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The European Union on Tuesday said it would resume aid worth up to 250 million euros for Mali as authorities move to restore democracy in the beleaguered West African nation.
A quarter of a billion euros of EU funds earmarked for Mali were frozen last year in the wake of a March military coup that opened the way for Islamist insurgents to take over the vast northern half of the country.
"The swift adoption by the Malian authorities of a transition roadmap to restore democracy and stability has opened the door... for restarting gradually development aid," said Europe's development commissioner Andris Piebalgs in a statement.
The roadmap agreed late January as French-led troops launched an offensive to drive Islamist rebels from northern towns, called for quick elections, talks with some rebel groups and the launch of a reconciliation commission.
Speaking at a meeting of EU development ministers in Ireland, Piebalgs said in a statement released in Brussels that the decision to resume aid showed the bloc's long-standing commitment to Mali, a long peaceful state which is one of the world's poorest.
The EU commissioner said funds would be used on the one hand to restore food security, water, and sanitation, and on the other to help shore up democracy by focusing on reconciliation, conflict prevention, and elections scheduled for as early as July.
The EU has also agreed to send a force of up to 500 soldiers to train Mali's deeply divided and underfunded army, with a first group flying in last week.
The mandate of the mission is 15 months, renewable, with 16 countries from the EU as well as Norway taking part.
France's surprise military intervention in Mali on January 11 has forced a quick retreat from the north by Islamist forces.