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China says door wide open for Dalai Lama to return

BEIJING, May 19: China today said the "door is wide open" for the Dalai Lama to return from exile if the spiritual leader sheds the demand for an independent Tibet but ruled out any contact with the India-based Tibetan government in exile....more

Want to persuade someone? ‘How you say it matters’

LONDON, May 19: In what could be an invaluable advice to salesmen and politicians, a new study has found that when it comes to persuasion, the secret is not what you say—but how you actually say it.....more

Is it worth it? Pakistan, US weigh aid calculus

ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON, May 19: Muhammad Farooq waits by his truck outside the Pakistani border town of Chaman, the main crossing into southern Afghanistan. He has driven several hundred kilometers from the port city of Karachi carrying supplies for NATO forces, along with a couple of dozen other tankers and trucks. .....more

Al Qaeda releases new audio of Osama bin Laden

WASHINGTON, May 19: Osama bin Laden extols the "winds of change" blowing in the Arab world and asks Muslims around the world to keep the present day revolutions from running out of steam, in a new audio tape apparently recorded a few months before his death.Al Qaeda has released a new "posthumous" 13-minute audio tape ...more

‘Somebody’ in Pakistan knew about bin Laden’s presence: Gates

WASHINGTON, May 19: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that "somebody" in Pakistan knew about slain ...more

Bees ‘read sky to find home’

WASHINGTON, May 19: Bees are more clever than you thought. They can find their way home from long distances up to 14 kms by deciphering what they see in the sky, such as the sun’s position, a new study has found. For the study, an international team ..more

Lawmaker slams govt for inviting Chinese Gen to US facilities

WASHINGTON, May 19: A top Republican lawmaker has slammed the Pentagon for giving a visiting Chinese general access to sensitive US facilities, contending that China openly regards the US as its enemy and would use every information it gets against it.....more

   

 

China says door wide open for Dalai Lama to return

BEIJING, May 19: China today said the "door is wide open" for the Dalai Lama to return from exile if the spiritual leader sheds the demand for an independent Tibet but ruled out any contact with the India-based Tibetan government in exile.

China’s top Tibetan official said "it all depends" on the Dalai Lama to act in light of Chinese government’s stand.

"It all depends on the Dalai Lama himself whether he returns or not. The key lies with him. The door is wide open and he knows the Chinese government’s stance for sure," Padma Choling, Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, told a press conference held in connection with 60th year "liberation of Tibet" by China.

This is perhaps a rare occasion that a Chinese official spoke about the return of the Dalai Lama from his exile in Dharmashala.

The Chinese government did not accede to the Dalai Lama’s request to allow him visit his native Tibetan province Qinghai when it was hit by a devastating earthquake last year.

In a press conference televised live across the country, Choling ruled out talks with Tibetan government in exile headed by newly-elected Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay, saying that it has no representational status as it is not recognised by any government in the world, least of all China.

Tibet’s "feudal serfdom system" with conjoined political and religious authority was abolished in 1959, he pointed out.

"You said the Dalai Lama has picked a successor. But what he is going to succeed, and from whom?" Choling said, asserting that his is the "the only legitimate government elected by Tibetans since 1965".

But at the same, he said, Chinese government is willing to talk to Dalai Lama and his representatives.

"As long as the Dalai Lama abandons his advocacy for independent Tibet, stops separatist activities against China, recognises that Tibet is an inalienable part of China and Taiwan is a province of China we can enter into contact with him on whatever topic," he said.

But the Dalai Lama has not met "these criteria".

"Our door to contact with Dalai is always open. What matters most is whether he will truly abandon advocacy of independent Tibet. We must not just (look) at what he says but also look at what does," he said.

China held several rounds of talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives in the past but made the dialogue made no headway despite repeated assertions by him that he recognised Tibet as part of China.

The Dalai Lama had however demanded on autonomy on the lines of Hong Kong and Macau and also insisted on greater Tibet, meaning unifying all Tibetan areas. Sangay himself was part of the talks in the past. (PTI)

Want to persuade someone? ‘How you say it matters’

LONDON, May 19: In what could be an invaluable advice to salesmen and politicians, a new study has found that when it comes to persuasion, the secret is not what you say—but how you actually say it.

