Ould Ghazouani said the anti-French sentiment that has developed in some French-speaking African countries is explained by "excessive expectations that some African populations consider excessive towards a historically friendly country".

"Africa expects a lot from France," he said, adding that anti-Paris sentiment reflected in particular a "pernicious populism" that is not unique to Africa but is "expressed everywhere on the planet" and "greatly amplified by social networks".

He stressed that France's withdrawal from Niger was neither a failure nor a humiliation, saying "it undoubtedly has a reason to leave".

Although four of the Group of Five countries in the Sahel (Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali) have recently experienced coups or changes at the leadership level, the organisation created in 2014 to fight terrorism and underdevelopment "is not dead", Ould Ghazouani said.

"This organization that I head is still in place. Only Mali has come out of it so far," he said, noting that the reasons behind its establishment, namely "the fight against terrorism and joint efforts for development, remain".

Ould Ghazouani acknowledged that "Mali's exit poses a problem" but called for "overcoming" differences "through dialogue".

"The current situation in the Sahel region in general is not good and even very bad," the Mauritanian president said, acknowledging that "all countries in the region are under pressure, including my own."

He spoke of an intensification in the activities of terrorist groups, "especially since the French Barkhane forces are no longer here, not even those of the UN MINUSMA mission".