"If Europe wants to co-operate with us, let them do so through the Arab League or the African Union ... we will not accept that they deal only with a small group."

'Passing fad'

Gaddafi said that he believed the Mediterranean Union proposal was just another "passing fad" which would make no more progress than the so-called Euro-Mediterranean partnership process launched in Barcelona in 1995.

He was the only leader to speak at the opening session summit in the Tripoli, the Libyan capital, convened to discuss proposals by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, for a Mediterranean bloc modelled on and linked to the EU.

The meeting was attended by leaders from Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia.

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, dropped plans to attend the gathering at the last minute because of what officials said was "a heavy schedule".

The summit comes ahead of a broader gathering in Paris scheduled for July 13.
  
"The European Union insists on its own unity and refuses to be divided and the initiative of our dear Sarkozy has been firmly rejected by Europe," Gaddafi said.

Gaddafi was referring to the rebuff that Sarkozy received at an EU summit in March at which he was forced to back down on his original proposal for links between EU and non-EU Mediterranean states.

He was then forced to accept German demands that the idea be broadened out to include the whole European bloc.