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Myanmar UN envoy meets with leading Government and opposition figures

Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Myanmar, said that during the three-day visit he underlined the importance of the Government implementing its stated commitments on such issues as governance, human rights, the rule of law and sustainable development. In a press statement issued in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, Mr. Nambiar noted that expectations are high both domestically and internationally that the Government will soon take “concrete steps” to meet those commitments. “In all my meetings I stressed that this must include the release of all political prisoners and inclusive dialogue with all segments of society, as well as greater outreach to the international community to ensure that the proposed reforms enjoyed broad buy-in,” he said. “Only then can there be greater confidence that the efforts undertaken will indeed serve to meet the long-standing needs and aspirations of the people of Myanmar. There is no time to waste if Myanmar is to move forward.” Mr. Nambiar welcomed the themes and reforms outlined by President Thein Sein in his inaugural speeches on “some of the most pressing political and economic challenges facing Myanmar.” The Special Adviser cited sustainable development and equitable growth; good governance, through greater inclusiveness, accountability and transparency; respect for fundamental human rights, the media and the rule of law; and continued engagement with those who do not accept the recently adopted constitution and the Government’s roadmap agenda. During the visit Mr. Nambiar met with the ministers of foreign affairs, home affairs, social welfare, national planning and development, as well as newly appointed presidential advisers for political, legal and economic affairs. He also held discussions with the Deputy Speaker of the People’s Assembly and the Secretary-General of the Union Solidarity and Development Party. In addition, Mr. Nambiar met with Ms. Suu Kyi and members of the NLD’s central executive committee, and also with representatives of parliamentary political parties and civil society organizations. During the visit he also reiterated the UN’s commitment to engage more with the people and Government of Myanmar on issues ranging from health and education to human rights and capacity building. 13 May 2011A top United Nations official today wrapped up a visit to Myanmar, where he met with senior members of the country’s newly installed Government and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). read more

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UN urges governments to recommit to protecting refugees and stateless people

19 May 2011As the 60th anniversary of the landmark global pact on the status of refugees approaches, the United Nations refugee agency is urging States to make new commitments to protecting the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees and find ways of addressing displacement as a result of non-traditional causes. This year the UN is marking the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees as well as the 50th Anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Erika Feller, Assistant High Commissioner on Protection in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in New York today that new causes of displacement are emerging, including some driven by climate change, even as governments increasingly ignore the conventions obliging them to protect the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and those considered stateless. She said States should come together to consider “what level of protection is due to people displaced by other factors.” Detention of refugees is on the rise due to fear of terrorism and trans-national crime, Ms. Feller said. “In many cases criminals have more rights than refugees,” she said, adding that governments were spending money to trample the rights of refugees by confining them in detention facilities. UNHCR was created in December 1950 by the General Assembly. Its original purpose was to address the post-World War II refugee situation in Europe, but its work quickly expanded. Ms. Feller highlighted the problem of statelessness, noting that stateless people remained “underappreciated” and denied the right to education, travel and even decent burial because they lack identity. “They live in the legal shadow in States where they live,” Ms. Fuller said. UNHCR will use the forthcoming anniversary to advocate for the strengthening of the international legal framework for dealing with the world’s statelessness and displaced, including lobbying States for increased accession to the key refugee and statelessness conventions. According to UNHCR, only 65 of the 192 UN Member States are currently State parties to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, while just 37 have acceded to or ratified the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The marking of the 60th anniversary of the 1951 convention will culminate in early December when a ministerial conference will be held to review the conventions and invite States to make new commitments to the protection of refugees and devise an action plan to implement those obligations, according to Ms. Feller. “Refugee protection is not a thing of the past; it is a huge challenge for the future,” she said. read more

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Ending violence against women begins with change in attitudes – Migiro

