Niger junta pledges new constitution: African envoy

NIAMEY: The leaders of a coup that seized power in Niger have given guarantees they will return the country to democratic rule and introduce a new constitution, an African envoy after talks here Sunday.

The junta that seized President Mamadou Tandja and his ministers in last Thursday's coup also pledged to fully involve political parties and civil society in talks to set up the new constitution, said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the 15-nation regional economic bloc ECOWAS.

"We have discussed with the members of the junta how the country can get back to normalised constitutional life as quickly as possible," Chambas told AFP.

"They have given us the necessary guarantees and all this will be done with the participation of civil society and the political parties," he said.

"Dialogue will be opened with all the vital forces of the nation which will end in the elaboration of a new constitution and a period of transition," Chambas added.

Chambas was speaking after meeting the junta leadership with UN representative Said Djinnit and African Union commissioner for peace and security Ramtane Lamamra.

Following the talks, a junta leader told reporters Tandja was being held at the presidential palace in Niamey since his overthrow.

"Mr Tandja is in a service quarters of the presidency and is kept in very good conditions," Colonel Djibrilla Hamidou Hima, one of the top military leaders told reporters.

He said three of Tandja's ministers, seized with the president during a cabinet meeting at the presidency last Thursday, were still being held "for their security".

"The former prime minister, the former minister of the interior and the former minister for finance are still under surveillance for their security," the colonel said.

"Because they hold very sensitive portfolios, we are bound to ensure their security," he added.