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US Cuts Non-Humanitarian Aid to Mauritania After Coup


The United States Thursday suspended most of its aid program to Mauritania because of this week's military ouster of the elected government there. U.S. food aid to the north African state will continue. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The Bush administration is obligated under a 2006 act of Congress to cut off non-humanitarian aid to any country in which an elected government is overthrown by the military. The action against Mauritania announced here freezes more than $22 million in U.S. aid for the current fiscal year.

The State Department said the suspension, effective immediately, affects $15 million in military-to-military aid, more than $4 million in peacekeeping training, $3 million in development assistance, and smaller amounts for such things as mine clearance and anti-terrorism efforts.

Mauritania has further been barred from future grants under the administration's Millennium Challenge aid program, for which it had qualified earlier this year.

About $5 million in U.S. food aid will not be affected by the decision.

At a news briefing, State Department Acting Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos reiterated the strong U.S. condemnation of the coup, which ousted the country's first elected leader, President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdullahi.

Hours earlier, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a written statement, called on the Mauritanian military to release President Abdullahi and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghef - both of whom were detained Wednesday - and to immediately restore the legitimate, constitutional government.

Spokesman Gallegos said the United States is engaged in wide-ranging diplomatic contacts aimed at reversing the coup.

"We've seen that the African Union and the European Union and other governments have also condemned this event and are demanding a return to constitutional government," he said. "We are discussing this with the countries in the region. We are seeing what we can do and how we can help to bring a reversal of this, and to reestablish a democratically elected government there."

The European Union has said the coup puts in jeopardy more than $240 million in EU aid to Mauritania, pledged over the next five years.

The coup occurred shortly after President Abdullahi announced his intention to remove several top army generals.

The coup leaders have promised early elections but have given no date. Both the African Union and the Arab League have said they are sending envoys to Mauritania to discuss the situation.

Mauritania has had a history of military takeovers since its independence from France in 1960.

President Abdullahi's election last year was hailed as a model for democracy in the region and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte attended his inauguration.