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UN chief calls for international action on rising food prices

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for concerted international action on rising food prices ahead of the yesterday's opening of five days of talks on globalistion.

More than 3,000 delegates from 193 nations are expected to attend the 12th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which is being held against a backdrop of rising food prices and an economic slowdown. "The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development could not have come at a more crucial time," Ban said upon his arrival at Accra airport late on Saturday.

The soaring price of basic foodstuffs in some of the world's poorest nations has already caused riots in Haiti and demonstrations across Africa. "This is a worrisome situation as it poses a threat to the stability of many developing countries," he said, adding that solving this crisis immediately is of particular importance as those hardest hit by it are those who have been left behind by globalisation.

"Concerted international action is urgently needed to tackle this issue," he said, adding: "UNTAC's mandate is more important than ever in this context of deepening interdependence."

The Accra meeting was set to begin with a speech by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - head of one of the so-called BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) of rapidly-expanding economies, and a key player in the stalled Doha round of world trade talks.

In his address to conference Ban was expected to warn that not everyone benefits from globalisation.

"We are going to study the economic impacts of globalisation, including poverty reduction, wealth, employment, and we will draw the lesson that some countries benefit from globalisation, and others do not," he was expected to say.

The conference is to explore the options to improve the international monetary and financial system, how to ensure the current boom in commodity prices translates into higher employment, and how countries can acquire the trade and productive capacities needed to compete on the world stage.

The rise in trade in services, and the related expansion in international labour migration, will be considered as well, along with the impact of Asia's mounting energy needs on energy security and climate change. AFP


NTPC plant for Sampur

India has agreed to locate a 500-MW coal-based plant of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) at Sampur in Trincomalee district, The Hindu said yesterday quoting sources.

The newspaper said New Delhi's decision was conveyed to the Lankan Government. Though the two countries signed an agreement in December 2006, there was no unanimity on the plant location.

Sri Lanka identified Sampur, which its military wrested from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in September 2006, though an NTPC team earlier preferred a site near the Indian Oil Corporation oil complex, close to the Trincomalee harbour.

The move to locate the plant at Sampur triggered a controversy with the Tamil National Alliance raising political and environmental objections. The project, involving an investment of $500 million, is to be implemented by a joint venture company, in which the NTPC and the Ceylon Electricity Board will each hold a 50 per cent stake and which will be funded with a debt equity ratio of 70:30.

For Sri Lanka, this is one of the largest ever infrastructure investments and the project will augment its power capacity by 20 per cent, according to official sources.

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