Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pollster: SBY remains most popular candidate for president

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) remains the most popular candidate for the presidential election on July 8, according to the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI).

LSI senior researcher Burhanudin Muhtadi said at a discussion on "SBY`s Running Mate: Technocrat or Politician" here on Wednesday that SBY was still ranked first by the public no matter who would be his running mate in the election.

"According to the latest results of the survey carried out at random on April 19-26 involving 2,000 respondents aged 17 years and above, SBY collected most of the votes," he said.

According to the survey results from 33 provinces in the country SBY collected 65 percent of the votes if he paired up with Sri Mulyani (finance minister), 66.4 percent with Jusuf Kalla ( vice president), 66.7 percent with Aburizal Bakrie (cabinet minister) and 66.1 percent with noted politician Akbar Tanjung.

Megawati from the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI) only garnered 21 to 23 percent of votes if she paired up with former military figure Prabowo from the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) while Wiranto, also a former military figure from the People`s Conscience Party (Hanura) could only collect 4.0 to 5.0 percent with Hidayat Nur Wahid, an Islamic figure.

Based on results of survey in March 2009 the SBY-Hatta Rajasa (cabinet minister) ticket meanwhile collected 61.2 percent while Megawati-Sultan Hamengkubuwono (public figure) only 23.1 percent.

"The survey results showed SBY remained at the top no matter who he would be paired up with," he said.

He said SBY`s top popularity was one of the factors that made the prefer him, adding no others is more popular than SBY.

U.S.-Israeli "special relationship" damaged by Iran factor

by David Harris

JERUSALEM, May 6 (Xinhua) -- The traditionally warm ties between the United States and Israel have been strained since U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both came into office earlier this year. The tension has increased with an apparent difference of opinion on linkage between the Palestinian issue and Iran's nuclear program.

While the two subjects are seemingly unrelated, the Netanyahu government has made clear it sees Iran as the number-one topic that needs tackling immediately. However, the Obama administration argues the two issues must be dealt with simultaneously.

Washington's bid to smooth ruffled feathers went into full gear on Tuesday, when Obama hosted his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peresat the White House. Later this month he will also meet Netanyahu.

As Peres was meeting Obama, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden and other officials, the United States was making clear what it expects of Israel on the nuclear front.

Following the Obama-Peres parley, the White House issued a statement which included reference to an exchange of views "on the opportunities and challenges, including the pursuit of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East and Iran's nuclear program that the present moment presents to achieving our countries' shared goal of peace and security for Israel and all of its neighbors."

"When Netanyahu meets Obama, he will ask him, and justifiably so, 'you say it's advantageous to build relations with Iran. How?'" said former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami.

"I don't think Obama has clear answers," said the professor, who is currently vice president of the Toledo International Center for Peace in Spain.

Believing that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program, the Netanyahu government wants to see Washington pushing for stricter sanctions against Tehran. Ben-Ami and other Middle East watchers say that is the best Israel can hope for from the United States.

"I don't see the Obama administration opting for military action against Iran," said Ben-Ami. "If the last U.S. administration didn't go for it and specifically told Israel not to attack Iran, then I can't see it happening under Obama."

Meanwhile, speaking at the third session of the preparatory committee for the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said on Tuesday her government expects Israel to join the NPT.

Universal adherence to the NPT itself -- including by India, Israel, Pakistan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- also remains a fundamental objective of the United States, she said during the gathering at UN headquarters in New York.

This is part of the carrot and stick operation which analysts believe Obama is using in dealing with Israel; the carrot being sanctions against Iran.

As Israel continues to stress the Iranian theme, the Palestinians are urging Washington to push the Palestinian conflict to the top of the agenda.

"I am not criticizing Obama's suggestion (of dealing with the Iranian and Palestinian tracks at the same time) but we as Palestinians feel ours is a very important conflict and resolving it will help pacify the region a lot," said Muhammad Dajani, a political scientist at the Palestinian Al-Quds University.

"If there's calm here, it will lead to negotiations around the Middle East and help with the dialogue with the Iranians," said Dajani, adding that Palestinians are of the opinion that Netanyahuhas adopted the Iran-first argument as "a way to buy time to further establish the occupation."

