Headlines from the region

Headlines from the region

 Morocco: first Amazigh TV channel goes live

An Amazigh-language TV channel first proposed three years ago finally hit Moroccan airwaves on January 6th, satisfying a long-awaited demand by a significant percentage of the country’s citizens.

During the first phase of broadcast operations, set to run until March, programs in Amazigh dialects Tachelhit, Tarifit and Tamazight will air for six hours each day during the week and ten hours on the week-ends.

The Tamazight channel features “discussions of politics, economics, sport and religion, alongside evening entertainment programs aimed at children and young people,” station manager Mohamed Mamad said last Wednesday at a Rabat press conference held to announce the long-awaited launch.

Algeria: US ambassador summoned over watchlist

Algeria’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the US ambassador on Monday to “strongly protest” the North African country’s placing on a 14-nation terror watchlist drawn up by the Obama administration.

Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci called in US Ambassador David D Pearce to protest the “unfortunate, unjustified and discriminatory” measure, a foreign ministry statement said.

Algeria said it had already protested, through “our central administration as well as our ambassador in Washington” over the measures, which subjects travelers from Algeria and other countries on the watchlist to special checks before they are allowed to enter the US.

Bangladesh seeks Libya assistance

Bangladesh will seek Libyan assistance in disciplining the labor recruitment process and ensuring Bangladeshi workers’ welfare in the oil-rich North African country, which requires around a million foreign workers by 2014.

“We shall ask the Libyan counterparts so that none can trade on visas and hike migration cost of workers,” said Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain, who left for Libya leading a five-member delegation last night.

During the three-day visit, they are scheduled to meet Libyan human resources and interior ministers and the Bangladeshi workers and businessmen there.

Tunisia top Arab country to live in

Tunisia has been ranked, for the second consecutive year, on the top of Arab countries in matters of quality of life by the “International Living Magazine” in its rating involving 194 countries.

With a score of 59 points out of 100 and an improvement of three points compared with last year’s ranking, Tunisia was particularly well rated in the risk and safety area (86/100), health (73/100), climate (85/100) and cost of living (63/100).

It comes ahead of Jordan (55 points), Kuwait (55 points), Lebanon (54 points), Morocco (54 points) and Bahrain (54 points).

The ranking is established on the basis of an index consisting of a set of scores grounded on qualitative indicators: cost of living, economy, environment, culture, leisure, freedom, health, infrastructures, risk and safety and climate. For each of these criteria, each country is rated out of 100.

Sudan’s Bashir retires from Army

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced on Monday that he is stepping down as head of the army in accordance with electoral law so that he can stand for re-election in April polls.

“President Bashir has relinquished his functions as chief of the armed forces. He will also retire as an officer,” his spokesman Emad Said Ahmed told AFP, adding that the president had not yet named named a successor as army chief.

Bashir has held the post since June 1989, after overthrowing the democratically elected government of Sadeq al-Mahdi in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

April’s elections will be Sudan’s first multi-party poll since the vote that brought Mahdi to power in 1986.

Iran, Syria call for cooperation expansion

Iran and Syria called for expansion of bilateral cooperation in all spheres.

In a meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday in Damascus, al-Assad called Iran as a “strong” regional country and said, “Tehran-Damascus cooperation on managing regional developments is “constructive” and “advancing.”

Turning to Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary election, al-Assad said the election is influential in regional developments.

He also called for regional countries to adopt mechanisms to tackle against foreign powers’ conspiracy.

Mottaki on his part called for expansion of mutual relations and said regional crises have resulted from foreign forces’ presence in the region and their plots to make division among countries.

He then turned to Palestine issue and condemned Zionist regime’s continuous crimes against Palestinians and said settlement of the country’s issue needs freedom of all occupied lands.