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NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger's former prime minister Hama Amadou declared Sunday he was ready to stand in the presidential election set for January 2011 to restore civilian rule to the West African state after February's military coup.
Amadou is an ally-turned-opponent of former President Mamadou Tandja, ousted by soldiers five months ago after he defied domestic and international calls to step down after the end of his mandate in the uranium-producing country.
"If the party names me candidate, I will fight as hard as I can to win power," he told reporters in the capital Niamey, after being designated head of the newly created Nigerien Democratic Movement (MDN).
Amadou was regarded as a favourite to succeed Tandja until he was ousted as prime minister in 2007 in a corruption scandal. He was implicated in further corruption cases that prevented him from standing in elections that had been due in 2009.
Amadou, who returned to Niger in March from exile in France, has always rejected the charges against him as a bid by Tandja to cling onto power. He was the first mainstream political figure to speak out against Tandja's moves to extend his term.
The leaders of February's coup have won tacit support from Western critics of Tandja for pledges to hand back power to civilians within 12 months. A first round presidential poll has been set for January 3 with a run-off if needed on January 14.
Amadou is likely to face Amadou Boubacar Cisse, another former prime minister, and several other opposition heavyweights in the election.
Niger is one of the world's poorest countries and like other countries in the semi-arid Sahel zone is battling the onset of a likely food crisis caused by the failure of last year's rains.
Writing by Mark John; Editing by Janet Lawrence