(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) The United States said on Wednesday it had reached a status of forces agreement with Niger, but skirted questions over possible plans to base U.S. drones in the country.
Refusing to divulge intelligence issues, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington that the new agreement "enables us to work more closely in military-to-military channels and other channels with the government of Niger on issues that we share concerns about. Obviously Mali is front and center, and were working with them on this African-Led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA).
' According to media reports, Niger has given permission for US surveillance drones to be stationed on its territory to improve intelligence on al Qaeda-linked fighters in northern Mali and the wider Sahara.
Meanwhile, the U.S. says it is pleased with the success that French and Malian forces has in taking back Timbuktu and Gao from rebel control. It also urged for Malis presidential elections to be held as soon as possible "so that democracy can be restored." The U.S. recently pledged USD 96 million to support multinational AFISMA forces in Mali.