EU hopes Somalia meeting will back reconstruction plan with cash


BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Somalia's government and international donors will sign up to a three-year plan on Monday to rebuild the violence-torn country, backed by pledges of new funding that EU officials hope could reach more than one billion euros ($1.3 billion).

The Brussels conference is aimed at consolidating fragile security gains in Somalia after two decades of civil war and lawlessness triggered by the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991.

Nick Westcott, a senior EU diplomat dealing with Africa, said Monday's conference would be a "milestone in terms of the political reconstruction of Somalia".

"We are beginning to see after 20 years of conflict Somalia pulling itself together," he told reporters.

The 28-nation EU is the largest donor to Somalia and helps fund the African Union's Amisom peacekeeping troops, who have helped drive Islamist al Shabaab rebels out of Mogadishu and many other strongholds in central and southern Somalia.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and international backers will sign up to a "new deal compact" at Monday's conference, committing them to a series of goals in the areas of inclusive politics, security, justice, economy and services.

International donors are also expected to pledge aid in support of Somalia's reconstruction.

EU officials would not say how much they expect to be pledged, but one EU source said any figure above one billion euros would be "a significant success".

About 50 delegations will take part in the meeting, including African countries, the United States, Japan, China and Gulf countries as well as EU states.

Somalia will also on Monday join the Cotonou agreement, the framework for the EU's relations with countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, making it eligible for aid from the European Development Fund.

The EU has previously pledged 1.2 billion euros for Somalia between 2008 and 2013. It has also launched several missions to help Somalia strengthen its security, including a counter-piracy force and a mission to train the Somali military.

($1 = 0.7542 euros)

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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