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L’EXPRESS, FRANCE 24 (France), BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

Worldcrunch

PARIS – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met his French counterpart on Wednesday for talks about aid to the Syrian opposition and the situation in Mali, where the United Nations has just recommended a force of UN 11,200 peacekeeping troops.

Kerry held breakfast talks in Paris with France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on international efforts “to bring an end to the Assad regime’s brutal campaign against the Syrian people” and “to restore democracy in Mali,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

Discussions in Paris were held just hours after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended in a report to the Security Council that the AFISMA African force currently in Mali should be converted into a U.N. peacekeeping operation consisting of 11,200 troops and 1,440 police, France 24 reports.

The 15-member Security Council is due to discuss Ban Ki-moon’s recommendations on Wednesday, which could lead to a vote to approve the peacekeeping force as early as mid-April.

"There would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali," Ban also advised in the report, which French weekly news magazine L’Express understands as a way of inviting French troops to extend their stay in Mali to battle radical Islamists and Tuareg separatists who threaten stability in the region.

Kerry and Fabius also conferred on the situation in Syria, a day after Syrian rebels asked Kerry for NATO missile batteries in Turkey to be used to protect civilians in northern Syria from rocket attacks by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Reuters reports that Kofi Annan, the former UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, said he thought it was too late for military intervention, and that arming Assad"s foes would not end the two-year-old crisis.

"I don't see a military intervention in Syria. We left it too late. I'm not sure it would not do more harm," Annan told the Graduate Institute in Geneva on Tuesday night.

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Green

Fading Flavor: Production Of Saffron Declines Sharply

Saffron is well-known for its flavor and its expense. But in Kashmir, one of the flew places it grows, cultivation has fallen dramatically thanks for climate change, industry, and farming methods.

Photo of women harvesting saffron in Kashmir

Harvesting of Saffron in Kashmir

Mubashir Naik

In northern India along the bustling Jammu-Srinagar national highway near Pampore — known as the saffron town of Kashmir —people are busy picking up saffron flowers to fill their wicker baskets.

During the autumn season, this is a common sight in the Valley as saffron harvesting is celebrated like a festival in Kashmir. The crop is harvested once a year from October 21 to mid-November.

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