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Niger asks help fighting terrorism after Libya conflict

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GENEVA (Reuters) - Niger needs help training and equipping its security forces to deal with potential terrorism in the aftermath of the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's government in neighboring Libya, Niger's president, Mahamadou Issoufou, said on Monday.

Addressing a World Trade Organization conference in Geneva, Issoufou said Niger wanted a speedy end to the conflict in Libya because of its impact on trade, immigration and security.

Three convoys carrying important members of Gaddafi's entourage have fled to Niger this month, including Saadi, one of Gaddafi's sons, Gaddafi's security chief and at least two top generals, all of whom are now in the capital.

Niger has voiced concern that weapons plundered from the Libyan conflict could fall into the hands of al Qaeda's North African wing and other rebel groups who are already established in the region.

Niger has called for international help with intelligence-gathering and aerial surveillance to secure its six million square kms (2.3 million square miles) of northern desert, where Nigerien forces have clashed twice this month with suspected al Qaeda members.

"There have been concerns for security because weapons have been circulating in the country and we're concerned these will fall into the wrong hands," Issoufou told the conference.

Niger's security forces need help to deal with "terrorist activity that might develop in the sub-region," he said, adding that terrorism could develop from poverty.

Asked about Gaddafi's whereabouts, he said: "I don't know, but he's not in Niger, that's for sure."

Niger exports uranium and gold, plans to begin crude oil production by the end of this year, and intends to use the income from its natural resources to develop the country's socio-economic fabric, he said.

At present there is no trade between Libya and Niger, and Libyan investment in a telecoms project and a road project has stopped, he said. More than 200,000 migrants have returned to Niger because of the Libyan conflict.

"Niger finds itself a bit alone in the face of this problem. Our country needs to be able to make itself safe. This is not just for Niger, it's also a contribution to security around the world," the president said.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Tim Pearce)