Former Mali PM Diarra standing for president
BAMAKO - Former Malian prime minister Cheick Modibo Diarra said on Tuesday he was standing for president in the July elections.
Diarra spent just eight months at the head of the deeply-divided west African nation last year before being forced to step down.
"I am running because a great many Malian people have requested that I carry their hopes for the future of Mali," he said.
"I cannot remain indifferent to their desire. The debate will be very interesting and I don't want to run from it."
Diarra was appointed in April last year by acting head-of-state Dioncounda Traore following a military coup which unseated then president Amadou Toumani Toure and led to the fall of the country's northern cities to armed Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda.
He resigned in December under pressure from the military junta which overthrew Toure.
"I have no agenda against any individual. The future of Mali is my only concern. I have the chance to take part in the development of Mali, a country that has given me everything," he added.
Diarra was an astrophysicist of international renown before entering politics in 2011.
Fifteen political leaders have declared their candidature for the presidential elections scheduled for July 28, with a possible second round planned on August 11.
Among them are two other former prime ministers, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Modibo Sidibe. 700 EU-trained soldiers head for northern Mali
Around 700 EU-trained soldiers have been deployed to war-torn Mali's desert north, a military source said on Tuesday.
The contingent -- the first from the European Union Training Mission in Mali -- left the capital Bamako on Monday for the northeastern city of Gao, a Malian defence ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
The French army's chief of staff, General Edouard Guillaud, was also in northern Mali Tuesday "for a field trip", said a Malian military source.
The European Union began a top-to-toe overhaul of Mali's weak, ragtag army in April to help soldiers in the west African nation take over from foreign troops defending it against Islamist extremists.
France, which sent 4,500 troops to its former colony in January to block an advance on the capital from the north by Al-Qaeda-linked fighters, is the lead country in the mission.