Mali to get 520 million euros EU aid, president sees July 28 vote

BRUSSELS Tue May 14, 2013 7:30pm BST

Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore meets with Togolese troops, part of African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), during his visit to their base in Mopti, May 4, 2013. REUTERS/Adama Diarra

Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore meets with Togolese troops, part of African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), during his visit to their base in Mopti, May 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Adama Diarra

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will pledge more than half a billion euros (426 million pounds) to help Mali rebuild after months of conflict, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Tuesday.

"Tomorrow we will commit 520 million euros for Mali between 2013 and 2014," Barroso told reporters ahead of a conference of aid donors in Brussels on Wednesday.

Mali's President Dioncounda Traore also told the briefing the country will hold presidential elections on July 28.

"I do believe it will be kept to the 28th of July, we will do everything for the presidential elections to start on that day," Traore said.

The Malian government is seeking roughly 2 billion euros in support from the conference, which is being organised by the European Union, to help fund a 4.34 billion euro plan to keep the peace and help restore infrastructure to the country.

"If we can get to 1.5-1.6 billion then I would say we are about there," Mali's President Dioncounda Traore told the briefing.

"Mr Barroso announced a figure. I think that's a good start. Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, in a week or in a month, it is clear that the international community, the European Union, will inject a lot more than that."

The former French colony in West Africa sought urgent military support from Paris in January to halt advances by Islamist rebels who had seized control of the northern two-thirds of the country.

Since the intervention, Islamist rebels have been pushed back from the main urban centres of northern Mali into the mountains and desert, but the French action has failed to stop rebels from waging a guerrilla war.

Over a year of conflict has also resulted in the exodus of tens of thousands of refugees to the surrounding countries of Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger.

France is looking to withdraw thousands of its troops and hand over security duties to a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

(Reporting by Ethan Bilby; editing by Rex Merrifield)

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