On Tuesday, September 8 at 19:30 GMT: People across Mali are anxious over the country’s future, days after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita stepped down following a military coup.
Army soldiers allied with the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) moved against Keita and prime minister Boubou Cisse on August 18, following weeks of popular protests against the government. The mass demonstrations, led by groups that coalesced into a coalition called the June 5 Movement, were sparked by a constitutional court decision to overturn some results in recent legislative elections, awarding extra seats to Keita’s party and making it the largest bloc in parliament. The protests also tapped into simmering resentments over long-running social, economic and security challenges.
The CNSP’s move to arrest Keita, forcing him to declare his resignation, was supported by the June 5 Movement. But in recent days differences have emerged over the contours of a political transition back to civilian rule. The CNSP, led by Colonel Assimi Goita, led recent talks in Bamoko but some members of the June 5 Movement protested at being excluded from some working groups.
While Mali’s military rulers may still be able to count on popular support among Malians, regional and international powers are alarmed at the coup. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which supported Keita in his efforts against rebel groups linked to Isil and al-Qaeda, is calling for the formation of a civilian transitional government and fresh elections within a year. Former colonial power France, which has about 5,000 troops in Mali as part of an ongoing operation against armed groups in central Mali, wants to see a popular vote within months.
With people across Mali already facing food shortages, displacement and the threat of coronavirus, continued uncertainty over Mali’s political future is another burden to bear. We’ll ask what happens next. Join the conversation.
Tehran, Iran – Authorities in Iran have been forced to impose fresh nationwide restrictions after lack of control over travels during the Persian new year holidays last month led to an explosive rise in COVID-19 cases.
On Saturday, authorities reported 19,666 cases across the country, with the figure only second behind the highest single-day figure of 22,478 cases registered a day earlier.
Iran has reported more than two million cases since the start of the pandemic, including 64,232 deaths, 193 of those being reported in the past 24 hours.
Starting Saturday, all regions across Iran will undergo various degrees of restrictions based on how they have been classified under a colour-coded scale denoting the severity of outbreaks.
Iran’s coronavirus map looks like a sea of red as more than 250 cities, including all 32 province centres, are now classified “red”, indicating the highest level of severity.
In these regions, only essential services can continue while educational activities, dine-in at restaurants, cinemas, shopping centres, and a variety of retail vendors will have to shut down.
Travelling to those regions using personal vehicles will also be prohibited while up to 50 percent of staff will be allowed inside offices.
A curfew is in place across the country for private vehicles from 10pm to 3am.
However, a report by state television from the streets of Tehran showed traffic jams and people crammed in public transport on their way to work on Saturday.
“They say it’s closed but everything is open,” a citizen told the state TV reporter in front of a packed bus.
Last week, Iran announced the country is facing a fourth wave of infections which would be the biggest so far.
The announcement came weeks after tens of millions of people were allowed to travel across the country and make in-person visits to family and friends during two-week holidays for Nowruz, the Iranian new year, that was celebrated on March 20.
On Saturday, in a televised address during a session of the national anti-coronavirus task force, President Hassan Rouhani said the main reason for the fourth wave is the large-scale entry of the COVID-19 variant first found in the United Kingdom through the country’s western borders with Iraq.
Iranian health officials now estimate that more than half of all cases reported across Iran are of the UK variant.
The president said massively increased shopping activity prior to Nowruz, in-person visits on the day of Nowruz, and weddings in the past two months were the other big reasons behind the rise. Nowruz travels “that were made without following protocols” also contributed to the numbers, he added.
Rouhani said on average only 56 percent of people are now following health guidelines.
“If more than 90 percent of people follow protocols, then we won’t have a new wave. Our healthcare workers are tired. Our society is tired,” he said.
Iran has imported more than 1.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from Russia, China, India, and through COVAX, a global vaccine initiative.
Three locally manufactured candidates are also undergoing human trials and five more are in the works.
But less than 1 percent of the country’s population of more than 82 million people has been vaccinated so far.
Tehran, Iran – Iran began feeding gas to cascades of new, advanced centrifuges and unveiled dozens of “achievements” to mark its national nuclear technology day in an effort to show its nuclear programme is peaceful.
President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday launched several projects across the country via video link in Tehran that was broadcast live on national television, and an exhibition of 133 technological innovations with civilian and medical uses was also unveiled.
The display comes after the opening week of negotiations in Vienna, Austria, to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers – ended on Friday on a hopeful note, and is slated to continue from Wednesday.
In Isfahan’s Natanz, where Iran’s largest nuclear facilities are located, the order was given to feed gas to 164 all-Iranian IR6 centrifuges, with 10 SWU – separative work units that indicate the amount of separation done by an enrichment process.
