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Stiff penalties for jewel frauds

Ola Salem

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ABU DHABI // After three hours of an often heated debate, the FNC approved a law to impose stiff new penalties on fraudulent jewellery dealers.

It suggested the penalty for the false description of diamonds, gold, platinum and other jewellery should be set at up to three years in jail or a Dh1million fine.

If approved by the Cabinet, merchants will have to make sure all their goods bear the UAE's official stamps, or foreign-approved stamps, indicating their gold, silver, or platinum content.

Much of yesterday's discussion centred on whether the law should cover goods in transit through the UAE. "Eighty per cent of the goods that come into the country come in to be exported, only 20 per cent stay here," Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, the head of the authority overseeing precious stones and rare metals trade, told the council.

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Rough weather delays refloating of sunken ship off Sharjah


Sharjah: Environmental officials in the UAE are adopting a wait-and-see approach to Sunday's sinking of oil tanker Lady Moon half a kilometre off Al Hamriya Port in Sharjah.

With rough seas prevailing over recent days, there have been only small traces of fuel floating on the surface, presumed to be emanating from the diesel cargo aboard the tanker which could be refloated when calm weather returns by early next week.

It's entirely possible that the diesel fuel cargo may be contained within the holds of tanker Lady Moon until she is raised once again, said authorities, given reports the hull still may be intact.

Keith Wilson, marine programme director with the Emirates Marine Emirates Group (EMEG) told Gulf News on Monday that evidence so far suggests that the fuel cargo is under control.

Word that the ship will be raised is a good sign that ecological harm to aquatic marine life could only be minimal.

"If it is being refloated, it would appear there is no problem," said Wilson in an interview.

He pointed out that EMEG has not yet been called in as observers as part of any potential clean-up.

Wilson said the oil traces seen on the surface could be light diesel fuel which tends to rise to the surface and dissipate quickly as compared to heavier diesel fuel which is more prone to sinking in water.

Authorities, meanwhile, are attempting to reach the owner of Lady Moon.

Search for owner

"We are trying to reach the owner so that we can refloat the vessel," said Hamriya Port authorities in a statement yesterday.

According to information, the 23-metre long vessel has the capacity to carry 150 to 250 tonnes of oil.

"The operation room wants to establish contact with the owners so that he can take the vessel out. We have controlled everything and monitored the situation around the clock," Hamriya Port authorities said.

All five crew members were rescued after the oil tanker sank.

Meanwhile, authorities are planning to refloat another oil tanker that sank in October last year off the UAE coastline.

Officials said that White Whale, a ship owned by the same company, can be expected to be refloated by the end of this week.

White Whale, a vessel that carried more than 1,000 tonnes of diesel, sank about 35km off the coast of Umm Al Quwain and about 25km east of Sharjah's Port Khalid.

Gulf News tried to contact the Ministry of Environment but they were not available for comments.

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Dubai arrests more than 4,000 illegal workers

Preeti Kannan

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DUBAI // More than 4,000 unlicensed traders, butchers, porters, car cleaners and beggars were arrested last year, most of them during Ramadan, Dubai Municipality announced yesterday.

The municipality urged residents not to employ illegal labourers, saying they posed a security threat.

"This phenomenon increases during Ramadan and festival seasons," said Obaid Ibrahim Al Marzouqi, the head of the municipality's markets section.

His department, along with Dubai Police and the Department of Residence and Foreigners Affairs, detained more than 3,000 unlicensed vendors and porters, 472 car cleaners, 188 butchers and 536 beggars.

The municipality also seized more than 57,000 pirated films, and at least 1,600 alcohol bottles.

However, some labourers said they were forced into illegal work because they had taken huge loans to pay recruitment agents in their home countries. Many said they had come to the UAE based on promises of high salaries, but after arriving were paid less than they had been told.

MR, an Indian who has been in the UAE without a residency visa for a year, said he had paid 80,000 rupees (Dh5,712) to an agent for a job in Dubai.

"I have to make up for the money I took," he said. "Our family land has been mortgaged and the only way I can get it back is by accumulating some money," said MR, who washes cars, works on building sites, and does other odd jobs.

"I was brought on a work visa by a packaging company, who promised Dh800 a month and accommodation. But they paid only Dh300 and I had to pay for my own accommodation and food. It was really difficult to make ends meet."

He quit the company after a year.

Another worker said he had been without a visa for the past five years.

"I do some electrical and plumbing jobs," said MK, also from India, who makes about Dh60 a day. He said this was the only way he could support his wife and two children.

"I would really like to go back home as I am missing my family," he said.

MK paid 60,000 rupees (Dh4,284) to an agent for a visit visa.

"I send some money home so my family can survive," he said. "There is little work in my village. At least here I can do some small jobs."

A social worker yesterday said workers should be educated on the need to secure sufficiently well-paying jobs before leaving their home countries.

"It is difficult to discourage people from coming," said Uma Rani Padmanabhan, an Indian welfare worker who helps expatriates in distress.

"If people are coming on a visit, they should report to the consulate and give details of their visit. The UAE Government should also scrutinise visit visa holders and check their academic qualifications, the purpose of their visit and other travel details," she said.

Mrs Padmanabhan said that even when workers were made aware of visa rules they often ignored them.

"They have families to support and they want to make some money fast and leave," she said.

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Sleek bikes to replace fire trucks as first-response vehicles in Dubai


Dubai: Fire fighting in narrow alleys and busy roads in Dubai has become easier, thanks to an innovative motorcycle that will be soon incorporated into the Dubai Civil Defence (DCD).

The Firexpress motorcycle, developed in Denmark and presented to the authority during the Intersec security exhibition in Dubai, will be used as a first response for quick intervention in hard-to-reach fires.

The modified police version BMW motorcycle will be tested by the Civil Defence and further developed in line with the authority's requirements, Brigadier Ahmad Obaid Al Sayegh, Deputy Director General for Firefighting and Rescue of Dubai Civil Defence, said.

"We are always informed about the latest technologies in global markets to be able to benefit from them, and we have promised the producing company that our technical department will carry out any modifications to meet the requirements of our specific working conditions," Brig Al Sayegh told Gulf News.

Brig Al Sayegh said the Civil Defence had implemented many initiatives to train residents in fire safety and evacuation at homes, schools and offices, but latest technologies are also a must.

"In some cases, we have fires in the desert, such as car fires, and if we do not have the right equipment and vehicles to reach them, we will not be able to put them off," he said.

Raising efficiencies

Major Firas Mohammad Bel Hasa, Director of DCD Technical Affairs Department, said the department works closely with specialised companies to raise the efficiency of procured equipment.

"We will develop the motorcycle with additional technologies and add-ons to suit our requirements, which will be implemented by the manufacturing company," he said.

The motorcycle will also be accompanying parades, Brig Al Sayegh said.

"Dubai is a city of events and surprises, and we have to keep up with the development of the emirate and expect the unexpected," he said. "Whether accidents happen in the city, desert or sea, we have to be able to reach them quickly and take action," he added. The Firexpress Fire Fighting Motorcycle ‘BMW R1200 RT' is equipped with two 25-litre tanks containing premixed water and foam.The motorcycle is the only certified bike to hold the load, and each one is tested with a full load at a speed of up to 180kmph. The water/foam mix is used through a misting system, which produces micro drops of water.Each litre of the mix has the fire-fighting power of 10 litres of other material, as the water droplets form a cloud that engulfs the fire, which prevents air from reaching it. It also cools down fires and prevents re-ignition. The 30-metre-long hose helps reach narrow areas, while the dual nozzle lance can be used to break glass, if necessary.

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Housemaid sentenced to jail for killing foetus


Dubai: A housemaid has been jailed for five years for attempting to abort her six-month-old foetus and killing the infant after 10 hours.

The Dubai Court of First Instance convicted the 30-year-old Indonesian housemaid, H.S., of killing her illegitimate baby after trying to abort him with the help of a 32-year-old Bangladeshi cleaner, M.M.

The court also jailed M.M. for three years and fined him Dh10,000 for practising medicine illegally and carrying out abortions without being licensed to do so.

Pronouncing yesterday's judgment in courtroom nine, Presiding Judge Al Saeed Mohammad Barghout, however, acquitted H.S. of disposing off the infant's body.

A 34-year-old Indonesian housemaid, N.D., was also jailed for three years for having sex out of wedlock, that resulted in an illegitimate pregnancy, aborting her foetus, and disposing it off.

Abetting crime

Presiding Judge Barghout also jailed a 36-year-old Indonesian housemaid, B.T., for three years because she had aided and abetted M.M., H.S. and N.D. in the illegal abortions.

