Brussels, 7 Rabiul Akhir 1434/ 16 February 2013 (MINA) – The European Union on Friday (15/2)  announced fresh  aid worth 20 million euros to help restore law and order in Mali as well as the  return of basic state services such as education after months of trouble.
     “This first stabilisation support package is yet another contribution from the EU to assist Mali to fully restore State authority and stability,” said EU High Representative Catherine Ashton in a statement.
      The aid comes on top of a quarter-billion-euro EU package to also be released as authorities move to restore democracy in the beleaguered west African nation, according to reports monitored by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA), Saturday.
       Friday’s aid is to be used to restore law enforcement and security, specially in northern parts of the country where French-led forces have routed heavily-armed Islamist insurgents who seized control last year and imposed a brutal form of sharia law.
      The EU funds too will help the restoration of state services such as schools and medical centres as the interim government struggles to regain  sovereignty across the entire nation after the expulsion of militants from the north.    
       Provided through a special conflict prevention fund, the cash will also be  used in efforts at dialogue and reconciliation at local level as well as the  organisation of elections which the government plans to hold as early as July.   
       “In the coming weeks the EU will take further decisions to contribute to  international efforts in Mali,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said  in a statement.
       Meanwhile, the UN food agency said it aims to  provide half a million Malians with emergency food aid this year, especially in  the restive north, as a survey showed that nearly all those who have fled the  area hope to return home soon.   
      The UN World Food Programme (UNWFP) aims “to reach around 564,000 people in Mali,  (including) more than 400,000 crisis-affected people in the north in Timbuktu,  Gao and Kidal in need of assistance,” spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.    
      The United Nations agency’s plan includes providing emergency food aid to  some 135,000 people either displaced by conflict or hosting the displaced in  southern Mali, as well as “fragile communities suffering from the consequences  of the crisis”, she said.   
      The plan would require $45 million (35 million euros) immediately to allow the WFP to buy some 30,000 metric tonnes of food to last through June, and  would require a total of $137 million for the full year, the WFP said. (T/P011/E1)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)

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