World Digest: Mali presidential race goes to a runoff; Hezbollah chief hits Israel in rare speech

August 2, 2013
MALI
Presidential election requires runoff vote

Mali’s postwar election produced no clear winner and former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will face ex-finance minister Soumaila Cisse in a runoff scheduled for Aug. 11, the government said Friday.

Provisional results gave Keita 39 percent of votes cast in Sunday’s poll, well ahead of Cisse’s 19 percent. But the third- and fourth-place candidates might now rally behind Cisse, with whom they have been in coalition.

The election was the first since a March 2012 coup led to the occupation of Mali’s north by separatist and Islamist rebels. French forces intervened in January to defeat the al-Qaeda-linked Islamists, whose threats to disrupt voting did not materialize.

The election turnout, at 51.5 percent, was the highest ever in Mali, underscoring its citizens’ desire to turn the page on the violence and upheaval that have roiled the West African nation over the past 18 months.

— Reuters

LEBANON
Hezbollah chief hits Israel in rare speech

Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah emerged from hiding Friday to deliver his first major speech in years, addressing a rally in his southern Beirut stronghold in support of the Palestinian conflict against Israel.

“Israel poses a danger on all people of this region . . . including Lebanon, and removing it is a Lebanese national interest,” Nasrallah said in his half-hour speech.

The charismatic Shiite cleric has lived mainly in the shadows, fearing assassination, since his militant movement fought an inconclusive month-long war with Israel in 2006. His last major speech came a month after that conflict, when he declared victory in front of thousands of supporters. Since then, he has made occasional and brief public appearances, most recently in September.

In recent months, Hezbollah has lent military support to President Bashar al-Assad’s battle against Syrian rebels.

— Reuters

CAMBODIA
Premier claims right to form government

Hopes for a compromise solution to a deadlock over Cambodia’s election results faded Friday as the country’s leader insisted that he could form a new government even if the opposition boycotts parliament.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said at a meeting with farmers that the constitution allows the National Assembly to carry out its tasks with a simple majority of its 123 members present.

Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party says provisional results show it won 68 assembly seats to the opposition’s 55. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party says that it won 63 seats and that voting irregularities were widespread.

— Associated Press

12 Islamists killed in Syrian rebel infighting: Overnight clashes between Kurdish opposition fighters and al-Qaeda-linked rebels in the northeastern Syrian province of Hassakeh left 12 Islamist fighters dead, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding that the dead were from two groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and Jabhat al-Nusra. The rebel-on-rebel violence turned into a war within a war this week after a powerful Kurdish militia called on its supporters to avenge a recent killing of a prominent political leader.

Germany ends Cold War-era pact: Germany canceled a Cold War-era surveillance pact with the United States and Britain in response to revelations by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden about those countries’ alleged electronic eavesdropping operations. The move, however, appeared largely symbolic, designed to show ahead of national elections that the German government is acting to stop unwarranted surveillance of its citizens without actually jeopardizing ties. Britain noted that the agreement had not been used since 1990.

New U.N. envoy to Iraq named: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed former Bulgarian foreign minister Nickolay Mladenov as his special envoy to Iraq, where security has deteriorated as Sunni Islamist groups step up an insurgency against the Shiite-led government. Mladenov replaces former German diplomat Martin Kobler, who has been appointed Ban’s special envoy to Congo.

Cuba reports big jump in U.S. visas for islanders: The number of Cubans receiving U.S. non-immigrant visas jumped 79 percent in the first half of the year, the Communist Party newspaper Granma reported. According to statistics published by Granma, the U.S. Interests Section in Havana issued 16,767 such visas in the first six months of 2013, compared with 9,369 in the same period last year. U.S. officials were not available to confirm the figures or comment.

— From news services

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