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Niger broke military pact with US after being 'warned' about Iran, Russia ties

In this file picture, Nigerien military leaders wave to supporters at the General Seyni Kountche Stadium in Niamey, Niger, on August 26, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Niger’s junta decided to suspend a military agreement with the United States after a delegation of senior US military officials visited the Western African country and "expressed concerns" about its growing relations with Russia and Iran.

The Pentagon said on Monday that the officials traveled to the Nigerien capital Niamey last week to discuss the matter with the country’s military leadership, seeking clarification about the way ahead. 

Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh asserted that the US government had “direct and frank” conversations in Niger, and was continuing to communicate with the country’s ruling military council – known as the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP).

“The US delegation was there to raise a number of concerns. … We were troubled (about) the path that Niger is on. And so these were direct and frank conversations, to have those in person, to talk about our concerns and to also hear theirs.

“US officials expressed concern over Niger’s potential relationships with Russia and Iran,” Singh said.

Niger’s junta announced on Saturday that it had canceled a 2012 defense cooperation agreement with the US.

“The government of Niger, considering the aspirations and interests of its people, responsibly decides to denounce with immediate effect the agreement that permitted US military personnel and civilian employees from the American Department of Defense on Niger’s territory,” Nigerien government spokesman Amadou Abdramane said in a statement on national television.

The move followed a visit to Niamey by a delegation of senior US military officials led by Under Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee.

Abdramane accused US officials of not following diplomatic protocol and not informing Niger about the composition of the delegation.

He added that Niger regretted the “intention of the American delegation to deny the sovereign Nigerien people the right of choosing their partners and partnerships capable of truly helping them fight against terrorism.”

High-level Russian military officials, including Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov, have visited Niger and met with the country’s military leadership.

The prime minister of the ruling junta, Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine, visited Iran in January.

Foreign Minister of Niger, Bakary Yaou Sangare, visited Tehran in October 2023 to explore opportunities for strengthening political and economic ties, as well as boosting cooperation in scientific and technological sectors between the two countries.

Commending Iran’s skills in various economic, scientific, and technological sectors, the Nigerien diplomat underscored that Iran’s capabilities are well-matched to cater to Niger’s requirements in the energy and industrial domains.

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