A fourth Indonesian housemaid, 29-year-old F.S., was fined Dh1,000 for concealing information from the police about the abortions. All the defendants, except F.S., will be deported.

Prosecutors accused H.S. and N.D., who were less than six months pregnant each, of willingly aborting their foetuses.

H.S. was further accused of murdering her baby, who was alive following the failed abortion bid.

According to the arraignment sheet, M.M. practised medicine without obtaining permission from the health authorities and had facilitated abortion in the two women. He gave injections and abortion pills to H.S. and N.D.


Prosecutors had referred the case in 2010 to the Court of First Instance that was presided by another judge.

Judge Hamad Abdul Latif Abdul Jawad, who presided over the previous jury, referred the case back to prosecutors to reinvestigate the crime of killing the 10-hour-old baby. Prosecutors had not investigated that particular crime then.

Charges modified

On May 8, 2011, prosecutors referred the case back to Presiding Judge Barghout's jury, modified H.S.' charges and accused her of killing the baby.

H.S. and N.D. confessed to aborting their foetuses, but H.S. denied her murder charge. Meanwhile, the cleaner, M.M., pleaded not guilty.

An Emirati policeman said an informant had warned them that M.M. aided Indonesian women, who had conceived out of wedlock, to abort their foetuses.

The primary judgment remains subject to appeal within 15 days.

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A little lost without Wikipedia


Dubai: Can the world live without Wikipedia for a day?

When some of the most popular global websites decided to switch off in protest against Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the world found quirky ways to deal with their temporary loss.

In one humorous twitpic, a journalist posted a picture of an entire set of hardbound encyclopaedias he was manually trolling through for information

Internet users in the Middle East were also affected by the blackout initiated by the online encyclopedia.

Saleh Al Beloushi, a UAE resident, said in his comment on the Gulf News Facebook page: “I really needed an answer for one of my questions today but tried hard and couldn’t get it. :(”

Others found ways around Wikipedia’s shutdown.

Yasir Afaque posted a solution on the Gulf News Facebook page: “Simple way to avoid the blackout - press ESC just after loading a page.” If done just in time, the blackout screen does not appear.

The Twitter community was abuzz with tweets related to the blackout.

Some of the trending topics included #FactsWithoutWikipedia, “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge” and “End Piracy”.

Some tweeps took the blackout in their stride and imagined a world without fact verification. They posted humorous one-liners such as: “Wind is caused by trees sneezing. #FactsWithoutWikipedia”.

So when answers were needed, where did people go for information?

US- and UK-based news organisations such as The Washington Post, National Public Radio (NPR) and The Guardian tried to fill the void that the blackout had created by starting their own campaign on Twitter.

If anyone had a question, they could simply post it, followed by the hashtag #altwiki.

The media outlets promised to then try and provide answers to as many questions as possible.

In one humorous twitpic, a journalist posted a picture of an entire set of hardbound encyclopaedias he was manually trolling through for information.

Editor’s Note: To read more, download Gulf NewsTablet Edition on the iPad. It is free and you get two editions a day. Log  on to the Apple store and check it out.

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Khalifa reaffirms keenness to strengthen role of FNC


Abu Dhabi: President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has reiterated his commitment to strengthening the role of the Federal National Council.

He also asserted his keenness on supporting the FNC to ensure its active participation in the development of national work, in the building of a state of law, and in the consolidation of the Shura approach that will take into account the customs and traditions of the UAE people, and its heritage and the components of its social and cultural fabric.

Official reply

The President's statement came yesterday when he received at Al Dhiyafa Palace Mohammad Ahmad Al Murr, the FNC Speaker, and members of the special committee set up to prepare a reply to the President's speech made during the FNC's opening session.

Shaikh Khalifa also received from Al Murr the official reply to the presidential address he had made while inaugurating the 15th legislative chapter of the country's parliament.

In the reply, the FNC reiterated its bonds with the leadership, commended the remarkable achievements the country has made at various levels, and said that it looks forward to seeing the government make a comprehensive review of its domestic policies for the country's progress commensurate with the requirements of sustainable development.

It also reflected the priorities and concerns of the country, including the demographic balance, nationalisation and welfare of the citizens.

Citizens' aspirations

The President said: "In the next stage, we expect the Council to translate the aspirations of the citizens and serve their causes in line with the plans and strategies of the federal government and its vision for the future.

"We also look forward to seeing the FNC continue its performance, as always, fulfilling the aspirations of the citizens through the development of objectives and decision-making, so that we can achieve effective communication with the citizen, listen to his voice, understand his orientations and respond to his aspirations."

Present during the meeting were Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs; Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior; Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister; Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research; Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Public Works; Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for FNC Affairs; and a number of Shaikhs and senior officials.

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Readers' issues resolved


Bank charges

I have an Emirates NBD platinum credit card and have been a credit card customer since I came to the UAE four years ago.
I was touring India from August 12 to September 9, 2011, and my monthly credit card payment was due on August 31.
I normally clear everything long before the due date and do it online. Hence, I tried to clear my credit card dues online from India a couple of times on August 28.
Unfortunately, the payment web page would not open and when I returned from India on September 3, I immediately paid the entire amount online.
On September 5 when I was checking my account online I saw a late payment charge. I immediately wrote to the bank through the ME banking mail (Emirates Banking internal mail) and they understood my issue and reversed the Dh170 charge after two to three days.
However, on September 8 I found an amount of Dh363 debited to my account towards finance charges.
I wrote to them again and after a few exchange of mails, I received a mail from the bank stating that in order to process my request for this finance charge reversal, I had to give the bank authorisation for a 100 per cent auto debit facility on the due date.
Despite the fact that in this case I was not at fault and I had tried my best to clear the due, I gave them the authorisation for 100 per cent auto debit for my credit card.
It has been more than a few months now, but the Dh363 has not yet been credited back to my account.
Whenever I write to them, the relationship manager calls and says that it is under process.
Of late he has also stopped responding to my mails.
For a delay of two days, where I was not at fault, is it right for the bank to debit Dh363? I would like to seek Gulf News’ kind intervention in resolving this issue.

From Mr Sabyasachi Gupta

The management of Emirates NBD responds:

With reference to the complaint, we are pleased to inform Gulf News that the concerned department contacted Mr Gupta and resolved his complaint.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Gulf News and the customer for providing us with feedback and regret the inconvenience caused.
We thank Gulf News for its continuous support and valued efforts.

Mr Gupta responds:
Thank you for your help, Gulf News. I got the charges reversed to my account. This would have been impossible without your help.

Out of the blue
Thank you Gulf News for solving problems related to credit cards.
I too have a problem. Six years ago I got a credit card from Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) and more than four years ago I cancelled it over the telephone through one of their representatives.
At that time, my card had Dh23 in plus, and after four years they started sending me text messages saying that I have to pay more than Dh6,000, which is due on such and such date. I have been calling them, but there has been no reply. Please advise me what to do as I have not had a card for more than four years and I have not made any transactions. How can they do this to me?

From Mr Mohammad Qamar Seddiqi

The management of ADCB responds:

Please be advised that our customers are important to us and to enable problem solving for them, we have devoted a Service Quality Unit that handles all customers’ issues and complaints. Our customers are free to contact us on the Toll Free number at 800 2030; or call collect +97126210090 from outside UAE; or they can visit our website ( from where they will be able to log their complaints, commendation or suggestions.
Please advise readers/complainants to contact us through these available channels.
Please note that the issue has been investigated and resolved. The customer has been contacted and informed of our feedback and the case is now closed.

Mr Seddiqi responds:
I really appreciate Gulf News’ fast response over my issue, which was eventually solved.
I again would like to congratulate Gulf News for their great service towards customers.

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US military commander's visit to stop Israel strike on Iran

Vita Bekker

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TEL AVIV // The top US military commander will arrive in Tel Aviv tomorrow on a visit that analysts say is aimed at dissuading Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear sites amid heightened speculation that the country is preparing for such a strike.

Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be on his first official trip to Israel since taking on his new role in September and is expected to meet the Israeli army chief, Benny Gantz, and top officials, including the defence minister, Ehud Barak.

Iran's nuclear programme, which the West claims is intended to develop a nuclear bomb but which Tehran insists is for civilian purposes, is expected to top the agenda.

"The two countries don't see the solution for Iran in the same way," said Yoel Guzansky, a former government official who helped coordinate Israel's approach to Iran from 2005 to 2009. and is currently a researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

"The Americans are worried that Israel will attack the Iranian nuclear installations. I am sure Dempsey will tell the Israelis to wait for the [international] sanctions to work."

