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Niger junta meets with Nigerian envoys, raising hopes of dialog

Niger's coup leader General Abdourahamane Tiani (2nd R) arrives to meet with ministers in the capital Niamey, July 28, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

Officials with Niger's military junta, which has been holding onto power since a recent coup, have met with two Nigerian envoys, raising hopes of dialog that could avert the prospect of military intervention aimed at overturning the putsch.

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

On Wednesday, the junta leaders met with the envoys representing Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who also chairs the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-nation regional grouping, in Niger's capital of Niamey, a Nigerian government source said.

The envoys, prominent traditional leaders Lamido Muhammad Sanusi and Abdullsalami Abubarkar, were allowed into the country despite closed borders.

Only Sanusi met with Tiani, while his counterpart met with other representatives at the airport.

"It went well," Sanusi told reporters of the meetings upon his return to Nigerian capital Abuja without sharing further details.

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.

Speaking on Monday, Niger's ousted prime minister said the country's military rulers were seeking dialogue with the West African bloc.

Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou told French broadcaster TV5 Monde 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 bloc had arrived in Niamey last Thursday. However, it did not stay overnight as scheduled, failing to meet with either the toppled president or the coup leader.

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