French Ambassador Sylvain Itte lives on “military rations,” says Macron, accusing Niger’s ruling army of stopping food deliveries to the embassy.

President Emmanuel Macron said the French envoy to Niger was living like a hostage in the French embassy and accused military leaders of blocking food deliveries to the mission.

The ambassador is living on “military rations,” Macron told reporters in the eastern town of Semur-en-Auxois on Friday.

“As we speak, we have an ambassador and diplomatic staff who are literally being held hostage in the French embassy,” he said.

“They are preventing food deliveries,” he said, apparently referring to Niger’s new military rulers. “He eats military rations.”

Niger’s military leaders told French Ambassador Sylvain Itte he had to leave the country after they overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

But a 48-hour ultimatum issued in August calling for him to withdraw remained in place because the French government refused to comply or recognize the military government as legitimate.

The coup was condemned by France and most of Niger’s neighbors.

Macron said the envoy “cannot go out, he is persona non grata and he will be denied food.”

Asked whether France would consider bringing him home, Macron said: “I will do whatever we agree with President Bazoum because he is the legitimate authority and I talk to him every day.”

France keeps about 1,500 troops in Niger and said earlier this month that a move could only be negotiated with Bazoum.

The country’s new leadership has canceled military cooperation agreements with France and called on troops to withdraw quickly.

Macron has for weeks rejected calls to oust the French ambassador, a stance supported by the EU, which has described the demand as a “provocation”.

Like France, EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said last month, the EU “does not recognize” the authorities that seized power in Niger.

The impoverished sub-Sahelian Sahel has seen what Macron called an “epidemic” of coups in recent years, with elected governments replaced by military regimes in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, as well as Niger.

Last week, Colonel Amadou Abdramane, a spokesman for the Nigerian coup plotters, accused France of gathering troops and equipment in West African countries to launch a “military intervention” against Niamey.

Niger is also embroiled in a standoff with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has threatened to intervene militarily if diplomatic pressure to return Bazoum to office fails.

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