Niger coup leaders brace for ECOWAS attack as deadline expires
Niger's coup leaders are bracing for a response from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as a one-week ultimatum to restore the ousted government expired.
Following the ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, ECOWAS issued the ultimatum, demanding the generals relinquish power by August 6 or face military action.
There has been no sign yet of a military response and no statement from the bloc of 15 African countries.
Niger’s junta closed the country’s airspace, saying it had information that "a foreign power" was preparing to attack the country.
ECOWAS has said it will issue a statement on its next steps in response to the rejection of the deadline. The leaders will meet on August 10.
Italy and Germany have both urged ECOWAS to extend the deadline to reinstate Bazoum so that a diplomatic solution can be found.
"The only path is a diplomatic one," said Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani.
"I hope that the ultimatum of ECOWAS, which expired last night at midnight, will be extended today.”
"A solution must be found. It's not set that there is no way other than war,” the minister said.
Germany's Foreign Ministry also echoed the calls for a diplomatic solution, saying it supports “ECOWAS in its mediation efforts.”
A ministry spokesman told a news briefing that the expiry of the deadline did not mean there would automatically be military action.
"We hope that these (mediation) efforts will ultimately lead to success and that constitutional order will be restored in Niger."
Algeria, which shares a long land border with Niger, has also cautioned against a military solution.
Meanwhile, France warned citizens against any travel to Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, and Air France suspended all flights.
Italy also said it had reduced its troop numbers in Niger to make room in its military base for Italian civilians who may need protection if security deteriorates.
Hundreds of foreigners have been evacuated from Niger since the coup.