RTN did not provide details on the agreement. Niger's military authorities and CNPC could not be reached for comment.

"China is a great friend to Niger; we can never say it enough," Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine said at the signing ceremony, which was broadcast by RTN.

"This signature demonstrates the friendship ... and fruitful cooperation between the two states," Chinese ambassador Jiang Feng said.

An export pipeline project backed by CNPC subsidiary PetroChina was officially launched last November, linking the Agadem oilfield to the port of Cotonou in neighbouring Benin.

Previously, the West African country had a small oil refinery with capacity of around 20,000 bpd that mostly supplies Niger's domestic fuel market.

(Writing by Portia Crowe and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Alex Richardson)

By Boureima Balima