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Aid partners put up nearly 2 bn euros for Somalia 'New Deal'

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Aid partners put up nearly 2 bn euros for Somalia 'New Deal'

Van Rompuy - Sheikh Mohamud - Photo EU Council

(BRUSSELS) - International donors pledged nearly two billion euros Monday as part of a "New Deal" to help Somalia recover from more than 20 years of civil war and destruction.

"We have commitments for 1.8 billion euros," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said. "It is a historic day for Somalia."

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said "1.8 billion euros is a huge amount" as his country goes through "a remarkable transformation" to normality.

Barroso earlier announced the European Union would give 650 million euros on top of 1.2 billion euros it had already provided to pay for security and development.

This showed that the EU would "remain engaged" with Somalia, noting that much still needed to be done as security and human rights problems continued.

Among other contributors, Britain gave 50 million pounds (60 million euros, $80 million) for health and economic development, citing the need to prevent Somalia "falling back into the arms of terrorism, famine and insecurity".

Germany offered 90 million euros, Sweden 170 million euros and Denmark said it would provide $124 million, including a previously announced $71 million.

EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said Somali President Mohamud faced one of "the most difficult challenges in the world", describing the New Deal Compact as "more than a pledge of money.

"You take home with you a message ... that we stand with you what we know is going to be an extremely challenging (future)," Ashton said.

For Mohamud, there were four key priorities among many -- security, legal reform, public finances and economic recovery.

"The New Deal must deliver on the ground soon," he told delegates. After years of suffering, "expectations from our people are understandably high. We must not let them down".

Somalia's hardline Islamist Shebab rebels dismissed the conference.

"The billions promised will most likely be unpaid, the paltry sum given to the apostates," it said, using its term for the Somali government, "will be lost in corruption."

"It's a bit like Belgian Waffles: sweet on the outside but really has not much substance to it. They are just hollow promises of Kufr", or infidels, it said.

The New Deal Compact commits the government and its international partners to a series of political, security and development goals, including a two- to three-year plan to kick-start the economy.

Among the targets are plans to get one million children into school in a country that has one of the world's lowest enrolment rates with just four out of 10 children in class.

Between 2008 and 2013, the European Union provided 1.2 billion euros in aid -- 521 million euros for development and 697 million euros for security.

Most security funding has gone to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), comprising some 17,000 troops and launched in 2007 with UN Security Council approval.

It props up the government in Mogadishu and has fought alongside its army, seizing a string of towns from Shebab rebels, but several recent deadly rebel attacks have dented confidence.

At least 18 people were killed in Mogadishu on September 7 when two blasts rocked a popular restaurant, an attack quickly claimed by the Shebab.

In August, medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) closed operations in Somalia after 22 years of working in the Horn of Africa troublespot.

As well as a military training mission in Somalia, the EU runs an anti-piracy operation off the Somali coast, where attacks on shipping have fallen steadily in the past year.

Some 50 high-level delegations from Africa, Europe and the Gulf are attending the one-day meeting in Brussels, along with aid groups and global institutions.

Mohamud won office a year ago and in January secured the first formal US recognition of a Somali government since the 1991 overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre sparked a bitter civil war.

EU development support in Somalia

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