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Europe, Mediterranean Countries Set Up Partnership


Heads of state from North Africa, the Middle East and Europe launched a new Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Sunday, aimed to bring the region closer politically, economically and culturally. Lisa Bryant has more for VOA from Paris.

The new partnership aims to bring the Mediterranean region and Europe closer together in concrete ways, namely half a dozen projects agreed to by 43 heads of state after four hours of talks in Paris. The projects range from infrastructure and transport to solar energy and creating a regional university.

The summit's host, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, called the summit a success.

The summit brought together a large number of participants and leaders had agreed to a common declaration and to concrete projects.

But it was the politics of the summit, and who attended, that captured the media's interest. Many Arab heads of state were present, as was Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. Mr. Olmert reportedly held indirect talks with Syria in Paris, with Turkey acting as mediator.

Mr. Olmert also held talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas earlier Sunday, and the presidents of Syria and Lebanon announced Saturday they were establishing full diplomatic relations for the first time in decades.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak - who co-chaired the summit with Mr. Sarkozy - discounted rumours that Arab leaders were unhappy about Israe's presence at the summit.

Mr. Mubarak said there was no problem.

A number of points still need to be hammered out, including where to locate the secretariat for the new partnership and how to finance its projects.

Most of the leaders are expected to stay for Monday's Bastille Day festivities in Paris.