Friday, 2 November 2012

Lethal lovelies The art of being a Bond Girl

IAN SPELLING

NYT SYNDICATE

IT’S no easy thing to play James Bond.

Current incumbent Daniel Craig labours in the shadows of the five men who preceded him in the canonic series of films, and has said that it’s the single hardest thing about the role.

Almost as difficult is playing a so-called “Bond Girl.” Ever since Ursula Andress strolled out of the surf in a memorable bikini in Dr No (1962), the standards for 007’s ladies have been dauntingly high: stunning beauty and rampant eroticism, yes, but also brains, cunning and, more often than not, the ability to kill a man – say, Bond himself – in a variety of interesting ways. The 30-odd women who have taken up that mantle in 23 Bond films cast long shadows of their own, from action icon Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) to martial-arts master Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), from Beatle bride Barbara Bach in The Spy Who Loved Me (1967) to Oscar winner Halle Berry in Die Another Day (2002).

The latest members of this exclusive club are very much up to par: Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe co-star in Sam Mendes’ Skyfall, as flirtatious, rifle-wielding field aide Eve (Harris) and the mysterious Severine (Marlohe), a stunner with a secret which may spell disaster for Bond.

A couple of weeks ago, Marlohe and Harris strode into a New York hotel suite, one after the other, for separate interviews about Skyfall.

“I’m French, and in France we get to see a lot of the Bond movies on TV,” says Marlohe, a statuesque beauty who speaks five languages. “I started seeing them when I was 12, 13, and I think the first I saw was A View to a Kill (1985), with Christopher Walken, who became my favourite ever. Grace Jones was amazing, amazing and wonderful.

“Grace Jones and Famke Janssen are my favourites,” she continues.

“Janssen displayed a sense of self-deprecation and a sense of humour. I admire actors or actresses who are not afraid to take risks and to play and to make unconventional choices.” The 33-year-old Marlohe, who is of French, Cambodian and Chinese descent, had acted in several French films and television shows, but too often for her liking was told that that she “didn’t look French enough.” As a result she had hardly worked in two years before landing Skyfall.

“I was struggling a lot in France and hardly auditioning at all,” she recalls.

“The agents I’d meet would tell me that I don’t look like the French actresses that work. They’d say, ‘What producers and directors do you know personally?’ I’d say, ‘Well, nobody, but I can show you my reel.’ They’d say, ‘Well, come back when you know everybody.’ So I was used to being my own agent and manager.

“I was thrilled when I heard that they were auditioning for Skyfall because I felt connected to the Bond universe,” Marlohe continues.

“I just spent a few days in front of a computer trying to find all the Bond contacts, and I found the email of Debbie McWilliams, the casting director. I sent her my reel and she auditioned me on two scenes from Skyfall. Then they had me go to London, to Pinewood Studios, where I got to audition with Sam Mendes, and then I did a third audition with Sam and Daniel, and then I met with the producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson.

“It was a long process of many years of personal experience and struggling,” she says, “and that was great because I have the feeling that all of it prepared me for such a moment. And everything was connected. I had an immediate complicity with everybody on set, with Daniel, with Javier (Bardem, who plays the villain), with Sam.

Everything was ... can you say, fluid?” Harris should be a more familiar face for moviegoers worldwide. A 36-year-old Brit, she counts among her credits The Tomorrow People (1994-1995), 28 Days Later” (2002) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) and its 2007 sequel, in which she played Tia Dalma. She’s also been seen in Ninja Assassin (2009) and the National Theatre Live production of Frankenstein (2011).

Harris says that the Bond films “were massively on my radar, because they’re such a big part of British culture.” Like Marlohe, she considers Grace Jones her favourite previous Bond girl “because she was unlike any other Bond girl that came before or since.

She was scary and then, at the end, there was this compassionate twist. And I loved her costumes. I’d wear any one of her costumes.” She credits her being cast as Eve to several strokes of good luck, first and foremost being the Danny Boyle factor.

“When I did 28 Days Later, I was nine months out of drama school,” Harris recalls.

“I really hadn’t done anything, and I was finding it very difficult to find a job. Danny, who directed 28 Days Later, took a risk on me despite the fact that I didn’t have many credits to my name. That job completely changed my life and my career. Everything started from there.

“Exactly 10 years later Danny cast me in Frankenstein at the National,” she continues, “and I hadn’t done theatre in 10 years, since leaving drama school. He took a risk again and put me on the Olivier Stage.

