France confirms donor conference for war-hit Mali

AFP , Monday 8 Apr 2013

Paris confirms international donor conference on Mali, coming two months after 4,000 French troops were sent to war-torn African state

French soldiers train Ivorian troops in Toumodi, before Ivorian troops depart for Mali, April 6, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici confirmed on Monday a conference would be held in Brussels in May to raise cash to "repair the damage caused by the war" against Islamists in Mali.

Speaking at a economics seminar in Senegal, he told reporters the conference would be co-chaired in mid-May by European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and French President Francois Hollande.

The conference had already been announced without a date by Barroso, but a statement issued after a meeting of ministers of the member countries of the west African franc zone in Dakar said it would go ahead on May 15.

France sent 4,000 troops to Mali in January to block an advance on Bamako from the north by Islamist fighters and is preparing to hand over to a UN-mandated African force of 6,300 in the coming weeks.

"France is proud to have led this intervention. She did it because she believes in the integrity of Mali and because there are values to which she is attached," Moscovici told the media at the franc zone conference.

Tuareg rebels seized the country's vast arid north in the chaos following a coup in March last year before losing control to well-armed Islamists.

The extremists terrorised locals with amputations and executions performed under their brutal interpretation of sharia Islamic law.

The French-led intervention quickly drove out the insurgents but significant pockets of resistance remain in the desert around the northern cities of Gao and Timbuktu.

Tiemoko Kone Meyliet, the Governor of the Central Bank of the States of West Africa (BCEAO), said the crisis had led to a decline of 1.2 percent in the Malian economy in 2012.

Construction was hit by "the freezing of a large number of investment projects" while banking across west Africa was affected as loans slowed.

"The worst affected country is Senegal, which has strong trade links with Mali," said Meyliet.

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