However, Ben-Ami does not believe Netanyahu is deliberately trying to create disagreements with Obama as a time-wasting exercise or for any other reason.

"The Israel of Netanyahu is not heading for confrontation with Obama," he said.

In order for that to be the case, Netanyahu will have to at least give some lip service to compromise when in Washington later this month.

Biden has already made clear the U.S. policy agenda regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He chose to do so on Tuesday when he attended the annual conference of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main pro-Israel lobby in the United States.

While talking of the "bond" between Israel and the United States and advocating the Arab world makes "real gestures," he also called on Israel to "not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts and allow the Palestinians' freedom of movement...This is a 'show me' deal -- not based on faith -- show me," he said.
Source : China view

Up to 100 dead' in US-Afghan raid

A US led air strike in Afghanistan is believed to have killed as many as 100 civilians, including many women and children.

Rohul Amin, the governor of Farah province where strike took place, said on Wednesday that he feared 100 civilians had been killed in the province's Bala Baluk district, about 600km from Kabul, the capital.

Amin said Taliban fighters were reportedly using civilian homes to shelter from US-led forces during an operation targeting fighters.

The US military says it investigating the incident which occurred on Monday.

If the claims are verified, the deaths in Farah would be the largest loss of civilian life in a single incident since US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said in Washington on Wednesday that the Obama administration "deeply, deeply" regrets the loss of innocent life, calling such incidents "particularly painful".

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, in the US capital for a US-Afghanistan-Pakistan meeting, thanked Clinton for "showing concern and regret" and said he hoped the two sides would work together completely to reduce civilian casualties in the "struggle against terrorism".

And Jim Jones, US national security adviser, said on Wednesday at a White House news briefing that investigations would be pursued "aggressively" to discover what had happened.
'Dozens of bodies'

Jessica Barry, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), earlier said that the organisation sent a team to the region after concerned tribal leaders contacted them seeking help.

"When [our team] went to the first two villages where these incidents took place they saw dozens of bodies. They saw graves and they saw people being buried," she told Al Jazeera.

Scores dead after US raid in Afghanistan
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Barry said that an ICRC community-based first aid volunteer and his extended family, including his five daughters and three sons, were among the dead.

She said that they were killed while sheltering in their home.

The US said on Tuesday that it was conducting a joint inquiry, along with the Afghan government, into the deaths, with investigators from both sides visiting the sites.

Robert Wood, the acting US state department spokesman, said in a statement: "Coalition forces and the Afghan government have received reports of civilian casualties in conjunction with a militant attack on Afghan National Security Forces in Farah Province on May 5.

"A joint investigation will be conducted to determine exactly what happened."

Colonel Greg Julian, a US military spokesman, acknowledged that a battle had taken place, but could not say if there had been civilian deaths.

"Once we get eyes on the ground we will have a better idea of what may have happened," he said.

Account of clash

The deadly clashes in Bala Baluk occurred after Taliban fighters killed three former government officials in a village for co-operating with the state, Amin, the Farah governor, said.

He said that villagers had brought lorryloads of bodies to his office in the provincial capital as proof of their death.

If verified, the Farah deaths would be the largest loss of civilian life in a single incident

The US government has come under increasing criticism during the past year for civilian deaths during operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.

Barry, the ICRC spokesperson, said: "I think that it is important to remember that this is not a one-off situation. There has been a rise in casualties over the last year.

"It is absolutely important to remind all sides that civilians must not be harmed."

For his part, Wood of the state department said: "US and international forces take extensive precautions to avoid loss of life among Afghan civilians as well as international and Afghan forces during operations against insurgents and terrorists."

Karzai said that the civilian deaths in Farah were unacceptable and that he intended to discuss it with Barack Obama, his US counterpart, on Wednesday.

The trilateral talks involving Karzai, Obama and Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan president, are aimed at addressing the war against the Taliban.

Focus on fighting

The Taliban has used Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks in the two countries since their five-year rule in Kabul was ended by a US military invasion in 2001.

Washington has heightened its focus on fighting the Taliban since the Obama administration assumed power this year, with an added 21,000 troops being sent to Afghanistan.

