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Zayed laid the foundations for a green future

Vesela Todorova

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In the first of an occasional series, The National looks at the people, organisations and companies at the vanguard of creating a sustainable and environmentally friendly United Arab Emirates. Beginning with the late Sheikh Zayed, Earth Matters: Environmental Pioneers will turn the spotlight on famous names and unsung heroes.

Environmental movements usually start at the grassroots, but in Abu Dhabi green issues had a champion at the top.

Sheikh Zayed, the founding President, was famous for his love of nature and he inspired many of the environmental projects under way in the capital.

"Sheikh Zayed's decisions are reflected in the reality we have today," said Majid Al Mansouri, a board member of the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (Ead).

Agriculture, water use and desertification were major issues for the late President, Mr Al Mansouri said. Preserving species such as the Arabian oryx and maintaining productive fisheries were also important.

"He was looking at the totality of the ecosystem," Mr Al Mansouri said.

Sheikh Zayed's involvement with environmental issues grew out of a respect for nature that is embedded in Bedouin culture. He loved wildlife and was an avid falconer.

"Falcons were in his blood," said Dr Margit Mueller, the director of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. "He truly understood the need to take care of this bird. He understood the importance of preserving falcons in the wild but also preserving the tradition of falconry."

Sheikh Zayed was also concerned that falcons would not be affected by hunting practices, and he encouraged hunters to free them at the end of a hunting season.

He also cared for one of falconers' most prized targets, the Houbara bustard, noticing that hunting was reducing Houbara populations.

As early as 1977, Sheikh Zayed had ordered the breeding of the endangered bird at Al Ain Zoo. This work produced results five years later when, for the first time, local scientists bred the bustard in captivity.

In 1989, the National Avian Research Centre (Narc) was founded in Sweihan, a small town near Al Ain, with the goal of breeding the rare birds in large numbers and releasing them into the wild.

The project has grown throughout the years and now thousands of Houbara bustards are released into the wild in the UAE. They are also released from breeding facilities funded by Abu Dhabi in Morocco, Kazakhstan and soon in China.

The effort to help restore the Houbara bustard eventually grew and diversified, with Narc becoming the basis for the Environment Research and Wildlife Development Agency, which was founded in 1996. Nine years later, the organisation was restructured into Ead.

Today, Ead employs about 1,000 people. Because of its efforts, protected areas cover a total of 13 per cent of Abu Dhabi emirate's territory.

Its scope of work has broadened well beyond wildlife conservation.

"Of course now we have different challenges to maintain the environmental quality that Sheikh Zayed loved and made sure people had access to," said Razan Al Mubarak, the secretary general of Ead.

Ms Al Mubarak said developing the agency's ability to control pollution was becoming a major priority. Another area of concern is environmental planning and permitting.

Sheikh Zayed's legacy spreads well beyond his role in protecting the environment. He is also remembered for his interactions with people.

Emiratis who have met him, including Mr Al Mansouri, describe the experience as an honour. They often speak of the need to work hard to make their founding father proud.

Even for an expatriate such as Dr Mueller, the experience of meeting Sheikh Zayed, at an exhibition in 2003, was a special one.

"He had a charisma that is beyond belief," said the German national, an Abu Dhabi resident since 2001. "It really deeply touched me to speak with him because he was so interested. He made you feel you are really a very appreciated person and in this moment you are very important to him. From the moment I met him, I knew he was really one of a kind."

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Emirates runway incident reported

Haneen Dajani

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Indian authorities have launched an investigation after a pilot reported a possible near-collision between an Emirates flight bound for Dubai and another aircraft.

The Emirates jet took off from Thiruvananthapuram International Airport in the same minute as a Sri Lankan aircraft landed on the same runway.

EK Bharat Bhushan, the head of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, said his office would investigate but there was no cause for alarm.

"There has been no issue," Mr Bhushan said yesterday. "The Emirates flight was taking off when the other aircraft arrived at the other end of the runway, three nautical miles away."

He said the incident was reported by another pilot. It is routine for the authority to investigate any time such an issue is raised. The results are expected in the next 24 hours.

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Bee’ah Tackles Beach Litter, Urging Cooperation From The Public


Walking through one of Sharjah’s beaches on the day following the weekend is a site for sore eyes. The coastlines are littered with plastic cups, broken glass bottles and black charcoal ashes from the remains of barbecues; evidence of a fun family outing!

Bee’ah, the Middle East’s leading and award-winning integrated environmental and waste management company, is raising the alarm for Sharjah residents and encouraging them to correctly dispose of their waste after barbecues and picnics, to ensure that Sharjah’s beaches remain safe, clean and beautiful for the public to enjoy.

Starting today, Bee’ah has launched a one month awareness-raising campaign focusing on beach cleaning, and picnic ethics. The campaign is being launched prior to the occasion of National Day (a time that witnesses the highest footfall of picnickers on beaches in the UAE), and will set up signs along Sharjah’s beaches as well as distribute bags and informative flyers to instruct and educate the public with tips on how to dispose of their picnic waste properly. Moreover, students from schools, universities and colleges, as well as the Sharjah community, will join Bee’ah in a Beach Cleanup event which will take place today at the Mamzar beach in Sharjah.

As part of Bee’ah’s overall integrated waste management solutions, which include recycling, waste minimization and community outreach and awareness, Tandeef – the cleaning and beautification division of Bee’ah – is undertaking the task to restore the beauty and cleanliness of Sharjah’s beaches. The company has provided designated waste bins to collect charcoals, general waste and recyclable plastic and aluminium cans, and has put their beach-cleaning vehicles on intensive schedules to collect waste and recover recyclables for processing at the Bee’ah Waste Management Complex in Al Saj’ah.

“Tandeef believes that residents which live and work in a clean space strive to maintain its cleanliness. Many of these barbecues are left burning, and not only release toxins into the air from burnt plastic and food waste, causing mass littering problems for others, but also cause second-degree burns for people who which to enjoy a nice evening on the beach.” said Khaled Al Huraimel, Chief Executive Officer of Bee’ah. “Laws prohibit littering in public areas, but enforcement has to come from the people themselves. By launching this clean-up programme, we hope to help Sharjah take a step forward to leading the way to conserving our environment and keeping our city clean.”

It is estimated that Tandeef collects barbecue and picnic waste from approximately 600 picnic sites across all of Sharjah’s beaches. Much of the waste collected is plastic bottles and bags, aluminium cans, glass and cigarette stubs, but most of it is the black coals and ash left from barbecues, which create a rather unpleasant black-spotted beach destination.
As part of the campaign, residents of Sharjah are advised to bring their own barbecue grills and to dispose them correctly, as much of the leftover barbecue charcoals are left invisible under a thin layer of sand, and pose a harm to beach goers who often tend to step on these still scorching coals, hours or even days after, and burn their feet.

To properly dispose of barbecue coals, barbecue goers should first cool them by immersing them in water or sand. Once they are entirely cool, they should be disposed of in the charcoal bins provided by Tandeef, situated along the Sharjah beaches.

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UAE Athletes Collect Ten Medals On Day One Of IWAS World Games 2011


The opening day of the IWAS World Games 2011, which is taking place in the emirate of Sharjah from 1 to 10 December, was full of excitement, as UAE athletes collected a total of ten medals for their country - two gold, two silver and four bronze medals in the athletics competitions, one silver in swimming, and one bronze in power lifting.

The lion’s share of the team’s medals were won in athletics, with Asian gold medalist Aysha Salem bin Khalid achieving an impressive victory in the women’s javelin competition with a throw of 9.85m, ahead of the Iranian and Indian competitors.

In the men’s shot put (F33), the UAE team dominated the podium with Abdul Aziz Al Shekily winning the gold medal with a throw of 8.31m, and his compatriots Hassan Ali Al Malalihi and Ahmed Al Hussaini taking second and third places with throws of 8.04m and 7.69m, respectively.

The UAE’s Manea Sulaiman clinched the silver medal in shot put (F32) with a throw of 6.89m, ahead of his teammate Suhaib Al Qassim, who got the bronze medal with a throw of 6.0m. Poland’s champion got the gold medal in this event.

In shot put (F34), Mohammed Al Muhairi from the UAE came in third with a throw of 9.60m, after the Iranian and Qatari competitors, while the UAE’s final athletics medal went to Jassim Al Naqbi, who took bronze in the 100m wheelchair (T54), with Thailand taking gold and Sweden silver.

In power lifting, Saif Al Zaabi added another bronze medal to the host country’s tally by lifting 112kg in the 60kg category, behind the athletes from Iran and Poland, who took first and second place, respectively.

The last medal for the UAE on the opening day of competition was won by Abdullah Hayaey, who was first runner-up in the 400m freestyle swimming competition, coming in behind the athlete from India, who finished in a time of 10.05 minutes.