“We need strong laws and we need to enforce them. But our first task is to change attitudes,” Ms. Migiro said in remarks to the Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development in the capital, Addis Ababa.“Attitudes are changing but we need to do better. We need to make sure that universal values prevail over societal norms,” she added.She noted that a 2005 study showed that over 80 per cent of Ethiopian women and 50 per cent of Ethiopian men believe that beating one’s wife could be justified under certain circumstances.“This is absolutely false and dangerous,” said Ms. Migiro. “There is never any excuse for any form of abuse against any woman. Domestic violence is a crime and an abomination.”Many Ethiopian women and girls still suffer harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation/cutting and early marriage, she pointed out. “We have to speak out against these practices. Respect for culture is important but only as long as there is no harm. We cannot continue so-called traditions that cause pain and suffering.” Ms. Migiro paid tribute to the brave women at the Association. “You are all inspiring. Your strength in the face of daunting circumstances proves the power of women to survive and thrive. You are demonstrating how important it is to provide services to victims of gender-based violence everywhere…“This safe house is evidence of progress. But we have a long way to go to protect women and girls and to truly empower them,” she added.The Deputy Secretary-General also highlighted the priority given to the global campaign to fight violence against women and girls by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in particular through his ‘UNiTE to End Violence against Women’ campaign.Launched by Mr. Ban in 2008, the campaign calls for all countries to put in place strong laws, action plans, preventive measures, data collection, and systematic efforts to address sexual violence by 2015.Later this week the UN will observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Numerous events will be held worldwide in connection with the Day, observed annually on 25 November and which this year focuses on youth leadership in preventing and ending gender-based violence. 22 November 2011Strong laws are vital to ending violence against women, but the long road to tackling this scourge begins with a change in attitudes, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro stressed today during a visit to Ethiopia. read more

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TSX higher amid positive German confidence data rising oil prices

The Toronto stock market was higher Tuesday amid reassuring data suggesting Germany will be able to avoid slipping into recession.Traders also looked to the start of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting on interest rates and hoped for a resolution to the fiscal cliff crisis.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 53.86 points to 12,284.33 while the TSX Venture Exchange was down 6.44 points at 1,180.3.The Canadian dollar inched up 0.01 of a cent to 101.33 cents US amid rising oil prices and data showing Canada’s trade picture improved significantly in October.Statistics Canada says the merchandise trade deficit shrank to $169 million, which was a big improvement over the September figure when the deficit was $1 billion. Exports rose one per cent to $38.1 billion while imports fell 1.2 per cent to $38.3 billion.Hopes for more stimulus from the Fed helped push the Dow Jones industrials up 90.23 points to 13,260.11, while the Nasdaq rose 34 points to 3,020.9 and the S&P 500 index was up 11.01 points at 1,429.56.Investors took in an index of German investor optimism which rose more than expected in December. The ZEW indicator of economic sentiment rose to plus 6.9 points, from minus 15.7 in November. Markets had expected the index to rise only to minus 11.5. Germany’s economy grew a modest 0.2 per cent in the third quarter.Meanwhile, investors are expecting the Federal Reserve to embark on another round of stimulus when it wraps up its meeting Wednesday. The Fed’s US$400-billion stimulus program, know as Operation Twist, is set to expire after 2012.It involved the Fed buying $400 billion of longer-term Treasuries and simultaneously selling some of the shorter-dated issues it already held in order to bring down long-term interest rates.Economists now expect that the Fed will begin buying $40 million of long-term treasury securities each month. This would be on top of an existing plan announced in September that involves the Fed buying $40 billion per month