- Niger has expressed outrage at the decision by the European Commission to block aid payments to the West African state as President Mamadou Tandja plans to hold a referendum on 4 August in an attempt to cling to power.
Niger's Foreign Minister Aichatou Mindaoudou said the EC’s decision was unfair and premature. “The president is not an illegitimate president, he is exercising a democratic and legal mandate which was granted to him by the people during free and fair elections," she said.
The European Commissioner for Development, Louis Michel informed President Tandja about aid cut through a letter, saying the Commission is also considering to break off the rest of its aid to Niger.
"It does not amount to a suspension. But at the moment, the Commission believes governance in the country is unsatisfactory and we cannot go ahead with the payment," he said.
The EU has been assisting Niger to construct roads as well as to finance health and education projects. Local sources in Niger say the aid is worth between eight and 10 million euros.
President Tandja dissolved parliament just a day after the Constitutional Court rejected a call for a referendum on 25 May to allow him to seek a third term in government.
Under the current law, President Tandja is barred from staying in office beyond December 22, when his second elected five-year term expires.
According to the constitution, a new parliament will now have to be elected within three months, but there was no immediate presidential announcement on a new election date.
The 70 years old leader was first elected in 1999 and re-elected in 2004.
A referendum aimed at changing the Constitution so he can run again is planned for 4 August.
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