African leaders and international officials have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars at a donor conference in Ethiopia to support military operations against rebels in Mali.

Dioncounda Traore, Mali’s president, thanked the “entire international community” as nations offered cash or support at the meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

About $600 million has been pledged so far, including more than $120 million from Japan and $96 million from the U.S.

The conference comes a day after French-led forces seized Mali’s fabled city of Timbuktu as part of an offensive against fighters who have controlled northern Mali for about 10 months.

Al-Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Timbuktu on Tuesday, said Malian troops had established a very clear presence in the city.

“They’re manning checkpoints and intersections and they’re talking to local people — sending a very clear visual message that they’re in charge now, rather than the al-Qaida-linked rebels who seized the city last year,” she said.

“Timbuktu is a very important point along the road.”

Conference participants

African leaders and officials, as well as representatives from the UN, EU and China, are taking part in the Addis Ababa conference.

“We all know the gravity of the crisis,” Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, AU commission chief, said.

“It is a situation that requires a swift and effective international response, for it threatens Mali, the region, the continent and even beyond.”

The AU has promised to contribute $50 million, but has estimated its force in Mali will cost $460 million.

There is no clear figure for how much the Addis Ababa conference is aiming to raise, although diplomats have suggested some $700 million will be needed, in addition to heavy humanitarian costs.

Alassane Ouattara, Ivory Coast president and chairman of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said there was an “urgent need to speed up the deployment” of regional troops.

A lack of cash and logistical resources has hampered the efforts of African troops to support Mali’s army.

Read more: Al-Jazeera



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