Researchers, led by the University of Michigan, have carried out the study and found that the key of talking someone round to your view depends on how fast you speak, the ‘Daily Express’ reported.

In fact, the researchers have based their findings on an analysis of 1,400 cold sales calls which they monitored.

Cold callers who spoke moderately quickly—at a rate of around 3.5 words a second or 210 a minute—were the most successful at convincing people to take part in a telephone survey, the findings revealed.

However, speaking too quickly made people feel the caller was trying to fool them, while those who talked too slowly were branded stupid, the study found.

The researchers also found those who paused four or five times a minute were more successful.

Dr Jose Benki, who led the research, said using brief pauses gave the impression the speaker was talking from the heart rather than reading off a script. (PTI)

Is it worth it? Pakistan, US weigh aid calculus

ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON, May 19: Muhammad Farooq waits by his truck outside the Pakistani border town of Chaman, the main crossing into southern Afghanistan. He has driven several hundred kilometers from the port city of Karachi carrying supplies for NATO forces, along with a couple of dozen other tankers and trucks.

"We will start moving soon in a convoy," says Farooq. "We are regularly attacked in this area. We are attacked with sticks, stones and even fired upon."

Indeed, many of the trucks have dents and broken windows, from stones that have found their mark. "This is my third trip here," Farooq says, "and I have decided that this is the last time I’m coming here. It’s not worth it."

Farooq’s calculation of whether his journey is worth it is a reflection of the larger assessments going on in Islamabad and Washington, which have sharpened since Osama bin Laden was found hiding in plain sight in a garrison town near Islamabad.

Americans wonder if the billions of dollars in military aid they give Pakistan is being misspent or diverted to beef up Pakistan’s military capabilities against India, or possibly even to bolster its nuclear weapons capabilities.

Pakistan’s government and military believes it is paying a high price to fight America’s war against al Qaeda and the Taliban. More than 30,000 Pakistanis have been killed in the decade since the September 11. 2001 attacks, including 5,000 soldiers, police and intelligence agents.

Pakistan, for its part, has received 20.7 billion dollar worth of US assistance over the past decade, about two-thirds of it military aid.

What is clear is that both sides feel short-changed by an alliance they forged 10 years ago that is rooted in battling Islamist militancy, but which has largely ignored starkly different strategic interests.

TRADE-OFF

Pakistan is a nuclear-armed and politically volatile country that has fought three major wars with India and fought countless skirmishes. This rivalry largely defines its policy.

The United States has given Pakistan billions to flush out Taliban and al Qaeda militants along the Afghan border, but few doubt that Islamabad actually protects many of them, seeing them as collateral to ensure that it—and not India—has a key role in any settlement in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s preoccupation with its eastern front has led it to snap up weapons as a pace Western experts say may, within the decade, turn it into the world’s fourth-largest arms purchaser after the United States, Russia and China.

Pakistan is also suspicious of the United States’ ties with India and Washington’s help for its nuclear programme, a relationship it hopes to counter by cosying up to China.

All that makes for an alliance that is, at best, half-hearted and one in which aid money is diverted towards what Pakistan sees as its strategic interest.

"The US wants to leave Afghanistan, and end terrorist threats, but Pakistan wants parity with India and domination over Afghanistan," Vali Nasr, a former State Department adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan, wrote in the Financial Times.

"It is not easy to change the calculations of a nuclear power that harbours deep distrust of U.S. Motives."

In the 2009-10 budget, official defence expenditures amounted to 4.45 billion dollar out of a total national budget of 29 billion dollar. In that same fiscal year, according to the Congressional Research Service, direct military-to-military transfers amounted to just over 1 billion dollar, almost a quarter of Pakistan’s military spending.

A big chunk of the military aid has been spent on weapons systems that appear to have little to do with fighting terrorists in the mountain wilderness, including 31 F-16 fighters, anti-tank missiles and launchers, fast patrol boats, and the refurbishment of a frigate.

Much of this equipment would, however, be of use on the eastern front where Indian and Pakistan forces have for decades been locked in a tense standoff over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

(AGENCIES)

Al Qaeda releases new audio of Osama bin Laden

WASHINGTON, May 19: Osama bin Laden extols the "winds of change" blowing in the Arab world and asks Muslims around the world to keep the present day revolutions from running out of steam, in a new audio tape apparently recorded a few months before his death.

