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Niger suffers more sanctions as junta rebuffs latest diplomatic mission

Niger suffers more sanctions as junta rebuffs latest diplomatic mission

Niger was slammed with more sanctions on Tuesday, hours after its new military leaders rejected the latest diplomatic mission aimed at restoring constitutional order following a July 26 coup.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu ordered the new sanctions through Nigeria’s central bank, aimed at squeezing entities and individuals involved in the takeover, a presidential spokesperson said.

It came after Niger’s junta denied permission to enter Niger to a joint delegation from West African states, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations, resisting pressure from the United States and the United Nations to come to the negotiating table.

The denial raises the stakes in a search for a solution after the coup that western powers fear will destabilise the Sahel region of West Africa, one of the world’s poorest that is already dealing with a string of coups and a deadly Islamist insurgency. It also threatens U.S. and Western interests in its former ally.

Heads of state from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are preparing for a summit on Thursday to discuss their standoff with the junta, which defied an August 6 deadline to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.

ECOWAS defence chiefs agreed on Friday on a possible military action plan, which heads of state are expected to consider at their summit in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Still, Tinubu’s spokesperson said the leaders prefer a diplomatic solution.

“No options have been taken off the table,” the spokesperson told reporters in Abuja, adding that “far-reaching decisions” would be taken at the summit concerning the bloc’s next steps.

Explaining the decision to not allow the delegation in on Tuesday, Niger’s junta said it could not guarantee their safety in the face of popular anger. It also denounced “a climate of threatened aggression against Niger”.

An AU spokesperson confirmed that a mission had been denied access, while ECOWAS declined to comment.

The junta had already snubbed meetings with a senior U.S. envoy and another ECOWAS delegation.

Under Bazoum, Niger was relatively successful in containing an Islamist insurgency devastating the Sahel region and was an important ally for the West after two of its neighbours rejected former colonial power France and turned towards Russia instead.

Niger is the world’s seventh-biggest producer of uranium, the most widely used fuel for nuclear energy, adding to its strategic importance.

The United Nations said Secretary General Antonio Guterres strongly supported mediation efforts by ECOWAS, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told French radio station RFI diplomacy was the best way to resolve the situation.

He declined to comment on the future of some 1,100 U.S. troops in Niger, where French, German and Italian troops are also stationed.

Blinken later told the BBC he was worried that Russia’s Wagner mercenaries could take advantage of the instability in Niger to strengthen their presence in the Sahel.

“I think what happened and what continues to happen in Niger was not instigated by Russia or by Wagner, but to the extent that they try to take advantage of it – and we see a repeat of what’s happened in other countries, where they’ve brought nothing but bad things in their wake – that wouldn’t be good.”

 

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