West Africa bloc seeks ways to engage with Niger junta



West Africa's regional bloc kept up its search on Sunday for diplomatic ways to overturn last month's coup in Niger, while retaining the threat of military intervention amid a crisis that has sucked in global superpowers.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Saturday that it aimed to send a parliamentary committee to meet the coup leaders, who have imprisoned Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum and dissolved the elected government, in the seventh coup in West and Central Africa in three years.

While the ECOWAS parliament made no firm decisions on Saturday, it set up a committee that plans to meet Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who holds the bloc's revolving chairmanship, to get his permission to go to Niger, its spokesperson said.

The coup leaders, headed by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, have rebuffed prior diplomatic efforts by ECOWAS, the United States and others, raising the specter of further conflict in the impoverished Sahel region of West Africa, which is already dealing with a deadly Islamist insurgency.

With diplomacy faltering, ECOWAS has activated a standby military force they say will be deployed as a last resort if talks fail.