NIAMEY - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to arrive on Monday in Niger, the world's No. 4 uranium producer, where French nuclear group Areva has seen its monopoly tested by a government looking to diversify its partners.
Niger is the second of three stops on a trip aimed at deepening Iran's ties with Africa, a continent Ahmadinejad has courted for business deals and diplomatic support as the Islamic Republic becomes increasingly isolated by international sanctions targeting its disputed nuclear program.
Some Western analysts say Iran may be close to exhausting its reserves of raw uranium crucial to its nuclear activity and could have to seek out foreign sources of supply.
Last week, Iran said operations had begun at two uranium mines and a milling plant in the country and that Western opposition would not slow its nuclear work.
Ahmadinejad will be coming from Benin. After Niger he will go on to oil-producing Ghana in what is expected to be his last Africa tour before he steps down in June after completing the second of a maximum two terms as president.