Niger opposition ready 'for dialogue' with president after disputed vote

Niger's opposition said on Monday it was ready to open a dialogue with President Mahamadou Issoufou after boycotting his contested re-election.

"We reiterated the willingness of the opposition to open a dialogue that is wide-ranging, sincere and inclusive," said Mahamane Malam Sani, secretary general of Moden, the party of opposition candidate Hama Amadou.

"It is not a question of sorting out some technical questions" but finding "lasting solutions" to the country's "extremely difficult situation," he said following talks with Prime Minister Brigi Rafini.

Issoufou won 92% of the vote in the March 20 run-off election in the impoverished but uranium-rich West African country, which was marred by low voter turnout in the face of an opposition boycott.

Amadou, imprisoned since November on shadowy baby trafficking charges, was flown to France for medical treatment just days before the second-round vote.

Issoufou has proposed forming a unity government, an offer repeated by Niger's premier in the talks with the opposition on Monday.

"I am ready to put in place a government of national unity with the opposition in order to face the threats facing the people of Niger," Issoufou told AFP in an interview Wednesday.

"There is not just a security challenge, there are other challenges including economic and social development. All these challenges need a sacred union," he said.

The opposition alliance Copa 2016, which groups several parties, did not indicate its response to Issoufou's offer. It has previously called for a period of transition with the view to holding new elections.

The poor West African state, where three-quarters of the population live on less than $2 a day, has only had a multi-party democracy since 1990.

Niger holds the lowest place on the comprehensive Human Development Index drawn up each year by the UN Development Programme.
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