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Romano Prodi, the UN special envoy for the Sahel, on Thursday announced the creation of a special fund to help the troubled African region, which has been hit hard by the Mali conflict.
The United Nations fund is "aimed at aiding the region so that the Sahel reaches at least the same level of development as other African countries," Prodi told a press conference held together with Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
"All the countries in the world have expressed willingness in lending their support to the region," he said, adding they have also voiced their concerns linked to the threats of terrorism in the region.
Together with UN West Africa representative Said Djinnit, Prodi on Wednesday began a three-day visit to the Sahel to discuss the situation in Mali with the presidents of its neighbours Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger.
France launched its intervention in Mali on January 11, after Mali's interim government called for help fending off the Islamist insurgents as they made incursions into government territory.
But after having pushed the rebels from the towns under their control, France is now eager to wind down the operation in its former colony and hand over to African peacekeepers.