EU summit to discuss "overcoming" Libya conflict, long-term aid Eds: EU emergency summit on Libya to be held on March 11

EU summit to discuss "overcoming" Libya conflict, long-term aid Eds: EU emergency summit on Libya to be held on March 11

An emergency European Union summit next week is to debate ways to "overcome" the conflict in Libya and to support democratic change, according to a letter from the summit's host released on Friday, DPA reports.

EU leaders discussed the dramatic revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia at their last summit on February 4. But the situation in Libya has since become so explosive that EU President Herman Van Rompuy has decided to call the emergency meeting on March 11.

The summit should debate "measures to help overcome the dramatic events unfolding in Libya," as well as plans to help people fleeing the conflict in the country and prevent a wave of migrants heading for Europe, Van Rompuy wrote in his invitation to EU leaders.

"In the light of the momentous developments in Libya and our southern neighbourhood, it is important that the EU acts with determination and sends a clear and positive message to the whole region, expressing full support to the transition towards more democracy, pluralism and social inclusion," he wrote.

The EU has condemned the eruption of violence in Libya, and on Monday slapped sanctions on the regime of Colonel Moamer Gaddafi.

Diplomats in Brussels on Friday said it was not clear what other means could be used to "overcome the dramatic events" in Libya, but that military means were not under discussion.

Greece, Italy, Malta, Cyprus, France and Spain have also called for the EU to set up a "solidarity fund" to help them deal with the floods of migrants that, they say, could try to cross the Mediterranean to their shores if Libya plunges into civil war.

The summit will debate "challenges to the EU posed by irregular migration," Van Rompuy wrote, without giving details.

As part of a broad and long-term EU response, the meeting will also discuss how to "support democratic transformation, encourage reforms and promote regional security and prosperity," he wrote.

In particular, the EU should "aim to set up a new partnership, involving earmarked support, tailored to the needs and performance of these countries," and look at ways to boost trade and investment.

Diplomats in Brussels said that the debate on trade was likely to be particularly fraught, since current analyses say that the best way to help the populations of North Africa would be to offer concessions on agricultural exports and textiles - two areas in which EU states have traditionally been most reluctant to offer concessions.

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