Macron says France to withdraw ambassador, troops from Niger after coup
French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said France is imminently to withdraw its ambassador from Niger, followed by its military contingent in the next months, in the wake of the coup in the west African country that ousted the pro-Paris president.
"France has decided to withdraw its ambassador. In the next hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France," Macron told French television in an interview,
He added that military cooperation was "over" and French troops would withdraw in "the months and weeks to come" with a full pullout "by the end of the year".
"In the weeks and months to come, we will consult with the putschists, because we want this to be done peacefully," he added.
France keeps about 1,500 soldiers in Niger as part of an anti-jihadist deployment in the Sahel region.
Niger's military leaders told French ambassador Sylvain Itte he had to leave the country after they overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.
But a 48-hour ultimatum for him to leave, issued in August, passed with him still in place as the French government refused to comply, or to recognise the military regime as legitimate.
Macron in the interview reaffirmed France's position that Bazoum was being held "hostage" and remained the "sole legitimate authority" in the country.
"He was targeted by this coup d'etat because he was carrying out courageous reforms and because there was a largely ethnic settling of scores and a lot of political cowardice," he argued.
The impoverished Sahel region south of the Sahara has suffered what Macron has previously called an "epidemic" of coups in recent years, with military regimes replacing elected governments in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea as well as Niger.