The US general's visit comes during a high point of tension between the Islamic republic and the West. Both the US and the European Union have threatened to impose new sanctions on Iran that would significantly limit its ability to sell oil on the global market. Tehran has reacted by warning it would shut the shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz that are used to transfer a fifth of the world's oil.

Iran also has blamed Israel, the US and Britain for last week's assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist in at least the fourth such killing reported in two years.

Yesterday Iran's envoy to the UN atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a high-level delegation would visit Iran from January 29 to 31 to discuss issues it has over Tehran's nuclear programme,

Israel has been at odds with the US on the fastest and most effective way to hinder Iran from developing nuclear arms. Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, told the US television network CBS last week that the best course of action is continued economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure on Iran.

But Israel considers those measures insufficient. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told an Israeli parliamentary committee that without international sanctions on Iran's central bank and oil industry, Israel's archenemy will not halt its nuclear plans.

Analysts say Israel's growing frustration may eventually lead it to strike Iran, even if it does not obtain American consent, because it may eventually view an Iranian nuclear weapon as more of a security threat than souring ties with the US.

Last Updated:Jan 18, 2012

Domestic and regional politics push the Obama administration towards an unwanted conflict with Iran that could turn violent.

Tony Karon

"Every day that passes with the Iranian programme continuing and not being resolved makes the Israeli military option more realistic," said David Menashri, a senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University's Center for Iranian Studies.

For the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, analysts say the main worry of an Israeli strike on Iran is political, because such a move may spur oil prices to soar, slow the US economic recovery and hurt Mr Obama's re-election chances in November's ballot.

In what appears to be a bid to tone down in the war of words with Iran, a joint missile-defence exercise by the US and Israel that involves thousands of American and Israeli soldiers was cancelled this week. The drill was designed to test air defence systems against missiles and rockets from a range that would include Iran.

Despite US opposition, there is uncertainty about whether Israel, should it resolve to act militarily, would wait until after the US election in November or strike beforehand and risk angering its closest ally.

"Israel is really frustrated and may see itself as being alone in dealing with Iran," said Mr Guzansky. "The US is in an election year and Obama may not face off Iran" as Israel would want him to, he added. Next page

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Afghan calligrapher creates world's largest Quran


The National Reuters

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The calligrapher Mohammad Sabir Khedri, fourth from left, displays the biggest Quran in the world to Afghan officials during its inauguration ceremony in the Hakim Nasir Khosrow Balkhi library in Kabul.

Mr Khedri said he worked five years on the Quran in a bid to show the world that Afghanistan's rich cultural heritage and traditions have been damaged, but not destroyed by 30 years of war.

The book has pages 2.28 metres by 1.55 metres, and was certified as the world's largest by the Afghan ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs, according to the Kabul cultural centre that houses it.

The previous claim to the title was for a 2m by 1.5m copy unveiled last year in Russia's Tatarstan region.

The Afghan Quran weighs 500 kilograms and its 218 pages of cloth and paper, bound inside an embossed leather cover were made from the skins of 21 goats.

Mr Khedri said he would welcome ceding his moment in the spotlight to an even larger Quran made by someone else.

"I will be happier if someone else makes a bigger Quran, it is serving Islam."


Mohammad Sabir Khedr said he worked five years on the Quran in a bid to show the world that Afghanistan's rich cultural heritage and traditions have been damaged, but not destroyed by 30 years of war.

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Mubarak defence portrays ousted president as a 'clean' leader


The National Agencies

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CAIRO // Hosni Mubarak's chief defence lawyer portrayed the ousted Egyptian president as a "clean" leader who placed the law above all else and worked tirelessly for his nation.

Farid El Deeb's opening statements to the court also sought to paint a picture of the 83-year-old Mubarak as a victim of malicious accusations while his health was failing. He was looking to the court for justice, Mr El Deeb said.

Mubarak is charged with complicity in the killing of hundreds of protesters during an 18-day uprising that toppled his 29-year authoritarian regime last February. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Mr El Deed said there is no evidence Mubarak ordered security forces to fire on protesters. He cited what he said was testimony by Egypt's military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and the former spy chief, Omar Suleiman, in defence of Mubarak, who appeared in court on a stretcher.

"There is no evidence to prove that Mubarak gave orders to open fire on the protesters," said Mr El Deeb.

Lawyers for families of those killed and wounded have argued even if Mubarak did not issue orders to shoot, he failed to give orders to stop the killing.

The prosecution later delivered a harsh assessment of Mubarak's rule, saying he was responsible for the killings and that he devoted the last 10 years in power to ensure his son, banker-turned-politician Gamal, would succeed him.

Mubarak and his two sons - Alaa and Gamal - also face corruption charges. All three were in court.

* Associated Press with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse


Farid El Deeb's opening statements to the court also sought to paint a picture of the 83-year-old Mubarak as a victim of malicious accusations while his health was failing.

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Social worker quits UAE after 36 years


Sharjah: "A few years ago, a father came to me with a six-year-old girl who was confined to the walls of her home all her life because she was born at home and had no legal documents. She never went to school or to a hospital and was not even allowed to play outside," M. Amanulla, a Sharjah-based social worker said.

The girl was born out of wedlock to an Indian father who was a laundry worker in Umm Al Quwain and a Sri Lankan mother who was working illegally in the country.

When the girl was a baby, her mother was deported to Sri Lanka after being caught in a police raid.

The father did not know what he needed to do and was too afraid to reach out to the authorities.

It was an amnesty period so, with the help of some Indian Consulate officials, Amanulla helped the man get outpasses for his children and he sent them back home to start a new life.

Amanulla said in the 36 years he has lived in the UAE, extending a hand to such people has become part of his life. Now he looks back at his years here, as he gets ready to go back to his home town in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

Resolving issues

From helping repatriate dead bodies of loved ones, to helping rescue women caught in prostitution rackets, to extending help for those in jail, Amanulla has helped numerous expatriates resolve their issues, many community members testified at a recent farewell gathering in his honour at the Sharjah Indian Association.

After reaching the UAE in 1976, and starting off with many odd jobs, Amanulla got his first office job as a temporary replacement for someone who was hospitalised after falling ill. But that person died in hospital.

What started off as just helping the family of that stranger, by sending home small amounts of money for their support, paved the way for years of humanitarian services, he said.

"People like Amanulla, who are aware of their social responsibilities, have made a difference in the lives of many expatriates living here," Nissar Thalangara, general secretary of the Sharjah Indian Association, said.

Amanulla said most of his time, after his job at Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority, is taken up by similar social commitments and involvement in cultural activities and gatherings organised by the Indian community here. "The little bit that I managed to do was only with the help and support of many kind-hearted people around me."

Similar efforts

Once back home, he intends to continue similar efforts with the support of his wife and two sons, he said.

Years ago, he came to the UAE with the intention of staying here for a few years, making some money and returning. "Like most people I too continued to stay."

He added that even though salaries were very low, life was much easier and less complex back then.

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Emirati conquers Antarctica's highest peak


Dubai: Climbing the highest peak of Antarctica — the coldest, driest and windiest of all the continents — for eight hours a day is no small thing. But for Shaikh Mohammad Bin Abdullah Al Thani, who recently set the record for being the first Emirati to reach the continent's highest peak, Vinson Massif, it was doable all in the name of a good cause.

"Mount Vinson is a real challenge. It requires serious commitment, extensive experience with winter mountaineering and excellent physical fitness — especially when called upon to climb eight hours a day," Shaikh Mohammad said.

"This is a goal that I had set for myself over three years ago and now I can successfully cross it off my list," he added.

Shaikh Mohammad is supporting children for education in collaboration with Reach Out to Asia, (Rota), a Qatari non-governmental organisation focused on making quality education accessible across Asia.

"As I continue to challenge myself to see how much I can attain, I hope others will find inspiration in my actions, pushing themselves to the limits and finding that they, too, can come out victorious if they work hard enough."


Shaikh Mohammad was forced to summit from the more difficult Western side in order to avoid the South's extreme winds. Due to the extreme weather conditions — with temperatures reaching minus 89 degrees Celsius — two teams had to turn around. But he made it to the top of the 4,892-metre peak.

He plans to climb the highest peak on each continent. Shaikh Mohammad has faced Mount Everest Base Camp in 2009, Mt Kilimanjaro in 2010, Mt Acuncagua and Mt Blanc in 2011. He plans to tackle Mt Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe, in June.