The UAE team celebrated their victories and good performance, which showed that disabled sport is on the right track in the country. They dedicated the wins to UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Emirates, to His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and to the citizens of the UAE.

Tareq Sultan bin Khadim, Deputy Chairman of the Organizing Committee and Chairman of the Executive Committee, praised the UAE team’s impressive achievements on the first day of competition, urging those champions, whom he described as the "knights of will", to continue giving of their best and living up to the support of the country’s wise leaders, which made this success possible. "I am confident that our champions will continue to add more medals and excellent performances to their list of achievements over the remaining days of the 2011 IWAS World Games," he said.

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World Islands charity event attracts 60


The National Eugene Harnan

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DUBAI // A group of 60 surfers will paddle around the World Islands for charity this morning.

In its third year, the six-hour paddle organised by Surf Dubai will raise funds for the UAE Red Crescent and SurfAid, a non-profit organisation that seeks to improve the health, well-being and self-reliance of people in isolated regions.

"We were asked by Red Crescent where we wanted our funds to go and we said it was to go to the Mentawai Tsunami Appeal," said Scott Chambers, the founder of Surf Dubai.

Mr Chambers said Dubai surfers had a strong link with the islands off West Sumatra in Indonesia, which were hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in October last year. The Red Crescent and SurfAid are conducting search, assessment and response operations on the islands.

"All of us have been there and surfed on those islands for years," he said. "It was always the destination to go to during the summer when there were no waves here."

The first paddle event in December 2009, completed by Mr Chambers and the Surf Dubai managing partner Daniel Van Dooren, raised Dh15,000.

Last year, eight people joined the pair on the 30-kilometre route and raised Dh25,000.

"There will be a big welcoming party and we'd like to see some people come down to the [Sunset] beach to welcome us back in," Mr Chambers said.

"It's a Friday so there will be beachgoers and the families of those on the paddle will be there, too. There will be a good atmosphere."

The group will enter the north-eastern corner of the World Islands and paddle behind the breakwater.

"We don't have to worry too much about currents inside," Mr Chambers said. "There are no planned rest stops and everyone will have camel packs [with water] to keep going. We will exit the south-western corner and then it's the difficult bit back. The wind usually picks up at that time and it is the open sea.

"That final leg is usually a tough slog back to the beach."


Surfers will paddle around the World Islands in Dubai to raise money for people who suffered through a tsunami last year in a chain of islands off West Sumatra, Indonesia.

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Sharjah Media Centre Supports International Wheelchair And Amputee Sport World Games 2011


Sharjah Media Centre is offering media relations support to the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sport (IWAS) World Games 2011 that is currently underway in Sharjah and marking its inaugural edition in the Middle East.

Under the patronage of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the sixth edition of the 10-day games kicked off on 1 December at Al Theqa Club and has drawn over 900 athletes from nearly 50 countries.

As part of its support to IWAS, the Sharjah Media Centre is working closely with regional and international media institutions to ensure enhanced coverage of the global sporting event. The centre is also facilitating coordination with the IWAS media committee and assuring adequate media presence during all tournaments to encourage the participating sportspersons.

His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Qassimi said: "Sharjah Media Centre has played an important role in supporting and sponsoring humanitarian events such as IWAS that Sharjah has hosted over the past years. Sharjah is committed to supporting the differently abled members of the community in all fields, especially in sports where they have demonstrated a significant participation. Through extending its unstinted backing, Sharjah ensures their early and successful integration into mainstream society.”

Osama Samra, Director, Sharjah Media Centre, said: “We are privileged to be a part of a momentous achievement for Sharjah that has successfully brought an international sporting event to the Middle East for the first time.

Through offering crucial media relations support, we aim to spotlight Sharjah as an ideal venue to host such high-visibility global events.”

Countries participating in the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sport World Games 2011 include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Spain, Italy, UK, Iran, China, Japan, Nigeria, Rwanda and Australia amongst others. The games’ schedule will include championships in table tennis, badminton, CPISRA race running, power lifting, amputee football, sitting volleyball and swimming.

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Books Promote Tolerance And Acceptance Of Individuality


Kalimat Publishing House, the first entity in the UAE dedicated solely to publishing and distributing quality Arabic children’s books, hosted a book signing with author Sahar Naja Mahfouz on Saturday 19 November as part of Kalimat’s activities at the 2011 Sharjah International Book Fair.

The signing was for Ms Mahfouz’s books Horoufi Tarquis (My Letters are Dancing) and Zarafa Mylia (Mylia the Giraffe).Through these stories the author and mother of three conveys the need for tolerance and acceptance of individuality, particularly in the context of the diverse mix of cultures within the UAE.

Horoufi Tarquis looks at a little boy’s reluctance to wear glasses when it is discovered that he has bad eyesight. He fears that wearing glasses will change his appearance, until he finds a pair that makes him look ‘cool’. It is a creative and heart-warming tale that deals with children’s fear of being different, and of accepting what cannot be changed. With lovely illustrations and a simple but well-written story, the book offers a positive perspective on the experience of getting glasses.

Zarafa Mylia, in turn, tells the story of Mylia who has no friends as she looks different from all the other animals on the farm. But when a little lamb goes missing, Mylia is the only one able to help – precisely because she is different! The book offers a fun read that is all about friendship, teamwork and appreciating everyone’s individual qualities. It also conveys the important message that children should not judge potential friends based on their outward appearance.

Ms Mahfouz, who has lived in the UAE for the past 20 years, graduated from the American University of Beirut and works as the office and public relations manager for the Sharjah branch of the Abu Dhabi-based UAE Central Bank.

Kalimat is the first publishing house in the UAE dedicated solely to publishing and distributing high-quality Arabic books for children aged 0 to 16 years. With a portfolio of internationally acclaimed authors and illustrators, Kalimat’s extensive range of books highlights traditional Arabic culture alongside the modern challenges faced by today’s children, with the aim of imparting a life-long love of reading and Arabic literature to Arab children.

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US will assist Lebanon in securing its border with Syria, says envoy

Zoi Constantine

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BEIRUT // The crisis in Syria must not be allowed to spill over into neighbouring Lebanon, warned Washington's top Middle East diplomat during talks with senior government officials.

Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, arrived in Beirut for an official visit on Wednesday.

"[Mr Feltman] highlighted US concerns that developments in Syria not contribute to instability in Lebanon or in other countries in the region," said a statement issued by the US Embassy in Beirut. "Ambassador Feltman shared the grave concerns of the US for the people of Syria and our desire to see the Syrian government end its brutality against them immediately."

The envoy's comments came on the same day that a US television network broadcast excerpts of an interview with the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, in which he denied ordering the killing of civilians.

The UN estimates that more than 4,000 people have been killed during the crackdown on pro-reform protests nine months ago.

The movement has since swelled into an open revolt against Mr Al Assad's government.

Mr Feltman's visit comes amid increased tension along Lebanon's border with Syria and political stalemate at home, where pro-Syrian sentiment remains strong.

Thousands of Syrians have fled into Lebanon across the northern border.

There have also been reports of Syrian army incursions into Lebanon. Mr Feltman, who served as ambassador to Lebanon from 2004 to 2008, also stressed US support for Lebanese institutions, particularly the country's armed forces.

The embassy statement described these armed forces as "Lebanon's sole legitimate defence force", a clear repudiation of the claim by the Islamist movement Hizbollah that its militias are essential for maintaining the country's security.

Under the UN resolution that ended the Lebanese-Israeli war in 2006, all of Lebanon's militias are required to disarm. Hizbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said earlier this week that his group was increasing its stockpile of weapons.

During his meeting with the prime minister, Nejib Mikati, Mr Feltman delivered a letter from Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, welcoming his government's funding of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

Earlier this year, Mr Feltman warned the Lebanese government against failure to pay the country's 49 per cent share of this year's budget - $32 million (Dh117 million) - for the UN tribunal, which is investigating the assassination of the former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

Mr Mikati announced last week that the money had been transferred to the Netherlands-based tribunal, diffusing a brewing political crisis.

Some cabinet members, including those aligned with Hizbollah, had opposed the payment.

Last Updated:Dec 8, 2011

The area surrounding the port of Beirut now hums to the chit-chat of creative entrepreneurs and the well-heeled, the port itself though is unsure as to what the immediate future holds.

Michael Karam

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Lunar eclipse turns moon blood red

Eugene Harnan

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Stargazers were treated to a rare celestial event last night as the moon turned blood red during the last full lunar eclipse the region will see for three years.

Astronomers and onlookers gazed at the sky for more than three hours, from when the moon first became visible about 5.30pm until the dying moments of the eclipse, about 8.30pm.

Hasan Al Hariri, the head of the Dubai Astronomy Group, said weather conditions and visibility were perfect for the event.

"Apart from the eclipse, the constellations are very clear and we can see the Gemini and Pegasus constellations perfectly," Mr Al Hariri said.

