German government plans to deploy troops to Niger as part of EU mission

BERLIN, March 29 (Reuters) - The German government on Wednesday paved the way for German troops' participation in a European Union military mission in Niger, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters after the cabinet decision.

Germany intends to deploy up to 60 soldiers to Niger as part of an EU operation designed to support the government in Niamey in the build-up of its forces.

The final decision about Berlin's participation lies with the German parliament, with a vote expected at the end of April.

The EU decided in December to set up a three-year military mission to Niger. Some 50-100 European troops at first, and up to 300 at a later stage, are to help the country improve its logistics and infrastructure.

One of the poorest countries in the world, Niger is seen as at risk of a possible spillover of violence from neighbouring Mali, where Islamist militants have been gaining ground following the withdrawal of French and other European forces.

The German military had been training Niger's special forces with some 150 soldiers since 2018 but wrapped up that mission at the end of 2022.

There are still some 1,100 German troops based in neighbouring Mali, most of them near the northern town of Gao, where their main task is to gather reconnaissance for a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

This mission has been plagued by recurring disputes with Mali's ruling military junta and an increasing Russian military presence there that has prompted unease in the West.

Last November, Berlin decided to pull out its troops from Mali by May 2024, following France and other European nations such as Britain.

Europe's relations with Mali have deteriorated since a military coup in 2020 and since the government invited fighters from the Wagner Group, a Kremlin-linked private military company, to support its fight against insurgents.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold Editing by Miranda Murray and Tomasz Janowski

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