Top US official says held ‘difficult’ talks with Niger coup leaders

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The second-highest US diplomat said Monday she had met with Niger’s military leaders but made no immediate headway in reversing a coup.

Victoria Nuland, the acting deputy secretary of state, said she met for more than two hours with Niger’s senior military leaders in the capital Niamey.

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“These conversations were extremely frank and at times quite difficult," Nuland told reporters by telephone as she prepared to fly out of Niamey.

“This was a first conversation in which the United States was offering its good offices if there is a desire on the part of the people who are responsible for this to return to the constitutional order," she said.

“I would not say that we were in any way taken up on that offer.”

She said she met with Brigadier General Moussa Salaou Barmou, who has been named the new military chief of staff, and other leaders.

She said the junta did not respond to her requests to meet Niger’s self-proclaimed new leader, General Abdourahamane Tiani, or the detained elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, although US officials have been in touch with Bazoum by telephone.

Nuland said that she gave a “number of options” on ways to reverse the coup.

She said she also made clear the consequences for relations with the United States if Niger does not restore Bazoum or follows the path of neighboring Mali in calling in Russia’s Wagner mercenaries.

“I hope they will keep the door open to diplomacy. We made that proposal. We’ll see,” she said.

She said that Barmou was well-acquainted with cooperation with the United States through his past involvement with special forces.

“The people who have taken this action here understand very well the risks to their sovereignty when Wagner is invited in,” Nuland said.

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