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Niger: Thousands protest in third day of rallies demanding withdrawal of French troops

A supporter of Niger's National Concil of Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) holds a placard which reads "Down with France   -  
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Thousands of demonstrators in Niger on Sunday held a third day of rallies calling for former colonial ruler France to withdraw its troops, as sought by the junta which seized power in July.

"Down with France! France get out," the demonstrators chanted, repeating slogans heard at various rallies in Niamey since the coup d'etat on July 26.

Niger's military regime had fired a new verbal broadside at France on Friday, accusing Paris of "blatant interference" by backing the country's ousted president.

Since then, tens of thousands of people have joined in the protest at a roundabout, close to the Niger military base where French soldiers are stationed.

Relations with France, the country's former colonial power and ally in its fight against jihadism, went swiftly downhill after Paris stood by ousted president Mohamed Bazoum,

On August 3, the regime announced the scrapping of military agreements with France, which has about 1,500 soldiers stationed in the country.

Niger's military rulers have also announced the "expulsion" of the French ambassador Sylvain Itte and said they are withdrawing his diplomatic immunity. They said his presence constituted a threat to public order.

But French President Emmanuel Macron last Monday hailed Itte's work in Niger and said he remained in the country despite being given a 48-hour deadline to leave.

On Sunday, France once again justified keeping its ambassador in place.

"He is our representative to the legitimate authorities in Niger," said Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna in an interview with Le Monde newspaper,

"We don't have to bow to the injunctions of a minister who has no legitimacy", she added, assuring that Paris was ensuring "that he can face the pressure from the putschists in complete safety".

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