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Niger says Washington to submit plan to ‘disengage’ troops

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Niger said Wednesday that the United States will shortly submit a proposal for its soldiers to “disengage” from the West African country, after the military regime in Niamey said it was withdrawing from a 2012 cooperation agreement with Washington, AFP reported.

Niger’s interior minister General Mohamed Toumba met with US ambassador Kathleen FitzGibbon on Wednesday to discuss the issue, the interior ministry said.

FitzGibbon told the minister her country had “taken note of the decision” by Niger to withdraw from the military agreement and would be “coming back with a plan” on the “methods for disengaging” the more than 1,000 American troops based in Niger, according to the ministry’s statement. Niamey’s announcement that it is breaking with the US came Saturday after a three-day visit by a senior US delegation to renew contact with the junta.

In mid-March Niger said the 2012 cooperation agreement had been “unilaterally imposed” by Washington.

US troops have been stationed at a $100 billion desert drone base to combat the jihadist violence plaguing much of West Africa.

After General Abdourahamane Tiani seized power in a July coup, the regime ousted troops from former colonial power France and sought deeper military and political partnerships with Russia.

Neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso made similar moves and joined a joint defence pact with Niger, exiting the wider West African bloc ECOWAS.

Tiani spoke by telephone Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the “strengthening” of their security agreements after Moscow announced in mid-January its intention to “intensify” military cooperation.

A Russian delegation also visited Niger last December.

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