* Poor desert nation a major uranium exporter
(Removes reference to Oumarou being favourite, paragraph 5)
NIAMEY, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Niger’s highest court validated first round election results on Tuesday, setting a run-off for March 12 between an ally of deposed president Mamadou Tandja and one of his opponents.
The poll aims to return the uranium-producing desert country to civilian rule after soldiers ousted Tandja a year ago for trying to extend his term beyond the constitutional limit.
Former prime minister and Tandja ally Seyni Oumarou of the MNSD party got 23.2 percent of the vote, while Mahamadou Issoufou the opposition PNDS, got 36.16 percent, the Constitutional Council proclaimed.
“The Constitutional Council declares therefore that Mahamadou Issoufou and Seyni Oumarou are candidates for the second round of the presidential elections on March 12,” the council’s head Fatoumata Bazeye said.
Junta leader Salou Djibo, who came to power after a February 2010 coup against Tandja, has been praised for his promise to leave power by April this year.
A poor Sahel nation, Niger’s uranium draws billions of dollars worth of investments, mainly from French nuclear giant Areva CEPFi.PA, but is increasingly threatened by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which claimed the kidnapping and killing of two Frenchmen in the Nigerien capital Niamey last month. (Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing by Tim Cocks)