February 25, 2015 / 8:18 PM / 4 years ago

Niger President replaces foreign minister ahead of 2016 poll

Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou (C) attends a rally in support of the army's war against Boko Haram in Niamey, February 17, 2015. REUTERS/Tagaza Djibo

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou on Wednesday replaced his foreign minister, appointing him instead as minister of state at the presidency ahead of elections next year.

Mohamed Bazoum, a close ally of the president’s and a leading figure in his ruling PNDS party, will be replaced by Aichatou Kane Boulama, who was formerly the prime minister’s chief of staff, according to a government statement.

“Bazoum has not been cast aside. His new portfolio will be less demanding so he can devote more time to party affairs ahead of the election next year,” said a source close to the government.

President Issoufou won election in 2011 in his third attempt to lead the poor, West African country.

His prospects for re-election are likely to hinge in part on his government’s response to a series of cross-border attacks on the southern region of Diffa this month by Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency.

Niger, along with the armies of neighbours Cameroon and Chad, have had some success in driving militants from the Islamist group back into Nigeria and plan to launch a new joint regional force later this month.

Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Joe Bavier

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