in mortgage-backed securities.Negotiations to avoid a fiscal crisis yielded no tangible signs of progress Monday. Fiscal cliff is the name for a situation that will arise at the beginning of the year when automatic tax increases and steep spending cuts are due to take hold. The subsequent shock to the economy would likely push the U.S. back into recession.The eurozone government debt crisis also returned to centre stage following the surprise weekend announcement by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti that he will resign after Italy’s 2013 budget has gone through parliament.Monti, a technocratic leader who has been credited with restoring confidence in Italy’s economy, said he found it impossible to lead after former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s party, parliament’s largest, dropped its support for the government. Analysts fear Monti’s resignation could spark a new round of Italian political turmoil.Tech stocks led TSX advancers as MacDonald, Dettwiler & Assoc. (TSX:MDA) rose $1.19 to $54.34.Patent-licensing firm Wi-LAN Inc. (TSX:WIN) has started litigation against Research in Motion Ltd. (TSX:RIM) alleging patent infringement. The case, launched in the Southern District of Florida, alleges infringement of a patent related to Bluetooth technologies. Wi-LAN shares added five cents to $4.95 while RIM advanced 24 cents to $11.98.The consumer discretion segment was also higher as Magna International (TSX:MG) rose 71 cents to $47.90.Commodities were mixed and the mining group was up 0.6 per cent while copper prices gave up some of Monday’s four-cent rise as the March contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange dipped one cent to US$3.70 a pound. Thompson Creek Metals (TSX:TCM) edged up five cents to $3.16 while First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) gained 19 cents to C$20.56.The energy sector was up 0.5 per cent as the January crude contract gained 19 cents to US$85.75 a barrel. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) climbed 28 cents to C$28.30.Shares in oilsands company MEG Energy Corp. (TSX:MEG) declined 90 cents to $32.75 as the company announced a pair of financing deals to raise a total of $800 million, including one with the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec. MEG said it has agreed to sell nearly 12.13 million shares to a syndicate of underwriters for $33 per share and another 12.12 million shares to the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec for the same price.The gold sector was off 0.15 per cent as February bullion fell $4 to US$1,710.40 an ounce. Eldorado Gold (TSX:ELD) gave back 13 cents to $13.20.Investors also took in the first earnings report issued by Hudson’s Bay Co. (TSX:HBC) since the retailer returned to the Toronto stock market. HBC said its loss from continuing operations was $8.5 million or eight cents per share in the third quarter. That compared with a loss from continuing operations of $7.5 million or seven cents per share in the same year-earlier period.Revenues in the three months ended Oct. 27 were $930.4 million, up from $896.7 million in the 2011 period. Hudson’s Bay Co. also said it will initiate a quarterly dividend of just over nine cents per share and its shares dipped six cents to $16.75.European bourses advanced in the wake of the German economic data as London’s FTSE 100 index gained 0.14 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX was up 0.57 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 gained 0.77 per cent.Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.1 per cent with Japanese utilities coming under pressure a day after a team of geologists said that a nuclear power plant in western Japan is likely located on an active fault. Japanese guidelines prohibit nuclear facilities above active faults.Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.2 per cent but shares in mainland China fell, with the main Shanghai index closing 0.4 per cent lower.In other corporate news, HSBC will pay US$1.9 billion to settle a U.S. money-laundering probe, avoiding a protracted legal battle that would have further embarrassed the British banking giant. The probe of Europe’s largest bank by market value focused on the transfer of funds through the U.S. financial system from Mexican drug cartels and on behalf of countries such as Iran that are under international sanctions.And Delta Air Lines is buying almost half of Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic for US$360 million as it seeks a bigger share of the lucrative New York-to-London travel market. read more

