WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has decided to exempt Yemen and three other countries that use child soldiers from U.S. penalties under the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act.

The move was criticized by human rights organizations.

In a memorandum to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Obama said he had determined that “it is in the national interest of the United States” to waive application of the law to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen.

Administration officials have said that continuing close cooperation with the countries can be a more effective way of changing their practices.