Page last updated at 21:09 GMT, Friday, 26 June 2009 22:09 UK

Emergency powers for Niger leader

File pic of Niger's President Mamadou Tandja
Mamadou Tandja says the people of Niger want him to stay in power

The president of Niger says he will assume sweeping emergency powers, after a court again said he could not extend his rule.

Mamadou Tandja, 71, made his announcement after Niger's top court ruled against a referendum that could give him three more years in office.

Mr Tandja has governed the West African nation since 1999, serving two terms.

His plans to remain in power have sparked domestic protests and been criticised by international donors.

But supporters of Mr Tandja say he has brought economic growth and so deserves the right to seek re-election.

In a televised address, the president said he was assuming the special powers "because the independence of the country is threatened".

His address came hours after the Constitutional Court rejected his request for a review of an earlier decision that ruled his referendum unlawful.

Mr Tandja announced his referendum plan in May. But it drew protests from the opposition and trade unions, who turned to the court.

The president then dissolved parliament and assumed executive powers.

The country's electoral commission, meanwhile, has set parliamentary elections for 20 August - two weeks after the referendum's proposed date.

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