He said the moon was brighter than expected: "It was full, red and looked fantastic."

Mr Al Hariri said more than 100 people, many carrying telescopes, turned up to see the eclipse at the Zubair camp in rural Sharjah, chosen because it is away from the distracting effects of urban light pollution.

"The atmosphere was amazing," he added.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon.

The moon falls into the Earth's shadow, but indirect sunlight continues to illuminate the moon, turning it a dramatic shade of red.

Stargazers and amateur astronomers can next look forward to the Geminids meteor shower that will be visible in the UAE's sky from 8pm on Wednesday until 2am on Thursday.

"It's debris left over from a comet falling on the Earth," Mr Al Hariri said. "It'll be like a small firework display."

Meteor showers are not uncommon but Wednesday night will leave a lasting impression on stargazers if the weather conditions are right.

"This will be a big one," Mr Al Hariri said.

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Guardian newspaper trials football website in Arabic

David Sapsted

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LONDON // It is one of the more surprising consequences of the Arab Spring - the emergence this week of football articles in Arabic on a British daily newspaper's website.

An obituary for the late Brazilian captain Socrates, a preview of Wednesday night's Champions League clashes and the thoughts of Valencia's David Albelda on playing against his old pal, Juan Mata, have all appeared on The Guardian's Arabic football site.

The experimental site is a direct consequence of the paper's Arab Spring coverage, which attracted such a wide Middle East audience that The Guardian started publishing articles translated into Arabic on dedicated pages on its website.

These have now been extended to include specially commissioned articles analysing the situation in North Africa and the Middle East by experts on the region.

"During the Arab uprisings, we saw that a great number of residents in the region value and trust The Guardian's journalism, and we are therefore keen to provide these audiences with more of our content," said Katharine Viner, the newspaper's deputy editor. After The Guardian site passed the 50 million-a-month "hit" mark in May - two-thirds of the audience coming from outside the UK - research found extensive interest among Arab readers in football, particularly the English Premier League and the Spanish and Italian leagues.

Tuesday saw the launch of the Football in Arabic site.

It will run on The Guardian website until Saturday but if successful, it could become a regular feature.

Arabic sections on business, arts and culture, fashion and food are also being considered as the "paper eyes an extension of its online readership in the region". "The Football in Arabicseries is an Arabic language experiment, following on from our small-scale Arabic language experiments during the Arab uprisings and the Tunisian and Egyptian elections," said Ms Viner.

"We're very proud of our football coverage and we know that football is hugely popular in the Middle East and North Africa region, so we hope to bring new readers to The Guardian, both from the region and elsewhere."

She said that it was "too soon to say" if Football in Arabic would become a regular feature of The Guardian web pages but "we're very pleased with the traffic so far".

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Qaddafi may be dead, but Libyans stick to their guns

Don Duncan

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TRIPOLI // The capital's Martyrs' Square is the scene of almost nightly celebrations of the killing of Muammar Qaddafi.

Fireworks explode, rebel soldiers take children for rides on their anti-aircraft guns and spin them around like it is an amusement park. Merchants sell revolution trinkets such as key rings and mugs, and comic photo-shopped images of the fallen dictator.

"Thank God, Muammar is dead and there is no more trace of his awful family in this country," yelled one middle-aged man on a recent chilly evening.

That's the kind of celebratory chatter heard all over the square. But among even this crowd, there is a gnawing concern - guns.

Tens of thousands were given to people to fight the civil war. With tribal conflicts and personal score-settling on the rise, these same guns have become Libya's primary security threat. What is more, the problem goes beyond rifles and handguns - Libya is also home to thousands of rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), surface-to-air missiles, landmines and chemical weapons.

Further, since the uprising and civil war, people have become used to carrying weapons.

Teenagers, fathers, and gangs of young men often carry rifles. And then there are the bigger guns. The pickups loaded with anti-aircraft guns that became icons of the Libyan opposition are still ubiquitous, parked in squares or leaving skid marks on roads.

Across town from the party in Martyrs' Square, the Brigade Captain Abed Al Majid heads up one of numerous Tripoli brigades tasked with getting guns out of civilian hands.

Some people, he said, would be willing to give up their bullets and hang on to their guns as mere mementos.

Eventually, these guns too will have to be confiscated but for now, the captain and his men are focused on men who want to keep their guns for political reasons.

"There are those with guns and they keep the bullets and will use them," he said. "But if they do, we will be on to them. We will arrest these people and they will be punished in court."

On a recent night, Capt Al Majid and his men set up a checkpoint on a busy Tripoli thoroughfare to seize illegal guns. Those with government-issued licenses are let go, but those who do not face a different fate.

For now, their weapons are confiscated. The gun licenses were first issued towards the end of the civil war, but mostly in the bigger cities

The criteria were simple: people had to have clean criminal records and be fighting on the side of the rebels.

The initial idea of the licenses was to keep arms from reaching Qaddafi loyalists. Now the system is being used to reduce and regulate the carrying of weapons. For now, however, it has been largely ineffective.

"We have to confiscate those guns and interrogate their owners a little to see where they got them, what they will do with them and why they haven't given them up," said Capt Al Majid of the unlicensed weapons.

There are two main reasons people are not giving up their arms. Some have said that Libya is still too dangerous. Others, mostly former fighters, like Ahmed Suleiman and his friends, have refused to give up their guns as a matter of principle.

They have a personal arsenal in their home neighbourhood of Gorgi. As they clean their guns, mostly AK-47s and handguns, Mr Suleiman explains that they sacrificed much to defeat Qaddafi and so, relinquishing these arms before the new political order is in place, is impossible.

"I won't give them up until the ministry of defence releases an official declaration that everyone must give up their guns," said Mr Suleiman. "But right now, we won't do it."

Libya has recently named a new cabinet but no such declaration has been issued. The only legal pressures are a vague appeal by the National Transitional Council (NTC) to the public to voluntarily give up their guns, as well as the NTC's right to confiscate unlicensed arms.

And then there are the bigger guns. Dotted across the capital are numerous warehouses, run by the NTC, where the scale of the problem is apparent. They house heavy artillery, RPGs, landmines, and even Scud missiles. Next page

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Fresh dates in winter out of Africa


The National Caline Malek

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ABU DHABI // UAE residents will soon be able to savour fresh dates in winter, thanks to a farm set up by an Abu Dhabi firm in Namibia.

Al Dahra Agricultural Company is embarking on projects across the world to help to meet the UAE's ever-growing demand for food.

It has invested Dh73.4 million in a 1,000-hectare farm in Namibia's southern region of Karas, which should soon be producing about 2,500 tonnes of dates a year.

"Emiratis love the fruit but during the winter they have no way of getting it," said Hatem El Sayed, the sales manager for Al Dahra.

The demand is so high that customers including Carrefour and Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society are already buying between 3 and 5 tonnes of their fruit in advance.

The company has so far shipped 25,000 small date palm trees from Al Ain to Namibia. Most have already been planted, with 5,000 left to go in the ground next February.

The UAE produced about 755,000 tonnes of dates in 2008, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation - 11 per cent of the world's date production.

But fresh dates are produced only in August, September and October. The Namibian farm will harvest in January, February and March.

"Our aim is to supply the dates in the same day to UAE consumers," said Mamoon Othman, the chief executive of Al Dahra. "Last January we got 50 tonnes and this year our objective is to double that."

The next batch is expected at the end of next month.

Within five years, the aim is for the Namibian farm to supply about 2,500 tonnes of dates a year to the Middle East. Al Dahra also has two date farms in Abu Dhabi.

It grows potatoes in Egypt and recently bought 15 sq km of land in Morocco on which it plans to grow olives for oil. Al Dahra also has a rice project in Pakistan expected to yield 100,000 tonnes this year.


A number of global food projects set up by Al Dahra Agricultural Company will help contribute to the UAE's food security.

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Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry P - University of Sharjah - Sharjah

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Taliban told international allies will not abandon Afghanistan after 2014


The National Wafa Issa

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DUBAI // A senior US military chief warned insurgents yesterday not to expect a political or security vacuum in Afghanistan after Nato troops withdraw at the end of 2014.

US Gen John R Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (Isaf), said that the partnership between Afghanistan and the international community would not stop with the Nato withdrawal.

"So if you as the Taliban believe that there would be, on January 1, 2015, this deafening silence across Afghanistan because the international community is gone and you just have your way in Afghanistan - that narrative does not cook any more. It just does not work," he said, speaking on the sidelines of the Afghanistan and Public Affairs conference in Germany."We are going to be here for a long time, and now, speaking as an American officer, we intend to have a robust military capability in Afghanistan to continue the process of the upwards spiral of Afghan military capability."

Nato is working to build a 352,000-strong Afghan army and police force that can take over responsibility for security in their country.

