Niger junta leader agrees to hold direct talks with ECOWAS: Nigerian cleric
Niger's military leader is ready to consider a diplomatic solution to the existing standoff with a West African bloc that has threatened military intervention to restore the previous government.
Sheikh Abdullahi Bala Lau, who heads a delegation of Nigerian Islamic scholars currently visiting Niger for mediation, made the remarks on Sunday.
General Abdourahamane Tiani "said their doors were open to explore diplomacy and peace in resolving the matter," the scholar said in a statement after his delegation held talks in Niger's capital city of Niamey.
Tiani, who heads Niger's powerful presidential guard, has declared himself the country's leader after overthrowing President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.
The religious delegation obtained the permission of Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu, who heads the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), before traveling to Niger for mediation purposes.
On July 30, ECOWAS gave Niger’s coup leaders a week to return the ousted president to power or face consequences, including the use of force. The deadline expired last Sunday.
The body has approved the deployment of a "standby force to restore constitutional order" in Niger.
In his statement on Sunday, Lau quoted Tiani as claiming that "the coup was well intended" and was "struck to stave off an imminent threat that would have affected" Nigeria as well as Niger.
The coup leader said it was "painful" that ECOWAS had issued an ultimatum to restore Bazoum without hearing "their side of the matter," the statement added.
Tiani also apologized for not according sufficient attention to a delegation sent by ECOWAS to Niger, which was led by former Nigerian head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, saying the treatment was due to anger over the ultimatum.
The new development came after it was announced on Saturday that a parliamentary committee from ECOWAS will visit Niger to meet with the coup leaders.