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Microsoft Africa chairman named interim leader of Mali


Cheick Modibo Diarra at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, in this file photo.

Cheick Modibo Diarra, Microsoft Corp's chairman for Africa, has been appointed interim prime minister charged with helping to restore civilian rule to the Saharan state of Mali after a coup last month, it was reported Tuesday.

The appointment of Diarra, a former NASA astrophysicist who was born in the country, was announced on in a statement read out on state television, Reuters reported.

His top priority in the impoverished West African state will be to negotiate with Tuareg and Islamist rebels as well as various criminal groups who took advantage of the coup to overrun much of the country's north, news agency Agence France-Presse reported.

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Diarra universities in Paris and Washington and became chairman for Africa at Microsoft in 2006, according to previously-issued press release on Microsoft's website.

Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera reported that soldiers arrested the head of one of Mali's biggest political parties, Soumaila Cisse, on Monday. The former prime minister was also detained by military personnel, officials said.

It reported that the arrests raised fresh questions about whether the military was still in control of the nation despite a handover of power to a civilian leader.

It said the European Union delegation in Mali issued a statement expressing concern about the arrests, calling for "an urgent clarification and their immediate release".

Microsoft confirmed Diarra left the company in December 2011. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft Corp. and NBC Universal, which is jointly owned by Comcast Corp. and General Electric.)

Reuters contributed to this report.

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