I was betrayed, says U.N. envoy abducted in Niger

Tue Sep 8, 2009 1:12pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A United Nations special envoy to Niger who was kidnapped by al Qaeda operatives in the impoverished West African country says he was betrayed by someone who let his captors know where he would be.

Robert Fowler, a senior Canadian diplomat, was abducted with an aide close to the Mali-Niger border in mid-December last year after they had visited a gold mine. The two men were freed in Mali on April 22.

"I know somebody shopped me," Fowler told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The CBC ran excerpts from the interview on its website on Tuesday.

"Who could it be?" the CBC quoted Fowler as saying. "It could be the government of Niger, could be an al Qaeda sympathizer in the U.N. office in Niger, in the U.N. office in West Africa, in the ... secretariat building in New York."

At the United Nations, spokesman Farhan Haq said "We don't have any information indicating that there was a leak (of Fowler's name from the U.N. secretariat)".

He told a briefing: "Obviously we would appreciate from whoever it comes any information, if there is such a thing."

Niger is among the world's poorest nations despite being a leading producer and exporter of uranium. The government is battling Tuareg rebels who are fighting for autonomy in the north.

Fowler, who took up his post in 2008 to try to help settle the conflict with the Tuaregs, said President Mamadou Tandja appeared "offended, annoyed (and) embarrassed" by the U.N.'s decision to send an envoy".

"They hated my mission," the 65-year-old told the CBC.   Continued...

<p>Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler stands while being recognized by the Speaker in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 26, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>