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World News

Gambia expels European Union's top diplomat; no reason stated

BANJUL (Reuters) - The government of Gambia has expelled the European Union’s top diplomat in the West African state, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday, but gave no further details.

Agnès Guillaud, the European Union’s chargée d’affaires in Banjul, who is acting in place of an ambassador, was asked to leave Gambia within 72 hours, according to the statement, which was read on Gambia national TV.

The statement said the decision was effective Friday. No reason was given for the expulsion.

EU officials were not immediately available to comment.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, 50, has ruled the tiny west African nation with a firm hand since he came to power in a coup some 20 years ago. He has stifled dissent and has faced increased criticism from abroad over issues ranging from human rights to claims he can cure AIDS. He has also cracked down on the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The European Union blocked some 13 million euros in aid to Gambia in 2014 because of its poor human rights record, in particular anti-homosexual laws, and was debating whether to release some 150 million euros (£109.1 million) in aid this year.

A separate statement from the office of Gambia’s president on Friday condemned a statement last month by U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, in which she called Jammeh’s comments and threats against the LGBT community “unconscionable” and a violation of human rights.

The statement from Jammeh’s office said the accusations by the U.S. government were a systematic campaign aimed at denting the image of Gambia and demonising its leadership because of its stance against homosexuality.

“The Government reminds all that homosexuality is totally against the religious, cultural and traditional values of the Gambia and would thus not be tolerated,” the statement said.

Gambia, a splinter of land wedged inside Senegal, is one of Africa’s smallest nations with 1.9 million people.

Reporting by Pap Saine; Additional reporting and writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Leslie Adler

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