French ambassador in Niger being held 'hostage', France's President Emmanuel Macron says

Niger's military overthrew the country's democratically elected president on July 26

Sylvain Itte, French ambassador to Niger, speaks during a press conference. Photo: Sylvain Itte / X
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The French ambassador to Niger is being “held hostage”, President Emmanuel Macron has been reported as saying.

“As we speak, we have an ambassador and diplomatic staff who are literally being held hostage in the French embassy,” he said on Friday, according to French media.

“They are preventing food deliveries” to the mission, he said in an apparent reference to the Nigerien junta. The President added that the ambassador was living off “military rations”.

Niger's military leaders told French ambassador Sylvain Itte in August he had to leave the country after they overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

But a 48-hour ultimatum for him to leave passed with him still in place after the French government refused to comply or to recognise the military regime as legitimate.

Asked whether France would consider bringing him home, Mr Macron said: “I will do whatever we agree with President Bazoum because he is the legitimate authority and I speak with him every day.”

France keeps about 1,500 soldiers in Niger and said earlier this month that any redeployment could only be negotiated with Mr Bazoum.

The country's new leaders have torn up military co-operation agreements with France and asked its troops to leave quickly.

Updated: September 15, 2023, 6:23 PM