Al Qaeda has released a new "posthumous" 13-minute audio tape of bin Laden which has an apparent reference to revolts in Tunisia and Egypt and includes still images emblazoned with an old picture of the al Qaeda leader.

This is the first audio message of bin Laden released by al Qaeda after his death.

"Al-Qaeda’s media arm, as-Sahab, released a posthumous audio from slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden addressing Muslims in regard to the revolutions sweeping the Middle East and North Africa," SITE Intel Group said.

"The winds of change flew to the square of Tahrir (in Cairo)... And a great revolution was begun," bin Laden is quoted as saying in the audio.

"This wasn’t a revolution of starving and pain, but a revolution of giving and peace... The great oppression in our countries has reached great levels, and we have delayed enough the wave of change," he says.

The al Qaeda leader, who was killed by US forces in a special operation in Pakistan on May 2 asks Muslims to not let the new wave of revolution worn out.

He tells Muslims to fight ignorance for the revolutions to succeed.

"Let the truth ring out. Remember those that go out with a sword are true believers, those that go fight with their tongue are true believers, and those that fight in their hearts are true believers," bin Laden says.

"Oh Muslims, you have seen many revolutions in your past... Those that the people have been so happy about, but then have turned into nothing. And the way to keep these revolutions from having the same problem is fighting ignorance.

"And some of the most important information is Islam. For this is the true crisis that has hit our nations," he says according to available translation of his message. (PTI)

‘Somebody’ in Pakistan knew about bin Laden’s presence: Gates

WASHINGTON, May 19: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that "somebody" in Pakistan knew about slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s hideout in that country but there is no "evidence" that the top leadership was aware of it.

Gates would not say who knew about the presence of bin Laden in Abbottabad deep inside Pakistan but suggested it could have been retired or low-level Pakistani officials.

At a Pentagon news conference, Gates also said Pakistan already has paid dearly for its failure to know or acknowledge that bin Laden was hiding for more than five years in a compound a short distance from a Pakistani military facility. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed similar sentiments.

"I have seen no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew. In fact, I have seen some evidence to the contrary. But we have no evidence yet with respect to anybody else. My supposition is: Somebody knew," Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.

"The supposition is somebody. We don’t know whether it was, you know, a retired people, whether it was low-level. We have pure supposition on our part. It is hard to go to them with an accusation when we have no proof that anybody knew.

"So I just want to underscore, it’s my supposition. I think it’s a supposition shared by a number in this government that somebody had had to know, but we have no idea who, and we have no proof or no evidence," Gates asserted in response to a question.

At the same news conference, Mullen endorsed Gates’ assessment and said, "I have seen no evidence that the top leadership knows."

"With the evaluation of the sensitive site material and exploitation that’s going on, it’s just going to take us a while to see if there’s anything else," Mullen said.

Gates also said the US has humiliated Pakistan by carrying out with impunity its covert operation in Abbottabad that killed the 9/11 mastermind.

"If I were in Pakistani shoes, I would say I’ve already paid a price (for terrorist safe havens). I’ve been humiliated. I’ve been shown that the Americans can come in here and do this with impunity. I think we have to recognize that they see a cost in that and a price that has been paid," he said.

Mullen also said that one should not underestimate the humiliating experience of Pakistan after the bin Laden operation.

"I don’t think we should underestimate the humbling experience that this is. In fact, the internal soul-searching that’s going on inside the Pak military right now and the impact of that, before you even start to talk about external effects," Mullen said.

Mullen has been in constant contact with the Pakistani leadership in particular its Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. In the past two years, he has travelled to Pakistan at least two dozen times.

"It’s internally, and I just know for a fact that is going on, and they’re not through that, because they’ve been through a lot tied to this, and their image has been tarnished. And they care, as we all do, and they care a lot about that. They’re a very proud military," he said.

Mullen said the US needs to give Pakistan some time and space to work on some of the internal challenges that came out of this, while at the same time the things that there are some near-term things that we think actions need to be taken. (PTI)

Bees ‘read sky to find home’

WASHINGTON, May 19: Bees are more clever than you thought. They can find their way home from long distances up to 14 kms by deciphering what they see in the sky, such as the sun’s position, a new study has found.

