Military junta gives ambassador from France 48 hours to leave Niger

Niger’s military junta has asked the French ambassador to leave the country, the Nigerien Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday.

The move to expel diplomats further escalates the international crisis in the West African nation stemming from a coup that ousted the West African nation’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, and placed him under house arrest.

French Ambassador Sylvain Itte was asked to leave Niger within 48 hours in a letter that accused him of ignoring an invitation for a meeting with the ministry.

The letter dated Friday, a copy of which was seen by The Associated Press, also cited “actions of the French government contrary to the interests of Niger” as among the reasons for Itte’s expulsion.

Niger, a former French colony, was France’s partner, before last month’s coup, in the fight against jihadi violence.

AFP reported on Friday that the U.S. ambassador was also given 48 hours to leave Niger, however the claim was refuted by the U.S. State Department.

“No such request has been made to the U.S. government,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said, adding the U.S. was told by Niger’s Foreign Ministry that images of letters circulating online calling for the departure of certain American diplomatic personnel were not issued by the ministry.

Kathleen Fitzgibbons, the new U.S. Ambassador to Niger Kathleen, only arrived in the capital, Niamey, earlier this month.

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