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French president Hollande visits Niger on tour

Friday - 7/18/2014, 8:07am  ET

French President Francois Hollande, right, meets with Ivorian opposition party leaders, Thursday, July 17, 2014 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Hollande began a 3-day visit to Ivory Coast, Niger and Chad on Thursday. (AP Photo/Alain Jocard, Pool)

NIAMEY, Niger (AP) -- France's president is paying a visit to the former colony of Niger, a landlocked desert nation in West Africa that has played a key role in French military efforts in the region.

President Francois Hollande arrived Friday in the capital of Niamey, a day after holding economic talks with officials in Ivory Coast.

Next he heads to Chad, another former colony that will be headquarters for a newly reorganized French military presence in Africa.

The redeployment of 3,000 French troops in five of its former colonies across northwest Africa is expected to be officially announced Saturday.

The new operation -- code-named "Barkhane" after a crescent-shaped dune in Sahara desert -- will involve Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

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