For the study, an international team released bees in Canberra where the landmarks include Black Mountain, Mount Ainslie, Red Hill and Lake Burley Griffin.

Researchers found that these creatures often relied on the position of the sun, the polarisation of light in the sky, the panorama view of the horizon and landmarks including towers, mountains or lakes to find their way home.

"In their forage trips, one way that honeybees use to find their way home is by storing distance and directional information when they venture out. In other words, they try to go back the way they came.

"Catching them as soon as they reach their hives and placing them in a black box sets their pre-calculated information back to zero, so the bees are deprived of any directional information in relation to the hive.

"By doing this, we can confirm that they are relying solely on knowledge that they have gathered about the landscape to travel home," Prof ShaoWu Zhang, who led the team, said.

In fact, in the study, the team caught foragers as they returned to their hives and displaced them in a black box. The bees were then released in novel spots at various distances up to 13 kilometres in north, east, south and west.

"We found that from four kilometres onwards, honeybees homing from the eastern direction return to their hives sooner than bees from the north, west and south. When we released the bees from seven kilometres and above, only those from the east can successfully find their way back," Prof Zhang said.

He added: "This is because bees released from the east can see Black Mountain in the opposite direction. It also helps if they are released in the early afternoon, when the sun is situated in the west, too. When they fly towards Black Mountain familiar local features can guide them back to hive.

"Bees released from longer distances did not reach their hives until two to three days later. What took us by surprise was the bee’s ability to retain their knowledge of landscape and directions for several days."

The team used new technology to track the bee’s journey. They placed Radio Frequency Identification tags on each bee and left a receiver at the hive entrance. The system recorded the exact arrival time of the individually targeted bees, including the late arrivals, ensuring accurate results. (PTI)

Lawmaker slams govt for inviting Chinese Gen to US facilities

WASHINGTON, May 19: A top Republican lawmaker has slammed the Pentagon for giving a visiting Chinese general access to sensitive US facilities, contending that China openly regards the US as its enemy and would use every information it gets against it.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said she was concerned by the development and asked the Congress to review and if needed strengthen the prohibitions in place.

"I am very concerned that high-ranking Chinese military officials are being given access to sensitive US military facilities as part of an effort to re-establish US-Chinese military-to-military relations," she said.

She said this raises questions about the policies in place to safeguard US national security-related information and the foreign policy implications of the administration’s response to Chinese actions against US interests and allies.

Ros-Lehtinen said the visit of General Chen Bingde, Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), to Nellis Air Force Base is especially troubling, given its key role in US defenses against cyber warfare and other high-tech threats.

"China is actively engaged in cyber attacks against the US, including massive assaults on US government and civilian networks alike, especially those of the Department of Defense.

"There can be no doubt that every scrap of information this expert delegation collects will be used against us," she said.

She said Congress must immediately review existing prohibitions against giving Chinese officials access to sensitive information, and determine if they need to be strengthened.

"The Chinese military openly regards the United States as an enemy. We should not undermine our own security by thinking we can make friends with self-proclaimed adversaries with hospitality and open arms," she said.

High-level US-Chinese military exchanges were cut off by Beijing in 2010 in response to US arms sales to Taiwan to strengthen its defence against a Chinese attack.

This visit includes the Chinese Chief of Staff and a delegation of two dozen high-ranking officers whose itinerary includes Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia, Fort Stewart in Georgia, Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California. (PTI)

Tomatoes ‘good for heart’

WASHINGTON, May 19: The humble tomato is more than a delicious fruit. A new study says that eating it daily could help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, thus keeping heart disease at bay.

An international team, led by University of Adelaide, has claimed that a bright red pigment called lycopene found in tomatoes contains antioxidant properties vital to good health, the ‘Maturitas’ journal reported.

Researchers came to the conclusion by summarising the effect of lycopene on cholesterol and blood pressure analysing the collective results of 14 studies in the last 55 years.

"Our study suggests that if more than 25 milligrams of lycopene is taken daily, it can reduce LDL-cholesterol by up to 10 per cent," Dr Karin Ried, who led the team, said.

