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Opponents of Niger President Agree to Mediation Talks

Niger's opposition coalition has agreed to hold mediated talks after months of refusing to participate. The group had previously said it would accept nothing less than a return to the political order before the August referendum that granted President Tandja a further three years in power.

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Political opponents of Niger's President Mamadou Tandja have agreed to mediation talks to resolve the country's political crisis.

Niger's opposition coalition has agreed to hold mediated talks after months of refusing to participate. The group had previously said it would accept nothing less than a return to the political order before the August referendum that granted President Tandja a further three years in power.

When Niger's parliament and its constitutional court said that referendum was illegal, President Tandja dissolved parliament and ruled by decree. Opposition parties then boycotted the referendum.

Opposition member Abdul-Aziz Amadou said mediation talks would be held in the capital Niamey, not the Nigerian capital Abuja, which had been highlighted as a possible location for security reasons.

"It's [bout alternance, it's]about democracy, it's about giving somebody else a chance to become president, to do something better," he said.

Issoufou Assoumlane is another member of the opposition coalition. He said he is hopeful that the talks will go ahead in Niamey as planned.

Assoumlane also said that he and other members are not anticipating further setbacks and are looking forwards to starting the negotiations.

The agreement comes on the 51st anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Niger.

Opposition protesters gathered in Niamey earlier this week to criticize President Tandja's failure to stand down. His five-year presidential term was originally due to expire December 22, before it was extended by the August referendum. He is now also eligible to run for another term in office three years from now.

Nouhou Arzika is the leader of the Patriotic Movement for the Defense of the Nation, a group that backed President Tandja's referendum. He said there is no need for change within the government.

President Tandja has said that he needs to stay in power to oversee mining developments, particularly in the uranium sector.

The international community remains unconvinced.

The European Union has frozen funding to development projects in Niger and the country has been suspended from the Economic Community of West African States.

The U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation has also frozen $20 million in aid in protest at the extended referendum.

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