Niger open to dialogue, will defend itself against attack: Junta leader
Niger's junta leader says the country is open to dialogue to avert a conflict with the West African regional bloc known as ECOOWAS, warning that it is also prepared to defend itself if needed.
General Abdourahamane Tiani made the remarks in a televised address to the nation on Saturday night, saying neither coup leaders nor "the Nigerien people want war and remain open to dialogue."
He, however, warned, "If an aggression were to be undertaken against us, it would not be the walk in the park that some believe."
"ECOWAS is getting ready to attack Niger by setting up an occupying army in collaboration with a foreign army," Tiani said without saying which country he meant.
Junta leaders toppled Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26. ECOWAS threatened to use force if the coup leaders refused to return Bazoum to power.
The bloc reiterated the threat on Friday, saying an undisclosed "D-Day" had been agreed for possible military intervention in Niger.
ECOWAS delegation meets with junta leader, former president
Earlier on Saturday, an ECOWAS delegation arrived in Niger's capital city of Niamey for, what it called, a final diplomatic push before deciding on whether to take military action.
The group that flew to Niger was led by Nigeria's former military leader, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and included ECOWAS commission president, Omar Touray, an ECOWAS source said while speaking on condition of anonymity.
Separately on Saturday, thousands of the junta's supporters gathered at a stadium in Niamey, where the crowding caused the postponement of an unofficial census of civilian volunteers for non-military roles if ECOWAS actually resorted to force.
Thousands of mostly young men gathered outside the stadium hours before the scheduled start time of the event. The gathering has been seen by observers as a sign of the strong support in some quarters of Niger's society for the junta.
This is not the first time Nigeriens have come out in force to display support for the coup leaders and voice rejection of the country's Western-backed authorities.