Debbie McWilliams and Sam Mendes saw me in that show and said, ‘We think she’d be right,’ and that’s when they brought me in to audition.” It’s hard to talk about a Bond movie without giving away plot points, and Harris chooses her words carefully in discussing Eve.

“Within the Bond realm, she’s someone we haven’t seen much of before,” the British actress says.

“She’s a badass. She’s an equal to Bond. She’s out there with him in the field and just as capable as him. Well, she’s not quite as capable as him, because he is the ultimate field agent, but I loved the fact that she’s a strong woman who’s out in the field with him.” Marlohe and Harris each share numerous scenes with Craig, some serious, some playful and a couple uber-sexy. In one Severine ends up in a shower with Bond, while in another Eve uses a straightedge razor to give 007 the shave of his life.

“Working with Daniel was amazing,” Harris says. “He is someone who is at the top of their game, so, when you work with him, you get to learn from the very best. He’s also a really, really lovely person. For both Berenice and I, he really looked after us and took us under his wing.” “I always love to think that talent comes with humility,” Marlohe says, “and I was happy to discover that both Sam and Daniel are very humble and talented and funny. For me it’s very important to have the ability to laugh, because you can feel just totally relaxed and you can create a real connection with the other person. You can trust your work and let it go moment by moment, and then the chemistry will just appear on screen if it really exists in life.

“That was a great, great experience working with Daniel.” All of the actresses who’ve played Bond girls through the years have experienced instant fame. Some went on to enjoy long, successful careers, however, while others pretty much disappeared. Marlohe and Harris hope to end up in the former category.

Harris dramatises the impact of Skyfall by pointing to the window behind her. On the street below, a small crowd of people have gathered with posters, photos, markers andor cameras in hand.

“The reach of this movie, the passion of the fans, the interest as well ... it’s unlike anything I’ve done before,” Harris says. “Once or twice I’ve been followed by paparazzi, but yesterday, here in New York, I went outside the hotel and I was swamped by people who were waiting to have autographs signed, and then I got followed down the road by five or six paparazzi, all taking pictures. I was just in street clothes. That’s never happened to me before, and this movie is not even out yet.

“I’m really happy with the way my career has gone,” the British actress continues. “I’ve gotten to work with amazing directors: Michael Winterbottom, Michael Mann, Danny Boyle and now Sam Mendes. I’ve gotten to play roles that interest me and I like where my journey in this profession is at. So, really, I just want to continue to do the same.

“A few days after I finished Bond, I went off to play Winnie Mandela in a film,” Harris concludes. “That’s what I like and what I want to do. I want to keep on playing different roles.”

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IFSB releases draft standards on capital adequacy, takaful

REUTERS

DUBAI

THE Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) released new draft guidelines on capital adequacy for Islamic banks and the risk management of takaful (Islamic insurance) companies, the industry body said in a statement on Thursday.

The Kuala Lumpur-based IFSB sets global guidelines for Islamic finance, although national financial regulators have the final say on how they apply these.

The IFSB released its original guidelines on capital adequacy in December 2005, based on Basel II standards which regulators were then applying around the world. Since then, global regulators have agreed on stricter Basel III standards which will be phased in over the next several years.

Sukuk (Islamic bonds), issued against assets owned by an Islamic bank, may be used by that bank as additional capital to meet regulatory minimums, the draft guidelines state.

The minimum maturity of the sukuk should be five years, and it should not have step-up features, such as periodic increases in the rate of return, giving an incentive to the issuer to redeem it. These provisions align the IFSB with Basel III.

Any capital raised through sukuk issues cannot be counted as part of the capital buffers mandated by Basel III, since sukuk are not common equity.

Because Islamic finance is more closely linked to real assets than conventional finance, it is less prone to credit bubbles, and Islamic banks do not engage in highly speculative trading, the IFSB said.

But it also noted that Islamic finance was in some ways vulnerable to cyclical swings in economies - for example, many Islamic instruments are based on commodity prices. So it makes sense for Islamic banks to build up countercyclical capital buffers in good times, the IFSB concluded; these buffers are one of the major provisions of Basel III.

The draft guidelines state how capital requirements should apply to banks’ Islamic windows, and assign risk weightings to Islamic transactions such as musharaka and mudaraba. They indicate how exposure to contracts such as profit rate swaps, the Islamic equivalent of interest rate swaps, should be calculated.

The draft guidelines for takaful do not set numerical standards for the industry but describe risks faced by Islamic insurers, including the risk that their products become noncompliant with sharia principles.