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Hamas leader stepping down is 'pure speculation'

Hugh Naylor (Foreign Correspondent)

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GAZA CITY // Khaled Meshaal has no plans to step down as the head of Hamas, a spokesman for the Islamist group said yesterday, denying reports the Damascus-based leader would resign.

Fawzi Barhoum described as "pure speculation" a flurry of news articles in the Arabic media yesterday saying Mr Meshaal, 55, would relinquish his position soon.

"For anything like this to be true, there would have to be a formal announcement by either the movement or Mr Meshaal himself," said Mr Barhoum, a spokesman in the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls.

Reports that Mr Meshaal's had planned to resign plans were fuelled by an essay posted Monday on Facebook by Mustafa Lidawi, a Palestinian analyst based in Lebanon who maintains close links with Hamas. He wrote that the Hamas leader would leave his position and run in the forthcoming Palestinian National Council (PNC) election.

The PNC is the legislative arm of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which officially represents all Palestinians living inside the Israeli-occupied territories and abroad.

Mr Lidawi, who served as a Hamas official in Damascus in the 1990s, said the decision was to give the next generation of Hamas members a chance to assume leadership positions.

He called Mr Meshaal a brave leader for agreeing to leave power while still alive, contrasting him with traditional Arab rulers who retained their positions until they are forced out or die.

Under the May reconciliation accord struck between Hamas and its West Bank rival, Fatah, the Islamist group is supposed to join the PLO and participate in the national elections expected planned for this May.

Officials involved in the reconciliation process hope these elections will cover the PNC, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), which is the legislature of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the PA presidency.

Mr Meshaal has led Hamas since 2004 and has been an instrumental force behind Hamas' reconciliation accord with Fatah.

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Cashier - AF Motors | Lexus - Sharjah

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The main functions of the Cashier would include the following:

Cash Handling (cash, down payment and cash cheque receipt and billing)

Cash and cheque deposit in the bank

Collection & Posting of Post Dated Cheques

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Petty cash maintenance

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Filing of credit Invoices

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More than 4,200 illegal workers in Dubai arrested


Dubai: The Dubai Municipality has nabbed 4,200 illegal workers including beggars, street vendors, butchers and car washers last year, said a senior official.

Municipality inspectors also seized some 78,765 pirated pornographic films in addition to carts for vegetables and alcoholic drink bottles.

The operation was conducted with the cooperation of the Dubai Police and the Department of Residence and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai.

Engineer Obaid Ebrahim Al Marzouqi, Head of Markets Section, said: "We have a dedicated team working around the clock to catch offenders."

Al Marzouqi said that the number of illegal vendors and beggars in the emirate increased during Ramadan.

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Italian cruise ship passenger says grandmother survived Titanic


The National Agence France-Presse

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ROME // Valentina Capuano could not believe it when the luxury cruise ship she was on began to sink — she only hoped that she would be saved like her grandmother, who survived the Titanic disaster, 100 years ago.

"It was like reliving history, it was horrible, I was really shocked," said Ms Capuano, who managed to escape when the giant Costa Concordia hit a rock and tipped over off the north-west Italian coast on Friday.

Her grandmother survived when the Titanic passenger liner sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1912. Her brother Giovanni did not.

Giovanni, who had been working as a waiter on the Titanic and hoped to begin a new life in America, was one of the 1,517 people who died in the disaster.

"I am still shaken up and get very upset when I think about what I've been through, I have heart palpitations," said Ms Capuana, who escaped the sinking vessel along with her fiance, her brother and his girlfriend.

A century after the Titanic struck an iceberg, the Costa Concordia — which had over 3,000 passengers on board and around 1,000 crew — hit a rock which tore a huge hole in its side, leaving at least 11 dead and around two dozen missing.

Around 60 people were injured as they jumped from the listing ship into lifeboats or the cold sea.


Valentina Capuano, who was rescued from the Costa Concordia off the Italian coast said her grandmother was on the Titanic, when it sank in 1912.

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Teleworking could serve as a boost to Emiratisation


Every place has its own cultural way of doing things, be it how people celebrate, eat or mourn. Although it is safe to say that globalisation has reached the far corners of the globe, these peculiarities still apply to working cultures. For instance, management styles in certain parts of the world may seem alien in others.

However, an idea put into practice in the United States during the 1970s' fuel crisis has lived on through the decades and may now, in fact, propose the solution to the UAE's Emiratisation conundrum.

Dr Mona Mustafa, assistant professor of human resource management at the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD), has spent the last eight years researching the habits of teleworkers in the West. She has now turned her mind to the use of teleworking in the UAE as a way to integrate Emirati women in the labour market.

"Teleworking as a concept started in the 1970s during the US fuel crisis when companies told people to work from home to save money," Dr Mustafa said. "My new research looks at how teleworking can help Emiratisation by integrating otherwise unemployed Emirati women into the labour market."

Her research will investigate the opportunities remote working offers as a means of absorbing Emirati women into the UAE's workforce.

"The study will mainly focus on the idea of graduates looking for jobs who find a position, but after a year's training, can ask for flexibility," she said. "Because then, if they decide to get married and start a family, it doesn't mean they have to make choices and leave the labour market altogether."


Theoretically, teleworking, not necessarily defined as working from home but anywhere outside the office, may sound like a dream come true, but it comes with major challenges. It started with workers in the sectors of IT, translation and media. "Basically, the two main ideas of teleworking is of an employee allowed by their employer to work from home or flexibly, and a self-employed person who works from home," Dr Mustafa said. "The self-employed have more freedom and flexibility, which is good, but can also cause problems." Due to the financial crisis and subsequent redundancies, self-employed teleworkers have been on the increase.

However, Dr Mustafa's main area of interest is boundary management, and how teleworkers maintain a healthy work-life balance.

"Traditionally, when we leave the home and close that door to go to work, you enter a new boundary, so traditionally people had them separate," she said. "With people working from home, these boundaries are sort of mixing, which becomes very challenging."

Mariam Khazaeli, 26, is readying for a master's degree at the UOWD and used to telework as a software designer. She believes it to be a good option for students and mothers if a person is self-disciplined. "People work better when they can choose what to do because some people perform better at night, others in the morning," she said. "I managed to telework and study by attending evening classes."

Khazaeli added that teleworking could be a good option for women, especially of Eastern cultures, due to their responsibilities inside and outside the home.

Eyeball management

"In this part of the world, the management style is managing by eyeballs as employers have to see the person in the office to believe they are working," she said. So, besides the building of trust between employer and employee in the region, she also believes adequate training and discussion need to take place before the idea of teleworking pervades the UAE.

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Existing buildings to be made more sustainable in Abu Dhabi


Abu Dhabi: For more than a year, energy and water consumption efficiency have been brought to the fore in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, with new projects awarded building permits only if they prove efficient use of resources, said a senior official.

Urban planning authorities are now drawing up guidelines that will also make existing structures sustainable.

These guidelines will call for more efficient water, lighting, cooling and insulation fixtures, among various other elements, so that older buildings and villas also make the best use of the emirate's scarce water resources and adapt better to the intense summer heat, said Humaid Al Hammadi, associate planner for Estidama at the Urban Planning Council (UPC).

He added that producing desalinated water is extremely cost-and energy-intensive, and we need to make better use of the emirate's limited water resources. "We can also save a lot of energy by simply insulating structures better from the heat and making use of available wind. These are the kinds of measures we want to encourage in order to make community life sustainable in the emirate," he said.


The measures will be part of the UPC's Estidama (sustainability) Pearl Rating System for existing buildings, which are expected to be introduced by the end of the year. The system will mirror the framework used to rate the sustainability of new projects in the emirate.

"It is clearly more difficult to change a building's sustainability rating after it has already been built, but we hope to tackle this by pushing owners to adopt small but effective measures like water-efficient taps and energy-saving lights," he added. Details on how landlords and property management companies would be urged to implement these standards are, however, not yet available.

"We are still discussing the exact requirements for existing buildings and villas. What we do know is that despite the initial investment that will be required, these standards will lead to long-term savings in operation and maintenance costs, and allow the emirate to make better use of its resources," Al Hammadi told Gulf News.

He added that even in new projects rated at one Pearl, water consumption in the long run is reduced by 21 per cent when compared to buildings that are not designed under these standards, and consumption of energy is also 41 per cent lower.

Granted permits

Since September 2010, new construction project designs in the emirate have been required to obtain a minimum rating of one Estidama Pearl before being granted building permits. Government building designs have had to be even more sustainable and acquire at least a two-Pearl rating before getting the go-ahead.

