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Donors pledge $4.5 Bln for Sudan's Reconstruction

4/12/2005 4:23pm

By DOUG MELLGREN, Associated Press Writer

OSLO, Apr 12, 2005 (AP) -- Donor countries pledged to give $4.5 billion over the next two years to cover Sudan 's humanitarian and reconstruction needs, organizers of a 60-nation conference said Tuesday.

"I am very pleased with the amount that has been pledged," Norwegian Development Aid Minister Hilde Frafjord Johnson said in closing the two-day conference. "I think the main point is that we have a strong commitment to Sudan ."

The U.S. was a major donor, pledging $1.7 billion Tuesday.

Before the Oslo meeting, organizers had hoped for promises totaling $3.6 billion from the conference, most over the two-year period with the rest, about $1 billion, for immediate assistance.

A peace accord signed in January ended a 21-year civil war in southern Sudan , but violence continues unabated in a separate conflict in the troubled western region of Darfur.

Johnson cautioned that collecting the exact amounts promised from donors could be difficult, but said she considered the pledges a guarantee that the most basic needs would be met.

Former southern rebel leader John Garang, now a member of Sudan 's new government, said everything, from roads to power, was needed in the south.

"Give me $10 billion, and I assure you, I will spend it," Garang said at a closing news conference.

In opening the meeting on Monday, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said $2.6 billion was needed by 2007 to help Sudan , much of it as immediate cash to prevent 2 million people in the south from running out of food within a few weeks.

At Tuesday's session, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick announced that the U.S. had pledged $853 million for this year, and that the U.S. administration had asked lawmakers for almost $900 million more.

"This is a time of choosing for Sudan ," said Zoellick. Either build peace, democracy and economic recovery or "Sudan could slip back into the depths" of conflict, he said.

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