Chad, Sudan, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo were spared the cutoff of U.S. aid that the 2008 law, signed by President W. Bush and taking effect this year, would have provided because President Obama determined the waivers were in "the national interest," The New York Times reported.
Obama sent a memorandum Monday to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offering the "national interest" justification with no further explanation. But White House sources told the Times the law would have punished countries that are crucial in the fight against al-Qaida.
"Our intention is to work with them over the next year to try to solve this problem -- or at least make significant progress on it -- and reassess our posture towards them next year, depending on the progress they have made," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Human-rights advocates decried the move.
"Everyone's gotten a pass, and Obama has really completely undercut the law and its intent," said Jo Becker, children's rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
"This came as a total shock to everyone in the community," said Jesse Eaves, child protection policy adviser with World Vision. "At this point we're just running to catch up."