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    Donor Countries Pledge $1.9 Billion in Kosovo Aid

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    Lisa Bryant

    A donors' meeting in Brussels Friday has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Kosovo, to help it get on its feet. Lisa Bryant has more for VOA from Paris.

    Kosovo's government hoped international donors would pledge about $2.36 billion at the Brussels donors' meeting. By early Friday, it had already received promises for about half of that sum. The European Union promised $785 million, while the United States announced a pledge of $400 million.

    The money will help shore up the economy and institutions of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in February.  But it is only a drop in the bucket compared to what's needed for Kosovo's long-term development. Still, Kosovo's Prime Minister Hasim Thaci painted a bright future for his country at a press conference.

    "Kosovo is a new state in Europe," he said. "It is a success story for us and the international community and we will make it an economic success story now."

    Mr. Thaci also said Kosovo had applied for membership to the International Monetary Fund and to the World Bank and hoped some day join the 27-member EU. But Kosovo has a long way to go. Roughly 45 percent of its citizens live in poverty, according to the EU, and four in 10 of its working age citizens are unemployed.

    Donors are demanding accountability for their funds - and for the money to be used to help both Kosovo's majority Albanian and minority Serbian communities - a point underscored by European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

    "I am sure the Kosovo authorities know that they have to make the promises materialize for all people in Kosovo by ensuring that every single euro will be accounted for and put to good use," he said.

    Over 40 countries, including the United States, recognize Kosovo's independence - but not Russia, Serbia and several EU members. Belgrade and Moscow have threatened to block Kosovo's entry into international institutions, including the United Nations.

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