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DR Congo Decries Loss of Favored US Trade Status

The Democratic Republic of Congo is criticizing the loss of its status as a favored U.S. trading partner.

An order from President Barack Obama Tuesday stripped the DRC of its status as a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

The designation gave Congo specific trade advantages to encourage economic development and reforms.

U.S. officials say the move stemmed from large-scale human rights abuses by the Congolese armed forces, especially rapes.

DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende told reporters in Kinshasa Wednesday that the U.S. move was totally unjustified. Mende says his government does not believe Congolese forces are accomplices in atrocities against civilians.

The U.S. and United Nations have accused Congolese forces of mistreating civilians in Congo's volatile northeast.

Numerous rebel and militia groups are active in the region. Repeated efforts by U.N. and Congolese forces to shut down the groups or integrate them into the military have largely failed.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act is designed to promote democracy and prosperity in Africa's poorest countries. The act gives the countries greater access to the U.S. market as long as they make democratic advances.