Le Monde, a Parisian newspaper, reported that Niger’s military government is still considering selling hundreds of tons of refined uranium, also known as “yellow cake,” to Iran in a potential agreement.

Niger has officially denied such plans, but it has caused alarm in both Washington and Paris.

Le Monde’s report, published on May 10th, cited information from website “Information Africa” about a month and a half prior. The information, regarding a secret agreement between Niger and Iran for uranium sales, was corroborated by several anonymous officials from Western countries and Niger.

In late April, Africa Intelligence, another website, revealed ongoing secret negotiations between Niger and Iran for the purchase of 300 tons of yellow cake. This has become a sensitive issue for the Joe Biden administration and has put the French company Orano SA, which mines uranium in Niger, in a difficult position.

The estimated value of this uranium is $56 million.

In August 2023, Niger’s presidential guard staged a coup against the country’s elected president, Mohamed Bazoum. Since then, relations between Niger and Western nations, particularly the United States and France, have declined.

Concerns about terrorism in the region, along with recent coups in other African countries, further heighten anxieties surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.

Prior to the French media reports, the Wall Street Journal revealed that US and other Western officials obtained intelligence in recent months suggesting Niger’s military government is secretly contemplating a deal with Iran that would grant them access to substantial uranium reserves.

Uranium is Niger’s primary export. According to the UK-based World Nuclear Association, Niger was the world’s seventh-largest producer in 2022, with an output of around 200 tons.

Le Monde reports that the French company Orano, which has been mining uranium in northern Niger since the early 1970s, has pledged to adhere to international sanctions prohibiting uranium sales to Iran.

All uranium transactions must be reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However, the IAEA has not yet been informed of any agreement to sell uranium from Niger to Iran.

Similar reports surfaced over a decade ago when then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Niger. Back then, due to international concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear activities, Niger’s authorities vehemently denied any nuclear cooperation with Tehran.

However, Iran’s attempts to acquire uranium from Niger reportedly date back even further, with Agence France-Presse citing Niger officials who claim Iran approached the military government of Sini Kountché (who staged a coup against Niger’s first president) in 1984 to purchase uranium.

Source » bbc