A video screen grab shows a briefing in which officials with Niger’s ruling junta order the French ambassador to leave the country.

A video screen grab shows a briefing in which officials with Niger’s ruling junta order the French ambassador to leave the country. (Euro News/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Niger’s military leadership expelled the French ambassador just as talks to restore democracy between the West African nation and its regional partners were making progress.

The junta said earlier it was also expelling the ambassadors from the US, Germany and Nigeria, before a spokesperson retracted those orders. No such request has been made to the U.S. government, the State Department said in a statement late Friday, adding that Niger’s foreign ministry has told the U.S. it didn’t issue the images of the letters calling for the departure of American diplomatic personnel.

France’s ambassador Sylvain Itte was asked to leave the country in 48 hours after failing to honor summons to respond to questions about actions contrary to Niger’s interests, the foreign ministry said in a statement. France rejected the order, saying its ambassador would stay in the country as the junta doesn’t have the authority to make the demand, Agence France-Presse reported.

France’s ambassador was accredited by the foreign ministry under ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Friday.

France has previously said it supports all actions by the Economic Community of West African States to restore democracy in Niger. Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu has taken the lead, preparing for a regional military intervention.

The latest development comes as the junta – facing regional and international pressure, has refused to relinquish power and release Bazoum.

Ecowas on Friday reiterated its readiness to use military action to overturn the July 26 coup if dialogue fails.

All options are on the table, including the use of force, Omar Alieu Touray, the president of the Ecowas Commission, told reporters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Tensions have been mounting in recent weeks after Niger’s self-declared military leader Abdourahamane Tiani announced a three-year transition to democracy and paved the way for neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso to intervene militarily if the country is attacked.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.


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