Le Monde reports being told by several military sources that the number of French troops on the ground in Mali is likely to be “considerably more than 3,000”:
“The mission’s anticipated duration remains unclear; officials will only say it will last ‘as long as necessary.’ There were 2,150 French troops deployed in Mali on Monday, with an additional 1,000 providing support.
In the second phase of the offensive, French forces will advance into the North. Rather than heavy bombardment, large numbers of helicopters will allow French forces to hold the ground. ‘Now is when the difficulties will begin,’ said a military official.” [Translated from the French.]
The Independent reports that more than 100 civil society groups have launched a new campaign blaming a grain oligopoly for the hunger of hundreds of millions of people around the world:
“The new campaign challenges [this year’s G8 chair] David Cameron to take the lead in championing measures to stop tax-dodging by companies, prevent farmers from being forced off their land and ensure western nations live up to their promises on aid.
It says five multinationals – ADM, Bunge, Cargill, Glencore and Louis Dreyfus – control all but ten per cent of the world’s grain supplies.
The campaign’s chair, Max Lawson, Oxfam’s head of policy, said: ‘The stranglehold of a small number of companies on food supply is squeezing African farmers’ ability to feed themselves and their communities.’ ”
The Globe and Mail reports that a Calgary-based energy company has agreed to pay the biggest foreign corruption fine in Canadian history over bribes paid to obtain oil and gas contracts in Chad:
“The plea by Griffiths Energy International Inc., a small privately held oil and gas company based in Calgary, stands to settle charges it faces under Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act after a company investigation unearthed payments made in an attempt to secure lucrative energy properties in Africa.
It is illegal for Canadian companies to bribe foreign officials – transactions that were once viewed as routine business deals, particularly for resource outfits. The Griffiths case will mark the second conviction for the RCMP since it established teams dedicated to investigating foreign corruption.”
Bloomberg reports that the Dutch parliament is looking into the Netherlands’ role as “a $13 trillion relay station on the global tax-avoiding network”:
“Last month, the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, declared a war on tax avoidance and evasion, which it said costs the EU 1 trillion euros a year. The commission advised member states — including the Netherlands — to create tax-haven blacklists and adopt anti-abuse rules. It also recommended reforms that could undermine the lure of the Netherlands, and hurt a spinoff industry that has mushroomed in and around Amsterdam to abet tax avoidance.
Attracted by the Netherlands’ lenient policies and extensive network of tax treaties, companies such as Yahoo, Google Inc., Merck & Co. and Dell Inc. have moved profits through the country. Using techniques with nicknames such as the ‘Dutch Sandwich,’ multinational companies routed 10.2 trillion euros in 2010 through 14,300 Dutch ‘special financial units,’ according to the Dutch Central Bank. Such units often only exist on paper, as is allowed by law.”
Radio France Internationale reports that, despite the personnel demands of the Mali intervention, the French military is maintaining a presence in another former colony, namely the Central African Republic:
“The military crisis has passed and soldiers, whether they be Central African or foreign, are less visible. The French army has been called to another theatre of operations, Mali, and in the streets of Bangui, French uniforms are now much more rare. ‘During last month’s crisis, we got up to 604 troops. The 240 that will stay here beyond the end of the week will carry out their original mission, providing logistical and technical support for the Central African Multinational Force. And of course, if the situation deteriorates again, they will ensure the protection of our citizens and our interests,’ said Lieutenant-Colonel Benoît Fine, commander of the French mission in the Central African Republic.” [Translated from the French.]
Inter Press Service reports that Malawi’s new president’s apparent enthusiasm for the economic prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund is causing a popular backlash:
“According to John Kapito, head of the watchdog known as the Consumers Association of Malawi, [President Joyce] Banda has ‘transferred power’ to the IMF and the World Bank.
‘Like many leaders of poor countries, the problem with Joyce Banda is that she doesn’t think on her own. She is listening to everything that the IMF and the World Bank are telling her. She (agreed) to devalue the kwacha, agreed to remove subsidies on fuel without considering the impact of these decisions on the poor,’ said Kapito, who helped organise the latest demonstrations.”
The Telegraph’s Richard Spencer writes about the large quantities of weapons that went missing from Libya after NATO military action helped topple the country’s long-time ruler, weapons that may have precipitated the latest foreign intervention, this time in Mali:
“Gaddafi, [Human Rights Watch’s Peter Bouckaert] said, had built up a vast arsenal of kit, with dumps in every city. Much of it has gone missing – far more than, say, disappeared after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He himself photographed men with 18-wheel trailers towing away the landmines from my field – he reckoned there were 120,000 anti-personnel mines and 30,000 anti-tank mines. He says they were sold to an international arms dealer and are still in circulation.
‘The weapons that went missing in Libya are perhaps the greatest proliferation of weapons of war from any modern conflict,’ he said.”
Reuters reports that a Yemeni cabinet minister has broken ranks by criticizing US drone strikes in her country and calling for “more effective strategies”:
“[Human rights minister Hooria] Mashhour also said she wanted to see a fair trial for anyone suspected of involvement ‘in terrorist activities’.
‘This is our idea, to do this through the judiciary. But the United States said that it’s in an open war with them and they declared the US as an enemy. The (US) declared (militants) as enemies who could be targeted wherever they are found.
‘All we are calling for is justice and reliance on international regulations with regard to human rights and to be true to our commitment to our citizens in that they all deserve a fair trial,’ Mashhour added.