France stops aid to ex colony as army officers seize power


ARMY officers have seized power in the impoverished West African state of Niger, suspending its experiment with multiparty democracy. They said political squabbling threatened vital economic reforms.

France, Niger's former colonial controlling power, condemned the coup and suspended economic and military aid.

The officers yesterday named the armed forces Chief of Staff, Lieut Col Ibrahim Bare Mainassara, as leader. They said their aim was to allow a fresh start and not to end democracy in the mainly Muslim country.

President Mahamane Ousmane and the Prime Minister, Mr Hama Amadou, who had been locked in a prolonged power struggle, were both in detention alter Saturday's coup, the second in West Africa this month after one in Sierra Leone.

The capital, where two soldiers died in clashes on Saturday, was calm yesterday and state radio said the new military leaders had banned all demonstrations.

The new military leaders stripped Mr Mahamane of his powers, suspended the constitution, dissolved the government and parliament and banned political parties.

Officials in Ben in said that Niger's partners in the Conseil d'Entente regional economic grouping - Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Togo - were planning to mediate.

Niger is a sprawling, and state of eight million people whose neighbours include Algeria to the north and the regional giant, Nigeria, to the south. It became independent in 1960 and moved towards multi party politics in 1990 after two decades of military rule. General and presidential elections were held in 1993.

. Talks between Sierra Leone's military junta and rebels waging a five year old civil war began in Freetown over the weekend, according to Saturday's Expo Times. Diplomats said yesterday that talks were being held at "some level."

Less than a week after the junta leader, Capt Valentine Strasser, was overthrown by his colleagues on January 16th, the Revolutionary United Front dropped all preconditions previously imposed on peace talks, and the new junta leadership, headed by Brig Gen Julius Maada Bio, responded favourably.