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Donors Gather for Mali Aid Conference

International donors are gathering in Brussels for a major conference Wednesday to raise money to help rebuild Mali.

The conflict-torn West African nation is seeking about $2.5 billion in pledges toward its $5.5 billion plan for infrastructure projects and rebuilding government and security institutions.

At the start of Wednesday's conference, Malian Foreign Minister Tiena Coulibaly said the crisis is one that could spread to neighboring regions.

"Mali is an important country in the heart of Occidental Africa and you know that the political dynamics and the endemic violence in the Sahel region are part of a crisis that has been going on for several years and that could spread and touch other countries, so that is why it is important for the international community to stand together."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the war in Mali is being won, but that money was needed to secure peace and stability.

"Development needs money, and today it is a meeting at the initiative of the European Union, France and Mali to get pledges from the international community to do very concrete things like helping farmers, implement water and electricity, to allow the development."

Ahead of the conference, the European Union announced it will give $675 million to the effort over the next two years.

Also on Tuesday, Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore said that the country will hold a presidential election on July 28. He said neither he nor other members of the transitional government will run.

The head of Mali's electoral commission told VOA that organizers will be ready to stage the vote, and expressed optimism that Malian refugees will be able to take part.

Mali plunged into chaos last year when soldiers overthrew the government, allowing ethnic Tuaregs and later al-Qaida-linked militants to take over the north. French and African troops have helped drive the Islamists from major towns, but attacks continue.

The United Nations Security Council has approved a new peacekeeping force for Mali that is expected to take over July 1 from an African-led force now in the country. Many of those African troops will become part of the U.N. mission.

The Security Council resolution includes a one-year authorization with up to 11,200 military personnel and 1,440 international police.

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