OUAGADOUGOU: Mediators working to hammer out a ceasefire agreement between Mali’s government and Tuareg rebels before July elections flew to Bamako yesterday to attempt to convince the country’s interim president to sign the deal. Negotiations opened on Saturday in Burkina Faso after Mali’s army last week began advancing towards Kidal, the MNLA rebels’ last stronghold in the northeast, sparking the first fighting in months. Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole, a mediator in the talks, said on Monday that the two sides had reached an agreement in principle but had asked for more time so that they could fly to Mali to check it with their respective leaderships. The government delegation did not return for the expected signing on Tuesday, raising concerns the deal was unravelling.
France gripped by travel chaos
PARIS: France is braced for another day of travel chaos today as striking workers bring the nation’s rail network to its knees after an air traffic controllers’ strike that grounded thousands of flights. The nationwide rail strike got under way yesterday evening and was expected to result in less than half of normal services operating until tomorrow morning. The stoppage follows two days of disruption in the skies caused by air controllers protesting over plans to create a single European airspace. Up to three-quarters of flights from Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports were cancelled.
Merkel for greater flood protection
BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday that Germany still had much to do in bolstering the country’s flood defences as she toured a northern water-logged region battling historic river levels. Merkel made her fourth trip to flooded zones in around a week, visiting Hitzacker in Lower Saxony. The waters in Germany began to subside after leaving 19 dead in central Europe. In Hungary, which has seen Danube reach perilous levels, waters continued to recede in Budapest, down to 8.2 metres from nearly 9 metres on Monday.
Thousands march in Moscow
MOSCOW: Thousands of Russian opposition activists marched through Moscow yesterday as they denounced President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule and insisted it is time Russia and its leader part ways. Led by anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, 37, and his youthful wife, the protesters chanted “Divorce for Russia” and “Lyudmila without Putin. We should also divorce Putin”. The witty slogans came on the heels of Putin’s sudden announcement last week that the 60-year-old leader and his wife Lyudmila of 30 years were divorcing.