- - Monday, August 13, 2012

BAMAKO — Mali’s interim prime minister came under growing pressure Monday to form a unity government after tens of thousands gathered in the capital over the weekend to call for action nearly five months after a military coup plunged the country into chaos.

West African regional leaders had imposed an Aug. 10 deadline, which Mali’s interim leaders have failed to meet. The delays have raised concerns about the fate of the country’s political transition, especially as Mali’s coup leader simultaneously has failed to relinquish power entirely.

On Sunday, an estimated 50,000 people took part in a rally in Mali’s capital, urging the interim leaders to finalize the unity government.

President Dioncounda Traore also met with Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra over the weekend, according to a statement released by the presidency.

“He reaffirmed his confidence in the prime minister and instructed him to make his nominations in an attempt to form a national unity government,” the statement issued Sunday said.

Mr. Traore also said he was giving civil society groups and others until Tuesday to make their recommendations.


Insurance deal lets India resume shipping Iran oil

MUMBAI — India has joined Japan in offering government-backed insurance for ships carrying Iranian crude in order to bypass European sanctions that have nearly halved Iranian oil exports to key markets.

The first Indian ship to carry oil from Iran with Indian insurance is scheduled to load up in Iran on Wednesday, a shipping company executive said Monday.

This is a breakthrough for the Indian government, which has scrambled to maintain vital Iranian oil imports after European sanctions blocked third-party insurance in July.

The MT Omvati Prem — a tanker contracted to carry 85,000 metric tons of crude oil from Iran for Indian state refiner Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd. — is scheduled to arrive in India by Aug. 25, said Kowshik Kuchroo, president of shipping for Mercator Ltd., an Indian company.

Mercator is insuring the ship with $50 million in hull and machinery insurance, which covers physical damage to the ship, from state-owned New India Assurance Co. and another $50 million in protection and indemnity insurance, which covers a broad range of liabilities including environmental pollution and cargo damage, from government-backed United India Insurance.

That is a far cry from the $1 billion in coverage Indian companies such as Mercator got from European insurers, which used to underwrite most maritime coverage.


Russia slams new sanctions on Iran

MOSCOW — Russia’s Foreign Ministry harshly criticized new U.S. sanctions on Iran, calling them “undisguised blackmail” and warning that relations between Washington and Moscow will suffer if Russian companies are affected.

The U.S. Congress on Aug. 1 slapped sanctions on Iran’s energy, shipping and financial industries as part of an effort to pressure Tehran over its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The new sanctions would hit foreign companies that mine uranium with Iran or help it export oil by providing tankers, insurance or banking services.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Monday in a statement that while Russia supports U.N. sanctions, it opposes U.S. efforts to spread its legislation throughout the world and “rejects methods of undisguised blackmail used by the U.S. against the companies and banks of other countries.”


Japan, N. Korea to resume talks

TOKYO — Japan and North Korea are set to hold talks this month over the repatriation of the remains of Japanese left behind after the occupation of the Korean peninsula, a news report said Monday.

The Kyodo news agency said the two countries, which have no diplomatic ties and frosty relations, were in final discussions about holding formal talks in late August, in what would be the first dialogue on the sensitive topic in four years.

Japan occupied the Korean peninsula from 1910 until 1945, and about 34,600 Japanese died in what is now North Korea after Soviet troops entered at the end of World War II, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The remains of about 13,000 Japanese have been repatriated, but around 21,000 others are believed to be buried in the North.

Citing Japanese government sources, Kyodo said the talks between the two governments, which were last held in August 2008, were likely to take place in a third country, possibly China.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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