Since then, 64 project designs have been awarded ratings by the UPC. These projects are then audited and rated during their construction as well.

"The rating system for new projects will also be expanded this year. When an Estidama-rated building is completed, we will review how efficiently it is being run for two years," Al Hammadi added.

Pearl Rating System

Abu Dhabi: The Estidama Pearl Rating System measures how sustainable a building is culturally, environmentally, economically and socially, and is tailored to the climatic and cultural needs of Abu Dhabi.

Based on this system, buildings are rated at one-Pearl if they achieve the minimum level of sustainability by using efficient water and lighting systems, minimising waste production and being made of durable, environmentally friendly and locally available materials, among other elements. A building that is more sustainable than the minimum requirements set by the Urban Planning Council (one-Pearl) is given a higher Pearl rating, the highest rating being five Pearls.

In a bid to encourage developers to build more sustainable projects, the Urban Planning Council will soon open up three show villa projects that are rated at 3 Pearls each.

These show projects, which display the benefits of constructing beyond the mandatory one-pearl Estidama rating for villas, will be located in Abu Dhabi's Khalifa City A, as well as in Al Ain and Al Gharbia.

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Immunisation services policy introduced in Dubai


Dubai: The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) on Monday announced the introduction of the first comprehensive immunisation services policy for Dubai with a view to strengthen the functioning of immunisation services for the health sector across the emirate. 

The introduction of the policy would ensure that every health facility or hospital, whether government or private, that administers these vaccines follows a certain set of rules and regulations, said Laila Al Jassmi,CEO of Health Policy and Strategy at the DHA. 

"The policy stems from DHA's wider aim to improve public health services in the emirate and is in line with the objectives of the Dubai Health Strategy 2011 to 2013," she said.

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Senior / Principal Engineer - Utilities - Wspgroup - Sharjah

job title, keywords or company city or region Sorry, I could not read the content fromt this page.

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Group plans four more schools in Dubai by 2020


Dubai: The Indian High School Group will open four more schools in Dubai by the year 2020, the management announced on Monday at the official opening ceremony of the Indian International School.

Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and Group, inaugurated the Indian International School (IIS) at Dubai Silicon Oasis, the integrated free zone technology park.

"Our plan is to open four more schools in Dubai before year 2020, to increase our student strength up to 25,000 pupils," Mohan Valrani, Honorary Chairman of Indian High School (IHS) told Gulf News.

The new schools will all follow the Indian curriculum and are likely to deliver both Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and CBSE-I (CBSE International) curricula. Other details such as location of the schools are yet to be decided as the projects are still in the proposal stage, he said.


IIS is the first branch of the IHS, the oldest Indian school in Dubai, which turned 51 this year. As Gulf News reported in December 2011, IHS earned an ‘outstanding' rating in this year's school inspections conducted by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

After the completion of the first phase of IIS, nursery and grade one classes began at the IIS last year with 450 pupils enrolled. With the school building fully completed this year, the school will offer classes up to grade 5.

"All the seats have been taken and the admissions are closed already for this academic year," he said. The plan is to introduce two more grades every year, he added.

To mark the official opening, IIS donated a minibus to Rashid Paediatric Centre and the keys were presented by Shaikh Ahmad.

The new schools will focus also on making more seats available for children with special needs, Valrani said, adding that access to quality education, he believes, is the right of every child.

Dr Abdullah Al Karam, Chairman of Board of Directors and Director General of KHDA, thanked the founders of the school and the contribution they made to four generations of graduates who benefited from their vision. "These students have become ambassadors of Dubai and must feel very proud now that their old school, Indian High, has been judged as one of the two outstanding Indian schools in Dubai," he said.

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UAE to fund building of crucial highway in Pakistan


Islamabad: The construction of a strategic highway between Wana and Angoor Ada in South Waziristan, Pakistan, will be funded by the UAE through the Khalifa Bin Zayed Foundation.

The UAE Project to Assist Pakistan (UAE-PAP) announced the $38 million (Dh139 million) Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Wana-Angoor Ada Highway will be completed by the beginning of next year.

Abdullah Al Ghafli, director of the UAE-PAP, made the announcement in a speech at a ceremony in Islamabad to mark the signing of an agreement with the Pakistani authorities concerned.

The funding of the 50km road was instructed by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Major General Zahir Shah, of the Pakistani Armed Forces, UAE Ambassador to Pakistan Eisa Basha Al Nuaimi, senior officials and representatives of Pakistani and international humanitarian organisations were also present.

Deep-rooted relations

Ambassador Al Nuaimi said the new project reflects the deep-rooted and long standing relations between the UAE and Pakistan.

He reiterated the commitment of the UAE's leadership, namely, President Shaikh Khalifa, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to assisting reconstruction and development efforts in Pakistan.

In doing so, the UAE's leadership is following in the footsteps of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan who laid the foundations for the strong bilateral relations between the two countries, according to the UAE diplomat.

In addition to infrastructure development, the UAE is currently constructing 51 projects comprising 41 schools and ten institutes and colleges.

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Mohammad reaffirms UAE's support for Yemen


Dubai: The UAE yesterday reiterated its supportive stand towards Yemen's security and stability.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, reaffirmed the UAE's support for Yemen as he yesterday received Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammad Basindwa and his delegation.

Basindwa briefed Shaikh Mohammad on the development of the situation in Yemen in the light of the success of the Gulf-brokered plan which resulted in understandings between all parties to reach an agreement on conducting parliamentary elections next month.

Security and stability

Mohammad reiterated the UAE's support for Yemen's security and stability, noting that the UAE leadership, government and people would always stand by the Yemeni people and support stability and security.

The meeting was attended by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and Shaikh Maktoum Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.

Basindwa commended GCC efforts, notably the UAE's positive and effective role in making reconciliation efforts a success. He thanked the UAE for its stand towards the Yemeni people and its significant contribution to social development and economic projects currently being implemented in Yemen.

Mohammad Ahmad Al Murr, Speaker of the UAE Federal National Council; Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and Group; Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs; Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs; Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs, and other senior officials were also present.

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As we continue to grow in Middle East, we’re looking to add to our Outside Sales team, Sharjah. Our Marketing Consultants are the engine that has fueled LivingSocial's incredible growth across the globe. As the most outward-facing representative of LivingSocial's brand, our Marketing Consultants interact everyday with our great merchant customers, and revolutionize the way local businesses approach advertising. Led by the best in the business, the Account Executive role is the perfect place to ...
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Police deny woman confessed to helping kill her daughter


Dubai: A 30-year-old woman who survived a suicide bid has been placed in psychiatric care at Rashid Hospital, Gulf News has learnt.

The woman was hospitalised after an apparent suicide attempt by slashing her wrists and neck at her Bur Dubai residence on Saturday morning.

She was found by Dubai Police, screaming in pain, in her apartment, alongside her daughter's body. Her husband's body was found hanging from the ceiling.

The Indian family — Rijesh, 32, his wife Sreesha and daughter Avantika, 5, — was living in a building behind Al Musalla Tower.

Based on post-mortem examinations, Dubai Police confirmed that the girl was smothered with a pillow and that the man hanged himself. The mother is yet to be interrogated.

"Initially she was very hysterical and had to be given sedatives. But later she became very calm, and it seems like she does not recollect anything," a source said.

Intensive care

She was first kept at the Intensive Care Unit and later moved to the ward, after her wounds were stitched up. On Sunday, she was moved to the psychiatric ward.

The wounds, two on her neck and one on her wrist, are not very deep, according to the source.

"Sreesha seems to think her child is at the day care centre and that her husband is at work," a person close to the family said.

Denying media reports that the woman confessed to helping her husband kill their daughter before he hanged himself, Brigadier Khalil Ebrahim Al Mansouri, Director of Dubai Police's Criminal Investigation Department, said the woman did not speak at all.

Reports on Monday said the woman spoke briefly and confessed that she had held down her daughter while her husband smothered the five-year-old with a pillow.

"The woman has been moved to the psychiatric ward in the hospital, and her mental condition does not allow questioning," Al Mansouri said.

Final charges

According to Al Mansouri, the woman will be charged with attempted suicide, but it is up to the Public Prosecution to decide the final charges upon completing investigations.

The man left two suicide notes, one to his family here and back home, and the other to police, in which he explained the reasons behind his decision to kill himself and his family, police said.

According to UAE laws, attempting to commit suicide is a criminal offence that mandates a fine of up to Dh5,000 and/or six months imprisonment.

