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Sarkozy in Morocco to Promote Bid for Mediterranean Union

Lisa Bryant

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is on a three-day visit to Morocco aimed to finalize business deals and gain support for his idea to forge a union between European and North African countries in the Mediterranean region. For VOA, Lisa Bryant has more from Paris.

President Nicolas Sarkozy began his visit to Morocco Monday on a positive note, with the signature of nearly a dozen business agreements worth nearly $3 billion. They include building a high speed TGV train between the Moroccan cities of Tangiers and Casablanca. Morocco and France also forged deals to extract uranium in Morocco to meet the growing demand for nuclear power worldwide. The French also agreed to sell frigates to Rabat.

But as Paris-based analyst Mohammed Proudi points out, Mr. Sarkozy's visit isn't just about business.

Proudi, a North African expert at the Institute of Strategic Relations in Paris, says Mr. Sarkozy's visit has two aims: First to re-establish France's economic presence in Morocco in the face of growing competition, particularly from China. The other is to re-establish a new partnership between France and its old colonies in North Africa.

Mr. Sarkozy has already outlined what kind of partnership he's thinking about - notably a Mediterranean Union between European and North African countries in the Mediterranean region.

The Paris-based newspaper, The International Herald Tribune, reports the French proposal would include a Mediterranean investment bank, along with regional energy and environmental agencies and a university exchange program. A summit between Mediterranean leaders is planned for next year.

Mr. Sarkozy was met by Moroccan King Mohammed VI Monday. He is expected to deliver a major speech to the Moroccan parliament later Tuesday. Mr. Sarkozy returns to France Wednesday.

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