Niger’s ousted President, Mohamed Bazoum, has been seen for the first time since the military detained him in a coup last week Wednesday.
Bazoum met with Chad’s leader, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, in Niger’s capital, Niamey, according to BBC News.
Déby, who also met the coup leaders, is spearheading mediation efforts after West African leaders gave Niger’s military seven days to give up power.
The junta accused the ousted government of authorising France to carry out an attack to try to free Mr Bazoum.
The head of the presidential guards unit, Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani, declared himself Niger’s new ruler on Friday.
Déby said his mediation effort was aimed at finding a “peaceful solution to the crisis which is shaking” Niger.
Although, he did not give details of his meeting, his office released a photo of him sitting next to Bazoum smiling.
Déby was himself put in power by the army after his father was killed fighting rebel forces in 2021.
He was sent to Niger by leaders of the Economic Community of West African States. On Sunday they gave the junta a week to reinstate the elected president, who has been confined to the presidential palace in Niamey.
The regional bloc would “take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order” if its demands were not met. “Such measures may include the use of force,” a statement added.
The junta has not commented on the demands, but it has vowed to defend Niger from any “aggression” by regional or Western powers. It has accused former colonial power France of planning military intervention.
On Monday, one of the coup leaders, Col Amadou Abdramane, said the toppled government had authorised France, Niger’s former colonial power, to attack the presidential palace to try to free Mr Bazoum.
France did not confirm or deny the claim. In a statement quoted by Reuters, the French foreign ministry said the only authority it recognised in Niger was President Bazoum’s.
France and the US both have military bases in Niger.
The junta also announced that it was suspending the export of uranium and gold to France with immediate effect. Niger is the world’s seventh largest producer of Uranium.
The coup has prompted concern that Niger, a key Western ally in the fight against jihadist groups in West Africa, could pivot towards Russia.
Neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali have both moved away from France, and towards Russia, after staging their own coups in recent years.
On Sunday, protesters outside the French embassy in Niamey chanted “Long live Russia”, “Long live Putin” and “Down with France”.
They also set fire to the walls of the embassy compound.
France would not tolerate any attack on its interests in Niger, and would respond in an “immediate and intractable manner”, President Emmanuel Macron’s office said.
On Sunday also, the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS, Bola Tinubu, issued a seven-day ultimatum to the military in Niger Republic, to restore Bazoum to office.