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TSX lower as traders look to Alcoa earnings

The Toronto stock market was lower Tuesday as traders hoped for a favourable lookahead from Alcoa Inc. when the resource giant kicks off of the fourth quarter corporate earnings season after the close.The S&P/TSX composite index lost 36.91 points to 12,462.64 while the TSX Venture Exchange rose 0.64 of a point to 1,224.53.The Canadian dollar was down 0.18 of a cent to 101.27 cents US.U.S. markets were lower as the Dow Jones industrials declined 50.81 points to 13,333.48, the Nasdaq was down 11.08 points to 3,087.74 and the S&P index slipped 7.38 points to 1,454.51.Alcoa (NYSE:AA) is expected to turn in earnings per share of six cents on revenue of US$5.61 billion after posting a loss of three cents a share a year ago.But traders will likely be most interested in the aluminum company’s outlook against a background of tepid economic growth around the globe. Alcoa has been dealing with sharply lower aluminum prices, down 15 per cent from a year ago.Alcoa traditionally starts the run of U.S. quarterly earnings. The company is viewed as a bellwether for the overall economy as its products are used in everything from cars to aircraft to appliances.It’s also viewed as a good indication of where the overall resource sector is at, an important consideration for a market like the TSX that is heavily weighted in favour of commodity-based companies.Alcoa shares ticked five cents higher to US$9.15 in New York.Gold stocks led TSX decliners while the February bullion contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained $9.70 to US$1,656 an ounce after three days of losses and the gold sector was per cent.Gold prices have suffered in recent days because of uncertainty about whether the U.S. Federal Reserve might end its stimulus program of bond buying in the second half of 2013. Minutes from the Fed’s latest policy meeting showed a split over how long to continue the purchases amid concerns that they could destabilize the economy.The bond buying, known as quantitative easing, has supported bullion prices because of worries the program would drive inflation higher. Gold is seen as a hedge against inflation.Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) shares were down 48 cents to C$34.21 after it announced Monday that it is raising its monthly dividend by 11 per cent to five cents per share.Elsewhere in the gold sector, African Barrick Gold PLC stock plunged about 20 per cent on the London stock exchange after Canadian parent Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) announced that talks about a potential sale to China National Gold have broken off without a deal. The Toronto-based Barrick Gold owns about three-quarters of the ABG shares outstanding and Barrick Gold shares faded 52 cents to C$33.05.The metals and mining sector was off 0.7 per cent while the March copper contract was down a penny at US$3.67 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) shed 44 cents to C$36.71 while First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) shed 24 cents to $21.47.Oil prices erased early gains ahead of the release of data expected to show a rise of 1.5 million barrels in crude oil stocks and 2.6 million barrels in gasoline stocks last week, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.The American Petroleum Institute will release its report on oil stocks later Tuesday.The February crude contract dipped 10 cents to US$93.09 a barrel.The energy sector stepped back 0.37 per cent and Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) lost 28 cents to C$29.50 while Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) fell 39 cents to $42.80.Financials were also in the red with Sun Life Financial (TSX:SLF) down 25 cents to $27.14 while Royal Bank (TSX:RY) gave back 29 cents to $60.52.Tech stocks provided most lift as Research In Motion Ltd. (TSX:RIM) rose 16 cents to $11.92.In economic news, traders took in data showing that the chronic government debt crisis in Europe has pushed unemployment to record highs in the 17-nation eurozone. The jobless rate hit 11.8 per cent in December, up from 11.7 per cent the previous month.Investors found some comfort in a separate report showing business and consumer sentiment in the eurozone rose in December by more than analysts were expecting and that retail sales edged up in November. That suggests that the improvement in financial markets during those months helped economic activity stabilize. Analysts warned, however, not to expect any imminent turnaround in the economy.European bourses were mixed as London’s FTSE 100 index rose 0.06 per cent, Frankfurt’s DAX inched down 0.21 per cent and the Paris CAC 40 climbed 0.44 per cent.Earlier, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index tumbled 0.9 per cent as the yen crept upward against the U.S. dollar. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.9 per cent while South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.7 per cent.Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand fell, while Malaysia and the Philippines rose. Mainland Chinese shares were mixed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 per cent. read more

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Crescent Point completes deal for Polar Stars Alberta oil assets

Crescent Point Energy Inc said it had completed the acquisition of oil assets in the Saskatchewan Viking play from private oil and gas producer Polar Star Canadian Oil and Gas Inc for about $334-million in cash and stock.The deal will increase Crescent Point’s land base in the play by 38 percent and include more than 2,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d) of production, the company said.Crescent Point expects the deal to add to its per share reserves, production and cash flow on an adjusted basis.The company also raised its average daily production forecast for 2014 to 135,500 boe/d from its earlier forecast of 134,000 boe/d. It also increased its capital expenditure budget by $25 million to $1.8 billion.Crescent Point, which focuses on producing oil from unconventional fields such as the Bakken shales of southern Saskatchewan, has grown through acquisitions, including the $1.1 billion purchase of CanEra Energy Corp in cash and debt in April.Crescent Point did not specify if the deal was in Canadian or U.S. dollars. The company could not be immediately reached for comment.Shares of the Calgary, Alberta-based company closed at $45.56 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday.© Thomson Reuters 2014 read more

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Calgarybased fertilizer producer Agrium Inc sees Q4 profit jump to US200 million

CALGARY — Agrium Inc. says it reaped a substantial increase in profit last year, bolstered by a strong fourth quarter.The Calgary-based fertilizer producer and retailer, which reports in U.S. currency, had $200 million of net income in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, up from $51 million a year earlier. The profit amounted to $1.45 per share, up from 33 cents in the fourth quarter of 2014.For the full year, net income rose by $268 million to $988 million or $6.98 per share, up from $4.97 in 2014.Agrium and Potash Corp face earnings downdraftAgrium Inc downgraded to hold at TDAgrium Inc activist investor ValueAct happy to keep hands off and enjoy profitsAgrium’s sales were down year-over-year, to $2.4 billion in the fourth quarter and $14.8 billion in 2015. That compared with $2.7 billion in sales in the fourth quarter of 2014 and $16 billion for all of 2014.Agrium’s net income was above the estimate of $1.39 per share but sales were about $445 million below the consensus estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters.For 2016, Agrium is estimating earnings per share of between US$5.50 and $7. read more

