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Reports: Libyan leader to skip Mediterranean summit in Paris
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21:39, July 02, 2008

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Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is not expected in Paris on July 13 to attend the heads of state and government summit to officially launch President Nicolas Sarkozy's proposed Union for the Mediterranean (UPM), according to official sources.

"The Libyan leader will not attend the inaugural summit on July13... This does not really call for grief," according to sources within the French presidential palace.

While presiding over the official opening ceremony of a mini-Arab summit in Tripoli on June 10, Col. Gaddafi had forcefully rejected the proposed Union for the Mediterranean, describing it as an attempt to undermine Arab and African unity.

In a tersely-worded speech, President Gaddafi said that the original project of his friend, President Nicolas Sarkozy, had been watered down after running into vehement opposition from a section of European Union member states, who feared that it would be divisive.

"I will not be part of a process that will undermine either the African Union or the Arab League," said the Libyan leader, noting that the EU, led by German Chancellor Angel Merkel, had refused to be divided and now all its 27 member states were part and parcel of the future union.

"If the Europeans want us to face up to common challenges together, then let them approach us either through the African Union or the Arab League. To me, nothing short of that is acceptable," said the often outspoken Gaddafi.

In 1995, the Libyan leader, who lately has been touting his pro-African credentials, had declined to participate in the official launch of the so-called "Barcelona Process," the precursor to the UMP.

The now moribund Barcelona process was initiated by the 27-member European Union with the aim of nurturing and enhancing cooperation between it and the southern Mediterranean countries.

The UPM, which has come to be described as Sarkozy's pet project, is set to be launched at a Paris summit that would be attended by the heads of State and Government of the twenty-seven European Union countries and those of the southern Mediterranean countries on July 13.

Despite the Libyan leader's strong opposition to the formation of the UPM, France has maintained dialogue with Tripoli with regard to the President Sarkozy-inspired proposal. It is in this regard that the French head of state dispatched Claude Gueant, a trusted lieutenant and secretary-general of the Elysee palace, to hold discussions with the Libyan leader last Thursday.

During the meeting, whose details have remained scant almost a week since its end, President Gaddafi was quoted as saying that existing "relations between France and Libya are excellent."

After the liberation of Bulgarian nurses held in Libya in July 2007, President Sarkozy hosted the Libyan leader in Paris last December and signed several trade agreements that could, if confirmed, see various French firms earn up to 10 billion euros (about 16 billion U.S. dollars) in contracts.

Source: Xinhua

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