Niger awaits West African bloc’s response after junta rejects ultimatum

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Niger was waiting on Monday for a response from the West African regional bloc after coup leaders in Niamey ignored a deadline to reinstate the ousted president, a move the bloc has warned could lead it to authorize a military intervention.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said it will issue a statement on its next steps in response to the junta’s refusal to cave in to external pressure to stand down by Sunday following the July 26 power grab.

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The bloc has taken a hard stance on the region’s seventh coup in three years. Given its uranium and oil riches and its pivotal role in a war with Islamist militants, Niger also holds importance for the US, Europe, China and Russia.

On Sunday as the deadline expired, the junta closed its airspace until further notice, citing the increased threat of military intervention.

An escalation in the standoff with ECOWAS would further destabilize one of the world’s poorest regions, which is in the grip of a hunger crisis and battling an insurgency that has killed thousands and forced millions to flee.

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