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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 July 2007, 01:16 GMT 02:16 UK
Sarkozy talks unity in N Africa
Nicolas Sarkozy (l) and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Mr Sarkozy was warmly welcomed by his Algerian counterpart
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has discussed Mediterranean unity and improved energy ties in a two-day visit to Algeria and Tunisia in North Africa.

It was his first trip outside Europe since taking office in May.

Mr Sarkozy has proposed the idea of a Mediterranean union between southern European and North African countries.

He has said that said such a union would improve co-operation in areas like security, economic development, energy policy and immigration.

After talks with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, he said he wanted Mediterranean leaders to meet in 2008 to "give form" to the proposal.

He said he would return to the country in November for a state visit.

Colonial past

French companies are ready to "invest massively" in Algeria, said Mr Sarkozy.

"I said to President Bouteflika that the will of France is to co-operate with Algeria in the matter of energy, in all its aspects - the energy of today, gas, but also the energy of tomorrow, civil nuclear energy, biofuels, in the matter of industry."

Earlier, he told Algerian newspapers that France had decided on "an ambitious roadmap" of investment, energy and trade proposals and said the country was "very open" on increasing arms sales to Algeria, Reuters reports.

But in interviews with the French language El Watan and Arabic El Khabar newspapers, Mr Sarkozy defended France's longstanding reluctance to apologise for its colonial past in North Africa.

Algeria's younger generations are "looking to the future and not fixated on the past," Mr Sarkozy said.

"They do not want their leaders to put everything on hold and engage in self-flagellation for the mistakes or mis-steps of the past," he added.

More than 1.5 million Algerians died during the country's war for independence from France which ended in 1962.

After leaving Algeria, Mr Sarkozy held talks over dinner on Tuesday with Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The Tunisian official news agency said the two discussed the proposed Mediterranean Union, migration and the "prospects for further developing" bilateral relations.

Mr Sarkozy had been planning a trip to Morocco, but that has been postponed.

Nicholas Sarkozy in Tunisia

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