Nigeria religious chiefs in Niamey will meet Niger military leaders

Nigerian religious leaders arrived in Niger on Saturday to meet members of the military who seized power last month, a source close to the regime told AFP.

Newly appointed Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine received the delegation in the capital Niamey as West African leaders seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis without ruling out using force.

The delegation is made up of Muslim religious leaders, Niger’s ANP press agency reported.

It also said the group had met the president of West African bloc ECOWAS, Nigerian leader Bola Tinubu, in Abuja at the start of the week seeking to mediate between the regional body and Niger.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has approved the deployment of a “standby force to restore constitutional order” in Niger as soon as possible.

However, a crisis meeting due on Saturday on dealing with the coup, which saw President Mohamed Bazoum deposed by members of his guard on July 26, was deferred indefinitely.

ECOWAS has yet to provide details on the force or a timetable for action, and the leaders have emphasized they still want a peaceful solution.

After the coup, the bloc gave the military leaders a deadline of last Sunday to reinstate Bazoum, who is being held at the presidential palace in Niamey, or face the potential use of force.

So far the coup leaders have remained defiant, and the ultimatum passed without action.

The threat of a military intervention has proved highly divisive among ECOWAS members and other African nations wary of sparking a conflict with an unpredictable outcome.

An attempt this week to send a joint team of ECOWAS, UN and African Union representatives to Niamey was rejected by the coup leaders.

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