‘Great Turning Point’: Senior Malian Official on Creation of Confederation of Sahel States

On July 6, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger signed a charter establishing the Confederation of Sahel States during the inaugural summit of the heads of state and governments of the AES in Niamey. They also agreed on establishing an investment bank and a stabilization fund for the confederation. Mali took over the presidency of the union for one year. The recent creation of the Confederation of Sahel States is “a great turning point” in the lives of the people of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, a senior Malian official said in an interview with Sputnik Africa. Since the creation of the Liptako-Gourma authority (an organization uniting the three countries, created in 1970), “this was something that was foreseeable,” said Fousseynou Ouattara, the vice president of the Malian Transitional Council’s Defense and Security Commission. “But unfortunately, the previous leaders did not have enough authority, enough decision-making at their level to get rid of certain pressures and to go for this union,” Ouattara stressed. Today, we can say that the three countries of the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) “have completely left the orbit of the former metropolis” and are independent “thanks to the support of true friends,” including Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran. Ouattara believes that Russia “will be able to make a great gesture” and “set up a Marshall Plan” for the AES. “I am sure that this space will be a very, very profitable market for Russian industries […] I believe that the role that Russia can play will be decisive for our future,” he stressed. Commenting on the US armed forces withdrawal from Niamey base in Niger, the Malian official said that it is “better late than never.” The US presence in Niger “has not served the Nigeriens; it has not served the fight against terrorism; it has not served the development of the country,” the vice chairman of the Malian Transitional Council’s Defense and Security Commission said. According to Ouattara, Washington “always wants to impose itself, always wants to dictate its will to others.” Now handed over to the Nigerien authorities, Air Base 101 “can be used to welcome our partners who are helping us on several levels,” he added. “I am sure that this place will not be empty. It will be a pleasure for me to see the technicians and assistants who are ready to accept our conditions for cooperation in the field of defense, in the military field,” Ouattara said. On Sunday, the US military forces pulled out of the 101 air base near the Nigerien capital of Niamey and officially handed it over to the West African country’s authorities. The transfer of the site to the Nigerien side was signed by Niger’s Chief of Staff, Mamane Sani Kiaou, and US General Kenneth Ekman. It is expected that the American side will organize the withdrawal of Agadez Air Base 201 by September 15.

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Iranian President, Foreign Minister Died in Helicopter Crash

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – On Sunday, Iranian media reported that a helicopter carrying Raisi, Amirabdollahian and their companions made a hard landing in northwestern Iran. The delegation was on its way back from a visit to Azerbaijan. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and all other members of the delegation returning from Azerbaijan died in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, the Mehr news agency reported on Monday. In addition to Raisi and Amirabdollahian, the imam of Tabriz, Mohammad-Ali Al-Hashem, the head of the East Azerbaijan province, Malek Rahmati, the helicopter crew and one security officer were on board the helicopter, the report said. After the death of President Raisi, Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber will serve as head of state for the next 50 days until a new presidential election is held by a special council, the ISNA news agency reported. The council will consist of the heads of the legislative and judicial branches, as well as the first vice president himself, the news agency said, adding that the election can take place in June-July. Mokhber, in turn, said during an emergency meeting that the government will function without disruptions until the new election, as broadcast by Press TV. In addition, the Iranian government is expected to hold another emergency meeting over the death of the country’s president and foreign minister, according to local media. Vice President Confirms Reports of Raisi’s Death Iranian Vice President Mohsen Mansouri confirmed on Monday media reports that Iranian President Raisi and his delegation, including Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian, died in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran. “We belong to Allah, and truly we will return to Him,” Mansouri said on X, attaching to the post a link to photos of Raisi. This phrase is traditionally used when reporting someone’s death. The bodies are being transported to the mosque of the Iranian city of Tabriz, as the search operations are concluded, Iranian news agency Mehr reported, citing head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir Hossein Kolivand, as saying.

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