Niger's PM Ali Lamine Zeine (L) and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meet in Tehran on January 25, 2024.

Junta-Led Niger Faces US Sanctions Threat Over Uranium Deal With Iran

Wednesday, 05/15/2024

Niger's Prime Minister, Ali Lamine Zeine, revealed that the United States has threatened the country with sanctions if it proceeds with a deal to sell uranium to Iran.

In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Zeine said Molly Phee, the State Department’s top official for African affairs, issued the threat during spring negotiations aimed at extending the presence of US forces in Niger.

According to him, the confrontation led to the “rupture” of military relations between the United States and Niger, previously considered a key ally in West Africa.

Le Monde reported earlier this month that despite international pressures, the military government of Niger still plans to proceed with the sale of hundreds of tons of refined uranium, or "yellowcake," to Iran.

Zeine, who met with President Ebrahim Raisi and other top Iranian officials in Tehran in January, stated that “absolutely nothing” has been signed with Iran, adding that if a deal had been inked, it would have “not been under the table … but in front of cameras.”

The strain in relations was exacerbated when Niamey announced the mid-March termination of its military cooperation with the US, shortly after a US delegation visit.

The US had been heavily involved in counter-terrorism operations in Niger, operating a major drone base near Agadez city. Following the cessation of cooperation, the US agreed in April to withdraw more than 1,000 American personnel, with ongoing discussions regarding the terms.

Relations between Niger and Western nations have deteriorated sinceast year’s July coup that ousted elected president Mohamed Bazoum. Post-coup, the junta expelled French troops and enhanced ties with Russia, which has since provided military instructors and equipment.

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