If proven that she had taken part in suffocating her daughter, the woman may also face charges of murder.

No signs of distress

In his suicide note, the man mentioned that he was having financial problems, and that he had problems with his former boss, who is also an Indian.

As Gulf News reported on Sunday, Rijesh's brother Ribesh, who lives with his family in Sharjah, said that he did not spot any signs of distress and everything seemed to be fine.

"He [Rijesh] wrote that the former boss came to his house and threatened him, accusing him of cheating ... Rijesh denied cheating anyone and wrote that he is ending his life," Ribesh said.

Indian Consulate officials said on Monday they visited Sreesha, and that she is not in a position to speak. The consulate will be in touch with the relatives and will extend all support to the family, officials said.

When contacted, the former boss, P.N., said he met Rijesh on Friday night but denied having anything to do with his suicide. "The news came as a shock to me. He called me on Friday around 9.45pm and asked me to meet him to collect a cheque for Dh15,000 which he owed me," P.N. said.

"He gave me the cheque, that's all. There were no big issues," he said.

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Abu Dhabi student scoops top honour


Abu Dhabi: Swetha Ganesan enjoyed the subject at school, but it was not something she was particularly passionate about.

So it was a great shock when the 18-year-old learnt she had not only attained an A* in her A-level business examination, but that her score had actually placed her first in the Cambridge International Examinations' global ranks.

"When the results were released [on August 18], I actually got a call from the examination board but I thought it was a prank and didn't take it seriously. It was only after I went to the school to check my grade I found out it was actually true," Swetha, an Indian expatriate, said.

"Even though it's been a few months since I found out, it still hasn't quite sunk in… my parents wanted to get me a gift but I'm not sure if I'll take them up on that offer since I can't think of anything I'd like. My friends and I celebrated though, they gave me a big hug because they were so proud of me."

University life

The former Cambridge High School pupil added she had also got an A* in history and an A in IT.

"Since history is a big passion of mine I thought that subject would be the one I would receive top grades in but I'm so amazed that I was able to get the highest score, especially since I worked hard to do well in that subject," she said.

Despite her achievement, Swetha, who is in her first year at Nottingham University in the UK, revealed she is pursuing a degree in law.

"I knew I wanted to study law since I was in the ninth grade…I had considered pursuing a degree in history but I was worried about the limited career options… I may consider going into business law in the future."

The youngest of triplets, her sister Shruti is studying fashion design in Dubai, and her brother, Viraj, is studying dentistry in India. Swetha added she was looking forward to returning to university life.

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Signed football. Do I hear Dh310,000?

Ramola Talwar Badam

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DUBAI // Elvis Presley, Cristiano Ronaldo and Muammar Qaddafi were all key figures in raising funds for a special-needs centre at a star-studded Dubai auction this week.

Signed snapshots and memorabilia of all three men went under the hammer for charity on Monday night. Also among the items at auction was a striking photograph taken by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Price of Dubai.

Sheikh Hamdan's picture of two horses bolting out of a stable was snapped up in minutes. It gained the highest bid of Dh380,000 at The Stars' Auction, organised by the Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre in Madinat Jumeirah.

"Some names are loved by people here and these are immediately picked up," said Mehiar Arabi, the auctioneer with the Pioneer Auctions. "Many times just the name generates money. Also people were bidding for not just the item but also the cause."

Funds from the auction will be used to expand the Rashid centre.

Emiratis, expatriate businessmen and women, and Arab celebrities alike reached deep into their pockets for the cause.

The Lebanese pop star, Haifa Wehbe, successfully bid for the football with which Spain won the 2010 World Cup. Crammed with 23 players' signatures, the white ball rimmed with gold sold for Dh310,000.

Wehbe repeatedly raised her paddle for the Real Madrid striker Ronaldo's lime-green signed boot. It was hers for Dh41,000.

"I truly believe that stars must not just sign autographs but also sign cheques for a cause," Wehbe said.

The audience cheered and whistled when the spotlight was turned on the singer. "Stars should contribute not just once but many times a year," she said. "These children need our attention."

Spirited bidding for Elvis Presley's autographed picture helped raise a further Dh36,000.

But it took some good-natured coaxing from the auctioneer to push through the sale of a signed photograph of Muammar Qaddafi, even at a knock-down price. There was little interest when two beaming models carried a montage of Qaddafi's pictures onto the stage.

With no takers at the asking price of Dh42,000, Mr Arabi lowered it to Dh26,000.

Still, there were no takers, but he did not stop.

"Nobody giving me even 1,000 [dirhams], then how about 500?" Mr Arabi urged.

When he spotted the Emirati singer Abdullah Balkhair in the audience, he focused his attention on the performer, who had spoofed the former Libyan leader during Ramadan programmes on television last year.

"Come on Abdullah Balkhair, what about giving me 500? 1000? Zenga, zenga, " he exhorted, as the crowd clapped. Balkhair nodded at Dh27,000.

The word zenga is Arabic for alleyways. It was used by Qaddafi in a fist-pounding televised speech in February of last year, where he vowed to fight rebels across Libya.

"I acted like Qaddafi, I wore his clothes, people remember this link with him," said Balkhair, a traditional singer whose parody received more than 83,000 hits on YouTube.

"I had not planned to buy anything, this is by default. But I'm happy, it's OK, it is all for charity."

Several items went unsold, including a white glove signed by the boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and a "with love" note signed by Princess Diana.

Of the 40 items on the block, star cast-offs were the fastest sellers, including Wehbe's diamond-studded bracelet, the oversized sunglasses of the Egyptian actress Nabila Obaid, and a pink hat belonging to the Arab star Safiya Al Umari.

"It's not the items that drew people, it was the cause," said Faisal Al Matrook, a Bahraini businessman and Dubai resident who spent about Dh100,000 on signed messages of leaders, including those of the former South African president, Nelson Mandela, and the former US president, John F Kennedy.

"This cannot be measured simply in how much money was committed because the commitment of time in these causes is the greatest gift."

The total raised was not immediately available. The three-hour programme was interspersed with lively dance performances by children from the centre.

"People came here not for a cinema festival or a shopping festival, but to do something for these children," said the Rashid centre's director, Mariam Othman.

"Fans always like to copy the stars, and with this they will be more aware of special children."

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Anwar Malek: I saw sniper kill child


The National Colin Randall

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A former Algerian army officer who resigned in disgust and fear from the Arab League mission to monitor events in Syria accused the regime of Bashar Al Assad yesterday of committing crimes against humanity.

Anwar Malek said he saw snipers kill at least two people, one of them a child, was shown corpses, witnessed brutal beatings and arrests by soldiers and militiamen and escaped an attempt on his own life during a 15-day stay in the city of Homs.

Speaking from an undisclosed location in France, he alleged that the Syrian authorities had placed him and other monitors under constant surveillance and brushed aside any criticism of tactics used to crush popular revolt. Everything possible was done, he said, to undermine attempts to produce an independent assessment.

"In my own case, they tried to humiliate me and falsely accused me of supporting terrorists," he said.

Mr Malek also voiced suspicion that the Syrian authorities were responsible for the mortar attack that killed a French cameraman, Gilles Jacquier, in Homs a week ago.

"In the end I was extremely concerned for my own safety and could take no more," said Mr Malek, 40, who is now writing a book on his experiences, which he expects to be published within a few months.

"What I saw as a monitor were crimes against humanity committed by the authorities.

"I saw one small child and an adult of 40 to 45 shot dead by snipers, and many bodies in the hospital. I believe I was the target of another attack in which the driver of an accompanying protection vehicle was injured."

Mr Malek, who describes himself as a writer specialising in terrorism, was nominated as a monitor by the Arab Commission for Human Rights, based in Paris.

"I do not regret joining the mission and am satisfied I tried to do my duty but our work was made impossible," he said. "It was a very troubling experience."

He repeated his call for Homs to be declared an international disaster zone.

Pressed on the details of what he had witnessed in Homs, Mr Malek identified one of the civilians he says he saw killed as four-year-old Mohammed Raie.

He said that among corpses he viewed were those of three soldiers who had been shot in the back and who, he believed, had clearly been "summarily executed for defying the regime".

"Out on the street, snipers were firing on anyone in sight," he said. People who had taken no part in disturbances were rounded up and taken away.

The Arab League has responded critically to Mr Malek's comments, suggesting he spent much of his time in Homs claiming to be too sick to leave his hotel room.

