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A senior US state department official was on Monday denied a meeting with the military junta leader in Niger during a visit to the west African country to warn that Washington would cut aid if democratic order were not restored.

Victoria Nuland, the US’s acting deputy secretary of state, was not able to talk to General Abdourahmane Tchiani, who was installed as head of state after a coup last month, and spoke instead to General Moussa Salaou Barmou, his declared chief of defence and head of Niger’s special forces.

Nuland said she made “absolutely clear what is at stake in our relationship and the economic and other kinds of support that we will legally have to cut off if democracy is not restored”.

She added that it was “not easy to get traction” on a diplomatic path forward and that the junta leaders had so far denied American requests to restore constitutional order.

“They are quite firm in their view of how they want to proceed and it does not comport with the constitution of Niger,” Nuland said.

The US has suspended more than $100mn in development, security and law enforcement assistance since the July 26 coup. US officials say hundreds of millions of dollars of more assistance are at stake if the military junta does not reinstate Niger’s democratically elected government. There are some 1,100 US troops in Niger on a security co-operation mission that is paused, though they remain in the country.

US and European officials are hoping for a mediated end to the crisis before an emergency summit of west African leaders on Thursday. Niger’s junta has rejected their ultimatum to restore Niger’s democratic government or face possible military intervention.

Barmou has long worked with US special forces, allowing Nuland to go into considerable detail about what American assistance is on the line, she said.

“We were not granted an opportunity to see the self-proclaimed president, Mr Tchiani, so we were left to have to depend on Mr Barmou to make clear . . . what is at stake.”

Nuland said her conversations with the junta representatives to press for a negotiated solution to the crisis “were extremely frank and at times quite difficult”. She said the US hoped to keep the door open for further conversations.

Nuland was also denied repeated requests to meet President Mohamed Bazoum, who was deposed in the military takeover. She also sought “some gestures of health and welfare” for Bazoum and his family, amid fears for their safety.



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