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    Regional Alliance says Legal Mandate of Niger's President is Over

    West Africa's regional alliance says the legal mandate of Niger's president is over.  But Niger's leader remains in office through a constitutional referendum.

    The Economic Community of West African States says Niger President Mamadou Tandja's legal mandate expired Tuesday with the end of his second five-year term.

    But Mr. Tandja remains in power thanks to a controversial August referendum that removed presidential term limits and gave him another three years in office.  While the international community and his political opponents condemn that referendum as unconstitutional, President Tandja says the people of Niger want him to stay in power.

    The regional ECOWAS alliance suspended Niger when President Tandja refused to delay elections for a new national assembly to replace the parliament he dissolved because it objected to the referendum.

    But the regional alliance has continued with efforts to mediate an end to the country's political crisis.  At talks in the capital, Niamey, this week, Prime Minister Ali Badjo Gamatié said the government is convinced that only dialogue between all parts of the country can resolve Niger's most important challenges.

    The prime minister says there are no fundamental differences between the positions of the government and its opponents, only different points of view which he says can be resolved through dialogue.  Gamatie says for that dialogue to be successful, there must be a sincere commitment from all parties.

    Former prime minister and current opposition politician Aboubacar Amadou Cissé says regional mediation must return Niger to constitutional legality.

    Cissé says the opposition wants Niger to regain its place in the international community. He says everyone in these talks should give priority to the people of Niger instead of focusing on one person.  He says that would restore patriotism by returning to the country's international commitments to respect human rights.

    President Tandja's political opponents welcome the ECOWAS alliance questioning the legality of his mandate beyond his second five-year term.  But it has no force of law as President Tandja's 11th year in power begins with a new legislature and new constitutional court stripped of those who objected to extending his time in office. 
     

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