Top US diplomat demands reverse of Niger coup in secret visit, hints intervention

A top US diplomat has demanded the undoing of Niger’s coup and the return to power of its West-sponsored president in a secret visit to the West African nation for talks with coup leaders, suggesting a military intervention otherwise.

Speaking to reporters before her departure from Niger’s capital Niamey, Veteran diplomat and Acting Deputy US Secretary of State Victoria Nuland described her talks on Monday as “extremely frank and at times quite difficult,” insisting that she offered the coup leaders “a number of options” to exit the crisis and restore their ties with the US military, with has suspended aid to Niger along with other colonialist Western governments.

Nuland’s secret visit to Niger came after the expiration of a deadline set by the US-backed ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) to reinstate the ousted President Mohamed Bazoum by midnight on Sunday or risk military intervention, AFP reported Wednesday.

The 15-nation bloc is reconvening for another push to end the crisis with a summit due to take place Thursday in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

A source close to ECOWAS said an immediate military intervention to restore Bazoum was not envisaged at this stage, adding that the path to dialogue still appeared open.

Nuland met for more than two hours with military chiefs that ousted Bazoum on July 26, the report added, warning them against following neighboring Mali in inviting Russian military advisers to the country, attributing them to the Wagner group.

“The people who have taken this action here understand very well the risks to their sovereignty when Wagner is invited in,” claimed Nuland, who is known for her hawkish anti-Russia positions.

The senior US diplomat further complained that the coup leaders did not respond to her requests to meet Niger’s new leader, General Abdourahamane Tiani, or the toppled Western ally, Bazoum, although US officials have been in touch with the ousted president by telephone.

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

This is while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed on Monday that diplomacy was the best option to deal with the coup in Niger but also suggested a military action led by the Western-sponsored ECOWAS.

“Diplomacy is certainly the preferred way of resolving this situation,” Blinken told French Radio RFI, adding: “It is ECOWAS’ current approach; it is our approach.” His use of ECOWAS – which has threatened military intervention against Niger – as a front, however, suggests a likely US role in the potential military action.

Speaking at a press briefing in Washington, US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller also appeared to suggest military action against Niger, claiming that although military intervention was a “last resort” for ECOWAS, Washington was “focused on finding a diplomatic solution.”

He also slammed efforts by neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso — both suspended from ECOWAS for their own anti-West coups — after they dispatched their envoys to Niger.

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