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    EU Pledges $860 Million for Somalia Reconstruction

    The European Union has pledged $862 million in additional aid to help Somalia rebuild after more than two decades of civil war.

    The pledge was made Monday at a conference of international donors and Somali government representatives in Brussels.

    It comes as part of a three-year reconstruction plan, called the New Deal Compact, which is aimed at strengthening the country's political system, improving security and continuing the gains made during the transition.

    During her opening remarks, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said the key to Somalia's success would be long-term investment.





    "And this compact on its own will not resolve everything," she said. "But it gives us a plan, it gives us a set of commitments that will enable us to be focused on what we do. And if our commitment is firm, we cannot fail.''



    Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said he was grateful to the European Union and the international community but added that the timing and delivery of the aid was crucial.



    "The new deal must be delivered on the ground soon; it must not be a well-intentioned bureaucratic process that remains remote from the Somali lives," he said. "The expectations from our people are extremely and understandably high."



    The EU has already provided some $1.8 billion in development and security aid for Somalia since 2008.

    Some 50 high-level delegates from Africa, Europe and the U.S. are attending the one-day meeting in Brussels, along with international aid and development organizations.

    Meanwhile, Somalia's hardline Islamist al-Shabab rebels dismissed the conference as a waste of time.

    The French news agency quoted them as saying the meeting was "a bit like Belgian waffles" -- sweet on the outside but without much substance.

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