Malta hosts first Europe-Arab summit in a decade

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By STEPHEN CALLEJA, Associated Press

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Terrorism, lawlessness, immigration and the European debt crisis were all discussed Friday at the first Mediterranean summit since the Arab Spring uprisings.

On the sideline of the summit, French President Francois Hollande said it was up to Spain, not the European Union, to determine whether Spain requires financial assistance from Europe to solve its serious financial difficulties.

The summit on the island of Malta was originally scheduled for 2011 but was postponed because of the dramatic political changes in North Africa. The 5+5 summit, which brings together five European nations and five North African states — Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco — comes to an end Saturday.

Malta's Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi opened the summit stressing the long-term interests of the democratization process in the Arab world.

"There is much work to be done in laying the foundations for a new Mediterranean partnership," Gonzi told journalists.

Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Coelho met afterward to discuss the eurozone crisis. Asked whether the EU is prepared to help Spain, Hollande said it's up to Spain to decide first what it needs to do.

"(Spain must) submit a plan to help with conditions that must be cleared, or not do so if they do not need," he said, emphasizing the importance of stabilization and growth within the EU.

Hollande was expected to seek support for his call to the U.N. Security Council to endorse a West African-led military intervention in northern Mali, where al-Qaida-linked Islamists are in control. However, he did not raise the issue at a closing press conference.

Attending the Mediterranean summit from Africa were Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, Libyan Congress President Mohamed El-Magarief, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, and Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.

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