France, Italy and Spain look to narrow differences on the issue of illegal immigration

Plans for the new cooperation were developed at a meeting in Nice of interior ministers and other envoys from 10 European and North African countries. The representatives also called for a common strategy and better communication in battling terrorism.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said the meeting was "fruitful" but failed to achieve all the objectives sought - such as his hope to set up a fixed timetable among nations to share crime-fighting information.

Sarkozy acknowledged differences between Italy and Spain on immigration. The French government is pushing a bill in parliament that would stiffen the rules for immigrants in France, establish a sort of quota system and give authorities power to cherry-pick who gets in.

Economically buoyant Spain, and Italy with its shrinking population, recently legalized hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. Because of open-border rules between many EU nations, one member opening to immigrants is akin to letting them into the other countries, too.

Sarkozy has said that France, home to about 5 million Muslims largely from former French colonies in North Africa, needs to focus on integrating those who arrived years ago before opening the door widely to more newcomers, the AP reports.

France was pushing for greater operational cooperation at the so-called five plus five talks - uniting European nations France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and African nations Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. The group was set up 11 years ago. Libya and Malta joined in 2001, and Mauritania last year.

In a final communique, the representatives floated the idea of creating a "rapid response" system when authorities report cases of stolen explosives, weapons and other harmful agents that could be used by terrorists.