France: Friends With The Front?

France, Mali urge vigilance against ‘terror’ threat

we must remain vigilant,” the two leaders said in a joint statement released by Hollande’s office after the talks. The meeting between the two leaders came against a backdrop of deteriorating security in Mali, where a car bomb attack claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) killed two civilians and wounded several soldiers on Saturday, according to the army. Calm returned Tuesday to the rebel bastion of Kidal after fighting between the MNLA and the army, but tensions remained high, a military source from the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping force in Mali told AFP. The MNLA, the main Tuareg group involved in peace talks between rebels and the government which broke down on Thursday, said three of its fighters had been wounded during a gun battle Sunday which lasted more than an hour. The clashes in Kidal came after Tuareg rebels pulled out of the talks, dealing a blow to hopes of a durable peace in the troubled west African nation. The MNLA took control of Kidal in February after a French-led military operation ousted Al-Qaeda-linked fighters who had piggybacked on a Tuareg rebellion to seize most of northern Mali. The Malian authorities reclaimed the city after signing a ceasefire deal with the MNLA but the situation has remained tense. While the MNLA remains a largely secular cause, Mali has suffered a series of attacks claimed by Islamist insurgents since France launched a military operation in January against Al-Qaeda-linked groups occupying the north of the country. Four suicide bombers blew up their car at a military barracks in the desert city of Timbuktu on Saturday, killing two civilians in an attack claimed by AQIM. A spokesman for the north African group raised “two of our brave suicide bombers”, whom he said had detonated “more than a ton of explosives”, according to the Mauritanian Alakhbar news agency. The spokesman said the explosion killed 16 soldiers and wounded many more, contradicting the army’s statement that four suicide bombers were in the car when it exploded and two passers-by were the only people killed.

treating them as pariahs goes against the values of the republic.” However, center-right moderates find the idea of a deal with the National Front anathema. “The UMP’s claim to represent the right and the center died this week,” Jean-Louis Borloo, a former vice-president of the party said in response to Fillons voting idea. Borloo left UMP in 2011 in protest at an earlier rightward swing under Sarkozy. Another former UMP prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, warned that the question of voting for the FN risked breaking up the party. “Red alert. A vote for the FN is a fault line for the UMP,” Raffarin tweeted. “The pact on which we are founded is at stake.” The dilemma over cutting a deal with the far right has also bedeviled traditional conservative parties elsewhere in Europe as radical nationalists gain ground in increasingly fractured political landscapes. When Austria’s conservatives broke a Europe-wide taboo by inviting the far-right Freedom Party to join a coalition government in 2000, there was international outcry and other European Union nations sought to impose sanctions. Since then, however, conservative governments have entered coalition or parliamentary support deals with the radical right in Italy , Slovakia, Denmark, the Netherlands and other EU countries. In Austria on Sunday, the Freedom Party saw its support surge to 21 percent which almost beat the conservatives into second place. This time, however, the conservatives look likely to reject an alliance with the hard right and maintain a broad coalition with the Socialists. In France, Fillon’s critics say his outreach to the National Front has boosted the efforts of FN leader Marine Le Pen to bring the party in from the political fringe.