"The insurgency need to understand that they cannot wait us out," Gen Allen said.

The Nato relationship with Afghanistan post-2014 will be complemented by US, British, French, German and Australian involvement, and the list of co-operating countries is increasing, according to Nato officials.

Ambassador Sir Simon Gass, the Nato Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, said the Bonn conference, held last week, marked a commitment by the international community to remain engaged with Afghanistan.

"We were talking about a decade of transformation. That was the message coming out of Bonn, that from 2014 to 2024, we would be building on the work that we have done over the past 10 years to start to transform Afghanistan," Mr Gass said.

He also said that if things went the right way in Afghanistan, the country could blossom because of its strategic location and natural resources.

"So the future, if we get this right, there is a very big benefit to be had by the region ... All of the region has a big stake in the outcome in what we are trying to achieve in Afghanistan," he said.


Nato officials in Dubai said the Taliban in Afghanistan must be pushed to the negotiating table.

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Experts call to narrow risk in windows

Jen Thomas

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ABU DHABI // Windows that open wide at the bottom are popular in the UAE, but they can be dangerous for children if preventative measures are not taken, experts say.

After a spate of accidents in which children have fallen to their deaths from windows, home-safety experts and builders said this week that top-hung windows, which swing open at the bottom, should not be allowed to open more than 10 centimetres.

Also called awning windows, they are common on the glass-facade buildings that dominate the country's skylines. But the size of the openings is not regulated.

"Top-hung windows can be safe even without a lot of investment," said Markus Erhardt, the tendering manager for Folcra Beach, a maker of aluminium architectural facades, doors and windows in Abu Dhabi.

"In fact, normally the top-hung window is not as dangerous as a side-hung window because the opening should be regulated. Surely there is a need for making stricter regulations."

This week, the Government announced it would begin enforcing new building codes early next year that will require windows open only to the internationally recommended 10cm.

Mr Erhardt said the prevalence of top-hung windows could be attributed to the local preference for smooth facades.

"It's mostly an aesthetic choice," he said. "What I've realised in my many years here is that people prefer to see only glass. Also, whatever sticks out of a facade will gather dust on it.

"No one wants something that will always look dirty."

The Department of Municipal Affairs is working to implement rules for property owners that will require flats with occupants younger than 10 to have window locks installed.

"In offices it's OK to have these top-hung windows, but residential buildings should have windows that are more safe and secure," said Joginder Singh Bimbh, the sales manager for the Sharjah manufacturer Tamco Windows and Doors.

Five children have fallen to their deaths from high-rise buildings in the past three weeks, all in Sharjah.

Mr Singh Bimbh said his company recommended tilt-and-turn windows, which open inwards.

"If people want the more safe option they go for the tilt-and-turn style, because it's much harder for kids to fall out," he said.

"We have to wait and watch, because we hope that tilt-and-turn will be more popular than top-hung."

The developer Aldar Properties already follows international standards on new projects.

Andrew Broderick, the head of environment, health, safety and sustainability at Aldar, said window and balcony safety were priorities for the company.

"In the residential apartments that Aldar has built within developments such as Al Raha Beach, there are no windows that open," Mr Broderick said.

"The nature of modern and efficient air-conditioning systems means it is simply not required."

In buildings where windows do open, Aldar installs restrictors that keep them from opening more than 10cm.

"These integrated controls are not easily disabled and would have to be intentionally removed by an adult," Mr Broderick said.

Window makers, builders and safety experts agreed the most important way to prevent accidents was better education for parents and caregivers.

Norm Labbe, a health, safety and environment specialist for Good Harbor Consulting, said the Government's new regulations were just one part of creating a safe environment.

"I think the Government can set standards and regulations through building codes, but from a home-safety perspective the parents have to take responsibility," Mr Labbe said.

Increased home inspections and awareness workshops at schools would also be a crucial addition to any government-run safety campaign, he said.

Owners of properties developed by Aldar receive a packet on health and safety, which includes information and recommendations on parental supervision on balconies and community facilities such as swimming pools and marinas.

Future community newsletters will also feature a section on window safety.

Charles Constantin, the managing director of GEZE Middle East, a developer and manufacturer of door, window and safety systems, said education should start at the building phase.

"Building codes are a very good start but there needs to be more direction towards training people in safety, at every building, at every warehouse, at every construction site," Mr Constantin said.

The new building codes will apply to new projects after the first quarter of next year.

In the meantime, simple fixes including window stoppers and inside screens should help to reduce accidents.

"You need to have legislation but until then you can take steps as a parent," Mr Labbe said.

@ For more on CHILD SAFETY, visit

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CCFS To Put UAE-China Trade On Fast Track


 With China being the UAE’s second largest non-oil trade partner, the Chinese Commodities Fair Sharjah (CCFS) that got under way today (December 5, 2011) at Expo Centre Sharjah is set to give a big thrust to trade exchanges between the two countries.

Non-oil trade between China and the UAE amounted to US$ 12.5 billion in 2010, an increase of nine per cent over 2009, amid expectations that the figure will increase this year.

According to latest statistics, the bilateral trade exchange has already shown a 9.5 per cent increase in Q1 2011, with tourism, halal food & related products, financial services, real estate, construction and energy being strategic areas of economic and trade cooperation between the countries. Both the countries will be looking to focus on yet-to-be-fully-tapped sectors such as manufacturing, electricity, gas and water industries.

With the UAE remaining one of the largest export markets for China and a gateway to the entire Middle East and surrounding regions, CCFS will be the best platform for businesses from both sides to augment their trade relations, according to a cross section of business executives and government officials from both the UAE and China who attended the opening of CCFS on December 5 (Monday) at Expo Centre Sharjah.

The four-day show was jointly inaugurated by Mr. Jiang Yaoping, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Commerce, China, and Mr. Ahmed Mohammed Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI). It will conclude on December 8. The fair is being held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah.

“Trade relations between the UAE and China have been progressing remarkably well with every passing year. This has been made possible by a slew of agreements and MoUs signed by the two countries in recent years and the exchange of high-levels visits,” said Mr. Al Midfa.

“CCFS is presenting dealers and suppliers in the region an opportunity to do business with a country that is the world’s second largest economy with consistent double-digit growth rates. It is also the largest exporter and second largest importer of goods in the world. CCFS will go a long way in maintaining the sound momentum of commercial cooperation and high-level exchange of visits between the countries,” he added.

“While both the nations have synergies in many areas, China has considerable expertise in several industries that are the focus of bilateral trade. What makes Chinese products unique is their wide range of high-tech products that has excellent quality-to-cost ratio,” he said.

The UAE is home to around 3,000 Chinese companies, while projects owned jointly by the two countries have peaked at nearly US$ 12 billion. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, during the last two years, Chinese firms have secured over US$ 4.8 billion worth of contracts in the UAE, while the UAE is the largest Arab investor in China with more than 650 projects.

CCFS will be marking the milestone 10th edition of the show, with several new special focus areas. Apart from over 100 standard booths by over 80 leading enterprises from 15 Chinese cities, the show will have a new theme – ‘Chinese Cities’. This edition, as the representative, Wuhan city will feature local products, culture, tourism and investment opportunities. An overall landscape about Wuhan city will be shown on site.

Products on display will include machinery and electronics, vehicle and components, food and food products, advanced building materials and equipment, native specialties, household appliance and health care products.

CCFS is sponsored by Chinese Ministry of Commerce and Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and organized by China Machinery Exhibition Centre (Chinamex) and Expo Centre Sharjah.

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Syria: More violence, strike looms, elections going ahead


The National Phil Sands

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DAMASCUS // At least 14 people, including four children, were killed in protests in Syria yesterday, activists said, ahead of tomorrow's local elections and the opposition's call for a national strike.

Human-rights groups said 10 civilians were killed and another 12 wounded after security forces opened fire on protesters in Homs and the surrounding area. The city, 160km north of Damascus, has become a focal point in the nine-month-old uprising.

Another civilian was fatally shot at a protest in Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, and a 12-year-old girl was killed by "indiscriminate gunfire" in Deraa.

State media reported that gunmen killed an army officer in Homs, and said 10 security personnel and four civilians were wounded, and a young girl killed, in attacks by "armed terrorist" groups in the southern province of Deraa.

Syrian officials also said a series of bombs were defused or detonated in controlled explosions by technicians in Hama and the Damascus suburb of Douma. According to activists, deserting soldiers exchanged fire with security agents in the neighbourhood.

Earlier in the day, the Syrian National Council (SNC) had warned of an impending "massacre" in Homs, saying government troops and pro-regime militia forces were gathering around parts of city, apparently marshalling for a major assault after an attack on Thursday that targeted an oil pipeline near the city.

With violence apparently on the rise, thousands of dissidents in jail and key urban areas under military lockdown, questions have been raised about how municipal elections, scheduled to begin tomorrow, can actually be held. Opposition groups have called for a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience and a general strike to start on the same day.