There are more than 30,000 US troops in Afghanistan already, alongside a similar number of troops from other foreign nations.

Last year, about 2,000 civilians were killed in fighting against the Taliban, according to the UN.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank launches loans range

Martin MorrisAbu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) has announced the launch of three new loan products targeted at SME (Small & Medium Enterprise) customers.

Last year, the bank brought out 'BusinessEdge', which included five transaction banking packages.

The products now being launched include "BusinessEdge Insta Loan", an unsecured credit facility up to 500,000 dirhams enabling small businesses to meet working capital and term loan requirements.

The bank is also launching commercial vehicle and construction equipment loans to fund purchases from leading manufacturers.
Source : Arabian Business

New port terminal to be ready by October

By Muhammad Humaidan
JEDDAH: Mazen Mohammed Matar, CEO of Red Sea Gateway Terminal Company, said the new terminal would increase Jeddah Islamic Port’s capacity by 45 percent. The new facility would be operational by October this year with half capacity.

The terminal is designed to handle 1.5 million containers annually. “Our desire is to complete the project with all related aspects including linkage with Jeddah city and the port,” he said. “We have prepared three studies, including a traffic study on linking the terminal with the port and the city. We have passed these studies to the concerned authorities,” he said.

A committee comprising representatives of different departments, such as municipality and the Traffic Department, has approved a number of proposals made in that study to serve Jeddah for the next 30 years. “The study has taken into consideration the roads around the port including traffic intersections, up to the borders of Andalus district,” he said.

It has also taken into consideration peak traffic hours and the effect of entry and exit of containers to and from the port as well as high seasons such as Haj and Umrah.

The second study deals with linking the Red Sea Gateway with the railway land bridge project. The third study focuses on the project’s effect on Jeddah’s environment during construction work and after operation in order to avoid any negative effect on marine life.

“There is good cooperation between the company and the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment in this respect,” Matar said.

All agencies working on the project performed well last year, he said. “As a result the project was able to report big successes despite the global financial crisis,” he said.

He said the impact of the global financial crisis and the rise in construction and equipment cost did not prevent the company to fulfill its commitment toward the state and carry out its work systematically.

“All preparations are being made for the launch of the gateway terminal, including work in the sea. A 16.5-meter deep canal has been built in order to accommodate large container ships. In addition, there is a marine wharf with a depth of 18 meters and eight cranes are being erected. Four of these cranes will be operational in the first phase and they are equal to the ones in Shanghai and can carry four containers at a time,” he said.

Matar praised the cooperation of different government departments with the project’s management. “The project provides all facilities to agencies working in the terminal, including customs, laboratories and clearing offices,” he said.

The CEO said despite the smallness of space given for the project the terminal is designed to ensure quality of work in the future. “If situations are suitable our company would not hesitate to construct more terminals,” he said.

Source : Arab News

Europe, Be Happy and Embrace Muslims

By Khedr Abd Al-Mo'ti Khedr

Thank God whose blessings insure all good for the launch of the EU Muslim family campaign under the slogan "a stable family forms a stable community." We shall pray for the best father, grandfather, husband, brother-in-law, and the last of the prophets and messengers: Prophet Mohammed, may God's blessings be upon him.

This fortunate campaign is led by the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) in coordination with all its institutions in more than 30 European countries. The FOIE, in supporting the campaign financially and intellectually, massed all its scholars, preachers, spiritual guides, and intellectuals with full capacity and strong enthusiasm to awaken people and correct illusions. Various activities have been prepared to approach individuals and families in the West. This campaign, in my view, will be very fruitful for the whole European community as well as being a fundamental fortification especially for the Muslim family. Thanks to this campaign, both Muslim and non-Muslim communities will soon co-live in an atmosphere of security and prosperity due to two reasons.

Reforming the EU Muslim Family

The first reason is the reformation of the Muslim family, which is now part and parcel of the European community. Such reformation will definitely lead to a wide amelioration in the European society. To elaborate, a stable community can be seen in many shapes such as a good husband-wife relationship and effective parenting. Any society has to guarantee a healthy environment for upbringing children.