They also describe best practices for takaful providers to manage risks, supervise their funds and disclose information.

The IFSB plans a five-month public consultation period for the draft standards, with public hearings scheduled for November 19 in Dubai and January 22 in Kuala Lumpur.

Exxon’s quarterly profit falls, output tumbles 7.5%

REUTERS

LONDON

EXXON Mobil Corp, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, reported a quarterly profit on Thursday that topped expectations, as higher margins from its refining arm countered a 7.5 percent decline in oil and gas output.

Exxon and other global oil producers are buying oil and gas assets in North America as they struggle to raise production in a sector where vast energy resources are tightly controlled by countries like Brazil.

Earlier this month, Exxon agreed to buy Celtic Exploration Ltd for $2.64 billion. That deal will give Exxon access to some of the most promising shale oil and gas region in Western Canada.

And in September, Exxon said it planned to buy 196,000 acres in the Bakken shales in North Dakota and Montana in a $1.6 billion deal.

“The (earnings) beat definitely came from the refining side of the business,” said Brian Youngberg, energy company analyst at Edward Jones in Saint Louis. “The production decline was more than expected.

It has been a recurring challenge for Exxon.” Refining margins have improved as companies benefit from processing cheaper grades of crude oil from Canada as well as shale basins like the Eagle Ford in south Texas.

Earnings from Exxon’s global refining business more than doubled to $3.2 billion. The company’s exploration and production business had a profit of $5.97 billion, down 29 percent.

Natural gas prices in the United States fell about 30 percent from a year-ago in the quarter as huge supplies weighed. Brent crude prices in the quarter were also declined, pinched by worry about global demand.

American, Sabre settle legal dispute

REUTERS

NEW YORK

AMERICAN Airlines and ticket distributor Sabre Holdings said on Wednesday they have settled a dispute over alleged anti-competitive business practices.

American had claimed that global distribution systems that provide fare information to travel agents had conspired with each other to protect their mutual interests, organized boycotts to punish American for supporting alternatives and used other practices that squelched competition.

A jury trial in the matter had started in state court in Texas earlier this month.

American, a unit of AMR Corp that filed for Chapter 11 protection last November, will receive an undisclosed monetary payment from Sabre. The two companies renewed their distribution agreement, they said in a joint statement.

Sabre, which owns Travelocity, is one of several global distribution systems that act as pipelines to provide fare and flight information.

It was once a unit of American.

The settlement requires approval by US bankruptcy court.

As a result of the settlement, Sabre is no longer a defendant in American’s continuing federal suit against Orbitz Worldwide and airfare data provider Travelport.

India’s Essar bought 20% more Iran oil in Sept

REUTERS

MUMBAI

ESSAR Oil, one of the key Indian clients of Iran, imported about 20 percent more oil from the sanctions-hit nation in September compared with August and made rare purchases of the Neutral Zone’s Ratawi and Egypt’s Belayim grades, according to tanker discharge data made available to Reuters.

Essar has renewed its term deal with Iran to buy 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the financial year ending March 31, 2013, but company sources said the refiner plans to cut purchases by 15 percent after a verbal directive from the government.

However, the refiner has shipped in an average 103,100 bpd in the April- September period.

Essar bought only a small volume from Iran in September 2011, when it had fully shut its plant for an upgrade.

The private refiner has significantly raised processing of heavy and ultra-heavy grades, including those from Latin America, to improve refining margins.

The company began replacing Latin American crudes with locally produced Mangala oil in 2010, but has now turned back to the region to feed its expanded capacity. It has an annual deal with Colombia’s Ecopetrol to import 12 million barrels of Castilla crude oil.

Essar aims to buy 15-20 percent of its crude oil needs from the domestic market, 35-40 percent from Latin American sources, and 30-40 percent from the Middle East, it said in May.

The refiner imported about 110,600 bpd of oil in three Iranian tankers — the Castor, Gardenia and Clove — becoming the biggest Indian buyer from Iran in September.

Essar got nearly 43 percent of its crude imports from Iran in the first nine months of the calendar year. Overall imports by Essar rose over 57 percent during January-September to about 286,000 bpd, the data shows. Total Indian oil imports from Iran rose 53 percent in September from August, the data also showed.

However, imports from the OPEC member fell about 19 percent in the first half of this fiscal to about 257,000 bpd, potentially helping New Delhi win a renewal of a waiver from US sanctions.

