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Russia and Niger agree to develop military ties, Moscow says

(Reuters) - Russia and Niger, under military rule since a coup last year, have agreed to develop military cooperation, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

According to Russian news agencies, Russian Deputy Defense Ministers Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Alexander Fomin met Niger's junta-appointed Defense Minister Salifu Modi on Tuesday.

"The parties noted the importance of developing Russian-Niger relations in the defense sector and agreed to intensify joint actions to stabilize the situation in the region," - the ministry said, adding that it aims to continue dialogue on "increasing the combat readiness" of Niger's military.

The ministry has not provided details about its plans.

Niger's military council, led by General Abdourahamane Tiani, took power after ousting President Mohamed Bazoum in July 2023.

Niger's junta has kicked out French troops and severed security pacts with the European Union, leaving Western allies concerned that the country could become a new foothold for Russia in the region.

Niger's junta-appointed Prime Minister Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine has also arrived in Moscow. During the visit, Zeine intends to discuss widening a partnership with Russia in the areas of defense, agriculture and energy.

Niger's uranium and oil reserves and its pivotal role in fighting Islamist militants in the Sahel region give it economic and strategic importance for the United States, Europe, China and Russia.

(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov; Editing by Ron Popeski and Jonathan Oatis)