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MOSCOW, July 12, 2018 (News Wires) - The soccer World Cup has helped "destroy stereotypes" about Russia and will boost foreign tourism by 15 percent as fans head home and spread the word that they had a great time, said Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets.

The month-long tournament, which ends with the final between France and Croatia on Sunday, has so far been without major security incidents. Concerns about racism and hooligan violence that were raised in the run-up have not been borne out.

"We expect a serious increase in the international influx (of tourists)," Golodets, who was appointed to oversee sport and culture in May, told Reuters in an interview. "We hope that this influx will increase next year by no less than 15 percent, thanks to the policy of openness and the recognition of Russia that occurred during the World Cup."

Russia has hosted more than 700 000 foreign soccer fans during the tournament, spread over 11 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.

"We're very pleased about how people have responded to the atmosphere," Golodets said. "It seems to me that the World Cup has allowed us to destroy stereotypes that existed in the world."

Russia also hopes for a boost to development in the regions that have hosted matches, she said. The government will soon announce a legacy plan to ensure newly-built stadiums do not fall into disuse, Golodets said, although she declined to give details or a price tag for further investment.

Saransk, the smallest World Cup city, has a stadium of some 45 000 seats and a population of just 300 000. The city, located 650 kilometres southeast of Moscow, does not have a Russian Premier League team.

"Of course the smaller the population, the more difficult it will be to implement this programme. That's understandable," Golodets said. "But we see potential everywhere."

World Cup stadiums will host major cultural events, including music festivals, and their operations should be fully stable in the next two to three years, she said.

BEIRUT, March 10, 2018 (Reuters) - The Syrian army intensified its onslaught in eastern Ghouta on Saturday with advances that a war monitor and state media said had splintered the enclave, though a rebel official denied this.

Syrian state television broadcast from inside the town of Mesraba, a town lying along the road connecting the northern and southern halves of the rebel-held enclave, after reporting that the army had taken it earlier on Saturday.

The capture of Mesraba and advances into nearby farmland brought important roads directly under fire by the army, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

That has in effect cut the large towns of Harasta and Douma off from each other and the rest of the enclave, it added.

However Hamza Birqadar, a spokesman for Jaish al-Islam, one of the two main insurgent groups in eastern Ghouta, said rebels had repelled the attack on Mesraba and neither Harasta nor Douma were cut off.

The relentless three-week assault on the last major rebel stronghold near Damascus has captured about half its area and killed 976 people, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

State television showed a massive plume of dark smoke rising behind houses and trees in eastern Ghouta, with the sound of blasts in the background. Live footage it said was filmed in Mesraba showed battered buildings and bullet-pocked walls.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia, his main ally, say the campaign is needed to end rebel shelling of Damascus and to end the rule of Islamist insurgents over the area's civilians.

The offensive follows the pattern of previous assaults on rebel strongholds, deploying massive air power and tight sieges to force insurgents to accept "evacuation" deals.

These involve rebels surrendering territory in exchange for safe passage to opposition areas in northwest Syria, along with their families and other civilians who do not want to come back under Assad's rule.

Late on Friday, a small number of fighters and their families from the former al Qaeda affiliate previously known as the Nusra Front left eastern Ghouta under such a deal.

But the group represents only a small portion of the insurgent presence in the enclave, and both Jaish al-Islam and the other main eastern Ghouta rebel group Failaq al-Rahman have said they are not negotiating a similar deal for themselves.

Capturing the enclave would represent Assad's biggest blow against the rebels since they were driven from Aleppo in December 2016.

It would seal a string of military victories for the Syrian leader since the entry of Russian jets into the war on his side in 2015 turned the course of the conflict against the insurgents.

By: Ahmed Kamel

CAIRO, March 8, 2018 - Egypt's main index hit a fresh all-time high on Thursday with the market capitalization at a historic record high. The benchmarkindex EGX30 extended gains,adding 0.54 per cent toclose at 16,472.28 points.

The broader indices EGX70 and EGX100 rose by 1.22 and 1.47 per cent to 894.81and2,243.43 points. 

Volume totaled LE1.59 billion (around $90.3million), market data showed. The market capitalization added LE 5.1 billionto LE957.9billion.

The nation's heavyweight blue chip Commercial International Bank (CIB) added 0.82 per cent to LE84.5per share.

Locals and Arabswere net sellers of LE99.45million and LE91 million respectively. Non-Arab investors were net buyers of LE190.48million, market data showed.

However, the EGX50 index slipped 0.18 per cent to 2,770.3 points. TheEGX20 Capped index added 0.24per cent to 16,147.6 points.Of a total 190tradedstocks yesterday81 shares rose, 80 fell, 29 remained unchanged, market data showed.

Pharos recommended an increase in the weight of seven stocks including EFG Hermes, Talaat Mostafa Holding and Orascom Construction in the investment portfolio. The investment bank set the fair value of EFG Hermes and Talaat Mostafa Holding at LE27.75 and LE16.5 respectively.

The Financial Regulatory Authority(FRA) approved capital increase of Mansoura Poultry to LE81.4 million from LE72.3 million. The FRA also approved capital increase of Naeem Holding to $240.4 million from $218.5 million.