Italy's foreign minister has warned against any military intervention by the West in Niger against the newly-formed junta in the African country, saying this would be seen as "new colonization."
“I think we must put pressure on democracy to be restored, but any Western military initiative should be excluded because it would be seen as a new colonization,” Antonio Tajani told RaiNews on Wednesday.
Niger saw a coup last week, in which soldiers overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum and his government in the seventh military takeover in less than three years in West and Central Africa.
Tajani's comments came after the junta accused France of planning to intervene militarily to free Bazoum.
France, the former colonizer of Niger, has condemned the takeover, saying it only recognizes Bazoum as the legitimate ruler in Niamey. But Paris has denied allegations that a strike is being planned to free him.
France, the United States, Germany, and Italy have troops in Niger, which they claim are there to fight insurgents and to train Niger forces.
There has been no announcement of troops being withdrawn so far. Germany's defense minister said on Wednesday that there were no concerns about the safety of German soldiers.
Junta leaders in Mali and Burkina Faso declared on Monday that any foreign military intervention in neighboring Niger would be considered a declaration of war against them.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued a one-week ultimatum to the putschists on Sunday to release Bazoum and restore constitutional order in Niger. The regional body threatened to use force if the junta did not comply with the directives.
In response, Mali and Burkina Faso announced that they would exit ECOWAS and “adopt self-defense measures in support of the armed forces and the people of Niger” if the bloc used force.
Meanwhile, Italy and France have begun evacuating their nationals and other European citizens from the West African country.
Paris has cited an attack on its embassy on Sunday and a wave of anti-French protests as justifications.
The first military planes carrying European nationals landed in Paris and Rome on Wednesday.
A US official said on Wednesday the country is set to evacuate some staff and families from its embassy in Niger. However, he said the mission will remain open and senior leadership will continue working from there.
There has been no announcement of troops being withdrawn so far. There are about 1,100 US troops in Niger, where the US military operates from two bases.
The European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, announced on Tuesday that the EU will repatriate its citizens from Niger after previously suspending budgetary support and all security cooperation activities.
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