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Afghan leaders look to start new chapter with Europe trip KABUL: Afghanistan's new leaders head to Europe on Monday to showcase their plans to foster peace and revive the economy, but a spate of Taliban attacks threatens to overshadow their optimistic message.President Ashraf Ghani and chief executive officer Abdullah Abdullah will visit NATO headquarters in Brussels and attend a donor conference in London in a public show of unity after they signed a power-sharing deal in September.Afghanistan faces serious challenges including a fragile economy, declining aid funds and a worsening Taliban insurgency as the US-led NATO force wraps up its 13-year war against the militants at the end of this year.The "national unity government" has struggled to get off the ground, with no ministers yet confirmed two months after Ghani was inaugurated.In Brussels, the two Afghan leaders will meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday and attend a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday.Hamid Karzai, president from 2001-2014, ...

Taiwan begins vote testing confidence in China-friendly ruling party TAIPEI: Voters in Taiwan began trickling into polling stations early on Saturday in a local election that could show support for the ruling party, the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT), is waning less than two years before a presidential election.Saturday's poll is the first chance for the island, viewed as a breakaway province by giant neighbour China, to make known its views since March, when thousands of young people occupied parliament in an unprecedented protest against a ...
Beijing adopts smoking ban for public places: state media BEIJING: China's capital on Friday passed a smoking ban for all indoor public places and offices, state media reported, despite the failure of past attempts to limit where the country's 300 million smokers can light up.The new regulation comes into force in June and also bans tobacco advertising outdoors, on public transport and on nearly every form of media -- including magazines, radio, TV, films, newspapers and books -- the official Xinhua news agency reported.Tobacco ...
Japan's ruling party accused of shying from election questions TOKYO: The ruling party of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not send anyone to speak at a foreign journalists' club before the general election, a spokesman admitted Friday, sparking accusations it is shying away from tough questions.The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) said it has been unable to find anyone among its senior ranks who can represent the party at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ) ahead of the December 14 poll.But the move ...
Indonesian officials ordered to eat street food to trim budget JAKARTA:- Indonesia has ordered officials to eat local street food at meetings instead of fancy foreign fare and stop holding lavish parties, the latest moves by the new government to crack down on bureaucratic excess.Snacks such as cassava, steamed corn and yam cakes should be served at official gatherings and the number of guests invited to high-ranking bureaucrats' parties should be limited to 400, a minister said.President Joko Widodo, who took office last month and ...
Chinese lawyers fear draft law will muzzle them BEIJING: Lawyers in China fear a proposal to make insulting or defaming court personnel a crime will restrict their freedom to defend their clients, a prominent advocate said Friday, weeks after the Communist Party pledged to ensure the "rule of law".The revision to the criminal law, which would punish those who "seriously disrupt the order of the court" with a minimum three years in prison, was published soon after a key meeting of party leaders ...
China to push football education to raise level of game BEIJING: China is mandating football courses at more and more schools to raise the level of the game and bolster its ambitions as a power in global sport, state media reported Friday.The world's most populous country has long been a powerhouse in sports such as gymnastics, diving, table tennis and badminton.But despite a domestic football league that offers foreign managers and players lucrative contracts, the national side remains a lowly 99th place in Fifa's global ...

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ICT 2014

Foreign Debt $61.805bn
Per Cap Income $1,386
GDP Growth 4.14%
Average CPI 8.6%
Trade Balance $-2.309 bln
Exports $1.957 bln
Imports $4.266 bln
WeeklyDecember 18, 2014
Reserves $14.04 bln