EU to organize Mali aid donor conference in May

BRUSSELS Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:17pm EST

Mali's Prime Minister Diango Cissoko (L) shakes hands with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

Mali's Prime Minister Diango Cissoko (L) shakes hands with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels February 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Vidal

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will hold an international aid conference on Mali in May, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Monday.

France sent military forces to Mali in January after the country appealed to Paris for urgent military support to halt advances by Islamist rebels and defuse the risk of Mali being used as a springboard for attacks in Europe or north Africa.

Since the French intervention, Islamist rebels have been pushed back from the main urban centers of northern Mali into the mountains and desert.

"I told the prime minister today about the European pledge to organize an international donors' conference in mid-May to help the reconstruction of Mali," Barroso told reporters after a meeting with Malian Prime Minister Django Cissoko in Brussels.

"This is one more demonstration of our commitment and our engagement with the stability, unity, democracy, and development of Mali. The Malian people can count on Europe," Barroso said.

The EU unblocked 250 million euros ($333.77 million) in frozen development aid to Mali last week, and distributed a first tranche of 20 million euros.

The aid had been frozen since the country's March 2012 coup, but the bloc resumed cooperation after noting signs of democratic progress.

($1 = 0.7490 euros)

(Reporting by Ethan Bilby; Editing by Alison Williams)

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