New US ambassador heads to Niger despite coup

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The US said Wednesday that a new ambassador would head shortly to Niger as planned and would help lead diplomacy aimed at reversing a coup.

Kathleen FitzGibbon, a career diplomat with extensive experience in Africa, was confirmed by the Senate as ambassador on July 27 -- one day after the coup -- after being held up for a full year as part of an unrelated political battle.


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“We do look forward to Ambassador FitzGibbon’s arrival in Niamey,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

Patel said that her arrival does not mean acceptance of the military leaders’ takeover and that the United States was still pressing for the release and restoration of the detained elected president, Mohamed Bazoum.

“It is a signal of the United States’ continued engagement in this situation. It is not a signal of any change in US policy,” Patel said.

FitzGibbon, formerly the number two in the US embassy in Nigeria, will travel to Niamey despite the ordered departure of the embassy’s non-emergency staff.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly spoken to Bazoum and regional leaders and his deputy, Victoria Nuland, paid an unannounced visit to Niamey last week in an unsuccessful bid to press the military leaders.

Blinken in March became the highest-ranking US official ever to visit Niger, hoping to highlight democracy in a country that is a key base for US and French anti-militant military operations.

Read more: Extremist attack in post-coup Niger claims 17 lives, fuels Western concerns

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