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Niger junta orders top UN official to leave the country

NIAMEY (Reuters) – Niger’s junta has demanded that the top United Nations official there leave the country within 72 hours over accusations that Niger was excluded from the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders in New York last month.

Niger military officers ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in July, suspending the constitution, dissolving all former institutions and declaring General Abdourahamane Tiani as the West African country’s new head of state.

In a statement dated October 10, Niger’s foreign ministry accused the U.N. of using “underhanded manoeuvres” instigated by France to prevent its full participation in the high-level U.N. General Assembly meeting last month and in subsequent meetings of U.N. agencies that were held in Vienna and Riyadh.

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As a consequence, the government has ordered U.N. resident coordinator Louise Aubin to leave, said the statement.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres deeply regrets the move, said his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, reiterating “the unwavering commitment of the United Nations to stay and deliver for the people of Niger.”

“The decision … hampers the ability of the Organization to effectively carry out its mandates and disrupts the essential work we do for the people of Niger, where 4.3 million need humanitarian assistance, mostly women and children,” Dujarric said.

No one from Niger addressed the gathering of world leaders in New York last month after competing claims were made by the junta and Bazoum’s government for the country’s U.N. seat.

U.N. accreditation issues are dealt with by a nine-member committee, whose members include the United States, China and Russia. The committee is not due to meet until October or November when it will make a decision.

The French mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the accusation by the junta.

The junta is following a pattern seen in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, which also grew hostile to the U.N. and former colonial ruler France after their militaries seized power. Niger has already kicked out French troops and the French ambassador.

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Burkina Faso expelled its U.N. resident coordinator last year and Mali ended a U.N. peacekeeping mission that had been there for a decade.

All three countries are struggling with an Islamist insurgency that has spiralled in recent years, prompting power grabs by army officers who promised to improve security.

The coups have been accompanied by accusations that France exerts too much influence in its former colonies and a shift toward Russia as a strategic partner instead. France has denied exercising undue influence.

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