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Strong market means little uptake yet in govt softwood aid minister says

OTTAWA — Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr says forest producers in Canada have so far been largely unharmed by the duties the United States imposed on Canadian softwood imports earlier this year.Carr said the consensus at a meeting of federal and provincial forestry ministers Friday was the financial hurt thus far is “not significant.”Canadian producers have paid an estimated $500 million in countervailing and antidumping duties since the end of April but those costs are offset by historically high market prices for wood coupled with a low Canadian dollar and ever-increasing demand.In fact, the main people feeling the pinch are American consumers who are paying up to 20 per cent more for housing materials thanks to the duties.Initially it was felt big Canadian companies would be able to withstand the hit but smaller producers would be forced to lay people off or even close up entirely.That isn’t happening thus far, said Carr, saying the best evidence of that is the fact that uptake on federal loans and loan guarantees to help producers weather the duties has been limited — only about $30 million has been disbursed out of $605 million made available.“We have reached out, literally thousands of letters have gone out from the (Export Development Corp.) to the industry,” said Carr. “There is a lot of interest in understanding what might be available, but to this point there has been, I would say, not a significant number of transactions because there hasn’t been significant demand.”In all, Carr announced $867 million in softwood aid in June including funds to help workers share jobs to prevent layoffs or transition to new positions. An official with Employment and Social Development Canada said Friday it had received only two applications for funds for job sharing.Information is not available for any of the other programs being offered.Carr wouldn’t speculate on whether the fact Canadian producers aren’t suffering much at this point will have any impact on the ongoing negotiations to get a settlement agreement with the Americans. The last agreement expired in 2015, and after a year’s grace period the U.S. Lumber Coalition once again applied for penalties against Canada, accusing it of subsidizing its industry.Canada rejects the claim and intends to fight it in front of international trade bodies but is also working to reach a new negotiated settlement. A deal was close to being signed in the summer but the coalition rejected it over elements related to the quota for Canadian wood.Susan Yurkovich, president of the Council of Forest Industries, told The Canadian Press Friday she thinks there might be pressure mounting on the coalition to accept a deal.First, it is being noted, including by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, that demand for softwood will skyrocket thanks to the two massive hurricanes which hit Texas and Florida in the last month, wood that will cost more as long as the duties are in place.Yurkovich also said at a meeting of the U.S. International Trade Commission this week, U.S. producers were being forced to acknowledge they are making more money than ever, and it may be difficult — though not impossible — for the commission to make a final finding of injury if the industry is clearly not hurting.She said if the commission doesn’t find any evidence of harm there will be no duties and that would be worse for the coalition than accepting a softwood deal with Canada, because it would mean no quotas or tariffs at all on Canadian imports.-follow @mrabson on Twitter. read more

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Lanka wants greater attention

