Mali President Cuts Short France Visit

Keita will meet French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday morning as scheduled but will then return home, shortening his trip by two days, the source said. “The situation demands his presence and if it wasn’t for the meeting (with Hollande) he would already have returned,” he added. Insurgents launched an attack on the Malian army in the rebel bastion of Kidal on Monday, in fresh violence since the breakdown of peace talks. The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which is fighting for autonomy in northern Mali, ambushed soldiers at a bank, the scene of a fierce firefight on Sunday night, a senior Malian army officer told AFP. Keita met French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday. Before arriving in France he attended a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York. The security situation in Mali has worsened in his absence. Four suicide bombers blew up their car at a military barracks in the desert city of Timbuktu on Saturday, killing two civilians, an attack claimed by the north African group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. On Monday, dozens of disgruntled soldiers involved in Mali’s 2012 coup fired guns in the air at a protest, wounding and taking hostage a close aide of mutiny leader Amadou Sanogo, military sources said. The soldiers, based in the garrison town of Kati, near the capital Bamako, are unhappy at not having been promoted alongside colleagues also involved in ousting then-president Amadou Toumani Toure in March last year. There was confusion over whether Colonel Habib Diallo had been released, with some soldiers inside the camp saying he had been rushed to hospital for treatment on a bullet wound while others said he remained a hostage. Sanogo led a group of fellow mid-level officers in overthrowing Toure on March 22 last year, upending what had been considered one of west Africa’s flagship democracies. The mutiny precipitated the fall of northern Mali to Islamist militants linked to Al-Qaeda but a military intervention by French and African troops in January chased the rebels from the region’s main cities.

France opens probe into Assad uncle’s assets

The patrol ships will need naval guns and other military equipment, and so there are also negotiations under way about buying the needed weaponry from France, Mozambique Deputy Foreign Minister Henrique Banze said. Yes there will be weapons purchases, he told The Associated Press by telephone. Its important not only to have ships. There will also be a need to make sure that they are protected. He would not give details, but said the money for the ship deal came from a loan from another country, but I cant say which one. Hollandes office said the contract with CMN is just part of a larger global deal with the holding company Privinvest, owned by Lebanese magnate Iskandar Safa. Hollandes office wouldnt comment on the possible weapons negotiations because the deal is not public. Safa, who played a prominent role in Mondays events in Cherbourg, declined to give details on the agreements involved. Safa, who helped negotiate the release of French hostages in Lebanon in 1988, faced a French arrest warrant for several years in the 2000s because of suspicions around his financial transactions with senior French officials. The case against him was dropped in 2009 by the French prosecutors for lack of evidence. Meanwhile, Mozambicans are asking how all these purchases are being financed. Mozambique is ranked 185 out of 187 on the U.N.s human development index. But it has been enjoying strong economic growth, boosted by the discovery of large reserves of offshore natural gas. Fatima Mimbire, who works with anti-corruption group Transparency International in Mozambique, said the government has released contradictory information on the value of the ship deal ranging from 200 million euros to $500 million and about which company is behind it. If members of the government arent talking the same language, something is wrong, she said. I understand that we need to expand our exports to bring more money to the country.

France selling ships _ and maybe arms _ to Mozambique in unusual deal

A judicial source told AFP the investigation had been opened into Rifaat al-Assad, the brother of Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez, after a criminal complaint filed on September 13. The complaint, by anti-corruption groups Sherpa and Transparency International, alleges the 76-year-old illegally acquired “extraordinary wealth” in France through corrupt schemes and embezzlement. Once a stalwart of the Syrian authorities, Rifaat al-Assad broke with his brother’s government in 1984 and reportedly has no links with the current regime, which is fighting in a civil conflict that has left more than 110,000 dead since it began in March 2011. Before splitting from the regime, Rifaat al-Assad was accused of being responsible for the deaths of thousands during the crushing of a Sunni Islamist uprising in 1982. The massacre in the town of Hama, by troops allegedly under Rifaat al-Assad’s command, left between 10,000 and 25,000 dead. Rifaat al-Assad has denied any involvement and in 2011 dismissed allegations he was behind the killings as “a myth.” The criminal complaint accuses Rifaat al-Assad of acquiring wealth “in the billions of euros” through corruption, embezzlement of public funds, misuse of corporate assets and other crimes, noting that he had “no known professional activity.” The head of Sherpa, William Bourdon, welcomed the prosecutors’ decision as a “first step” but said a full probe by investigating magistrates needed to be launched. “It is obvious that only an examining magistrate has the necessary authority to deal with offences of such a complex and international nature,” he told AFP, adding that a magistrate would also have more power to seize assets. French media have reported that Rifaat al-Assad’s holdings include a mansion and several dozen apartments in Paris, with newspaper Le Monde estimating the total value of his estate in France at 160 million euros ($215 million). Le Monde reported earlier this year that the potential sale of one of his properties — a mansion on the prestigious Avenue Foch — fell through after potential Russian buyers offered only 70 million euros. Once considered a possible successor to his brother, Rifaat al-Assad fled to France after being placed under house arrest following a failed coup attempt. His estrangement from the regime means he has not been affected by the freezing of assets and travel restrictions imposed by the European Union against Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle. Rifaat’s son, Siwar al-Assad, told France Info radio earlier that the family’s wealth was legitimate and promised to cooperate with any investigation.

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