LIBYAN leader Muammar Gaddafi said on Tuesday a EU proposal for an economic and security union with southern Mediterranean states was an insult to Arabs and Africans.
“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.”
France proposed the union last year as a way of boosting ties with the European Unionâ€™s southern neighbours and improving trade and security cooperation.
The plan is due to be unveiled in Paris on July 13 but has received a mixed welcome from the southern countries.
Gaddafi said the proposal involved economic projects that had failed already such as the Barcelona Process, an earlier attempt at north-south cooperation launched in 1995.
“They are throwing us bait to attract us to such projects. This is an insult to us Arabs and Africans,” he said in Tripoli at the start of a mini-summit of five North African states and Syria.
Libya called the meeting to seek a common stance on the proposed union and discuss Israelâ€™s role. Arab governments fear that joining the union alongside Israel might imply a normalisation of their relations with the Jewish state.
They have also called for clarification on the proposed unionâ€™s institutions, financing and decision making process.
“If they come with an offer based on value and principle like fighting disease or climate change we can maybe discuss this. But they come with economic offers because they consider us as hungry people,” Gaddafi said.
The Tripoli meeting was attended by leaders of Syria, Algeria, Tunisia and Mauritania. Moroccoâ€™s King Mohammed did not attend and was represented by Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi.
Morocco, a staunch ally of France, has shown most willingness to take part in the union.
Egyptâ€™s foreign ministry said President Hosni Mubarak was invited to the Tripoli meeting but could not attend as he had other engagements and was not given enough notice.
The gathering ended without any closing statement because delegates had differing views, officials said. â€” Reuters.