Brazil pledges $11.5 billion for 2014 World Cup works

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BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's government pledged on Wednesday to spend 20.1 billion reais ($11.5 billion) to fund infrastructure and transportation works aimed at preparing the country to host the 2014 soccer World Cup.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as well as the state governors and mayors of the 12 cities picked as venues for the tournament agreed at a ceremony in Brasilia to start works and set priorities for the construction and refurbishing of stadiums and other works needed to host the event.

Most of the money, about 11 billion reais, will be funneled toward urban transport projects. Other plans include works in airports, ports, hotels and tourism compounds, officials said.

Lula, who ends his four-year, second-term in December, is seeking to ease concern delays and lack of adequate financing might hold up works for the events. Brazil has for years endured serious infrastructure bottlenecks. Economists estimate say they are a drag on economic growth and make Brazil's exports less competitive compared to peers like China.

The city of Rio de Janeiro is also hosting the 2016 Olympics.

The investment does not include security expenditures.

($1=1.744 reais)

(Reporting by Natuza Nery; Writing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal)