EU to keep Central African Republic aid suspended

BRUSSELS Tue Apr 23, 2013 12:49pm EDT

EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs speaks to Reuters during an interview at Chatrium hotel in Yangon February 13, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs speaks to Reuters during an interview at Chatrium hotel in Yangon February 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will not restore its more than $200 million aid program to the Central African Republic until the country re-establishes the rule of law, EU development aid chief Andris Piebalgs said on Tuesday.

The prime minister of the transitional government, Nicolas Tiangaye, was in Brussels to appeal to its biggest donor to keep the funds flowing to the chronically unstable country.

But Piebalgs said it needed to prove the credibility of the government to regional neighbors and international donors before funding could be restored.

The EU halted aid in December due to the growing security problems, but has not formally stopped cooperation.

"The main message to the prime minister is saying that you need to re-establish constitutional order in the country and you should also try to address the security situation ... because we can't deliver humanitarian aid," Piebalgs told Reuters.

Rebel leader Michel Djotodia took charge of the country's government in a March 24 coup, and was subsequently elected president by a transitional council that has promised to lead the nation to elections in 18 months.

He led thousands of rebels into the riverside capital Bangui in March, ousting President Francois Bozize after he failed to honor a peace deal struck in January.

Calm has yet to return to Bangui since the coup as rebel fighters have repeatedly clashed with youths loyal to the ex-president. A European Commission spokesman said areas were not accessible to aid workers, and looters roamed uncontrolled.

"Provided that a couple of positive steps are being taken, we could resume the aid, even to directly support the government, but we need a politically sound system," Piebalgs said.

Despite African and Western powers' reluctance to recognize Djotodia before the creation of the transitional council, Tiangaye is able to represent the country to the EU because he was appointed under the failed peace deal.

The European Union has provided roughly 157 million euros ($205 million) in aid since 2008 to the landlocked, mineral-rich country, and 34 million euros in budget support.

It also provided more than 14.3 million euros in 2012 to support 600 regional troops for a peace-building mission in the country. Regional heads of state decided in Chad last week to increase troop numbers to 2,000.

($1 = 0.7674 euros)

(Additional reporting by Bate Felix in Dakar, Editing by Alison Williams)

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