Obama ends benefits for Guinea, Madagascar, Niger

Thu Dec 24, 2009 6:04am GMT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he has terminated trade benefits for Guinea, Madagascar and Niger, three African countries where democratic progress is threatened by political turmoil.

In a statement, Obama said the three countries had failed to make "continual progress" in meeting U.S. requirements for the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

"Each of these countries has experienced an undemocratic transfer of power, which is incompatible with making progress toward establishing the rule of law or political pluralism," said a White House official.

"These circumstances also make it extremely difficult to achieve the progress necessary to satisfy the other AGOA eligibility criteria," the official added.

At the same time, Obama said he was adding Mauritania to the list of sub-Saharan African countries eligible for preferential U.S. tariff treatment under the program.

Separately, the State Department said the United States had suspended non-humanitarian aid to Niger and imposed travel bans on some government officials in response to Niger President Mamadou Tandja's moves to extend his time as leader.

Tandja's original term was to end on December 22.

Earlier this month, Obama sent Tandja a message calling for more democracy in Niger. The United States has also frozen $20 million in aid for Niger under its U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement with the country.


<p>Captain Moussa Dadis Camara speaks to journalists in his office at the military camp Alpha Yaya in Conakry, October 1, 2009. REUTERS/Luc Gnago</p>
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