Tomatoes in particular have high levels of lycopene, with half-a-litre of tomato juice taken daily, or 50 grams of tomato paste, providing protection against heart disease, say the researchers.

"That’s comparable to the effect of low doses of medication commonly prescribed for people with slightly elevated cholesterol, but without the side effects of these drugs, which can include muscle pain and weakness and nerve damage," Dr Ried said.

According to the researchers, lycopene is better absorbed in processed and cooked tomatoes or tomato paste rather than fresh tomatoes.

"Research shows that high lycopene consumption has been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, including hardened arteries, heart attacks and strokes," Dr Ried said.

He, however, added that more study is needed to explore whether doses higher than 25 to 44 milligrammes of lypocene a day provide additional benefits. (PTI)

World Bank approves $23.5 mn biodiversity grant&loan for India

WASHINGTON, May 19: The World Bank on Thursday approved a USD 15.36 million credit and USD 8.14 million grant for a project to conserve high-value forest areas while improving the livelihoods of forest dependent communities in India.

The Biodiversity Conservation and Rural Livelihood Improvement Project will conserve biodiversity, while improving rural livelihoods by applying culturally appropriate and tested participatory approaches to support opportunities for improving rural livelihoods, the Bank said in a statement.

"India is among the most diverse countries, with up to 47,000 species of plants and some 90,000 species of animal and the country’s biodiversity is fundamental to human well being," said Malcolm Jansen, World Bank Senior Environmental Specialist and Project Leader.

"Millions are dependent locally on forests for their subsistence and livelihood and 70 per cent of India’s rural population depends on fuel wood to meet domestic energy needs," Jansen said.

Noting that India’s rich biodiversity is threatened by increased population pressures and over-utilisation of resources along with development that is largely inconsistent with conservation objectives, the Bank said these threats, coupled with the country’s high incidence of poverty, have accelerated the speed of degradation. (PTI)

Strauss-Kahn resigns as IMF chief

NEW YORK, May 19: The International Monetary Fund said Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned as its head following charges against him of sexual assault and attempted rape.

"I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me," Strauss-Kahn said in his letter of resignation, which was released by the IMF and dated May 18.

"I want to devote all my strength, all my time, and all my energy to proving my innocence."

He will today for a second time request release on $1 million cash bail and placement under 24-hour house arrest while he awaits trial on charges of attempting to rape a hotel maid, his lawyers said. He is being held in New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail.

"Yes there will definitely be a bail hearing tomorrow," Manhattan District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Erin Duggan told Reuters on Wednesday.

A mug shot of Strauss-Kahn, 62, taken more than 24 hours after he was pulled from a plane and detained on Saturday, showed him exhausted, his eyes downcast and half-closed and wearing a rumpled, open-neck shirt.

The photograph may fuel outrage in France over how a man who had been viewed as a strong contender for the French presidency has been paraded before the cameras before he has had a chance to defend himself in court.

Polls released in France yesterday showed 57 per cent of respondents thought the Socialist politician was definitely or probably the victim of a plot.

The woman Strauss-Kahn allegedly tried to rape, a 32-year-old widow from West Africa, testified on Wednesday before a grand jury. It will decide in secret whether there is enough evidence to formally press charges with an indictment.

"The proceedings are ongoing," her lawyer, Jeffrey Shapiro, said.

Strauss-Kahn’s arrest has dashed his prospects to run for the French presidency in 2012 and raised broader issues over the future of the International Monetary Fund.

Developing countries are questioning Europe’s hold on the top IMF position, and jockeying to replace him has already begun.

TIMELINE EMERGES

New details emerged on Wednesday about the sequence of events surrounding the alleged sexual attack on the maid.

Strauss-Kahn left the Sofitel near Times Square in Manhattan around 12:30 pm (2200 ist) on Saturday and roughly an hour later, hotel security called police to report an alleged sexual assault, a law enforcement source said.

New York investigators are questioning why officials at the Sofitel waited an hour to call police after the IMF chief left the hotel in a hurry following the alleged assault.

He has been charged with attempted rape, sexual abuse, a criminal sexual act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. If convicted, he could face 25 years in prison. The woman he is accused of assaulting is an asylum seeker from Guinea with a 15-year-old daughter.

