Niger junta leaders have blocked a senior US official, Victoria Nuland from meeting the country’s elected President Mohamed Bazoum.

Nuland, who is the undersecretary of state said Bazoum is under “virtual house arrest”.

She also described the mutinous officers as unreceptive to US calls to return the country to civilian rule.

“They were quite firm about how they want to proceed, and it is not in support of the constitution of Niger,” Nuland told reporters.

She characterised the conversations as “extremely frank and at times quite difficult.”

She spoke after a two-hour meeting in Niger´s capital, Niamey, with some leaders of the military takeover of a country that has been a vital counterterrorism partner of the United States.

In speaking to junta leaders, Nuland said, she made “absolutely clear the kinds of support that we will legally have to cut off if democracy is not restored.”

If the U.S. determines that a democratically elected government has been toppled by unconstitutional means, federal law requires a cutoff of most American assistance, particularly military aid.

She said she also stressed U.S. concern for the welfare of President Mohamed Bazoum, who she said was being detained with his wife and son.

The meeting was with Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou, a U.S.-trained officer, and three of the colonels involved in the takeover.

The coup´s top leader, former presidential guard head Abdourahamane Tchiani, did not meet with the Americans.

In other developments Monday, leaders of West Africa’s regional bloc, ECOWAS said they would meet later this week to discuss next steps after the junta defied a deadline to reinstate the president.

The meeting was scheduled for Thursday in Abuja, the capital of neighbouring Nigeria, according to a spokesman for the ECOWAS bloc.

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