There is an educational theory that a child has to have some fun and joy during his / her first seven years. Within those years, the child might be guided without deterrent punishment so that he/she could acquire decency and have, their parents, as a good example to follow. Then, the following seven years the child directly learns regulations, laws, and disciplines. After this phase, the young boy will be able to show responsibility and can support his family as well as his country. This theory is mostly conforms to our God's, Most Glorious and Most Merciful, verse: (My Lord! Bestow on them thy Mercy as they cherished me in childhood) (Al-Israa, 24). Many institutions suffering from raising family problems will benefit from this campaign. The Muslim family has many hanging issues in different fields such as social affairs, police, legislation, education, etc. All these problems will be tackled by the campaign in conferences, forums, field visits, and researches.

Exploring New Role Models

The second reason, which reveals the importance of the EU Muslim family campaign, is that the European family will be able to find a model role for its members to guide them through the way, that is the model of its stable Muslim family in the neighborhood. The most wonderful way to approach our goal for all families is to adopt the holistic methodology that will lead us all to stability and happiness. That divine path softens the dry materialistic life which cannot guarantee man's happiness despite its strength and discipline. Neither did the scientific progress secure a life-loving human being free from fears, and selfishness. As the British philosopher Bertrand Russell says, "Though man won his battle against nature thanks to knowledge, he lost his war against himself where knowledge did him no good." He also admits that religion can handle such war.

The EU family campaign, seeking both Muslim and non-Muslim families in Europe, has carried the wholly congenital righteous lamb. Obviously, it tackles all the problems facing teenagers and matrimonial conflicts, as well as defending the rights of the European woman when she gets married to a Muslim man. This campaign encourages the couple to have patience with each other - we shall explain this in the following paragraph.

Raising Generations

In order to illustrate this, we must say that human beings sometimes ignorantly adopt wrong concepts for a life time. This cannot be changed easily but with patience, understanding, and counseling. According to this theory, both husband and wife should tackle all negative issues in their life. Any couple should help each other to raise a good generation that respects its identity and its origins of both parents. This generation should be aware of the social hierarchy inside the family and respect it.

The EU family campaign aims at achieving integration and settlement without prejudice or ingratitude. Additionally, it is a reminder for all who forgot the real goal of a Muslim in life so that money and kids will not turn into a plague for them. Many Muslim families' faiths have been tested during their journey, especially the early immigrants. Their children, for example, have strayed from the right path despite their luxurious life. This comes as a proof of our Lord saying (Let not their wealth nor their (following in) sons dazzle thee: in reality Allah's Plan is to punish them with these things in this life) (Al Tawba, 25) Another verse assuring that concept is "truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider's house," an approved scientific fact. This great image from our Holy Book shows how a family that is not deeply based on the Islamic principles would meet the same fate of a spider's house; to be crashed and destroyed. The family weakness comes from a materialistic father and an unfaithful wife. Then follows the impious children. All these reasons confirm the goals of the family campaign.

Learning many sciences and achieving academic excellences is the main road towards fortification. European Muslims should also use their countries' language together with their mother tongue, not to forget it. Most important of all is to learn the Arabic language, that of the Holy Qur’an. Applying all these pieces of advice, we will ensure having good offspring with all useful knowledge, languages, and tempers.

Also a Campaign for Women

It’s a fortification campaign for women as well; a campaign that will synchronize with the European celebration of Woman's Day on March 8th. This campaign aims at wiping out the bad image of women in the developing countries, then resetting their roles in the European countries by giving good and righteous Muslim examples. Thus woman will be honored and appreciated and her role in family, society, and life will be stressed.

This initiative is considered a comprehensive methodology to reform all family affairs introduced by the EU family campaign in Europe. However, none can deny the importance of materialism for people and countries.

With God's blessings, we launch the EU family campaign in Europe, we call all the honest and sincere intellectuals and media men, not only in the FOIE but in all free and moderate institutions in Europe, to get involved in this campaign, each with whatever they can do and what they are destined to.
* Khedr Abd Al-Mo'ti Khedr is a member of the European Assembly for Imams and Spiritual Guides.
Source : Islam Online