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Tuesday, April 13, 1999 Published at 07:06 GMT 08:06 UK

World: Africa

Niger PM reappointed

Niger's new military ruler, Major Daouda Mallam Wanke, has reappointed Ibrahim Mayaki as prime minister and taken other steps to return the country to civilian rule, according to the national radio.

The announcement came as Niger's civilian opposition gave its backing to Major Wanke's military government which took power after the assassination last week of President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara.

The new president "reappointed, for the transitional period, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki," national radio said, quoting from a communique issued by the all-military National Reconciliation Council, now ruling the west African state.

[ image: President Mainassara himself took power in a 1996 coup]
President Mainassara himself took power in a 1996 coup
The decision was reached after consultation with Niger's political parties and was unanimously approved, it said.

The Council also promised that "the army will withdraw from political life" and lifted a ban on the activities of political parties which had been announced by Mr Mayaki shortly after President Mainassara's death, the radio said.

Major Wanke, head of the elite presidential guard which assassinated the president, was declared head of state by the Council on Sunday, for a nine-month transition period.

The BBC West Africa Correspondent says there is general scepticism in Niger about assurances from the military government, and that the next nine months will be a test of the present regime's intentions.

Opposition backs elections

Niger's 11 civilian opposition parties on Monday urged their followers to support the military government's promised transition programme to transfer power to a civilian government in nine months.

In its first reaction since President Mainassara's assassination, the country's opposition alliance said it "calls on its militants to work for the success of the democratic transition and the holding of free and fair elections."

A statement from the opposition alliance did not condemn the military's takeover of power and suspension of constitutional rule.

But the alliance expressed the hope that the transition would be carried out "with respect for human rights, basic liberties and democratic values."

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