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Ecuador ousts U.S. aid agency

QUITO, Ecuador -- Ecuador's government has told the U.S. Agency for International Development it will not renew its agreements, according a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The Nov. 26 letter sent to the U.S. Embassy in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito says the "USAID must not execute any new activity," nor widen any existing projects in Ecuador.

Gabriela Rosero of Ecuador's international co-operation agency, who signed the letter addressed to USAID program officer Christopher M. Cushing, said the U.S. government aid organization must leave by Sept. 30. "The decision has been made," she said.

President Rafael Correa suggested in December the USAID's programs were no longer welcome in Ecuador, saying on one of his regular Saturday programs on television and radio "We don't need charity."

A U.S. Embassy official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and requested anonymity, said it was the United States that decided to close the USAID office in Ecuador.

Relations between the two countries have been tense since Correa assumed power in 2007.

Ecuador expelled two U.S. Embassy officials in 2009, accusing them of interfering in the country's internal affairs.

Correa's government ordered the U.S. Embassy's military group, about 20 Defence Department employees, to leave Ecuador by the end of April. The anti-drug unit at the mission, which is not connected to the DEA, has been notified it has to leave Ecuador by September.

Embassy spokesman Jeffrey Weinshenker said the U.S. government had worked with Ecuador for more 60 years to deliver "more than $800 million in development aid that had enriched the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ecuadoreans."

 

Ark. judge OK's gay nuptials

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A judge on Friday struck down Arkansas' ban on same-sex marriage, saying the state has "no rational reason" for preventing gay couples from marrying.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza ruled the 2004 voter-approved amendment to the state constitution violates the rights of same-sex couples.

"This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality," Piazza wrote. "The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent."

The ruling came nearly a week after state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced he personally supports gay-marriage rights but he will continue to defend the constitutional ban in court. McDaniel's office said he would appeal the ruling.

An attorney for the group of same-sex couples challenging the prohibition said he hadn't talked with his clients and didn't know if they would seek marriage licences when county offices open Monday morning.

"If I was them, I would be there waiting for the door to open," attorney Jack Wagoner said.


Ceasefire in South Sudan

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. official says South Sudan's president has reached a ceasefire agreement with a rebel leader after a vicious cycle of revenge killings drew international alarm.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice welcomed the peace agreement in a statement Friday evening, saying it "holds the promise of bringing the crisis to an end."

A ceasefire in January between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar fell apart within days.

Rice urged Kiir and Machar to follow up on the new peace deal signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by "ending the violence and negotiating in good faith to reach a political agreement."

Ethnically targeted violence in the world's youngest country broke out in December, killing thousands of people and forcing more than 1.3 million to flee their homes.

 

UN nuclear talks fizzle

The final preparatory UN conference for next year's review of the landmark 1970 agreement aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear weapons has ended without agreement on final recommendations.

Peruvian Ambassador Enrique Roman-Morey blamed a lack of time for negotiations -- not a lack of political will.

But he told a news conference after the two-week gathering ended Friday the pace of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states "is a problem" and the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East "is also a very big issue."

Roman-Morey said there were not many problems on the issues of nuclear security and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

He said he will present the proposed recommendations to the 2015 review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in his own name as chairman.

 

-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2014 A24

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