National holidays have been called to allow people to vote, and requirements for prior registration have been waived, in an effort to boost participation. The authorities - keen to stress they remain firmly in control of the country - seem set on pressing ahead with the ballot.

But anecdotally there was almost no interest in the polls, which will select local representatives, even among potential candidates themselves. In Damascus the wooden boards hung for campaign posters were largely empty.

"No one is interested in local elections at the best of times and under the circumstances, I can't see many people will bother to vote," said one independent analyst in Damascus. "There is a battle underway for the whole country, a fight for the president's chair. These elections are irrelevant."

Syrian officials have been keen to point out that the municipal ballots would be the first in a series of promised elections, part of what they said was a comprehensive transition to democracy. President Bashar Al Assad has promised a parliamentary vote in February or March with real opposition parties allowed to compete, followed in 2014 by Syria's first open presidential election in more than 50 years.

Mr Al Assad has come under increasing international pressure over his handling of the uprising, in which security forces have killed more than 4,000 people by the most recent United Nations count.

In a rare interview this week, the Syrian president denied a crackdown was underway, dismissed the UN casualty figures as baseless and said he was not responsible for any of the deaths. He blamed foreign-backed insurgents.

Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, yesterday warned that Ankara would consider intervention if the violence in Syria threatened to spill over the border, saying it had the "responsibility and the authority" to take action.


With violence on the rise, thousands of dissidents in jail and key urban areas under military lockdown, questions have been raised about how municipal elections can actually be held.

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Archbishop: Fate of Christians is Arab Spring 'litmus test'

David Sapsted

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LONDON // The treatment of Egyptian Copts and other Christians in North Africa and the Middle East would be the "litmus test" that determines the success or failure of the Arab Spring, the head of the worldwide Anglican church says.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, warned that Christians in the Middle East were "more vulnerable than they had been for centuries".

Speaking in a debate on the consequences of the Arab Spring in the House of Lord in London, Archbishop Williams said that the eventual outcome could be that Christians in the region had to either emigrate or retreat into their own enclaves.

"Many recognise with heavy hearts things may come to such a pass that there are few if any other options that will actually guarantee the safety of Christians there," he said. "But they still feel, surely rightly, that the creation of enclaves would be the yielding of a vitally important principle".

Pointing to the unprecedented levels of emigration among Egyptian Copts, he said: "In a way, that would have been unthinkable even a very few years ago (but) they are anxious about sharing the fate of other Christian communities that once seemed securely embedded in their setting.

"No one is seeking a privileged position for Christians in the Middle East, nor should they be. But what we can say, and I firmly believe that most Muslims here and in many other places would agree entirely, is that the continued presence of Christians in the region is essential to the political and social health of the countries of the Middle East."

Lord (David) Howell, a Foreign Office minister, told the peers in the debate on Friday afternoon that the UK government would do "everything possible" to help fledgling regimes in North Africa and the Middle East in their efforts to embrace democracy and preserve Christians' rights amid political turmoil.

"Christianity comes from the Middle East," he said. "We are talking about the cradle of Christianity - we are not talking about some outside group pushed in from the West to bring the Christian religion. There it sprang up and developed in all its depths.

"As countries embrace reforms and democracy to varying degrees and in varied paces and ways in the process of the Arab Spring, it is absolutely crucial that religious diversity in the Middle East is respected."

Prof Lord (Bhikhu) Parekh, an author of a landmark report on multiculturalism in Britain, said it was essential to speak out in defence of all minorities in the region, not just Christians.

In Iraq, he said, the "misjudged invasion" had led to the "distressing reduction" of some of the oldest Christian communities in the world.

Lord (George) Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, also warned: "The landscape of the Middle East is at grave risk of losing a vibrant, Christian presence that has been a vital part of its history and culture. The region will be hugely poorer for that loss."

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More Than Half Million Visitors In 10 Days $50 Million Dollars Book Sales In SIBF 30th Session


Curtain falls today on the activities of the 30th session of the Sharjah International Book Fair 2011, which was inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, on November 16.

Ninety publishers representing 50 countries from around the world participated in this year’s exhibition which was held in the "Sharjah Expo Centre" and continued for 10 days. This year’s session came distinctive in its great variety of events and participants which mostly aimed to grant the exhibition visitors a rich cultural experience through the vast amount of books and titles, which reached about 300,000 titles.

During this session, the sales of books exceeded all expectations as it surpassed $50 million dollars, with an increase of 25% from last year’s session, where Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, Iran and the UAE came among the most countries with sales focus. The award-winning Arabic novels (Al Poker) witnessed large turnout from visitors, where all displayed novels were sold. As well this year’s session attracted 580,000 visitors coming from all over the world to witness this great world cultural forum.

Ahmed bin Rakkad Amri, Director of Sharjah International Book Fair said: "Since its inception thirty years ago and Sharjah International Book Fair is achieving success after success and this was not possible without the great efforts of the Knight of Arab culture His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member Ruler of Sharjah, which has spared no effort in supporting local and Arab culture and highlighting its intellectual, beautiful & valuable core as well as showing what the Arab and Islamic civilization owns from treasures of knowledge and elevation in cultural history. In this year’s session the unexpected happened starting from the large crowd of visitors and media plus the Arab and international Publishers as well as the size of events, seminars and cultural performances that truly resembled the remarkable level that Sharjah has reached to which it earned and deserved the title of the Capital of Arab culture.” He also added, “We will not stand at this point and we will continue to achieve successes in the exhibition sessions for the coming years so Sharjah will maintain its status as a great beacon glowing with diverse colors of culture and knowledge that guide every eager intellectual to drink from intellect forms, see the preeminent books and have a chance to meet with elite writers and publishers and identify what is in our age of cultural and intellectual issues and topics."

Over 10 days, the exhibition also hosted a group of journalists, publishers & writers, through a series of seminars and programs which received admiration of many visitors in various categories and ages, including the fourth session of the Arab Publishers cycle, which included a range of advice and guidance concerning the process of marketing, publishing and strategic plans through which they can employ websites as well as operations of buying & selling publications online. Furthermore, children had a large share through the “child program” which presented more than 200 activities with great variety throughout the days of the events. Added to the cooking pavilion where chefs presented a wide variety of foods and desserts that represented a number of Arab and international kitchens and a pavilion to display the various cookbooks. Not to mention the “book seminar program," where a group of writers and authors highlighted global topics of interest to the reader today as they were presented in the form of a smooth intellectual talk show.

Also this year, and to celebrate its 30th anniversary, Sharjah International Book Fair has witnessed the launch of grant translation fund of $300,000 U.S. dollars to support the field of translation, networking and educational programs to encourage the translation of books to and from Arabic to enrich the Arab and global culture with new & valuable stocks of knowledge and science that belong to our modern cultural world. Besides this year, the exhibition included the “on air reading club” program and this was further to the experience of the program "in the presence of the book," which was launched in cooperation with Sharjah Media Organization, that has presented a great supply of books & best titles.

SIBF 2011 also witnessed dozens of signatures of authors for their recently published books, most notably the signature of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah for his book "Hasad Al Seneen" In addition to referring to the problems and challenges that face the era’s culture as well as a number of activities accompanying the exhibition dedicated to the public from toys show to children’s plays, and the storyteller.

Participants and visitors praised the great efforts made by the Culture and Media Department of Sharjah Government in the organization of the event through attracting Arab and world-class authors and publishers added to the great diversity & increase of events from previous years, where they had the opportunity to meet directly with an elite group of exhibitors, writers and publishers from around the world. Furthermore, the great updates on the cultural issues they encountered through the seminars that dealt with a number of issues and matters of interest to the reader. It is worth mentioning that, translations to and from the Arabic language has been provided to all the seminars and lectures hosted by this year’s session.

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Sharjah project to aid poor women


The National Yasin Kakande

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SHARJAH // The Sharjah Business Women Council (SBWC) and Oxfam GB are collaborating on a programme to empower women.

The two organisations have signed a memorandum of understanding to launch Intilaqah, designed to help poor Emirati women who work from their homes.

Under the programme, the women will receive help with funding, promoting and marketing their hand-made items.

Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, the chairwoman of the Supreme Council on Family Affairs and honorary patron of the SBWC, said she had seen a need to support such women and help them to develop after a visit to the eastern and middle regions of the emirate.

Sheikha Jawaher, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, said she had been impressed by the women, who embraced and kept alive traditional crafts.

The SBWC and Oxfam will exchange knowledge and information, share lessons on small and medium enterprise development and provide support to promote entrepreneurship, said Moza Al Khayyal, an SBWC board member and head of the programme.


The aid organisation Oxfam will be helping women in Sharjah produce and sell handmade items.

