NIAMEY, Aug 26 (AFP) - Niger’s military leadership asked the French ambassador to depart the country – a move further escalating the international crisis in the West African nation after a coup that deposed the democratically elected president.

Niger’s military government also authorised troops from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso on Friday to come to its defence, raising the stakes in a standoff with other West African nations threatening force to reinstate Niger’s democratically elected president.

French Ambassador Sylvain Itte was asked to leave Niger within 48 hours in a letter that accused him of ignoring an invitation for a meeting with the foreign ministry.

The letter dated Friday, also cited “actions of the French government contrary to the interests of Niger” as among the reasons for Itte’s expulsion.

France’s foreign ministry on Friday said Niger’s “putschists have no authority” to ask its ambassador in Niamey to leave.

“The ambassador’s approval comes solely from the legitimate elected Nigerien authorities,” AFP news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying.

Niger, a former French colony, was France’s partner before last month’s coup in the fight against armed groups. A growing wave of anti-French sentiment has followed recent coups in the region with some locals accusing the European country of interfering in their affairs.

French President Emmanuel Macron sharply criticised Niger’s coup-makers on Thursday and demanded the release of deposed President Mohamed Bazoum.