PARIS, June 11 (Reuters) - France defended its proposal for
a Mediterranean alliance on Wednesday after Libyan leader
Muammar Gaddafi called the plan an insult to Arabs and Africans.
The idea of closer ties between countries on the northern,
southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean is dear to
President Nicolas Sarkozy who intends to push it during the
six-month French EU presidency that starts in July.
"European countries must turn towards the Mediterranean and
work together, on the northern shore as well as the southern
shore. That is what we are working for," Foreign Minister
Bernard Kouchner said during parliamentary questions.
"Colonel Gaddafi is not in agreement with this vision.
Neither was he in agreement with the Barcelona process which we
intend to support and pursue," Kouchner said, referring to an
earlier attempt at north-south cooperation launched in 1995.
Kouchner said four main areas of cooperation would be
proposed in Paris on July 13: reducing pollution in the
Mediterranean Sea, promoting solar energy, setting up joint
civil protection operations and a joint water plan.
Gaddafi poured scorn on the Mediterranean Union project in
Tripoli on Tuesday.
"This is taking us for fools," Gaddafi said. "We do not
belong to Brussels. Our Arab League is located in Cairo and the
African Union is located in Addis Ababa. If they want
cooperation they have to go through Cairo and Addis Ababa."
Gaddafi was hosted in grand style during a state visit to
France in December. Sarkozy was accused of turning a blind eye
to human rights violations in Libya in his eagerness to wrap up
deals with the energy-producing North African state.
On Wednesday, Le Monde newspaper ran a front page cartoon of
Gaddafi, represented as a scorpion with the red carpet rolled
out by Sarkozy for a tail.
"He was hosted in Paris with every honour ... Yet he has
just rejected in a tempestuous fashion one of the projects
dearest to Sarkozy's heart," Le Monde said on its front page.
France is still in talks with Libya to try to sell it Rafale
warplanes made by Dassault Aviation which France has
so far failed to export.
France proposed the Mediterranean Union idea last year as a
way of boosting ties with the European Union's southern
neighbours and improving trade and security cooperation. The
plan has received a mixed welcome from the southern countries.