Olmert, Assad to Sit Together in Paris

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JERUSALEM, Israel - French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad will attend a July 13 conference in France, where he'll be seated at the same table with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"The Syrian president will be there sitting next to and at the same table as the Israeli president ," Kouchner told French legislators.

Israel said that Kouchner mistakenly referred to Olmert as president.

Some 40 heads of state have accepted France's offer to attend the conference, slated to launch new initiatives between European Union member nations and Mediterranean states in security, the environment and immigration.

Meanwhile on Monday, EU member nations voted to upgrade trade and academic ties with Israel.

Despite efforts by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to torpedo the deal, citing the security barrier and planned expansion of Jerusalem neighborhoods, the 27 member nations voted unanimously to increase its dealings with Israel.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news

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