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US Critical of Rwandan President's Decision to Seek New Term

FILE - Rwandan President Paul Kagame attends a session at the Clinton Global Initiative, New York, Sept. 22, 2014.

The United States on Saturday criticized Rwandan President Paul Kagame's decision to seek a third term in 2017.

In a statement, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. was disappointed with the move, saying Kagame "ignores an historic opportunity to reinforce and solidify the democratic institutions the Rwandan people have for more than 20 years labored so hard to establish."

Kagame announced his decision in a televised address Friday, saying, "Given the importance and consideration you attach to this, I can only accept." Kagame, however, added that he did not think the country's aim was to have a "president for life" and said he would not want such a thing.

Last month, the country voted in a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to run.

On Monday, Kagame thanked the nation for voting to change term limits in the constitution, but at the time he did not hint about whether he planned to seek re-election.

The Rwandan leader's term ends in 2017. The new changes allow Kagame, 58, to run for another seven-year term, followed by two five-year terms, potentially keeping him in office until 2034.

Ninety-eight percent of voters approved the constitutional amendments in the referendum.

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