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Jordanian ambassador named Mediterranean Union chief

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(BRUSSELS) - Representatives from EU and Mediterranean basin nations on Tuesday backed Jordan's Ahmad Massaadeh to be new head of the Mediterranean Union project, which had stalled amid infighting.

"When his name was proposed, everyone applauded," a diplomat involved in a meeting in Brussels on the nomination told AFP. The move has to be officially endorsed by foreign ministers in two to three weeks.

"There's unlikely to be any problem," another official said.

Massaadeh, the new secretary general of the Union for the Mediterranean (UPM), will be based in Barcelona and have Israeli, Palestinian, Turkish and Arab League deputies.

He is a lawyer and career diplomat, who has been Jordan's ambassador to the European Union, Belgium, Norway and Luxembourg, as well as the kingdom's representative to NATO since August 2006.

The Mediterranean Union project involves around 40 nations and was launched with great fanfare in Paris in July 2008 by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The union brings together EU members with states from north Africa, the Balkans, the Arab world and Israel in a bid to foster cooperation in one of the world's most volatile regions.

It was aimed at breathing new life into the EU's so-called Barcelona Process, which was constantly blocked due to disputes between its Middle East members.

But like that process, it too became bogged down, notably over Israel's attack on the Gaza Strip just over two years ago in response to Hamas missile strikes.

The union's priorities are to fight pollution in the Mediterranean Sea, increase solar energy use, build land and sea highways and cooperate on higher education and research.

Its goals are meant to be achieved by joint infrastructure projects aimed at improving regional integration.

Euro-Mediterranean Partnership

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