International donors have pledged €3.9bn to Haiti in a worldwide drive to rebuild the country after January's shattering earthquake.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters at the end of a one-day donors' conference at UN headquarters in New York that the pledges were 'far beyond expectations'.

The world body had hoped to raise €2.9bn at the conference to help the impoverished Caribbean nation over the next two years.

Some 120 countries also made a total longer-term commitment of some €6.7bn, a figure that includes the €3.9bn in shorter term aid.

'This is the down payment Haiti needs for wholesale national renewal. It is the way to build back better,' Mr Ban said.

Mr Ban had called for quick donations in response to a UN request for €1bn in immediate humanitarian assistance for Haiti, which even before the 12 January earthquake was the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

So far, the request has only been half funded, fuelling fears that the rainy season will compound the disaster for some 1.2m Haitians left homeless by the disaster.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would pledge $1.15bn (€814m) for long-term recovery, which she said must be planned and executed by Haiti's government.

'Aid is important but aid has never saved a country. Our goal must be the empowerment of the Haitian people. They're the ones who will carry on the work of rebuilding Haiti long after our involvement has ended,' she said.

Mrs Clinton was joined at the meeting by her husband, former US President Bill Clinton, the UN special envoy for Haiti who will coordinate relief efforts for the country.

Minister for Overseas Development Peter Power attended the conference on behalf of the Government.

The UN meeting sought to raise funds for a Haitian government recovery plan that includes decentralising the economy to create jobs and wealth outside the capital Port-au-Prince.

Haitian President Rene Preval thanked donors and told reporters his country 'must take advantage of this opportunity that we now have'.

'I appeal to my fellow Haitians to understand the effort that has now been made by the international community and the responsibility that we now have in the interests of our country to respond rapidly and appropriately,' Mr Preval said.

Up to 300,000 people were killed in the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which also caused extensive damage to the country's infrastructure and destroyed thousands of buildings.