August 24, 2019 - 14:07 AMT
Trump not taking back foreign aid; Armenia among countries to benefit

U.S. President Donald Trump has dropped plans to take back up to $4bn allocated for foreign aid to a number countries, including Armenia, the State Department said on Friday, in the face of opposition from both sides of the aisle in Congress, News24 reports.

The president opted "not to pursue a rescission proposal for funds appropriated for the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)," a State Department official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The Office of Management and Budget wrote to State and USAID announcing a freeze for the remaining fiscal year ending September 30 on funds for programmes ranging from peacekeeping and health to anti-drug operations.

This prompted a chorus of dissent from senior Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who said in a joint letter to the president the cash was "essential to promoting US global leadership" and protecting Americans.

Speaking in Ottawa on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn't push back against proposals to cut his budget.

"What I have consistently said with respect to every penny the State Department spends, including our foreign assistance budget, is we've got to get it right," Pompeo said.

"We've got to make sure we are using it in ways that are effective, that American interests are represented in the way we spend that money," he added.

State spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the department would "comply with whatever the president's directive is".

According to US media however, Pompeo worked behind the scenes to convince Trump to leave the money alone.

"As part of the discussions we agreed to continue to assess our programming and redirect all funding that does not directly support our priorities," the anonymous State Department official said.