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By William Schomberg LONDON (Reuters) - Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will bear few gifts for voters when he announces his annual budget next Wednesday, little more than a year before the next national election. Osborne looks determined to stick to his message that Britain is only half-way through the belt-tightening plan he launched in 2010 to fix Britain's still wide budget deficit. The ruling Conservative Party is lagging the opposition in opinion polls even as Britain grows faster than other developed economies, and some of its lawmakers are demanding tax cuts to boost their chances in the May 2015 elections. But Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron are unlikely to heed them much beyond announcing what is expected to be the latest in a series of increases in the amount of money people can earn before paying income tax.
By Tiemoko Diallo BAMAKO (Reuters) - French air strikes in northern Mali have killed Islamist militant Oumar Ould Hamaha, a jihadist with a $3 million U.S. government bounty on his head, Malian military sources said on Friday. Hamaha, known as 'Red Beard' because of his henna-dyed whiskers, became a leading figure in the Islamist coalition that seized control of northern Mali in April 2012 after drifting among armed Muslim groups in the Sahara over the last decade. A French-led military offensive launched in January 2013 broke the grip of the al Qaeda-linked militants over northern Mali, but small pockets of Islamists have continued to operate in the vast desert region. Two Malian military sources said Hamaha - a former member of al Qaeda's north African wing (AQIM) who later became a leader of Mali's Movement for Unity and Jihad in the Islamic Maghreb (MUJWA) - had been killed by French air strikes.