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Agence France-Presse
US 'disappointed' at Nigeria pardons, warns on aid
<p>Staff Writer</p>
March 15, 2013

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2013 (AFP) - The United States on Friday condemned Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's pardon of a political ally who admitted massive embezzlement as a "setback" in the fight against corruption.

And State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington had warned the Nigerian government that the move could have implications for US aid.

"The United States government was deeply disappointed over the recent pardons of corrupt officials by the Nigerian government," Nuland said.

Asked about whether US aid to Nigeria could be at risk, she replied: "We have made clear to the Nigerians that this puts a question mark on the kinds of work that we've been trying to do with them.

"We're continuing to look at what's appropriate."

In 2011, the US Agency for International Development spent some $230 million on aid programs in Nigeria, the bulk of which went toward supporting health programs and in particular preventing and treating HIV/AIDS.

Jonathan, who had served under Diepreye Alamieyeseigha as Bayelsa state's deputy governor, pardoned him and seven others earlier this week, meaning the disgraced official could now run again for office.

Before his detention in Nigeria, Alamieyeseigha was arrested in Britain in 2005 on charges of laundering more than $3 million. But he fled back to Nigeria while on bail.

Late Friday, Nigeria summoned the deputy chief of the US embassy to protest a statement sent out over Twitter by the mission's spokeswoman Deb Maclean criticizing the pardons and voicing US disappointment.

The foreign affairs ministry said the comment was "undue interference and meddlesomeness in the internal affairs of Nigeria."

Africa's most populous country and top oil producer, Nigeria is seen as one of the world's most graft-ridden nations, where powerful leaders implicated in massive corruption scandals often evade severe punishment.