A plan to join the 27 states of the European Union and countries bordering the Mediterranean, including North Africa, has been launched and led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Dubbed the “Union for the Mediterranean”, the plan is outlined as aiming to improve energy supply, fight pollution, and strengthen the surveillance of maritime traffic, among other goals.

Sengal’s President Abdoulaye Wade has criticized the plan, claiming that the union will divide Africa into two separate groups. “Africans should now brace themselves to face up to the consequence of the departure of some African states from the African Union in favor of Europe,” Wade says, pointing out that “there are other obvious goals behind the Union for the Mediterranean initiative like Algeria’s oil and gas and Libyan oil.”

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi also describes the plan as “divisive and dangerous to African and Arab unity.”

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Ivory Coast native Morou Outtara and Ethiopian-born Marcuss Samuelsson are the latest culinary artists infusing the American palate with bold flavors from Africa.

Outtara peppers the food at his Virginia restaurant, Farrah Olivia, with flavors from his West African homeland and thinks America is ready for the new tastes.

“For six, seven years now people are playing with the idea of African food, and people are now starting to accept it,” Outtara said in an interview with Philly.com.

“It’s been gradually happening,” said Samuelsson, who opened the New York pan-African restaurant Merkato 55. “You are now seeing those [North African and Arab spices] like harissa, za’atar and dukka showing up on menus.”

And to help the spices make their way into the American kitchen, Samuelsson launched Afrikya, a line of African spices. The North African and Middle Eastern spice combination of poppy seeds and rose was even named one of the Top 10 flavor pairings for 2008 by McCormick & Co.

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