By Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -European Union countries have started laying the groundwork to impose the first sanctions on members of the junta that seized power in Niger last month, European sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
The new military leaders have so far rejected international diplomatic efforts at mediation.
Neighbouring countries backing the armed takeover called on the United Nations to prevent a military intervention threatened by other West African states.
An EU official involved in sanctions work and an EU diplomat said the bloc has started discussing the criteria for punitive measures. The official said that would include “undermining of democracy” in Niger and was likely to be agreed soon.
“The next step would be sanctions against individual members of the junta” deemed responsible, the EU diplomat said.
National officials were discussing the matter on Wednesday, said the official and another EU diplomat. All three sources spoke under condition of anonymity.
Agreement by all 27 EU member states is required to impose sanctions and it was not immediately clear when that could happen. Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were due to meet on Thursday after their deadline passed for reinstating Niger’s ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
“The EU is ready to support ECOWAS’s decisions, including the adoption of sanctions,” said Peter Stano, the EU executive’s spokesman on foreign policy.
EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the Niger situation, including sanctions, at a meeting in Toledo, Spain, on Aug. 31.
The EU, one of the biggest providers of aid to Niger, said already last month it was suspending security cooperation and financial support that had been set at 503 million euros ($552 million) in 2021-24 to help improve governance and education.
On Wednesday, a former rebel leader and politician launched a movement opposing the junta, in the first sign of internal resistance to army rule in Niger since the July 26 coup.
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(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, additional reporting by Andreas Rinke in Berlin and Crispian Balmer in RomeEditing by Angus MacSwan and Gareth Jones)