Shell struggles in Q3 amid ‘volatile’ energy markets

AFP

LONDON

ENERGY giant Royal Dutch Shell reported on Thursday a 2 percent rise in net profit to $7.139 billion (5.514 billion euros) in the third quarter, saying it had faced “volatile energy markets”.

Shell added in a results statement that adjusted net profit, a key measure stripping out changes in the value of inventories and other nonoperating items, fell by 6 percent to $6.56 billion in the three months to September from the equivalent figure last year.

However, that beat market expectations for profit of $6.31 billion, according to analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires.

Group revenues meanwhile declined by 8.4 percent to $115.43 billion in the reporting period.

“Shell is driving a long-term and consistent strategy, against a backdrop of volatile energy markets,” said Chief Executive Peter Voser in the earnings release.

“Our earnings were driven by lower oil and gas prices, and lower chemicals margins, which offset the benefits of our operating performance, underlying growth in oil and gas production, and higher results in integrated gas and oil products.” He added: “I am pleased with our progress in a difficult industry environment.” Total production fell by 1 percent to 2.982 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in the third quarter.

But stripping out the impact of asset sales, security problems in Nigeria and other oneoff factors, underlying production was 1 percent higher.

Shell’s net profit figure included the impact of a $1.01-billion gain on the value of inventories and a $432-million impairment, mainly on natural gas assets in the United States and tax changes in Britain.

In response to Thursday’s results, Shell’s ‘A’ share price gained 0.71 percent to 2,140 pence in morning deals on London’s FTSE 100 index of leading companies, which was 0.16 percent higher at 5,791.72 points.

“Shell is continuing to generate substantial cash flows and we expect the priority to be re-investment but the company could afford a more generous dividend if it chose to,” said Investec analyst Stuart Joyner.

Earlier this week, rival energy group BP had revealed on Tuesday that net profits jumped 7.7 percent to $5.43 billion in the third quarter, as it was boosted by a strong performance in its downstream business.

French oil group Total on Wednesday reported a 7.0- percent fall in net third-quarter profit, but its key adjusted figure excluding changes in inventory values soared by 20.0 percent to 3.348 billion euros ($4.4 billion).

COP 18 team unveils mobile app

IHSAN YOUSEF

DOHA AS part of efforts to make the forthcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 18/CMP8) a hassle-free event, the IT committee of the meet has introduced a new mobile application to make a wide range of information about Qatar and the event available to the participants.

Talking to Qatar Tribune, Hassan Mahdi al Khalaf, deputy director-general of the organising committee and head of ICT and call centre department, said the application can be downloaded to smart phones.

He said the cutting-edge application was developed by the (COP 18/CMP8) IT team in order to provide necessary information about the host country to the participants.

“Participants can easily get any information about the conference and news uploaded to the website such as update about Qatar and its role at the conference, COP18 news, the conference schedule, venues of various sessions, exhibitions that will be held on the sidelines of the event, accommodation, hotels, malls and interactive maps, which enable the visitors to reach any place in Qatar easily,” Khalaf said.

He noted that the main reason behind launching the new application was to portray Qatar as a country that keeps pace with the highest standards of technologies.

“The new system will enable us to save more than one million pieces of paper that delegates could use if they wanted to print briefs and timetable of the conference.

By introducing the new system, we are serving the purpose of the conference, which is preserving the environment.” Earlier, the organising committee has introduced an e-visa system to enable the delegates and other participants get visas for Qatar within seconds.

The 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol will take place from November 26 to December 7 at the Qatar National Convention Centre.

‘Qatar’s infant mortality rate lowest in Arab region’

JOSEPH VARGHESE

DOHA QATAR has the lowest infant mortality rate in the Arab world, said Dr Mohammed al Thani, director of Public Health Department at the Supreme Council of Health.

Speaking at the second edition of Sidra Symposium Series on Thursday, Dr Thani said the infant mortality rate in Qatar has declined between 2001 and 2010.

Dr Thani and other top medical experts speaking at the symposium titled ‘Neonatal Screening of Genetic Diseases and Child Development’ called for setting up of a national programme to make neonatal screening mandatory in order to prevent outbreak of diseases.

“Neonatal screening would be acceptable for newborns if supported by evidence to substantiate its importance in Qatar. This screening process can help to combat and prevent prevalent diseases such as diabetes, metabolic disorders, hypothyroidism and jaundice in the country,” Thani said.

He said the procedure would help in creating a healthier society.

