NIAMEY (Reuters) – Niger’s military junta, which seized power in a coup on July 26, said on Friday it had ordered French Ambassador Sylvain Etty to leave the country within 48 hours, as relations between the West African country and its former colony deteriorate. The ruler deteriorated further.
Like recent coups in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, the military’s seizure of power in Niger came amid a growing wave of anti-French sentiment, with some locals accusing the European country of meddling in their affairs.
The foreign ministry appointed by the military council said in a statement that the decision to expel the ambassador came in response to the measures taken by the French government, which “contradict the interests of Niger”.
She added that this includes the envoy’s refusal to respond to an invitation to meet Niger’s new foreign minister.
The French Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
France called for the return of President Mohamed Bazoum to office after his overthrow and said it would support the efforts of the ECOWAS regional group for West Africa to overthrow the coup.
Nor has it officially recognized Niger’s military junta’s decision in early August to annul a set of military agreements with France, saying they were signed with the “legitimate authorities” in Niger.
The deterioration of relations between Niger and France reflects post-coup developments in Mali and Burkina Faso, which led to the expulsion of French forces and the severing of long-standing relations.
Niger is strategically important as one of the world’s largest producers of uranium and as a base for French, US and other foreign forces helping fight Islamist militant groups in the region.
(Reporting by Bourima Balima – Prepared by Jaafar for the Arabic Bulletin) Additional reporting by Benoit van Overstraeten; Writing by Annette Meridzanian. Editing by Chris Reese, Andrew Heavens, and Andy Sullivan
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