Army to run Niger until election - ECOWAS

Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:05pm GMT

By David Lewis and Abdoulaye Massalatchi

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger's military plans to run the uranium-exporting country until politicians agree on a new constitution and are ready for fresh elections, West Africa's regional mediator said after meeting the junta on Sunday.

No timeframe has been set for the transition back to civilian rule but a spokesman for the junta said on Sunday that elections would be held "as soon as possible" and the situation was similar to a coup in 1999 that led to transparent elections.

Niger's military ousted President Mamadou Tandja in a swift coup last week, putting an end to months of political wrangling between him and the opposition.

The seizure was formally condemned but it is also widely seen at home and abroad as a chance to end a political impasse.

"They have assured us there will be an opening for everyone here in Niger, for an inter-Nigerien dialogue," Mohamed Ibn Chambas, president of the ECOWAS Commission, told reporters after meeting the military junta.

"It is this process that will lead to a new constitution and credible elections," Chambas added. "They said they want a short transition that ends as soon as possible, but it is also the political dialogue that will define the timetable."

Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital Niamey on Saturday to show support for the army, but also to call for elections to be organised.

Tandja and his rivals were locked in a dispute over the president's extension and deepening of his powers last year, a move that drew criticism and sanctions from abroad.   Continued...

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