France denies report it asked Algeria to use airspace for a Niger operation

ALGIERS (Reuters) -France's army on Tuesday denied it had asked Algeria to use its airspace for a military operation in Niger after an Algerian state radio report late on Monday said such permission had been refused.

Algerian state radio, which usually reflects official thinking, had reported the alleged request adding the North African state opposes foreign military action to restore order after Niger's 26 July coup, favouring diplomacy instead.

"France's joint defence staff denies making a request to fly over Algerian territory" said a source in the French army.

France has about 1,500 troops in Niger that were stationed there before last month's coup. France has not said it would intervene militarily to overturn the military takeover.

West Africa's main regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said last week it had agreed an undisclosed "D-Day" for a possible military intervention if diplomatic efforts fail.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune voiced Algerian fears about an armed response early this month, saying "a military intervention could ignite the whole Sahel region and Algeria will not use force with its neighbours".

France's military presence in West Africa has become increasingly tenuous amid a wave of coups in the Sahel region since 2020.

Its forces have been kicked out of Mali and Burkina Faso and anti-French sentiment has grown on the streets of Niger's capital Niamey since the July 26 coup. Meanwhile, Russian influence in the region has grown.

Algeria has had difficult relations with France - its former colonial ruler - sparring over Sahel security and other regional issues, disputes over their shared history, French media coverage of Algeria and human rights issues.

Algeria has meanwhile pushed to join the BRICS group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which is holding a summit meeting in South Africa this week.

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi, Ed McAllister and Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Amran Abocar and Angus McDowall; Editing by Alison Williams, Edmund Blair, Bernadette Baum and William Maclean)