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Europe's 'last chance' to solve debt crisis


The National Ferry Biedermann

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AMSTERDAM // Confronting major questions about the future of the euro zone, European Union leaders started a crucial two-day summit in Brussels last night.

They are meeting to restore confidence in the single currency by finally dealing firmly with the debilitating debt crisis facing the bloc.

Yesterday, a European regulator said the continent’s banks must raise US$153.8 billion (Dh565bn) to meet a new standard meant to inoculate the institutions against market turmoil and bad government debt.

European banks have billions of dollars of risky government bonds on their books, and as the continent’s crisis has deepened, investors have become concerned the institutions will not be able weather expected losses.

In response, European Union leaders decided to force banks to raise more money. The European Banking Authority said yesterday that banks need to raise US$153.8 billion to meet those requirements.

In another sign of the huge market pressure on Europe’s borrowing abilities, the rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, on Wednesday night put the EU itself and its banks on notice that they could lose the highest credit rating.

The agency had earlier warned 15 euro zone countries, including Germany, that their ratings were in danger of being downgraded.

The European Central Bank (ECB) to whom many are now looking for a solution, yesterday lowered its main interest rate to 1 per cent.

That is as low as during the financial crisis in 2008 but not as low as some analysts had hoped for. But all eyes remained on the meeting in Brussels, as it is widely accepted that far-reaching reforms of the EU and its institutions are necessary to solve the problems in the euro zone and beyond. This has led to escalating political tensions in the bloc.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, dramatically highlighted the stakes yesterday at a meeting of Conservative Euro leaders in Marseille ahead of the Brussels talks.

“Never has Europe been so necessary and never has it been in so much danger,” he said. “Never has the risk of Europe’s explosion been so great. If we don’t have agreement on Friday we won’t have a second chance.”

The outline of a deal between the euro zone’s two main players, Germany and France, emerged over the past week, but a host of financial and political obstacles continue to bedevil the policymakers.

Borrowing rates for weaker euro zone countries remained under pressure and non-euro zone EU countries such as Britain, worried at being sidelined, raised new demands of their own.

Even so, as the euro zone crisis threatens the economy of the entire EU and the global financial system, expectations were that the bloc would lurch towards a deal.

Last Updated:Dec 9, 2011

At the euro-zone summit today, each country will perform its scripted roles but this play has no end in sight.

Alan Philps

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, yesterday stressed the importance of Europe handling the crisis. “We have great confidence in Europe. There is absolutely no doubt about that. But we do need a plan to rally behind to know the way forward,” she said in a message to the EU’s leaders.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Mr Sarkozy – snidely referred to by some European media as “Merkozy” – sent their proposed measures to the EU on Wednesday, along with a call for rapid action.

“We are convinced that we need to act without delay,” they said in their letter to Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Union.

But the measures they proposed and the way they seek to implement them almost guarantee a long and drawn-out process.
The deal focuses heavily on budget discipline in the 17 euro zone countries, even imposing automatic penalties on excessive spending.

This has been a major German demand, as the country seeks to expand its own brand of fiscal prudence to the rest of the euro zone.

But such European interference would mean a substantial loss of sovereignty for the participating countries. Oversight would be in the hands of the European Commission in Brussels and the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg.

For that to be possible, a change to the European Union treaty for all 27 EU members, including those that remain outside the euro zone, is probably required. Next page


A European regulator said the continent's banks must raise US$153.8 billion (Dh565bn) to meet a new standard meant to inoculate the institutions against market turmoil and bad government debt.

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Arab Spring brings distaste for US aid

Carol Huang

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ABU DHABI // The US is having to adjust its approach to foreign aid for nations such as Egypt that are flush with revolution-inspired independence and wariness of outsiders, said Egyptian activists, a US official and political analysts yesterday.

“We don’t want people meddling in our affairs without us knowing about it. I think this is really the most consensus sentiment,” said the prominent Egyptian activist and blogger Wael Khalil.

“There is an interest in more autonomy and more transparency,” he said. “If you’re going to pump money in NGOs, who are you, why are you doing that, who are these NGOs, what are their agendas?”

Mr Khalil spoke on the sidelines of a two-day conference hosted by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Centre (ADGC) that ended yesterday.

Political and religious scholars and government officials from Egypt, Jordan, the United States, the UK and other countries gathered to discuss Arab youth, Muslim-West relations and changes in the region.

In surveys conducted by Gallup, many Egyptians expressed distaste for foreign aid, especially from the US, the ADGC director Dalia Mogahed said in a panel discussion.

“It’s very interesting that when we do look at our research, Egyptians are welcoming of Arab government aid, somewhat welcoming of IMF aid, and very unwelcoming of American aid, in that order,” she said.

Esraa Abdul Fattah, whose activism in Egypt since 2008 and particularly this year won her a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, agreed that many viewed US funding with suspicion, in particular that it was backing certain political parties. US support for democracy seemed belied by Washington’s longtime support for the former president Hosni Mubarak, she said.

Aid should go instead to Egypt’s economy and civil society, which badly needed support, she said. “US money should go to civil society, not political parties. And civil society can work with the political parties.”

A US State Department official, Peter Mandaville, discounted the popular suspicions in Egypt that America was trying to use money to pick election winners, but acknowledged that the US needed to respond to such sentiments.

“This impression that there were US government people walking around Egypt handing out bags of money to groups and parties that the US likes ... is not at all what was happening,” said Mr Mandaville, a Middle East policy adviser to the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and an academic specialising in the region.

He added: “The US would concede that we haven’t always done as good a job as we should in helping people in the countries in which we’re working to understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

There is “broad sensitivity about money and influence coming from outside Egypt right now”, he said.

Since protests erupted in Cairo in January, the US had allocated US$60 million (Dh220m) in new funds to support democracy and governance and $90m (Dh330m) to bolster the economy, he said. It also forgave $1 billion (Dh3.67bn)in debt on the condition that those funds would be used for certain  purposes that are still being negotiated.

Most of the democracy funds supported American organisations to provide training in political campaigns for any interested party. The rest of the $60m went to NGOs and other members of civil society, he said.

The US hoped to explain its policies better through its USAID Egypt website, and better vet and regulate NGOs to which it gave funds, he said.

It had also begun recognising “emerging donors” – as opposed to traditional donors such as those in Europe or Japan – that it might be able to partner with including the UAE, South Korea and Brazil. This could include coordinating to make sure efforts did not overlap.

The UAE and other Gulf states could also help in “burden-sharing” by fulfilling earlier aid pledges to Egypt, he said. “That’s something we’d like to talk with our Gulf partners about.”

The conference culminated in a presentation of recommendations based on two days of working-group sessions covering youth in the Arab world, citizen inclusion, the role of public-private partnerships, political violence and western-Muslim integration. The groups studied survey data provided by Gallup to forge their recommendations.

The political violence team, for example, urged law-enforcement agencies to avoid profiling in their effort to identify suspicious individuals.

“We tested a number of variables to see whether they would help identify who would spark political violence,” said Stephane Lacrois, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris who presented his group’s recommendations. “Profiling doesn’t work.”

Participants in the forum included Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, the special envoy of the king of Jordan; the Libyan ambassador to the UAE and long-time theologian Aref Nayed, and the prominent US-based Islam expert John Esposito.

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Bahrain athletes have protest charges dropped

Associated Press

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MANAMA // Bahrain has halted trial proceedings for more than 100 athletes and dropped charges related to their participation in protests.

The athletes were among hundreds put on trial as part of a crackdown on Shiite-led dissent. Bahrain News Agency said the king officially "forgave" the athletes.

It's unclear what will happen to athletes already convicted.

A medal-winning bodybuilder, a national football team goalkeeper and a basketball player were sentenced Sunday to one year in prison each.

In June, another football player was sentenced to two years in prison.

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Consultant Radiologist - Sharjah


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Special-needs centre helps young adults

Ramola Talwar Badam

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DUBAI // Shonly Varghese, a teenager with learning disabilities, may one day live his dream of working in an office.

Shonly, 18, will learn basic skills at a new centre that will train young adults with special needs.

Clearing office clutter, filing papers, printing and laminating documents, and tagging goods with prices may seem like mundane tasks to most teens, but mastering them will give Shonly and his friends a shot at finding a job in the real world.

The Special Needs Families Development Centre (SNF) in Dubai has this week begun teaching life skills to a group of young students to also help them cope with everyday life.

As well as office tasks, they will practise making simple salads and sandwiches, doing laundry, ironing clothes and setting the table.

"One time you show me, I do the work alone," said an eager Shonly. "I like work, any work you give me. I can clean the office, I can work the photo machine, I can put pencils, notebooks and pens properly."

A mock-up office complete with desks, a copier, stacks of files, and spiral binding and lamination machines has been set up in the newly expanded SNF.

The centre has added rooms to the 12-room apartment it operates inside the Karama Centre, a bustling mall filled with commercial offices.

