Niger bars local head of French uranium firm Areva

(Releads with Areva confirmation, quotes)

NIAMEY, July 26 (Reuters) - Niger has barred French government-controlled uranium miner Areva's


country chief over accusations that Areva may have helped finance a revolt by nomadic Tuareg rebels, the company said on Thursday.

The Interior Ministry declared Dominique Pin persona non grata on Tuesday while Pin was out of the West African country, sources at the Interior and Mines ministries told Reuters in Niger's capital Niamey.

The Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), led by light-skinned Tuareg nomads, has killed at least 36 soldiers and captured dozens more since it launched a rebellion in February demanding greater autonomy for the Saharan region where the majority of Niger's uranium is mined.

"We confirm and condemn the decision to expel Dominique Pin," said an Areva spokesman in Paris.

"We don't support the MNJ," he said. "The accusations made against us are completely unfounded ... We want stability to return to Niger."

"Production is not affected," the spokesman said.

A security adviser for the company's uranium operations in northern Niger was expelled several weeks ago in a move local media linked to government accusations that the company had links with the rebellion.

The French government has a majority stake in Areva, which makes nuclear reactors and mines uranium alongside other utility services.

Tuareg groups fought a rebellion in the area in the early 1990s, which ended with a 1995 peace deal that promised more investment in the sparsely populated north and incorporated former rebel fighters into the ranks of the government forces.

The MNJ says the peace deal has not been fully respected, though the government insists it has met its obligations and refuses to negotiate with the rebels, whom it dismisses as drug traffickers and bandits. (Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris)