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France and Egypt to lead setting up of Mediterranean Union

CAIRO, April 1 (RIA Novosti) - The presidents of France and Egypt will become the first leaders of the Mediterranean Union due to be launched in July 2008, the Asharq Al-Awsat daily said on Monday.

EU leaders last month approved a proposal by France and Germany to establish the Mediterranean Union - a club of EU member states and other countries having access to the Mediterranean Sea, designed to streamline migration policy, and encourage trade and environmental protection.

The London-based Saudi newspaper said the organization is planning to have two chairpersons - one from the EU and the other from other states. "An agreement has almost been reached to assign the posts: Nicolas Sarkozy will lead the Union on behalf of Europe, and Hosni Mubarak on behalf of the remaining Mediterranean countries."

The organization's head office will be based in Tunisia and will have two divisions - European and Mediterranean, employing 20 officials, who will manage and monitor projects and organize biennial summits

The Union's establishment is expected to be announced in Paris on July 13 during a Euro-Mediterranean summit, which will be attended by 43 heads of state, as well as chiefs of the Arab League and the African Union.

Originally France proposed the Union should comprise only EU member states and countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, but this was vehemently rejected by Germany and some other EU states, who said it would reduce EU influence and could undermine other organizations, namely the Barcelona Process or Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership comprises 37 countries, including all 27-EU states and 10 Mediterranean nations: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian National Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

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