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France's first lady arrives in Mali

16 May 2013, 10:43

Bamako - France's first lady Valerie Trierweiler arrived in Mali on Wednesday for a tour of the war-torn nation described as "part of a mission for children and women".

Upon arrival at Bamako airport the partner of President Francois Hollande said her presence was "a very good symbol" as her husband and the Malian leader attended a donors conference in Brussels Wednesday.

At the Brussels meeting, international donors pledged a bigger than expected 3.25 billion euros to help the former French colony recover after Islamist rebels nearly overran the troubled country.

The French first lady will spend 48 hours in Mali at the invitation of her Malian counterpart, according to Trierweiler's aides.

The visit comes with France nearing the end of an offensive to push Al Qaeda-linked militants out of the main cities of Mali's vast desert north, from where they continue to stage guerrilla attacks.

Trierweiler, 48, is known for her commitment to education and youth issues in her native France, but the visit marks her first official engagement abroad without Hollande.

A member of her entourage confirmed a report by the @Infos140 Twitter feed that the visit was part of "a mission for children and women", adding that the plight of 457,000 people displaced by the conflict would also be discussed.

"It is at the invitation of Madame Traore (Mintou Doucoure), wife of Acting Mali Pres, that V. Trierweiler goes to Mali," the feed said.

France sent in troops in January to push back Islamist rebels who had exploited the chaos following a military coup to occupy the country's north and begin an advance on the capital, Bamako.

The international donors meeting in Brussels, co-hosted by the EU and France, had an initial target of two billion euros to cover about half the cost of a 2013-14 economic and political reconstruction programme agreed with the international community.

Donors also pledged to "look at the causes of the crisis" that led to war.

Traore is also due to meet Hollande in Paris on Friday, according to the French president's agenda.



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