23 Oct 2008

West pledges $US4.5b to Georgia

7:16 am on 23 October 2008

Western donors have pledged $US4.55 billion (3.5 billion euros) to help rebuild Georgia, two months after it lost a war with Russia.

The announcement followed a meeting of 70 organisations and countries in Brussels, hosted by the European Commission and the World Bank.

EU officials said the amount was far more than had been expected.

In August, Moscow ousted Georgian troops from Georgia's rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Walder said the sum included $US3.7 billion of public money and $US850 million from the private sector.

He described the amount as an impressive sum, "especially in difficult times".

Pledges from Western donors had expected to reach more than $US3 billion.

Some key donors had announced their pledges prior to the meeting, with the United States pledging $US1 billion and $US700 million will come from the European Commission.

The remaining amount is expected to come from EU governments and international bodies like the World Bank.

Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidzes said his country was "deeply moved and humbled by the demonstration of solidarity" from donors.

Troops still in place

Russia still has more than 7,000 troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and was not invited to the conference.

With winter approaching, the BBC reports the focus of the aid process is expected to be on resettling almost 65,000 refugees whose homes were burned and looted in the war.

But much of the aid is for long-term needs, rebuilding infrastructure and restoring the confidence of foreign investors in Georgia's economy.