The United States has followed the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) in refusing to recognize the legtimacy of President Mamadou Tandja of Niger, who has extended his term of office for three years by unconstitutional means.
Earlier this year, Tanja dissolved the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court after the court had ruled that he could not run for a third term in office when his second term expired on December 22.
On Tuesday, Ecowas released a statement saying it "takes note of the fact that December 22, 2009, marks the legal end of the mandate of President Mamadou Tandja." Ecowas had suspended Niger's membership in October.
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department announced that the country was suspending non-humanitarian assistance to the government of Niger and had imposed travel restrictions on members and supporters of Tandja's regime.
On the same day, the White House announced that Niger would be one of three African countries - the others being Guinea and Madagascar - which would lose their preferential trading status with the U.S. in 2010.
African countries can qualify for special trade concessions under the U.S. Africa Growth and Opportunity Act if they meet a range of benchmarks for good governance.
Tandja claims his mandate from a referendum and an election he organized after dissolving parliament and the Constitutional Court.