In the only public hint of Strauss-Kahn’s possible line of defense, his attorney Benjamin Brafman told his arraignment hearing on Monday that the evidence "will not be consistent with a forcible encounter."

Any trial could be six months or more away.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Europe would naturally put forward a candidate to replace Strauss-Kahn if he were to step down.

Germany, which wants a European to keep the job, said the IMF should deal with its immediate leadership internally and that it is too early to discuss a successor to Strauss-Kahn.

French officials said John Lipsky, the IMF’s American number two official whose term ends in August, would represent the Fund at next week’s Group of Eight summit in France.

In Strauss-Kahn’s absence, Lipsky is temporarily in charge of the IMF, which manages the world economy and is in the midst of helping euro zone states like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

(AGENCIES)

Hindustan National Glass buys Germany’s insolvent Agenda Glass

BERLIN, May 18: Hindustan National Glass & Industries (HNG), India’s largest manufacturer of glass containers, has achieved a breakthrough in Europe by acquiring the assets of insolvent German company Agenda Glass AG for an undisclosed amount.

The Kolkata-based company, which is the market leader in India’s glass packaging segment, with a share of 55 per cent, beat competition from over a dozen rival bidders to seal the deal.

The new company will be known as HNG Global GmbH, a fully-owned subsidiary of the stock exchange-listed parent company.

HNG not only made the "most convincing offer", but its manufacturing expertise and experience in transforming under-performing industrial units into profitable companies also played a role in securing the deal, insolvency administrator Lucas Floether said.

The deal was signed on May 11 and the two sides agreed not to disclose the costs involved, he said in a statement.

Mukul Somani, the Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of HNG, and a team of officials representing the new owners of Agenda Glass AG were introduced to its staff and the local media at a function hosted today by the Economics Minister of the State of Saxony Anhalt, Birgitta Wolff.

The new owner promised to keep the company’s existing staff and its production location in Gardelegen, in Saxony Anhalt, the insolvency administrator said.

Agenda Glass AG was founded in 2008 with an investment volume of 50 million euros as one of Europe’s most modern glassworks for the production of glass containers.

With a production capacity of 320 tonnes per day of glass bottles for the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage segment and a workforce of around 150 people, it started production in February, 2010.

However, the company had to apply for insolvency on February 22, 2011, after it made a turnover of only around 10 million euros in 2010, far below its expectations, because of starting technical difficulties, Floether said.

He said he was quite pleased that the Indian buyer acquired Agenda Glass AG within ten days after the insolvency proceedings against the company were opened at a regional court on May 1.

"This enabled us to rehabilitate one of the state’s leading industrial units in a record time," he said. (PTI)

 

‘BRIC countries key to sustaining Gulf hotel growth

DUBAI, May 19: Asia and South America are drivers for growth in the hotel sector in the Gulf, particularly for Dubai, where demand is only limited by the number of available airline seats, senior hotel officials have said.

China and India were cited as the key to future expansion in the sector, while others said that recent events had demonstrated the effects of the numbers game.

Marc-François Dardenne, the CEO of Emaar Hotels & Resorts, said it was not only China, but other emerging markets that would sustain development in the future.

"We are targeting countries closer to home in the first instance—the GCC and India—but will be setting up sales offices in China and then look at Brazil and Africa as source markets," he said.

Delegates at the summit were in agreement that airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways would fuel development of the region by fulfilling the cross-roads designation of the region.

The Gulf’s geographical location is undoubtedly one of its major strengths, providing a natural link between the East and West. Moreover, its access to Russian and Indian markets specifically gives the region a strategic advantage.

Questioning whether hotel rates in the region would remain high, the experts agreed that expansion of three-and four-star hotels in most markets would serve to pull down average daily rates (ADR), which have remained among the world’s most expensive for many regional cities.

"For the first quarter in 2011, average occupancies in Dubai hotels were back above the 80 per cent mark and while average daily rates have taken a plunge, they still exceed USD 200," said summit moderator Jalil Mekouar, MD-Hotels, Jones Lang LaSalle, pointing out this was more than in Hong Kong, Paris, New York and London. (PTI)



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