Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Saturday, 28 March 2009

Niger president willing to remain

Niger's President Mamadou Tandja
Mamadou Tandja is to stand down in December

Niger's President Mamadou Tandja says he would willingly remain in power after his second term ends - but would not change the constitution to do so.

Mr Tandja said if the people wanted to give him a bonus three years, he would "rush to grab the opportunity".

He won a second term in office in 2004 and there have been demonstrations calling on him to run for a third time.

Mr Tandja made the statement during French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit earlier in the week.

The BBC's Will Ross says the comment, which some analysts will view as worrying, drew no reaction from President Sarkozy who made it very clear why he was in the country.

The two leaders discussed France's significant mining interests in Niger, which is rich in uranium.

Ethnic Tuareg rebels are demanding a greater share of the wealth generated by uranium, which is mostly in the desert north of Niamey, where the Turegs live.

French nuclear giant Areva is the largest private employer in Niger, reports the AFP news agency.

It recently signed a contract to expand uranium production.

While Mr Sarkozy was in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this week, Areva signed a deal to exploit that country's uranium.

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