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha has asked that greater attention be paid in the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, to the role of terrorist support networks that take the form of front organizations, the challenge posed by the abuse of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and the propriety of the use or display of terrorist group emblems, insignia and symbols.He emphasized that they communicate the message, purpose, history, and goals of terrorist organizations and as such contribute to the creation of an organizational culture of incitement, hatred, and radicalization, that is  encouraged to be emulated. Noting that while conscious that there remains a tension between the concepts of ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘counter terrorism’ with respect to these issues, it was nevertheless important that these challenges also be addressed squarely in earnest, in order that we arrive at a consensus as to where freedom of expression ends and supporting or glorification of terrorism begins. He added that our failure to do so, will seriously erode the fight against terrorism, and permit the perpetuation of the sense that double standards were being applied with respect to these issues, which turns a blind eye to the actions of some groups, while pursuing those of others. Ambassador Aryasinha said the challenge terrorism poses and the necessity for international cooperation to eradicate it was fully understood by Sri Lanka well before the events of 9/11 and the UN Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1267, and that notwithstanding the Government of Sri Lanka eradicating terrorism in the country a little over 4 years ago, Sri Lanka had not forgotten the damage terrorism causes. Ambassador Aryasinha made these observations when he addressed the International Counter-Terrorism Focal Points Conference on ‘Addressing Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism and Promoting Regional Cooperation’, held in Geneva on 13-14 June 2013. The conference organized by the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force was part of the CTITF Global Initiative on implementing the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy. In his address he drew attention to Sri Lanka’s experience in successfully defeating the LTTE which was one of the world’s most ruthless terrorist groups, and the manner in which the Government of Sri Lanka had domestically, regionally and internationally contributed to the building of the evolving international legal regime relating to countering terrorism and in meeting its international obligations in this regard. Ambassador Aryasinha said since the military defeat of the LTTE in Sri Lanka in May 2009, besides the radicalized activism of LTTE front organizations in several European capitals, the arrest of 32 LTTE activists in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland and the conviction of a further 28 in France, the Netherlands and Belgium, known activists  continue to advocate mono-ethnic separatism in Sri Lanka while espousing the ideology of the LTTE, using its money and being manipulated by its surviving military leaders, who are primarily domiciled in Europe. The continuance of the LTTE’s activities and its network of front organizations in Europe was also manifest in an appeal filed on behalf of the LTTE to the European Court of Justice on 11 April 2011 for the de-listing of the LTTE from the EU list of terrorist entities. While the TE-SAT 2011 report of Europol noted that “Separatist terrorist groups such as the PKK/KONGRA-GEL and LTTE are involved in the trafficking of drugs and human beings to raise funds for their terrorism activities”, the US Global Terrorism Report of 2012 confirms continuing concerns regarding the LTTE, noting that the “the LTTE’s financial network of support continued to operate throughout 2011” and that “the group employed charities as fronts to collect and divert funds for their activities”. Recent incidents in Tamil Nadu too are indications of the continuing attempts by the LTTE to regroup overseas. read more

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Vasu says attempt to unify UPFA futile

President Maithripala Sirisena had refused to give former President Mahinda Rajapaksa nominations from the UPFA to contest the upcoming Parliament elections.The decision paves the way for a major split in the UPFA which will see several Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) members joining Rajapaksa to contest the polls. Audio Playerhttp://colombogazette.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/AAAAA.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume. However Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that President Sirisena had refused to agree to the proposal so the talks were completely futile. The proposal was that the common list of UPFA candidates be headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Parliament election. General Secretary of the Democratic Left Front and United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) member Vasudeva Nanayakkara says talks held with President Maithripala Sirisena this evening, in an attempt to unify the alliance, ended in failure.He said that a proposal was put forward for a common list of candidates for the August 17 election to be agreed on, which will include UPFA members supporting and against former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The SLFP, which is part of the UPFA, and UPFA party leaders had key talks with President Maithripala Sirisena today.At the meeting a decision was to be taken with regards to giving nominations to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest the August 17 Parliament elections.At the meeting the President has said that he, as chairman of the SLFP and UPFA, will not give nominations to Rajapaksa. (Colombo Gazette) read more

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Nandy assures Sri Lanka continued support of UN

At the meeting, President Sirisena noted key priorities of the Government and reiterated the need to work together in addressing such challenges. (Colombo Gazette) Outgoing UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka Subinay Nandy reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to the Government of Sri Lanka in continuing to progressively work together for the benefit of the Sri Lankan people.In February, Nandy, will take up his new post as Head of Asia-Pacific Division of the Department of Political Affairs in UN New York Headquarters. Nandy, concluded his assignment in Sri Lanka after a 4 year and 8 month term and called on President Maithripala Sirisena for an exit meeting, the UN office in Colombo said today. read more

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Sushma to have wideranging talks during Lanka visit

The Joint Commission, co-chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and the Minister of External Affairs of India will be held on 5 February 2016 in Colombo. Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will have wide-ranging talks during her Sri Lanka visit.Swaraj will undertake an official visit to Sri Lanka from 5-6 February 2016 for the Ninth Session of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission, the Foreign Ministry said today. The India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission was established in 1992 as an effective mechanism to address matters pertaining to bilateral cooperation between the two countries. The discussions will include areas such as economic cooperation, trade, power and energy, technical and maritime cooperation, social, cultural and educational matters, science and technology, defence cooperation, health, civil aviation, tourism, and people-to-people contact.The Eighth Session of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission was held in New Delhi on 22 January 2013. Minister Swaraj will arrive in Sri Lanka in the afternoon of 5 February and depart in the evening of 6 February. During her visit, Minister Sushma Swaraj will also call on President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. (Colombo Gazette) read more