An Arab league statement quoted Gen Mohammed Al Dabi, the head of the monitoring mission, as saying Mr Malek's allegations did not "relate to the truth in any way". Gen Al Dabi added: "Since he was assigned to the Homs team, Malek did not leave the hotel for six days and did not go out with the rest of the team into the field giving the excuse that he was sick."

Mr Malek was adamant when interviewed by telephone yesterday that he had not feigned illness.

However, he said that, in dismay at what he had witnessed since arriving in Syria on December 26, he did remain in his hotel room for four days to begin writing an account of his experiences.

Syria has sought to discredit Mr Malek, who has described the mission's work as a "farce" because of the obstacles put in its way. A headline above a report from the state news agency, Sana, summarised the Arab League statement in harsh terms: "Observer Anwar Malek perjured. What he stated is completely false."

The monitoring mission, numbering about 165, was given the task of verifying whether Syria was complying with an Arab League agreement to stop a military crackdown on protesters. The United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed in the uprising, though the authorities routinely accuse rebels of responsibility for much of the bloodshed. Next page


The Arab League observer who quit mission to monitor events in Syria accused the regime of Bashar Al Assad of committing crimes against humanity.

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Iranian women's civil rights activist killed in Houston


The National Associated Press

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HOUSTON // A woman whom police described as an activist on behalf of Iranian women's civil rights was found shot dead at the wheel of her car after it crashed into a Houston town house garage.

The car was still running when police found the body of Gelareh Bagherzadeh, 30, behind the wheel about 12.30am Monday in an upmarket town house development.

"When the officer arrived, the car's tires were still spinning. He had to reach in and turn off the motor," the policeman JC Padilla said.

Ms Bagherzadeh apparently was talking on the phone with an ex-boyfriend when she was shot.

"He heard a loud thud - doesn't recall hearing any gunshots, but a loud thud - and then a screeching noise. He said it sounded like someone driving away," Sergeant Richard Bolton, a Houston police detective, said.

Sgt Bolton said police have questioned the ex-boyfriend but he is not a person of interest in the case.

Ms Bagherzadeh was a molecular genetic technology student at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She also was active in promoting Iranian women's rights, the police spokesman Victor Senties said.

"It appears she was one of the ones who would be out protesting, and she was very well known in the Iranian women's rights community because she was constantly out protesting," Mr Senties said.

Mr Senties said it was unclear whether her death was related to her background or her activities. Sgt Bolton said investigators suspect the victim was followed home or that someone was waiting for her.

Last Updated:Jan 17, 2012

Iran's sabre-rattling in the Strait of Hormuz is intended to boost the price of oil, an Arabic commentator argues. Other topics: the reform route in Syria and progress for Saudi women.

Arabic News Digest


A woman whom police described as an activist on behalf of Iranian women's civil rights was found shot dead at the wheel of her car after it crashed into a Houston town house garage.

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Zayed Future Energy Prize: more money, more winners


The National Melanie Swan

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ABU DHABI // This year's Zayed Future Energy prize featured a greater number of winners after the awards were expanded from one to three categories - small and medium enterprises and not-for-profit organisations, lifetime achievement, and large companies.

Three winners and two runners-up were announced from 13 shortlisted finalists in the fourth year of the competition.

The UK-based Carbon Disclosure Project won the US$1.5 million (Dh5.5m) prize in the small and medium enterprises and not-for-profit category, for its work that included encouraging 382 of the world's top 500 companies to disclose their carbon emissions and water usage.

Dr Ashok Gadgil from the University of California, Berkeley, won the lifetime achievement category and US$500,000 for work including his Darfur stove project, a fuel efficient cooking stove which has prompted a 55 per cent drop in Darfur's use of firewood.

He said: "Being selected the winner for the Zayed Future Energy Prize is a great honour and tremendous validation of my lifelong passion and efforts for energy innovation and sustainability.

"Looking at the list of past prize winners and runners up - some of whose work I know well - I am impressed with the energy and ingenuity of this group, and I hope that we can work together, and inspire many others, to advance the aim of the Zayed Future Energy Prize - energy sustainability for the planet."

The winner of the large companies award was Schneider Electric, a French company. Although it received no financial award, the prize recognised its efforts towards making energy safe, reliable and efficient.

A record number of entries were received this year for the awards, founded in 2008 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. A total of 425 individuals, businesses and organisations submitted entries.

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the director general of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, said of the competitors: "These are people that had the foresight to recognise that investing in the future is based on long term vision and the ability to innovate the technologies that the world so urgently needs."

Last year the organisers announced that they would nearly double the total prize money to $4m. The top prize for small and medium enterprise or not-for-profit organisations remains $1.5m, while the award for the first runner-up was boosted to $1m and second runner-up to $500,000. Both were previously $350,000.

The judging panel included Cherie Blair, the wife of the former British prime minister Tony Blair, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the president of Iceland, and Leonardo DiCaprio, the actor.

Last Updated:Jan 16, 2012

The World Future Energy Summit provides a platform for the UAE to build relations with like-minded nations, improve knowledge transfer and drive sustainable development.

Sultan Al Jaber

Most entries were either concerned with energy efficiency or technologies to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. The prize also recognises innovations in sectors such as solar and wind power; energy-efficient building design; smart grids that efficiently deliver electricity; biofuels and sustainable waste management.


Carbon Disclosure Project, fuel-efficient stove and France's Schneider Electric take honours and their share of $4 million in prizes.

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8cm-long tumour removed from womb


Sharjah: An eight-centimetre long tumour, one of the largest recorded in the country, was removed last week from the womb of a woman without invasive surgery.

Dr Mohammad Zayed, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Sharjah University Hospital, said the 38-year-old patient was initially advised to have surgery through opening her abdomen due to the large size of the tumour.

Severe pain

"The other surgical option, which is what we did for this patient, was a surgery where a special scope is introduced through the cervix into the uterine cavity," said Dr Zayed.

The procedure did not take longer than two hours, and the patient was discharged after three hours.

Finding tumours in wombs is mostly accidental, as the majority of patients discover fibroids during ultrasound scans.

"In the majority of the cases, the patient does not have any symptoms and do not require treatment," he said.

However, in this case, the patient suffered from severe pain and heavy menstrual bleeding that in many cases can lead to severe anaemia, which may require blood transfusion.

Special case

Non-invasive surgery is considered the best type of surgery for patients who want to remain fertile.

This kind of procedure is not done for tumours that exceed five centimetres. "What was special about our case is that the tumour size exceeded seven centimetres, and more than 50 per cent extended deep into the wall of the uterus," Dr Zayed said.

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Obama and Jordan's king in talks to focus on stalled peace moves


The National Omar Karmi

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WASHINGTON // Barack Obama, the US president, was due to meet Jordan's King Abdullah II at the White House yesterday for talks expected to focus on stalled international efforts to push forward a Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Jordan hosted Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in Amman this month and although the talks have yielded little progress so far, they mark the first time the sides have faced each other since 2010.

The talks also suggest Amman is seeking to fill a regional mediation role vacated by Cairo after the removal of Hosni Mubarak. Jordan is the only other Arab country that has a peace treaty with Israel.

In an interview in yesterday's Washington Post, King Abdullah said he believed Palestinians and Israelis remained committed to pushing ahead but faced major hurdles.

"I am cautious about saying that I'm cautiously optimistic," he said, adding the Amman talks amounted to "baby steps", but progress nonetheless.

"I do believe they want a way out, a way to get to [direct] negotiations. We all know the positions in which they have entrenched themselves. However, the intent, I believe, is there - from both sides. It is little baby steps, right at the beginning."

Three rounds of talks between the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have so far been held in Amman and another meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday.

King Abdullah also alluded to the events of the Arab Spring in the Post interview and suggested Israeli leaders have realised they are running out of time. "Waiting is the worst mistake the Israelis can make. It wasn't until the elections in Egypt that suddenly Israel awoke ... Now I think there has been a big shift in the way the Israelis look at the issue, and it is imperative for them ... [to] get the Israeli-Palestinian issue off the menu."

Jordan has also had its share of protests, and there are weekly, if small, demonstrations throughout the country against government corruption. King Abdullah has promised domestic reform, but the pace of change has so far been slow.

A US-based Jordanian opposition group, the Jordan National Movement, said it was organising a protest outside the White House against King Abdullah's "absolute monarchy system".


With Amman seeking to fill a regional mediation role vacated by Cairo, talks expected to focus on stalled international efforts to push forward a Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

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Mechanic admits to stealing 6,000 bullets


Dubai: A mechanic admitted yesterday that he stole 6,000 bullets from a shooting club in Jebel Ali and gave them to a military pilot.

