Niger - Foreign policy

Tandja's relations with neighboring heads of state were generally positive. With Benin, relations remained strong after a dispute over islands in the Niger River was turned over to the International Court of Justice in the Hague in June 2001. Tandja, however, has been criticized by African heads of state for allowing his friendship with Togolese President Eyadema to get in the way of taking a more active stance in resolving the Ivorian crisis. Some 700,000 Nigeriens live in Côte d'Ivoire and are threatened by the fighting there. As head of a West African contact group, Eyadema has attempted to take the leading role in the peace process, contested by Senegalese President Wade, current head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Tandja did not attend a meeting in Paris on the crisis, and reportedly he was angry over the lack of support he received from ECOWAS during the August 2002 mutiny attempt.

President Tandja has also faced problems in obtaining security on his border with Nigeria, despite the launching of joint border patrols of a 1,500 km common border. The Niger-Nigerian border is notorious for smuggling, crime, and local conflicts. In January 2003, five tourists were attacked and a woman raped by armed bandits prompting France to issue travel warnings and restrictions to the region. The spread of Islamic fundamentalism from northern Nigeria remains a concern for the Tandja government. Shari'a law in Nigeria has been blamed for the rise of prostitution in Nigerien border towns, along with increased HIV/AIDS infections.

Relations with the U.S. also have showed signs of strain in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, and the war on terrorism. The U.S. has accused Niger, the world's third-largest producer of uranium, of selling uranium to Iraq in the 1980s. While Niger has denied the charge, it is likely to cooperate in an investigation to be conducted by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), which said it has received new information on the selling of unprocessed uranium illegally to Iraq by an African country understood to be Niger.

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