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US Pulls Ambassador from Zambia

FILE - Zambia's President Edgar Lungu addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, Sept. 25, 2019.

The State Department has withdrawn the U.S. ambassador to Zambia after he strongly criticized the south African country for jailing a gay couple for having sex.

A State Department spokesperson said Ambassador Daniel Foote's job in Zambia is "no longer tenable" because Zambian President Edgar Lungu said he no longer wants to work with Foote.

"Despite this action, the United States remains committed to our partnership with the Zambian people," the spokesperson said, adding that the U.S. "firmly opposes abuses against LGBTI persons. Governments have an obligation to ensure that all people can freely enjoy the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms to which they are entitled."

Ambassador Foote said last month that he was horrified by the 15-year prison sentence a Zambian court handed out to two men for having sex in what the court said was "against the order of nature."

When Zambian officials criticized Foote's reaction, he said all they want are diplomats "with open pocketbooks and closed mouths."

Zambia has not yet commented on Foote's withdrawal. The country gets hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid every year.