Arab leaders to meet in Libya over Euromed union

Leaders from Arab countries bordering the Mediterranean sea were due to meet Tuesday in the Libyan capital to discuss a French-proposed Euro-Mediterranean union amid concerns over Israel's role, Libyan officials said.

The union, which was proposed by France and endorsed by the European Union, would bolster political and trade ties as well as security cooperation between the European Union and its neighbours on the southern coast of the Mediterranean, reported dpa.

The Tripoli summit will seek to adopt a common stance on the union, which is expected to be launched in Paris on July 13, Arab diplomatic sources told the Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat.

Arab countries fear that joining the union will bring them together with Israel. This would mean normalizing ties with the Jewish state, which still occupies Palestinian and Syrian land.

Both Syria and the Palestinian Authority would be members of the union. Egypt is the only Arab Mediterranean country with full diplomatic ties with Israel.

"The most serious aspect (in the proposed union) is that it establishes a union with Israel before we Arabs unite," Libyan official Ahmed Qaddaf al-Dam told al-Sahrq al-Awsat.

"The Euro-Mediterranean proposal needs careful study and a common (Arab) stance," al-Dam said.

Arab countries adopted a peace initiative in 2002, which makes normalizing relations with Israel conditional on its withdrawal from Arab territories occupied in 1967.

The presidents of Libya, Syria, Algeria, Tunisia and Mauritania are expected to attend the Tripoli summit.

Morocco will be represented by a lower-level officials while the participation of Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak has not yet been confirmed.

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