Large crowds have once again poured onto the streets of Mali’s capital, Bamako, continuing the so-called “Movement of June 5” and renewing demands for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Those gathered on Friday were heeding the call of the country’s newly resurgent opposition and were supported by Mahmoud Dicko, a prominent religious leader whose political star has been rising amid growing unrest over the devolving security situation in the northern and central regions of the country.
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Thousands of soldiers and civilians have died, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes amid attacks that have increased fivefold since 2016 and have spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Mali has spiralled into the violence – which involves an amorphous array of al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) affiliated groups, ethnic militias, and state, regional and international forces – since Tuareg separatists in the north briefly seceded from the southern-based government in 2012. Keita was elected the following year and won a second five-year term in 2018.
However, protesters’ grievances extend beyond the conflict, with the anaemic pace of political reforms, a tanking economy and a widely shared perception of government corruption have also fed anti-Keita sentiment.
What a crowd in Bamako… despite concessions made by #Mali’s president, the protest continues with some threatening to match to the presidential palace https://t.co/mUavOmDRMW
— Nicolas Haque (@nicolashaque) June 19, 2020
During Friday’s demonstration, an imam led gatherers in a prayer in a central city square, followed by protesters singing the national anthem and blowing vuvuzela horns. Many displayed placards bearing anti-government slogans.
The protests followed a similar rally on June 5 organised by a newly-formed coalition of opposition groups. prompting a coalition of religious leaders and civil society figures to call the protests the “Movement of June 5 – Rally of Patriotic Forces”.
‘He hasn’t learned his lesson’
Keita, 75, has been pushed to make several concessions in recent days in response to mounting criticism, such as raising the salaries of public teachers after a long-running pay dispute. He also pledged to enact many reforms, including forming a new unity government that would include opposition figures, noted Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, who has reported extensively on Mali.
But his efforts to appease opponents appear to have fallen flat.
“We have thousands of people on the streets of Bamako protesting, asking, once again, for Keita to resign,” Haque said. “So it seems the concessions that the president made – raising the salaries of teachers, suggesting that he would dissolve the newly elected national assembly and the constitutional court, calling for a national unity government – were not enough to quell the crowd of protesters.”
Dicko had earlier told reporters in Bamako that Friday’s protest would go ahead come what may.
“He hasn’t learned his lesson, he doesn’t listen to people,” he said. “But this time he will understand.”
Mamadou Diakite, a 42-year-old teacher who protested on Friday, told AFP news agency that Keita had to step down.
“We are here for the final victory, there is no negotiation possible,” he said.
The sharpening political divide in Mali is worrying the country’s neighbours, who fear further instability could further inflame the already volatile situation, which has cast Burkina Faso and Niger into crisis and threatens to reach further south into the coastal West African countries.
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Iran says ‘internal agents’ may be responsible for Natanz blast |NationalTribune.com
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year. On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the…
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian government said on Tuesday there are strong suspicions that “internal agents” played a role in a massive explosion that occurred at a key nuclear facility earlier this year.
On July 2, a fire ripped through a building at Natanz, a major uranium enrichment site. Satellite images showed it caused the roof to collapse and parts of the building were blackened by the blaze.
“One of the strong theories is based on internal agents being involved in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a news conference, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The issue is being seriously reviewed by the country’s security organisations and we will announce the results after things are clear.”
It is the first time an Iranian official specifically pointed to the possibility of an inside job for the blast.
In late August, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization confirmed the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing further information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced Natanz saboteurs “have been identified” but refrained from discussing further details, including whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain” but the incident still needs to be investigated due to its complexities.
The desert Natanz site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reports indicated Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Everyone can suspect us in everything and all the time, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities”, adding to that end, “We take actions that are better left unsaid.”
September’s announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came one week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was successful, leading to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wished to inspect.
“In this present context, based on analysis of available information to the IAEA, the IAEA does not have further questions to Iran and further requests for access to locations other than those declared by Iran,” the IAEA and Iranian officials said in a joint statement following the visit.
In a speech during the 64th session of the General Conference of the IAEA on Monday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts need to be condemned by the agency and member states,” he said via video conference, adding “Iran reserves its rights to protect its facilities and take necessary actions against any threat as appropriate.”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise its “impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement centred around the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The US on Sunday declared it reinstated all UN sanctions on Iran, an announcement that was roundly rejected by the United Nations Security Council as lacking legal basis.
The US is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained it never pursued nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The US reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that have hit almost all the productive sectors of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organisations.
In response, starting exactly one year after US sanctions were imposed and other parties failed to guarantee economic benefits promised Iran under the deal, Iran started gradually scaling back its nuclear commitments.
Palestine quits Arab League role in protest over Israel deals |NationalTribune.com
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel. Palestinians see the deals that the United…
Palestine was meant to chair Arab League meetings for next six months, but FM Riyad al-Maliki has declined the position.Palestine has quit its current chairmanship of Arab League meetings, the Palestinian foreign minister said on Tuesday, condemning as dishonourable any Arab agreement to establish formal ties with Israel.
Palestinians see the deals that the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed with Israel in Washington a week ago as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn nations breaking ranks and normalising relations with Israel.
Palestine was supposed to chair Arab League meetings for the next six months, but Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told a news conference in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that it no longer wanted the position.
“Palestine has decided to concede its right to chair the League’s council [of foreign ministers] at its current session. There is no honour in seeing Arabs rush towards normalisation during its presidency,” Maliki said.
In his remarks, he did not specifically name the UAE and Bahrain, Gulf Arab countries that share with Israel concern over Iran. He said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit had been informed of the Palestinian decision.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on the de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and annexed East Jerusalem.
Arab countries have long called for Israel’s withdrawal from illegally occupied land, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a settlement that leads to the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state, in exchange for establishing ties with it.
In a new move addressing internal Palestinian divisions, officials from West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction and the Gaza-based Hamas movement were due to hold reconciliation talks in Turkey on Tuesday.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah forces during a brief round of fighting. Differences over power-sharing have delayed implementation of unity deals agreed since then.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies
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