Safia Baria, the founder of SNF, says her goal is to make her young charges more independent. Some of the students, aged between 14 and 22, have hearing impairments, Down's syndrome and cerebral palsy.

The centre is one of a handful in the Emirates that focuses on teaching young adults with disabilities. The students are too old for early-intervention schools.

Over the past year, some students have been receiving training in the back office and reception areas of a furniture store, a financial services firm and a chemical company.

Mrs Baria, a former school teacher who started with art-and-craft classes out of her home in 1998, said she believed honing the students' skills at the centre would help them perform better at work.

"Once you give them a task they will not rest until it's done," she said. "They are focused, dedicated and sincere, and will not be checking their Facebook account or be busy on the mobile phone like people in the mainstream.

"For companies, it's a chance to give these youngsters confidence that they can be a part of society."

The centre has also recreated a living room, bedroom, laundry and kitchen so instructors can work on the functional skills of the students.

The students are being taught to make their beds, place their clothes on hangers, button garments, vacuum and tidy the area.

There is a washing machine and ironing stand in one room, while a refrigerator and microwave are in an adjoining room. There, the students also practise tasks such as washing dishes, making tea and preparing quick snacks such as noodles.

April Garrido and Ruwaida Sheikh supervise the students in the centre's home area.

"We will teach them in easy steps as our main goal is independence," Ms Garrido said. "The whole room is simulated like a real home to help them take care of themselves if their parents or helpers are not around.

"They should be able to go to the kitchen, fix a meal, and clean up afterwards."

Each student has his own schedule for training in the work and home areas, as teachers gauge how much help they need.

"It should not be overwhelming and once they realise it's things they do at home, it will be easier," said Ms Sheikh.

"Realistically, all the students will not get jobs but they need to learn basic survival skills to help them at home and to integrate socially."

A separate space has been reserved for a project to shred newspapers and waste paper, and recycle them into coasters, table mats and lampshades.

The excitement is tangible among the students and teachers.

Karan Bhatijia, 21, who has a hearing impairment, had a ready smile while communicating in sign language that he enjoyed learning.

Karan also said he wanted to learn pricing and tagging goods, and working on the computer.

Muneeb Ali, 18, said: "It is good to work, very good to work. I can learn more. I can learn everything."

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Oil pipeline blown up by saboteurs, says Syria

The National staff

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A major Syrian pipeline carrying oil to a refinery in Homs province was blown up yesterday in an attack the state-run news agency blamed on "saboteurs" as activists reported fresh violence from the government crackdown.

No one was injured in the blast but a plume of black smoke was sent into the sky. A government official said the blast caused a fire that burnt for hours. "An armed terrorist group on Thursday committed an act of sabotage," the state-run Sana news agency said.

It was not clear who was behind the pipeline explosion at a time when violence in Syria is spiralling out control. The opposition accuses the government of playing on fears of religious extremism and terrorism to rally support behind President Bashar Al Assad, who has portrayed himself as the only force that can stabilise the country.

There were two similar blasts on Syrian pipelines in July and it is still not know who was behind them.

Also yesterday, activists said security forces killed up to 14 people, most of them in Homs. The reports could not be independently confirmed as Syria has banned most foreign journalists from the country and prevented independent reporting.

The government's response has led the US and the European Union to impose additional sanctions against Mr Al Assad's administration, and the effects of the continuing turmoil are cascading throughout the region.

Jordan is seeking to be exempt from imposing Arab League sanctions, the bloc is urging Syria to sign a peace plan immediately while Iraq has agreed to mediate between the Arab League and Syria.

Meanwhile, Syrian activists have called for a nationwide strike on Sunday as the first stage in a campaign of civil disobedience against the government of Mr Al Assad.

The Local Coordination Committees, the grassroots organisers of the peaceful protest movement which began in March, said the campaign would include sit-ins, shop closures and strikes by public service workers and students.

A similar call for a walkout two months ago had mixed results.

On the diplomatic front, the head of the Arab League said yesterday that Syria should sign the bloc's proposed peace plan as soon as possible if it wants to avert economic penalties.

The Arab League secretary general, Nabil Elaraby, said he held talks with officials in Iraq to "explore whether the Iraqi government is willing to exert its influence with Syria" to agree to the Arab plan.

"What we expect is as soon as possible Syria will accept to sign the protocol ... now it is up to Syria, the ball is in the Syrian court," Mr Elaraby said at a joint news conference with Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari in Baghdad.

Last Updated:Dec 9, 2011

If Damascus falls, regional politics will feel the reverbrations from Tehran to Tel Aviv.

Paul Salem

Already hit by economic sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe, Syria now faces further sanctions from Arab nations. Turkey and Jordan are calling on Mr Al Assad to step down, with Ankara imposing 30 per cent duty on imports from Syria in retaliation for a similar tax imposed on Turkish goods.

Iraq, however, has resisted sanctions against Damascus. Officials say they are worried violence in Syria could spill over the border and upset Iraq's delicate sectarian balance.

The Arab League has repeatedly extended deadlines for Syria to agree to a plan that would see Arab monitors oversee its withdrawal of troops from towns. The latest expired on Sunday.

Syria says the Arab proposal infringes on its sovereignty and has asked for clarification.

Mr Elaraby said no new deadline has been set and the Arab League's sanctions took effect on November 27. He also said the League is likely to meet representatives of the Syrian opposition by next week.

Speaking alongside Mr Elaraby, Mr Zebari said Iraq was in talks with both the Syrian government and the opposition to try to end the bloodshed.

In Jordan, the government has asked the League to be exempt from the bloc's sanctions on Syria. Jordan is worried about the toll they will take on the kingdom's ailing economy, a government official said yesterday. Next page

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Mohammed bin Rashid attends the World Endurance Championship for Juniors and Youth Riders

WAM Abu Dhabi, Dec 10th, 2011 (WAM)--His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, attended the World Endurance Championship for Juniors and Youth Rider for distance of 120 km, held today at Emirates International Endurance Village in Al Wathba, in which 77 riders, representing 29 countries took part.

The race was attended by H. H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and H. H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

Uruguayan rider, Martin Sterling was crowned with individual gold medal, registering 5.18. 51 hours at average speed of 22. 58 km per hour. For the UAE team, the rider Sheikh Khalifa bin Mohammed Al-Hamid, came in the fifth place at the individual level.

The second place and silver medal was won by Australian Alex Jones, while the third place, bronze medal, was won by rider Orina Rica from Uruguay.

On the teams level, the Uruguayan national team won the gold medal and followed by the French team with silver medal, while Australian team came in the third place by winning the bronze medal.

Sheikh Mansour said in a statement that the hosting of UAE of the World Endurance Championship for Juniors and Youth Riders and other championships, reflect the international position of the UAE regarding hosting of the world championships of different games.


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Global Village Receives 1.25 Million Visitors During The First Month


Global Village, the largest outdoor family entertainment venue in the region and member of Tecom Investments, has announced receiving 1.25 million visitors since the opening on 1st November till now.

Last Thursday and Friday, Global Village received 200,000 visitors, especially in light with the 40th UAE National Day celebrations. Furthermore, Khalifat Zayed show has attracted many visitors and received high praise from all audience.

This turnout from visitors is striking that Global Village is the most important entertainment venue in the Middle East. Therefore, Global Village is always keen on the development and modernization in all facilities. It is also the culmination of the continued success of Global Village to attract millions of visitors every year.

Global Village management prepared well last Friday, opening all gates half hour earlier than the official entry as hundreds of visitors crowded from 3:30 pm.

Parking in Global Village with capacity of 16 thousand was full from 6 pm which led Global Village management to offer number of buses to transport visitors from parking to gates and vice versa. This move came due to overcrowding from families.

Visitors spent 8 hours of fun and entertainment, roaming in various pavilions and interact with many performances. Restaurants also offer diverse cuisines cater all nationalities and tastes.

More than 30 pavilions provide a variety of goods and received overwhelming response from the audience in addition to Art and entertainment shows brought from all over the world witnessing high response from all visitors.

Global Village is keen to introduce new ways of entertainment every year. This year, Global Village prepared an array of variety shows from around the world. Dancing Fountain show and Water screen are the prominent activities as well as different events which brought for the first time ever in the region. Global cultural theatre also is another feature in this season, hosting many shows including the Argentinean Troupe show, African folk show and different concerts.

Several games were added to Fun Fair which increased space by 30%, matching all ages of from 4 years. Some of these games attract Amateur adventures.

Shows provided by difference pavilions in Global Village considered as open theatre for audience to learn more about the different cultures of the world.

