Donors pledge $455 million to Mali military push

  • Article by: KIRUBEL TADESSE
  • Associated Press
  • January 29, 2013 - 9:07 AM

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - African and Western nations on Tuesday pledged more than $450 million to fund an African-led military force to fight Islamist extremists in Mali.

Britain, meanwhile, announced that it has offered to send up to 200 military officers to help train a West African force in Mali, including up to 40 people that could be sent to Mali as part of an EU training mission of 500 personnel.

At the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia, a top official, Ramtane Lamamra, said nations had pledged $455.5 million for the United Nations-authorized African-led Support Mission in Mali, or AFISMA. The AU says AFISMA requires an initial budget of $461 million. Additional support needed for Mali's army and the West African bloc known as ECOWAS raises the overall financial need to near $960 million.

African nations like Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Gambia and others lined up with developed countries like the United States, Japan, Germany and the U.K. to pledge funds to the military effort.

Johnnie Carson, the State Department's top Africa official, said at the African Union gathering that U.S. assistance for the Mali effort would total $96 million, pending Congressional approval. Carson said that includes $32 million previously pledged and $13 million already spent aiding military efforts.

Among other promises of assistance:

_ The EU pledged 50 million euros ($67 million), while the African Union pledged $50 million.

_ Germany promised $20 million and a third aircraft to help transport African troops.

_ Britain said it will provide a ferry to help transport equipment and French troops and will allow allies like the U.S. to fly refueling missions from U.K. bases.

_ Japan announced $120 million in aid and support to refugees, the Kyodo news agency said.

Islamist extremists have controlled much of northern Mali since last April. French forces began an operation earlier this month to dislodge them. A top U.S. State Department official warned on Monday that the military effort could take years to complete.

Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said in a statement that despite the necessity of the military mission "in the long-term there can only be a political solution" to Mali's problems.

Jeffrey Feltman, undersecretary-general of political affairs at the United Nations, said those bodies attending the donors conference were satisfied with the outcome and the messages that were sent.

"One was unified international support for the people of Mali in a variety of ways, because everybody talked about the need to only to be working on the military side but to keep focus as well on the humanitarian needs of Malian people," he said.

Feltman said the U.N .is working to support an estimated 370,000 Malians displaced by the fighting since last year. He said the U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has been seeking the Security Council's authorization to provide logistical support to the African-led force. He said that after Tuesday's pledges the council might again consider what assistance it is willing to authorize.

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