Prosecutors said the 32-year-old Pakistani mechanic abused his position to access the shooting club, steal the bullets from the ammunition storage room of one of the shooters in the club and took them in a sports bag.

An Emirati major pilot, O.M., 35, was charged with aiding and abetting the Pakistani.

"I am guilty. Yes I stole the bullets," A.A., 32, was heard telling the Dubai Court of First Instance yesterday.

"I am not guilty," said O.M. when he defended himself before Presiding Judge Al Saeed Mohammad Barghout in courtroom nine.


According to the arraignment sheet, A.A. stole 5,000 .22mm bullets and 1,000 9mm bullets. O.M. was charged aiding and abetting A.A. and inciting him to steal the bullets.

An Emirati police first lieutenant testified that the shooting club reported to the Operation Room that the bullets were stolen. "The club's management discovered that 6,000 bullets were missing shortly after they made an inventory. The mechanic had permission to access the storage room because he worked for a club member.

"We suspected him immediately because he was spotted on the surveillance cameras entering the room several times. Police raided his house in Nad Al Sheba and arrested him. Initially he denied stealing the bullets… but later he admitted that he took the bullets for the sake of O.M. Police found in his car 2,000 bullets," said the first lieutenant.

The first lieutenant told prosecutors: "O.M. admitted during questioning that A.A. went to his house and gave him a handbag full of bullets.

A present

He claimed that the Pakistani told him it was a present and so he paid him Dh1,000 to help him. The Emirati alleged that he gave some of the bullets to his nephew.

Meanwhile, he kept the remaining bullets for training." Court records said O.M. returned 4,000 bullets to the shooting club.

The trial continues.

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Rescue operation suspended on stricken Italian cruise liner


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ROME // Italian rescue workers have suspended operations after the stricken ship shifted slightly on the rocks near the Tuscan coast, creating deep concerns about the safety of divers and firefighters searching for the 22 people still missing.

The US$450 million (Dh1.65 billion) Costa Concordia had more than 4,200 passengers and crew on board when it slammed into the reef on Friday off the tiny Italian island of Giglio after the captain made an unauthorised manoeuvre.

The bodies of five adult passengers — four men and one woman, all wearing life jackets — were discovered yesterday, raising the death toll to 11. Their nationalities were not immediately released.

Instruments attached to the ship detected the movements early today, forcing the search to be suspended even though firefighters who spent the night searching the area above water could not detect the movement. No additional passengers or crew were found.

"As a precautionary measure, we stopped the operations this morning, in order to verify the data we retrieved from our detectors, and understand if there actually was a movement, and if there has been one, how big this was," said Coastguard Commander Filippo Marini.

Officials said they hope the data from the instruments will reassure them that the ship has resettled, allowing the search to resume. The latest victims were discovered after navy divers exploded holes in the hull of the ship to allow easier access.

In addition to the rescue, much of the focus has been on the cruise ship captain's actions during and after the grounding.

In a dramatic phone conversation released yesterday, a coastguard official was ordering the captain, who had abandoned the ship with his first officers, back on board to oversee the evacuation. But Capt Schettino resisted the order, saying it was too dark and the ship was tipping dangerously.

Click here for the transcript of the audio conversation

The judge who released the captain of the Costa Concordia into house arrest said there was mounting evidence against the Captain Francesco Schettino's claims that he had tried to rejoin the stricken vessel.

The fact that other crew and officers stayed on board to try to evacuate the passengers refuted the captain's claim that he could not oversee the operation from the vessel, said Judge Valeria Montesarchio.

The judge also considered that Capt Schettino had not made "any serious attempt" to return to the vessel "or even close to it" after leaving during the evacuation.

She also noted that once he had left the ship, he remained for hours on the rocks with crew members watching the rescue operation.

Explaining her ruling, she said she did not think there was any risk that Capt Schettino would try to flee but she did believe he could try to conceal evidence, which is why he needed to be under house arrest.

Under Italian law he will not be allowed to leave his home in the village of Meta di Sorrento, south of Naples or communicate with anyone apart from his lawyer and very close family.

Criminal charges including manslaughter and abandoning ship are expected to be filed by prosecutors in the coming days. He faces 12 years in prison for the abandoning ship charge alone.

Italian authorities say 24 passengers and four crew members are missing, including the five bodies found yesterday. They include two Americans, 13 Germans, six Italians, four French, a Hungarian, an Indian and a Peruvian.

Meanwhile, a Dutch company said it would be ready to begin operations to pump fuel from the ship to avert a potential environmental disaster.

Luca Cari, a fire department spokesman, said once the all clear is given, the plan is to both resume the search and begin work on pumping the fuel out in tandem.

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Abu Dhabi to honour people for good deeds


Abu Dhabi: Individuals who have been recognised for their good deeds towards the community in the emirate of Abu Dhabi in 2011 will be honoured at a televised ceremony for the Abu Dhabi Awards on January 25, the award's organising committee announced yesterday.

The Award, which is held under the patronage of General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, will be broadcast at 9pm on the Abu Dhabi Al Oula channel.

Over 21,000 individuals were nominated — the highest number of any Abu Dhabi Awards campaign to date.

Recipients, together with their families, will be joined at the ceremony by senior representatives from the government and the community from across the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

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Companies and agencies in UAE told to destroy banned pesticides


Dubai: Owners of banned pesticides within the UAE have 90 days to register and destroy the potentially fatal chemical compounds under new regulations issued by federal authorities on Monday.

One year after announcing an extensive ban on 401 of a listed 835 pesticides on record since the mid-2000s, the Ministry of Environment and Water announced on Monday that it is further cracking down on killer chemicals attributed to the deaths of more than five people across the country in 2011.

Officials investigated more than 20 incidents of pesticide poisoning last year in which infestation-ridding chemicals migrated throughout buildings under fumigation and threatened human health.

"Companies, organisations, and private and governmental bodies that own these banned or restricted pesticides will have three months following the issuance of this resolution to notify the ministry, or a specialised authority or body, so they can take the appropriate measures and dispose of these pesticides," said the ministry in a statement yesterday.

Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, Minister of Environment and Water, said new measures will ramp up efforts by the government to protect human health.

In its statement, the ministry said new measures prohibit "individuals, private and governmental bodies from using, importing or trading in various types of pesticides.

Meeting standards

"As per the resolution, it is forbidden to trade or use any type of pesticide until it is registered in the ministry's register, which requires the approval of the pesticide registration committee at the ministry, and receiving a licence from the specialised authority. The pesticide must also meet the standards and conditions of the bylaws of Federal Law No 41 of 1992 pertaining to agricultural pesticides."

Dinesh Ramachandran, technical director of National Pest Control based in Dubai, said steps to protect human health and ensure that only licensed companies handle dangerous chemicals may go a long way in preventing human tragedy.

"It is a good move. These are toxic chemicals. Definitely, it's a welcome move for chemicals that are harmful to the environment," Ramachandran told Gulf News, adding that the country "is moving in the right direction in line with international standards".

The latest steps will augment moves by Dubai Municipality's public health section where authorities are constantly monitoring pesticide firms to ensure public safety is adhered to.

"Dubai Municipality is doing surprise visits, evaluating company sites and making sure there are no banned products," he said.

On the no-go list

An Environment Agency list of banned pesticides obtained by Gulf News yesterday showed as many as 82 agents such as arsenic and DDT to mercury compounds are on the no-go list across the UAE. The chemicals are not only dangerous to human health but can hurt the environment.

Otaiba Al Qaidi, director of the Department of Hazardous Chemicals and Waste, said that a new resolution updates the list of banned pesticides in the UAE but did not elaborate on whether new pesticides were added to the blacklist.


The ministry, however, "separates the pesticides into different types, depending on its type, dangers, level of toxicity to humans and animals, and damage it causes to the environment".

The ministry said yesterday that the list includes "agricultural and veterinary pesticides, some of which are highly poisonous, carcinogenic and very damaging to the environment… banning these pesticides protect human, animal, and plant health, as well as agricultural and animal products".

Continued use of restricted pesticides for the time-being will help control pest problems under licensed technicians at approved pest control companies in the UAE, the ministry said. Dinesh Ramachandran, technical director of National Pest Control based in Dubai, said new measures dictate that companies or individuals storing pesticides that fall under the blacklist updated in January 2011 should contact authorities such as the municipality's Hazardous Materials department.Pesticides can then be taken to Jebel Ali Hazardous Materials site for proper and documented disposal."Once they register and are approved, they have a contractor dispose of it," Ramachandran told Gulf News.

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