Since the inauguration in 1997, Global Village has become the key entertainment and shopping destination in the region. It includes rich diverse cultures and civilizations and offers a diverse range of restaurants and shops from across the world. In fact, Global Village is the main entertainment, culture and family fun destination in the region
For more information about the Global Village shows and activities, please contact the call centre on 04-3624114, or visit and stay tuned to Global Village updates through Facebook and Twitter (GlobalVillageAE) and through the 24/7 online live streaming channel on

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Cash incentives for university students

Melanie Swan

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ABU DHABI // As the number of universities continues to grow, some institutions are turning to cash incentives to try to attract the best students.

At Abu Dhabi Polytechnic, which launched in September with courses including nuclear and semiconductor technology, monthly allowances proved invaluable in attracting its first batch of students.

The polytechnic hasabout 150 trainee technicians and offers all students Dh4,000 a month for the first six months. Whether they continue to receive the grant after that depends on their grades. A-grade students with a grade-point average (GPA) of 3.7 or higher, will receive Dh5,000 a month, while those at the bottom get Dh2,500.

The polytechnic's director, Dr Ahmed Alawar, hopes the incentive will encourage students to study hard and improve the current C-grade average.

"We are competing for students with the local and private universities, so in order to secure them, we needed to give them an incentive to come to us."

In the longer term, he hopes the polytechnic will be able to sell itself on its unique courses and guaranteed jobs after graduation.

A similar scheme has long been used at the Petroleum Institute, which trains staff for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc). Since the 1970s, Adnoc has awarded scholarships to top students at universities around the world, paying their living costs and tuition fees, to help them study specialist subjects key to the oil and gas industry.

Similar schemes are also offered by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

For those travelling abroad, benefits include cash grants - up to Dh22,000 a month with the Ministry of Presidential Affairs - as well as extras such as flights home.

In return, graduates are obliged to work for a certain number of years for a related government entity after finishing their course.

Khalifa University's master's students in nuclear engineering are sponsored by the Emirates Nuclear Energy Company. They too receive living costs, rent, tuition fees and a stipend. Dr Philip Beeley, the head of the programme, said this had been earmarked back in 2008, in a fund supported by the Abu Dhabi Government, in preparation for the opening of the emirate's nuclear plants, which are due to begin operation in 2017.

"It's not a case of us having to compete with other universities, in or out of the UAE, but the main challenge in the UAE is that there's a small pool of people and we all want them," he said.

"We want the best students as well. Our entry requirements are very tough so we're only looking at a certain percentage of the population who could even achieve the grades required for entry."

Both Emirati and foreign students at the Masdar Institute receive monthly grants, housing and have their tuition paid. "We wanted the best and the brightest," said its provost, Professor Joseph Cecchi. "That was part of the incentive to do that."

Such incentives need to come direct from universities, says Prof Cecchi, because the UAE lacks the funding institutes available to postgraduate students in the US.

The overarching aim, according to Dr Nabil Ibrahim, the chancellor of Abu Dhabi University, is to encourage more Emiratis to pursue education in areas such as engineering, applied sciences and medicine. "It is an experiment that other countries use to build national capacity and meet the workforce needs for economic development," he said.

But Dr Natasha Ridge, the head of research at the Al Qassimi Foundation For Policy Research in Ras Al Khaimah, warns that incentives are not a long-term solution, as they fail to address the root problems.

Boys are a particular concern, she said, as many are lured from school into well-paid jobs in the army and police, discouraging them from education. In federal institutions, only 30 per cent of students are male.

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Volvo organisers unfurl anti-piracy measures


The National Eugene Harnan

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Organisers of the Volvo Ocean Race have revealed more details about their plans to avoid pirate attacks before the yachts reach Abu Dhabi.

Public access to the tracking system on the six racing vessels will be turned off. The yachts will also be loaded on to a container ship at an undisclosed port in the Indian Ocean after the race leaves Cape Town, South Africa.

The boats will resume racing again at an undisclosed point within a day's sailing of Abu Dhabi, off the coastline of the Northern Emirates. The 10-leg race, which began in Alicante, Spain in November, reached Cape Town last week. The second leg to Abu Dhabi will begin on Sunday.

The risk of pirate attacks forced organisers to put the yachts on to a container ship with armed guards. Crews will not travel with the ship.

When the fleet embarks on its third leg to Sanya, China on January 14, the operation will be reversed from the capital.

Yachts will be reloaded to a vessel at another safe haven in the Arabian Gulf, then shipped across the Indian Ocean before resuming the fourth leg.

The scoring system has been changed because of the amendments to the route.

Between Cape Town and Safe Haven One, 80 per cent of the points are allocated. For the final sprint of Leg Two, 20 per cent of the points are up for contention. For the fourth leg, the points system is reversed, so that 20 per cent will be allocated from Abu Dhabi to the undisclosed location, and then 80 per cent will be allocated from the drop-off point to the Chinese port.

Jack Lloyd, the race director, said: "It is unfortunate that we have to take these measures, but we have followed professional advice every step of the way.

"It is still very much a race around the world and we believe we have found a fair points system that will help make it an exciting sprint into Abu Dhabi.

"The teams all understand the situation and have given us their full support."

The race will end in Galway, Ireland next July.


Organisers of the Volvo Ocean Race plan to place ships on to a container at an undisclosed location for transport across the Indian Ocean, in order to avoid pirate attacks.

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Hospital officials in India arrested after 89 die in fire

Suryatapa Bhattacharya

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NEW DELHI // Six hospital officials were arrested for culpable homicide after four staff members and 85 patients and their relatives died in a fire yesterday at their Kolkata facility.

State officials said most of the hospital staff fled the burning seven-storey building, abandoned the patients and failed to alert the fire and rescue department after the blaze started in the basement at 3.30am.

At least 85 patients and their visitors died of suffocation from smoke, some of which crept through the air conditioning system. There were 160 patients in the 190-bed AMRI Hospital at the time.

"It was horrifying that the hospital authorities did not make any effort to rescue trapped patients," said Subrata Mukherjee, West Bengal state minister for public health engineering. "Senior hospital authorities ran away after the fire broke out."

Authorities say they have not yet determined the cause of the fire.

As rescuers scrambled to evacuate survivors, police accused the hospital of violating safety procedures. Among the six arrested were, RS Goenka, of the Emami Group, and SK Todi, of the Shrachi Group, on charges of culpable homicide. The Emami Group and the Shrachi Group are co-owners the hospital.

"It's a very serious offence, and we will take the strongest action," Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the state of West Bengal, said.

Bengalis living in New Delhi were outraged. In Delhi's Chittaranjan Park market, Kiron Nag, a parking attendant, said this is not the first time he has heard of a hopsital disaster from his hometown of Kolkata, formerly called Calcutta.

"This is years of infrastructure neglect and mismanagement that is now showing up," he said. "This has gone on for so long, I am not sure who we can blame anymore when something like this happens."

Authorities revoked the hospital's licence. Ms Banjeree said the facility had received repeated warnings in September from fire and safety officials who found flammable materials such as oxygen cylinders, old linen and radiation equipment being stored in the basement. Hospital officials were ordered to clean the basement.

Scientists from Mumbai's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre were at the scene yesterday to check for radiation leaks.

The hospital officials expressed regret over the deaths, but denied they, or their staff, was at fault.

The loss of life was "extremely unfortunate and painful", but the facility strictly followed safety measures, said Satyabrata Upadhyay, a senior vice president of the AMRI hospital company.

He promised to give 200,000 rupees (Dh14,000) to the relatives of the dead.

The expensive AMRI private hospital was rated one of the best hospitals in the city in 2011 by The Week magazine, an Indian publication. However, safety regulations are routinely ignored at hospitals throughout India.

Firefighters on long ladders smashed windows in the upper floors to pull trapped patients out before they suffocated, while sobbing relatives waited on the street below. Rescue workers took patients on stretchers and in wheelchairs to a nearby hospital.

Moon Moon Chakraborty, who was in the hospital with a broken ankle, called her husband, S Chakraborty, at home to tell him the building was on fire.

"She had died by the time I reached the hospital," Mr Chakraborty said.

The fire was first noticed by people living in a slum close to the hospital, according to witnesses. Some of them rushed to the hospital and raised an alarm, but security guards kept them back, saying there was a small fire in the kitchen and there was nothing to worry about. As the smoke enveloped the building, the slum dwellers joined in the rescue effort.

It took firefighters more than an hour to arrive after the blaze started, said Pradeep Sarkar, a witness.

The narrow streets in the neighbourhood apparently made it difficult for fire trucks to get close to the building and for firefighters to bring in the big hydraulic ladders needed to evacuate those trapped inside.

Patients and relatives complained that hospital staff did little to help and that smoke detectors failed to go off.

Sudipta Nundy, who lives in Kolkata, said her brother-in-law Amitabha Das was being treated for an infection at the hospital. He died by the time rescuers arrived.

"He would have survived had hospital authorities allowed outsiders in early to evacuate the patients," Ms Nundy said.

* With additional reporting by Associated Press

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