The IR6 was also deemed the most sustainably efficient centrifuge Iran currently deploys, which is slated to be mass-produced on an industrial level.
It was said to be able to produce 10 times more uranium hexafluoride (UF6) than IR1, Iran’s first-generation centrifuges.
“We can industrialise these machines without any reliance outside the country,” the engineer who answered Rouhani’s questions said.
Rouhani also gave the order to begin feeding gas to test a number of 30 IR5 centrifuges and 30 IR6s centrifuges, numbers that could grow if they are successful.
Moreover, mechanical tests began on the top-of-the-line IR9 centrifuge that has a separative capacity of 50 SWU.
Also in Natanz, a unit to assemble and evaluate advanced centrifuges was launched, where the presenting engineer said more than half of all operations are currently industrialised.
In Arak, the second phase of industrial production of deuterium compounds at the Arak Heavy Water Reactor Facility was launched by the president, who also oversaw the launch of a first-of-its-kind emergency unit aimed at treating radiation burns.
A series of achievements were introduced at the National Centre for Laser Science and Technology in the Alborz province, while the president next discussed advances at a national centre to research stable isotope separation.
After the new projects were launched, the president delivered a televised address in which he once more emphasised Iran does not seek nuclear weapons, and railed against Western powers for acting based on the presumption that it did.
“These ill-placed concerns have created many problems for our people in the past 15 years,” Rouhani said, referring to multilateral sanctions imposed on Iran prior to its nuclear deal that provided sanctions relief for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.
Western intelligence maintains that Iran sought to weaponise its nuclear programme, plans that it abandoned in 2003.
Israel still repeatedly claims Iran is after nuclear weapons despite thorough inspections of its nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Rouhani also harshly criticised world powers and the IAEA for their lack of assistance in developing Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme.
“We don’t owe them, they owe us,” the president said, adding they should have assisted Iran as part of commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Hours before the unveiling of Tehran’s latest nuclear advances, Reuters news agency cited a confidential IAEA report that Iran has produced a small amount of fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, containing 20 percent enriched uranium.
The IAEA reportedly said in its report that Iran aims to produce molybdenum, which has many civilian uses, including in medical imaging.
As part of the nuclear deal, Iran’s enrichment of uranium was capped at 3.67 percent, a limit that it started gradually scaling back in 2019, one year after then-United States President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran.
Fighters from an alliance of rebel groups reportedly attack a police station in a new escalation after the military coup.
An alliance of ethnic armies in Myanmar that has opposed the general’s crackdown on anti-coup protests attacked a police station in the east on Saturday and killed at least 10 policemen, local media said.
The police station at Naungmon in Shan state was attacked early in the morning by fighters from an alliance that includes the Arakan Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, media reported.
Shan News said at least 10 policemen were killed, while the Shwe Phee Myay news outlet put the death toll at 14.
A spokesman for the military did not return calls asking for comment.
Al Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, reporting from neighbouring Thailand, noted the ethnic armies are some of the oldest in the world, having battled central government forces for decades.
“Since the coup, there has been a lot of talk about armed groups operating together but we have not actually seen it before. Today it’s claimed three acted together, joined forces, attacked this outpost manned by Myanmar police, killing a number of policemen,” said Cheng, adding the assault occurred over two hours early on Saturday.
More than 600 people have been killed by the military in the crackdown on protests against the February 1 coup, according to a monitoring group. As violence has escalated, about a dozen armed groups have condemned the coup-makers as illegitimate and pledged to stand with the protesters.
Civilian lawmakers, most of whom are in hiding after their removal, have announced plans to form a “national unity government” – with key roles for ethnic leaders – and are holding online talks about joint resistance to the generals.
Dozens of bodies
Meanwhile, reports from Myanmar say dozens of people may have been killed in a military assault on anti-coup protesters in the city of Bago. About 60 people may have died in the clashes in the city, about 60km (32 miles) northeast of Yangon, according to Radio Free Asia citing witnesses.
News site Myanmar Now cited a protest leader as saying dozens of bodies had been brought inside a pagoda compound where the military was based. Witnesses cited by both media outlets reported hours of gunfire that started early on Friday.
Protests against the February coup continued on Saturday in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Sagaing, Myeik and many other cities.
The military crackdown has also included reports of protesters being tortured in detention and harsh sentences.
The military issued death sentences on 19 people from Yangon’s North Okkalapa township on Friday. They were charged with beating an army captain, according to Radio Free Asia.
The military coup dismissed the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently under house arrest.