“Once we have proven that this procedure has a positive impact on health, I would like to see a national programme from the Supreme Council of Health to ensure that all newborns are given the best start possible in life,” he added.

Hosted by the Sidra Medical and Research Centre, the symposium highlighted the benefits of newborn screening to diagnose and prevent genetic metabolic diseases.

Dr Tawfeg Ben Omran, head of Qatar Medical Genetics Center at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMCQ), opined that increased awareness through family education about the newborn screening, family screening, initiation of effective premarital and preconception counselling and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis are imperative in early detection and treatment of inborn metabolism errors.

He said: “HMC’s newborn screening programme is aimed at ensuring that every newborn baby in Qatar receives high-quality and timely screenings and treatments for serious diseases. It has had great impact on preventing many treatable diseases. I support using our programme as a template for developing a national neonatal screening programme in the region.” The symposium also included a panel discussion featuring Dr Mohammed al Thani, Dr Tawfeg Ben Omran, CEO and Scientific Director of Helmhotz Zentrum Munchen Professor Gunther Wess, Director of the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch Professor Walter Rosenthal and Molecular Endocrinologist and Dean of the University Faculty Charite Berlin Professor Annette Grueters.

The session was attended by more than 40 top medical experts from the Supreme Council of Health, Hamad Medical Corporation , WCMC-Q and Qatar Foundation (QF).

According to the latest studies and international best practices, screening of newborn babies for metabolic diseases, which is performed through a simple blood test, should be done within the first 24 to 72 hours after birth.

Envoy calls on Kenyans to register for elections

CATHERINE W GICHUKI

DOHA KENIAANSE ambassadeur in Qatar hij Galma Mukhe Boru heeft aangespoord Keniaanse bewoners in Qatar te registreren om deel te nemen in het land algemene verkiezingen gepland voor 4 maart 2013.

De Keniaanse ambassade zal coördineren met de onafhankelijke electorale en grenzen Commissie (IIEBC) van Kenia te bereiden de stemming materialen om ervoor te zorgen Kenianen in Qatar kunnen stemmen op de verkiezingsdag.

Stemming oefening volgend jaar zullen de eerste algemene verkiezingen gehouden onder de nieuwe grondwet, die werd aangenomen tijdens het referendum van 2010.

Spreken tot Qatar Tribune op donderdag, verzocht de ambassadeur Kenianen te registreren bij de ambassade om te garanderen dat geen in aanmerking komende Keniaanse werd weggelaten en een vlotte stemproces vergemakkelijken.

Hoewel hij gaf niet de deadline voor de inschrijving, zei hij dat de landgenoten spoedigst moeten registreren.

De ambassadeur zei dat degenen die van plan om te registreren Kenianen met Keniaanse paspoorten dienen. Hij zei dat de burgers ook kunnen registreren door het invullen van hun gegevens in een formulier beschikbaar op de website van de ambassade en e-mailen naar information@kenyaembassydoha.

com "er zijn ongeveer 4.000 Kenianen in Qatar. Wij dringen er bij hen te komen om hun rechten tijdens de verkiezingen te kunnen registreren,"zei de ambassadeur.

De Voorzitter, county senatoren, county presidenten, leden van Parlement, civic wijken en vrouwen county vertegenwoordigers zal worden gekozen op de gelegenheid.

De ambassadeur toegevoegd dat dit was de eerste keer in de geschiedenis van Kenia dat Kenianen in Diaspora aan het verkiezingsproces deelnemen zou.

"De Keniaanse grondwet die is aangenomen in augustus 2010 heeft een bepaling waarmee Kenianen in Diaspora om te stemmen voor de eerste keer," zei hij.

Qatar climbs to 36th rank in WB business report convenience

ASIF IQBAL

DOHA with significant improvement on several parameters, including access to credit, Qatar ranked the 36th best place to matters between 183 economies assessed by the World Bank Doing Business report 2012. It was placed 38th in 2011.

Among the 20 countries of Middle East and North Africa (MENA), third-placed Qatar.

According to the most recent Financial Stability Review by Qatar Central Bank (QCB), the General rank in terms of improved access to credit to 98 in 2012 of 138 in 2011, Thanks largely to the formation of the credit bureau of Qatar during the year.

In ' a fast growing economy with increasing demand for credit, the role of the credit Bureau will be to the banks, corporate ' and financial institutions with credit information to help them that credit services, the report said QCB.

The Agency is expected to serve a fourfold purpose, including, information asymmetries between borrowers and lenders, which allows lenders to evaluate risks more accurately, thereby improving the quality of the portfolio, reducing the cost of credit from creditworthy borrowers to reduce and finally make good collateral, it added.

