people dead and 160 others missing, officials said Saturday, The Associated Press reported.

Most of the deaths from Tropical Storm Tembin were in the hard-hit provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur and on the Zamboanga Peninsula, according to an initial government report on storm casualties. Romina Marasigan of the government’s disaster-response agency earlier said authorities have reported at least 75 deaths due to landslides and sudden surges of floodwaters but added those initial reports needed to be confirmed.

It’s the latest disaster to hit the Philippines, which is battered by about 20 typhoons and storms each year, making the archipelago that lies on the Pacific typhoon belt one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries. A search and rescue operation was underway for more than 30 people swept away by flash floods in the fishing village of Anungan, Mayor Bong Edding of Zamboanga del Norte province’s Sibuco town said by phone. Five bodies have been recovered so far in the village. “The floodwaters from the mountain came down so fast and swept away people and houses,” Edding said. “It’s really sad because Christmas is just a few days away, but these things happen beyond our control.”

Edding blamed years of logging in the mountains near Anungan for the tragedy that unfolded Friday, adding that he and other officials would move to halt the logging operations. The rest of the deaths were reported in Lanao del Norte, where floodwaters from a mountain also swept away several riverside houses and villagers, and Lanao del Sur, police and officials said. Lanao del Norte officials reported the highest death toll at 64 with 139 missing followed by Zamboanga del Norte province, where officials reported at least 29 storm deaths with 19 others missing. The storm left 21 dead and one missing in the lakeside province of Lanao del Sur, according to the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Thousands of villagers moved to emergency shelters and thousands more were stranded in airports and seaports after the coast guard prohibited ferries from venturing out in the rough seas and several flights were canceled. An inter-island ferry sank off northeastern Quezon province Thursday after being lashed by fierce winds and big waves, leaving at least five people dead. More than 250 passengers and crewmen were rescued.

Tembin, known locally as Vinta, strengthened and picked up speed late Saturday, packing maximum sustained winds of 105 kilometers (65 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 145 kph (90 mph). It struck the southern section of western Palawan province late Saturday and is forecast to blow away from the southern Philippines on Sunday toward the South China Sea. “It is unfortunate that another tropical cyclone, Vinta, made its presence felt so near Christmas,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said, adding that food packs and other aid were being distributed in storm-hit communities.

Earlier in the week, a tropical storm left more than 50 people dead and 31 others missing, mostly due to landslides, and damaged more than 10,000 houses in the central Philippines before weakening and blowing into the South China Sea. Among the areas battered by Tembin was Marawi, a lakeside city in Lanao del Sur that is still recovering from a five-month siege by pro-Islamic State group extremists that left more than 1,000 people dead.

Source: International Islamic News Agency

8th round of Syria peace talks begins in Astana

Astana, (OIC-UNA) – The eighth round of peace talks aimed at ending the Syria conflict began Thursday in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.The two-day meeting is being attended by representatives from Russia, Turkey, and Iran, which are the guarantor states …

Astana, (OIC-UNA) – The eighth round of peace talks aimed at ending the Syria conflict began Thursday in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

The two-day meeting is being attended by representatives from Russia, Turkey, and Iran, which are the guarantor states that brokered a ceasefire in Syria in December 2016, leading to the Astana peace talks that are running parallel to Geneva talks.

The Turkish delegation is chaired by the Deputy Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Sedat Onal, while Alexander Lavrentiev, Russian president’s special envoy for Syria, leads Russian delegation, and Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari heads Iranian delegation.

The bilateral talks between the delegations started at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The Turkish delegation had a meeting with the Russian team. Onal and the Iranian delegation are expected to hold a bilateral meeting as well.

Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry announced that UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura would attend the meeting on Friday. The talks are also to address the release of captives and hostages, the clearing of landmines, the inspection of ceasefire violations in the de-escalation zones and the preparation for a Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which is expected to be held in Russia’s coastal city of Sochi in the near future.

The Syrian armed opposition is expected to bring the issue of the humanitarian crisis in the besieged Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus to the table.

Thursday’s bilateral and multilateral talks will take place in a closed-door format. A plenary meeting is scheduled for Friday.

Source: International Islamic News Agency

Peace restored due to successful Operation Zarb-e-Azb: KP Governor

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra says Peace has been restored in the country due to successful Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Speaking with the participants of senior Management Course from Karachi in Peshawar today (Wednesdayt), he said effor…

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra says Peace has been restored in the country due to successful Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Speaking with the participants of senior Management Course from Karachi in Peshawar today (Wednesdayt), he said efforts are underway for rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure in tribal areas.

Iqbal Zafar Jhagra said reforms are being introduced in tribal areas to bring them at par with the developed areas of the country.

Meanwhile, talking to AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan in Peshawar, Governor said Kashmir is the life line of Pakistan and this problem can only be solved through plebiscite and implementation of the United Nations resolutions.

Source: Radio Pakistan