DAKAR (Reuters) - African regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has appointed Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade as mediator in Niger's political crisis, Senegal said on Wednesday.
Niger's President Mamadou Tandja drew widespread criticism and international sanctions last year after dissolving parliament and orchestrating a constitutional reform that gave him extra powers and extended his term beyond his second five-year mandate, which expired in December.
"(President Wade) will work on that (Niger) case with the former mediator, General Abdusalami Abubakar and a representative of the African Union," a spokesman for Wade said in a statement.
Wade successfully mediated in a political crisis in Mauritania but some of his domestic opponents say he should deal with a long-running conflict in the southern Senegalese province of Casamance.
On Monday, two soldiers were killed by suspected separatists there.
More than 10,000 anti-government protesters gathered in Niger's capital Niamey on Sunday, demanding Tandja reverse last year's changes to the constitution.
Heightened tensions in the uranium exporting central African country come amid stalled negotiations between Tandja's government and ECOWAS, which suspended the country's membership last year.
Despite political turmoil and occasional Tuareg rebellions, Niger has attracted billions of dollars in investment from major international firms seeking to tap its mineral wealth, including France's Areva and Canada's Cameco.
ECOWAS this week held a summit meeting in Abuja, capital of Nigeria.