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Israel hosts OSCE Med bunch

A grouping of Israel and six Arab nations aimed at promoting regional tolerance will meet in Tel Aviv.

The meeting of the Mediterranean Partners of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will take place next Tuesday and Wednesday. The grouping, which comprises Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and Mauritania, is an outgrowth off the OSCE’s “Combating Intolerance and Discrimination and Promoting Mutual Respect and Understanding,” an initiative launched in 2003 to combat the perceived recent growth of anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance in Europe.

Israel has diplomatic relations with Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania and limited trade and exchanges with Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The meeting comes as the United States is nudging Arab nations to improve ties with Israel in the wake of renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Members of the OSCE, a 55-nation grouping of European and North American nations promoting security in Europe, will also send delegates.

Among those representing the United States will be Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), the chairman of the congressional Helsinki Commission, which monitors human rights. “Over the past year, in my travel to the region and in meetings that I have held with representatives of our Mediterranean Partners, I have continued to urge that the annual OSCE Mediterranean Conference be held in Israel,” Hastings said in a statement. “I am quite pleased that it will be taking place there this year.”

Hastings plans to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert while in Israel.

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