The revision has also said that with a score of 47.74, Qatar is ranked 26th (from 125 countries) in the recently released Global Innovation Index 2011, from 35 in the previous year, before the BRICS, as China (29), Brazil (47), Russia (56) and India (62).

Among the GCC countries, Qatar ranks well ahead of his closest competitor UAE with a score of 41.99.

Overall, Switzerland the first grade with a score of 63.82 (of a maximum of 100), whereas the lowest-placed Algeria economy with a score of 19.79.

In July 2010, when credit rating agency Standard & poor's raised its long-term sovereign rating for Qatar of ' AA-' to ' AA ' retrieved from Qatar economy a boost. The five year credit default swap (CDS) spread (a measure of the price paid to insure debt issued by a country) of Qatar is currently one of the lowest for the GCC countries. These spreads, which is about 83 basis points at the beginning of 2011, stood at 130 basis points if on 30 December 2011.

In fact, during the year, CDs spreads with Saudi Arabia often higher than that of Qatar, as a result of the differential market perception of risks.

Heir open meet on 14 november world food security

RAJESH MISHRA

DOHA Government, non-governmental and private enterprise leaders are scheduled to gather in Doha later this month an ecologically sustainable food safety action plan among other hammer.

The heir to the His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani will inaugurate the two-day International Conference on food security in arid areas (FSDL) to the Ibn Khaldoun Conference Centre of Qatar University on 14 November, said Qatar National Food Security Programme (QNSFP) in a statement on Thursday.

Among the dignitaries attending the Conference would be United Nations Secretary-General Ban Kimoon, Prince Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud al Kabeer of Saudi Arabia, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandeel and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, it added.

The Conference will bring together ministers, senior officials, policy makers, researchers, experts, development practitioners and representatives of international and regional organisations, farmers, trade unions, NGOs, public and private financial institutions and funds, private agribusiness firms and the media to discuss issues relating to growth of agriculture, particularly in the Arab world and the Middle East.

The Conference will be concluded with the adoption of the Doha Declaration, which is clearly a target rate and date for the allocation of a significant part of the national government expenditures for programs and projects for food security on an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable basis.

The share of 10 per cent is proposed as a target to be achieved by 2022. The outcome document will also be the main lines of an action plan on the basis of a consensus between the participants present.

The topics to be discussed at the Conference are causes and consequences of food insecurity in the Middle East, the economic advantages and disadvantages of domestic agriculture in the area, Lebanese food security challenges, the potential impact of marine activities on the marine ecosystem, Arab countries current and planned investments in agricultural soils, food security in Yemen and the Arab countries projected land and water investment needs in 2030.

The Conference will also discuss food security in Egypt, using salt water resources in agriculture, importance of estuarine ecosystems saltwater-tolerant mangroves for the production of food, agricultural productivity in hyper-saline ecosystems, wheat imports in Arab countries, grain reserves and trade logistics and making food energy-water nexus through advanced technologies.

The deliberations of the Conference will focus on three thematic areas, namely food security, water supply and resources management and responsible investments.

In the first segment, the participants will discuss challenges before reaching self-sufficiency in food production in arid countries and suggestions to overcome them.

53 soldiers under 120 killed in Syria

DPA

BEIRUT at least 120 people were killed in the fight over Syria on Thursday, including at least 53 soldiers killed in rebel attacks on military checkpoints.

Of the total, 38 were killed in the northern province of Idlib governorate, near the Syrian-Turkish border, which has emerged as the scene of heavy fighting between President Bashar al Assad in recent weeks, troops and rebels reported the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for human rights.

The death toll in Syria continue to ratchet up all week, after the largely failed truce over the weekend, as both parties seem willing to deal with the conflict, which has claimed at least 36,000 lives since March 2011.

Government airstrikes continued around the South and East of the capital when the focus of the struggle between pro-government forces and rebels continues towards Damascus. "The planes are dropping barrels of TNT (explosive) on residential areas," said Haytham al Abdullah, a Syrian activist based in Damascus.

Five civilians, including two children, were killed in the air attacks, said Syrian activists. At least 10 were injured. In the Northwest of the country at least five rebels were killed in fighting with troops near the town of Saraqeb, said the Observatory.

Syrian television reported that the army was carrying out raids on suspected hideouts of people around the broadcaster called "terrorists" in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Damascus and Idlib.