Coup leader Sanogo arrested, charged

The military strongman who led last year’s coup in Mali was arrested Wednesday in Bamako and charged with kidnapping, hours after he was escorted from his home in the capital by soldiers.

The development indicates that the government of Mali’s newly elected president isn’t shying away from confronting Gen. Amadou Haya Sanogo, who led the March 2012 coup and is accused of systematically torturing and executing soldiers who questioned his rise to power.

“Sanogo has been inculpated for complicity in kidnapping. Right now that is the only charge,” said Daniel Tessougue, the country’s chief prosecutor, who was reached by telephone Wednesday.

Lt. Mohamed Boua Coulibaly, a spokesman for Sanogo, confirmed that the general had been taken by force from his residence earlier in the day by a unit of soldiers sent by the Defense Ministry.

Despite stepping down and handing over control to a civilian administration, Sanogo remained a powerful force in Mali for much of 2012, and many think he was calling the shots.

In August, the country held its first election since the coup.

— Associated Press

Protesters continue to press for E.U. deal

Thousands of people on Wednesday kept up their nearly week-long protest against the Ukrainian government’s decision to ditch an agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia, but officials showed no signs of relenting to their demands.

About 5,000 people gathered on Independence Square in Kiev despite freezing temperatures, listening to music and singing. A couple of thousand demonstrators also rallied earlier in the day outside the Ukrainian government building to call for the release of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The E.U. had made the release of Tymoshenko, the political rival of President Viktor Yanukovych, a condition for signing the association agreement at a summit that begins Thursday in Lithuania.

— Associated Press

Regime says it won’t cede power in talks

Syria’s government said Wednesday that it will participate in talks aimed at ending the country’s civil war but insisted that it is not going to hand over power.

The United Nations announced Monday that the long-delayed talks will begin Jan. 22 in Geneva. The meeting, which would be the first direct talks between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and its opponents since the war began, has raised hopes that a resolution to a conflict that is estimated to have killed more than 120,000 people could be within reach.

In Tehran, the Iranian and Turkish foreign ministers called for a Syrian cease-fire as soon as possible, saying that a halt in fighting would help the peace talks. Even the most modest attempts to end the Syrian conflict, which is in its third year, have failed. The two ministers declined to give details of the latest cease-fire efforts as they spoke at a joint news conference Wednesday.

The continued bloodletting is but one of many hurdles that remain ahead of talks. There is also no decision on the full list of participants.

— Associated Press

2 die in Brazil soccer stadium collapse: Part of the stadium that will host the 2014 World Cup opener in Brazil’s capital collapsed Wednesday, killing two workers and raising urgent concerns about whether the country will be ready for soccer’s signature event. Brazil has been plagued by setbacks, including cost overruns, stadium delays, accidents, labor strife and street protests in the run-up to the tournament, which begins in June. The accident at Itaquerao stadium occurred when a crane crashed into a 500-ton metal structure that in turn cut through the outer walls of the venue, destroying rows of seats and slamming into a massive LED panel that runs across the stadium’s facade.

Berlusconi expelled from Italian parliament: The Italian Senate expelled former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi over his tax fraud conviction Wednesday, humiliating the veteran center-right leader, who vowed to continue leading his party from outside parliament. The Senate vote, after months of wrangling, opens an uncertain phase for Italy, with the 77-year-old media billionaire apparently in the twilight of his political career but prepared to use all his resources to disrupt Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s coalition government.

— From news services