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LIVE: Sarkozy and Sleiman address Mediterranean union

On the eve of a Mediterranean summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman address the press at an extraordinary gathering in Paris. CLICK 'PLAY VIDEO' TO WATCH FRANCE 24's SPECIAL COVERAGE.

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Read FRANCE 24's special report on the Union for the Mediterranean.

 

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday to prepare the founding summit of the Union for the Mediterranean, a new forum to bolster regional cooperation.

Mubarak and Sarkozy will co-chair the summit in Paris on Sunday to be attended by some 43 leaders from Europe, the Middle East including Israel, north Africa and the Balkans.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived earlier in Paris ahead of the summit and to hold talks with Sarkozy, making a comeback to the international stage after years of isolation.

He is also to meet with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman for the first time since his election in May, fueling speculation that the two leaders could announce the formal establishment of diplomatic relations.

Syria has yet to recognize Lebanon since both countries gained independence from France in 1943.

Sarkozy's flagship project, the union seeks to cement a partnership between Europe and the countries of the Mediterranean rim including Arab countries and Israel.

But Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi is boycotting the new grouping while experts are skeptical about its potential to foster cooperation, given the hostilities between many of the member-states.

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