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Niger military rulers seek dialogue with West African bloc: Ousted prime minister

Niger's ousted prime minister says the country's military rulers, who overthrew civilian authorities in a recent coup, seek dialogue with a West African bloc that has threatened military intervention to restore the ousted president to power.

Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou told French broadcaster TV5 Monde on Monday that “the junta have asked the ECOWAS delegation to return,” and the bloc’s members “will be in Niamey probably today (Monday) or tomorrow.”

“Negotiation is still possible,” Mahamadou added.

A delegation from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) arrived in the Nigerien capital city of Niamey last Thursday. However, it did not stay overnight as scheduled, failing to meet with either the toppled president, Mohamed Bazoum, or coup leader, Abdourahamane Tiani.

Niger’s military has been holding Bazoum since last month in the seventh coup to hit Africa’s Sahel region in recent years, with Tiani, head of the powerful presidential guard, declaring himself leader.

On July 30, ECOWAS gave the coup leaders a week to return the ousted president to power or face consequences, including the use of force. Sunday was the last day of the deadline.

Niger coup leaders close country's airspace citing threat of ECOWAS military intervention

In its first official reaction following the expiry of the deadline, the bloc said it had agreed to hold a summit meeting next week to discuss how to proceed.

The ECOWAS bloc “leaders will be considering and discussing the political situation and recent developments in Niger during the summit,” it added.

“We are not disappointed… because our objective is not military intervention. Our objective is the restoration of democracy and the end of the sequestration of president Bazoum,” Mahamadou said in another part of his interview.

Niger coup leaders brace for ECOWAS response as deadline passes

“ECOWAS military intervention could be catastrophic”

Also on Monday, neighboring Mali sounded a strong alarm against the prospect of ECOWAS’ military intervention in Niger, saying it would lead to nothing but “catastrophe.”

“The military force that has been used in other… countries, we see the results — it’s a disaster,” said Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop.

He cited the cases of Iraq and Libya — which were invaded  in the name of democracy by foreign forces led by the United States respectively in 2003 and 2011 — to prove the futility of a military solution.

Diop said he “could not understand” why ECOWAS would send a military force to restore “fallen authorities,” but would not provide arms to help the Sahel countries in their fight against militants.

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