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In brief: Peacekeepers on standby for Mali

Bamako, Mali – The body representing nations in western Africa has suspended Mali and has put a peacekeeping force on standby in the most direct threat yet to the junta that seized control of this nation in a coup last week.

Alassane Ouattara, the president of Ivory Coast who is the rotating chair of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, told reporters after an emergency meeting in the capital of Ivory Coast that Mali’s democracy cannot be abandoned. A delegation of five African presidents will head to Mali within the next 48 hours to try to “restore constitutional order.”

There is no immediate plan to deploy the peacekeepers who will be put on standby in the event that a military intervention is needed, said Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the president of the ECOWAS commission. The move suggests the bloc may consider force if the mutinous soldiers who overthrew Mali’s democratically elected leader do not stand down.

Mofaz takes the lead in Israel elections

Jerusalem – Preliminary results showed that former defense chief Shaul Mofaz has soundly defeated Tzipi Livni to become the new leader of Israel’s largest party, the centrist Kadima Party.

With 95 percent of the votes counted, Mofaz held a lead early today of 64 percent to 36 percent for Livni. Official results were expected later today, but Israeli TV stations declared that Mofaz had built an insurmountable lead over the former peace negotiator and foreign minister.

Mofaz, 63, was chief of the Israeli military and later defense minister during the more than four-year Palestinian uprising that broke out in late 2000.

Kadima is currently the largest faction in the 120-member parliament with 28 seats but has been hemorrhaging support to the Labor Party and dovish Meretz.

Boy is beaten outside Paris school

Paris – A 12-year-old boy was beaten outside his Jewish school in Paris by youths reciting anti-Semitic slogans, school officials said, amid high security and tensions in France following killings of Jewish children and a rabbi last week.

The boy did not suffer serious injuries.

Both the school shooting and this week’s beating involved the Ozar Hatorah network of Jewish schools.

The 12-year-old boy was hit and punched in the back of his head Monday afternoon as he left the Ozar Hatorah School in southeast Paris, the school’s human resources director, Katia Normal, said Tuesday. She said the aggressors were two boys a couple of years older than the victim who recited anti-Semitic slogans.