Abuja- Nigeria (PANA) -- The ECOWAS Consultative Meeting on the constitutional cr isis in Niger opened in Nigeria's capital city of Abuja Monday, with the Mediator holding exploratory talks with a delegation of the Nigerien government, PANA reported.
The 22-member government delegation is being led by former Nigerien Prime Minist er Seyni Oumarou, and will return home Monday after the talks.
In opening comments before the parties went behind closed doors, ECOWAS Mediator Abdulsalami Abubakar said the talks were necessitated by the problems in Niger, which is mired in a c onstitutional crisis after President Mamadou Tandja dissolved parliament and changed the constitution so he can remai n in office when his constitutionally-allowed two terms run out next month.
Abubakar, a retired army general and former Nigerian leader, expressed the hope that the talks would help resolve the crisis, ''so that in unity the parties can confront the issue of development ''.
The Mediator, the only one who spoke at the opening, also thanked President Tand ja for accepting his mediation, and hoped all involved would work together to end the crisis.
In addition to helping to end the crisis, the Mediator is also expected to help facilitate Niger's return to the ECOWAS fold, from where it was suspended after it went ahead with controversial parliam entary elections 20 Oct.
After the talks with the government delegation, Gen.
Abubakar will next meet wit h representatives of the coalition of the opposition and civil society organisations, on Thursday and Friday, before b ringing the parties together.
``At this stage, the talks are exploratory and are aimed at giving the Mediator an understanding of the position of the two teams,'' a source close to the Mediator had told PANA.
``The exploratory talks will also allow him to structure the (ECOWAS) Consultative Meeting that will bring together major Nigerien stakeholde rs for the main purpose of re-establishing political dialogue (and) create national consensus on the way forward for the We st African nation.