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Obama Removes Burundi from Trade Program

FILE - Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza is sworn in for a third term at a ceremony in the parliament in Bujumbura, Burundi, Aug. 20, 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama says he plans to remove Burundi from a U.S. trade preference program because of a worsening crackdown on the political opposition there, after Burundi's president took a controversial third term in office.

In a letter to Congress Friday, Obama said the violence against Burundi's opposition includes "assassinations, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and torture."

The measure to drop Burundi from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) will take effect on January 1. AGOA allows eligible African countries to import certain products without paying any duties, helping the countries to boost exports.

Obama said the violence in Burundi "worsened significantly during the election campaign that returned President [Pierre] Nkurunziza to power earlier this year."

The decision by Nkurunziza to run for a third term sparked anger from many Burundians who said he was violating the constitution and the Arusha Accord that ended the country's 13-year civil war.

Clashes between police and protesters and fear of more unrest prompted nearly 200,000 Burundians to flee the country, with most going to Tanzania or Rwanda.

President Nkurunziza was re-elected in July in an election boycotted by the opposition. The United States and European Union said the vote was neither free nor fair.

In more recent weeks, Burundi has had a string of killings widely seen as a sign of continued unrest.

Earlier this month, the European Union imposed sanctions on four Burundians it says undermined efforts to peacefully resolve the country's political crisis.

They include a former general who took part in a failed coup on May 13. The others are high-level officials in Burundi's cabinet, police and intelligence service who allegedly planned or directed the use of violence to break up street protests that erupted after President Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term.