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Case against Vijayakala Maheswaran postponed

The case filed against former State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran over a controversial statement she made regarding the LTTE, has been postponed till February next year.The case was postponed by the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court as the Attorney General’s opinion on the case had not yet been received. The case was postponed to February 22nd. (Colombo Gazette)

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Sri Lankan delegation holds candid talks with UN rights chief

Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana and the Sri Lankan delegation met with Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Under- Secretary General in charge of the UN Office in Geneva Michael Moller, on the side-lines of the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.  High Commissioner Bachelet having received the delegation warmly, appreciated the progress made by Sri Lanka in some of the key human rights commitments arising from HRC resolution 30/1, and reaffirmed her readiness and willingness to continue to work with Sri Lanka closely in further strengthening implementation and achieving progress through technical assistance and support in areas where such assistance was required by Sri Lanka, the Foreign Ministry said today. Regarding certain information contained in the Office of the High Commissioner’s Report such as the “mass graves” in Mannar, the release of lands held by the military in the North and East and other matters, the Sri Lanka delegation emphasized the importance in compiling these reports by engaging closely with the relevant local institutions and independent bodies,including the National Human Rights Commission, in verifying facts on the ground. The delegation comprising Hon. Dr. Sarath Amunugama, M.P., Dr. Suren Raghavan, Governor of the Northern Province, and Ravinatha Aryasinha, Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva Ambassador A.L.A. Azeez had a frank and candid discussion with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, during which perspectives on different aspects of OHCHR’s engagement with Sri Lanka were shared by the delegation. At the meeting with the  UN Under- Secretary General the Foreign Minister briefed Moller on progress achieved by Sri Lanka in reconciliation, peacebuilding and development and emphasized the importance of continuing assistance by UN agencies in ongoing reconstruction, reintegration and sustainable development efforts. The Foreign Secretary and the Permanent Representative were associated with the Minister.Appreciating Sri Lanka’s leadership in some of the key areas of UN work, Moller indicated that his office would facilitate contacts between Sri Lanka and other development partners based in Geneva to help explore joint projects to complement Sri Lanka’s national efforts at advancing socio-economic development, noting further that “Sri Lanka being a country with reasonably higher social indicators than many developing states, it could better share best practices and lessons learnt in its national development efforts with the SDG Lab maintained by the United Nations Office (UNOG) and benefit from the experiences of other countries as well.” Responding to Sri Lanka initiative on the National Thripitake Week and the importance of Thripitake as a UNESCO heritage, Under-secretary General Moller assured the delegation that the UN Office in Geneva would extend support for holding specific activities such as library talks on traditions and cultures highlighting their significance as common heritage.Heads and deputy heads of UN and other International Organizations based in Geneva, Ambassadors to the Human Rights Council and other representatives also had an opportunity to meet Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana and other members of his delegation at a reception organized by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva at a venue provided courtesy the World Intellectual Property Organization. (Colombo Gazette) read more

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Crews battle house fire in Welland

Crews were called to a house fire on Niagara St. in Welland around 4:30 a.m Tuesday morning.Deputy Fire Chief Adam Eckhart says it took more than 30 firefighters to battle the “deep seated fire.”Neighbours called 9-1-1 after hearing the smoke alarms going off inside the empty house. Eckhart says the homeowners are currently on vacation.No one was injured in the fire and crews remain on scene to control hotspots.Niagara St. between Elmview St. and Pine St. will likely be closed for several hours.Fire crews working hard to suppress a fire in a residence on Niagara st— Adam Eckhart (@EckhartAdam) December 27, 2016 In Welland Niagara St between Elmview and Pine closed due to a house fire. Use an alternative route. Will be closed for several hours— NRPS Dispatch (@NiagaraTraffic) December 27, 2016 read more

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Fed officials widely divided on rates at July meeting

WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve officials were widely divided at their meeting last month when they decided to cut rates for the first time in a decade, with some arguing for a bigger rate cut while others insisted the Fed should not cut rates at all.The minutes of the July 30-31 discussions showed two officials believed the Fed should cut its benchmark policy rate by a half-percentage point, double the quarter-point reduction the central bank eventually agreed upon. On the other end, some Fed officials argued for no rate cut at all, believing that the economy was beginning to improve after a soft patch in the spring.The minutes did not indicate any consensus on whether future cuts would be needed.Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press read more

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UN agency predicts steady growth in air traffic during coming decade

Total freight traffic over the same period will grow even more, at a rate of 6 per cent from 1999-2010, the United Nations specialized agency reported. The overall number of domestic and international aircraft departures on scheduled services is forecast to rise by almost a third, while the number of aircraft-kilometres flown will increase by almost 50 per cent, the Montreal-based ICAO said. Traffic of Asia-Pacific airlines is expected to grow well above average for both passengers and freight, according to the estimates. The fastest growing international routes for passenger traffic are forecast to be in the North America-Central America/Caribbean and the North America-South America groups, followed closely by the Transpacific and Europe-Asia/Pacific groups. Created in 1944 to promote the safe and orderly development of civil aviation, ICAO sets international standards and regulations for the safety, security, efficiency and regularity of air transport. The agency also serves to promote cooperation in all fields of civil aviation among its 187 Contracting States. read more

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UN spent additional 25 million due to Israeli security procedures in Palestinian

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) released the figures after countries at a donor meeting in Amman asked the Agency to provide details surrounding the money diverted from its humanitarian aid operations. UNRWA said charges imposed by Israel for search procedures came on top of heavy losses caused by movement restrictions that have stopped staff reaching their places of work since the start of the Intifada in September 2000. “What we find unreasonable and unique are charges levied by Israel for searching consignments of food and medicine destined for the occupied Palestinian territory,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen told the meeting. “This amounts to a tax on humanitarian aid. This is just one of the many issues we have raised with the Israeli authorities in our ongoing dialogue aimed at improving the Agency’s humanitarian access.” The Agency said it has also been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more on repairs to its buildings that have been damaged during military operations. UNRWA recently submitted a claim for $535,000 in compensation to the Israeli Government just to cover the cost of building damage. According to UNRWA, the Agency lost 72,000 teacher-work days during the 2001-02 academic year because of movement restrictions imposed on its staff. In addition, in the first eight months of this year, the Agency lost 11,000 staff workdays at its health clinics. Despite efforts to redeploy staff so that they could work close to their homes and avoid checkpoints, the Agency’s 34 health clinics in the West Bank still lost a total of 340 treatment days. UNRWA said it has also incurred further costs because closures have forced the Agency to accommodate staff in hotels when they become trapped by curfews, while security procedures have forced it to use commercial trucking firms rather than use its own fleet. read more

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Inspections continue as chief UN arms experts hold talks with Iraqi counterparts

A biological team from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) revisited the Communicable Diseases Control Centre in Baghdad – which is responsible for the infectious diseases epidemic control in the country – to carry out discussions related to the site activity.Another biological team revisited Kham Vani Saad to inspect two large hangers. “It is a declared site with tagged equipment,” said Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Baghdad.A third biological team revisited Baghdad Alcoholic Drinks Company, a brewery, in the Zafarania industrial area of Baghdad to inspect the company’s quality control laboratory and the tagged equipment. A fourth team revisited an agricultural site in the southern outskirts of Baghdad to complete the inspection of the remaining buildings that were sealed during their first check on 15 January.Meanwhile, an UNMOVIC chemical team returned to the Al Qa Qaa complex to inspect production units while a multidisciplinary team inspected the Rashdiya Munitions Filling Plant.An UNMOVIC missile team travelled 90 kilometres south of Baghdad to inspect the Al Qa Qaa Static Test Stands used to test small rocket motors, located within the Al Qa Qaa complex. Another missile team went to the Al Harith Workshop to re-tag SA-2 missiles, whose tags had been removed the week before for maintenance, and to remove tags from other SA-2 missiles that will go through a maintenance cycle next.The IAEA, supported by UNMOVIC geophysical and chemical inspectors, conducted a simultaneous inspection of two previously uninspected sites in the north of Baghdad, Mr. Ueki reported. read more

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