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Burkina Faso expels French defense attaché for 'subversive activities'

People hold a sign as they gather to show their support to Burkina Faso's new military leader Ibrahim Traore and demand the departure of the French ambassador at the Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Jan. 20, 2023. (Reuters photo)

Burkina Faso has notified France of the expulsion of the embassy's military attaché for "subversive activities," weeks after Niger ordered the European country's ambassador to leave.

In a letter seen by AFP on Friday, Burkina Faso's foreign ministry warned that attaché Emmanuel Pasquier and his team had two weeks to leave the Sahel nation where military leaders last year twice toppled pro-France governments.

The ministry letter added that the French military mission in Ouagadougou would be closed.

France pulled out troops from its former colony in the face of mounting hostility after Captain Ibrahim Traore seized power in September 2022.

France’s foreign ministry rejected the accusation.

"The accusation of subversive activities is obviously fanciful," a foreign ministry spokesperson told AFP in Paris.

After the September coup, France recalled its ambassador from Ouagadougou and has not replaced the envoy. Burkina Faso is also unlikely to let the envoy come back.

Burkina Faso’s military leaders have suspended the French TV outlets LCI and France24 as well as Radio France Internationale (RFI) and expelled the correspondents of the French newspapers Liberation and Le Monde over their "subversive activities."

Burkina Faso’s military chief Traore last week gave an interview saying Burkina was not "the enemy of the French people" but of the policies of its government.

"We have to accept seeing each other as equals... and accept an overhaul of our entire cooperation," he said on state television.

Anger within the armed forces led to a coup on January 24, 2022, toppling pro-France president Roch Marc Christian Kabore.

On September 30, Kabore's nemesis, Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, was himself overthrown by the 34-year-old Traore, who has promised a return to democracy with presidential elections by July 2024.

Traore in July met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Russia-Africa summit in Saint Petersburg and followed up with talks in August with a Russian delegation on development and military cooperation.

Foreign Minister Olivia Rouamba on Monday said Burkina needed to "strengthen bilateral cooperation" with Iran and President Ebrahim Raeisi.

Meanwhile, Niger's military leaders gave the French ambassador a 48-hour ultimatum to leave the country in August, but French President Emmanuel Macron refused to comply or to recognize the legitimacy of the military rulers.

At the end of August, the military rulers revoked the diplomatic immunity of the ambassador and ordered the police to expel him from the country.

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