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Niger’s Successful Vote ’Major Step’ Toward Aid Package, EU Says

Niger’s successful presidential election on March 12 marked a “major step” in a process that will lead to the complete resumption of development aid to the West African nation by the European Union, the EU said.

The EU congratulated opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou, who won the runoff election with 58 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results from Niger’s electoral commission.

“The poll was a major step towards the restoration of full cooperation between Niger and the European Union,” said a joint statement from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs.

The EU is scheduled to give Niger 458 million euros ($635 million) in development aid between 2008 and 2013.

The EU suspended some aid following a February 2010 coup that toppled former President Mamadou Tandja. In July 2010 the European Commission proposed restoring part of the aid package after the military junta proposed a plan to return the country to civilian rule.

Issoufou, 60, takes the helm of Africa’s second-largest uranium producer as an al-Qaeda-linked group has stepped up attacks targeting foreigners in the country of 16 million. A drought from 2009 to 2010 left one in five of the nation’s children under five years of age malnourished, according to the World Food Programme.

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