The controversial soft drink Mecca-Cola, which has sold over 2m bottles in Europe, is to launch in the Middle East, according to owner Tawfik Mathlouthi.

A new entity Mecca Middle East Company is being set up with a production plant planned for Dubai after Mathlouthi signed a deal with the Emirati company Mojarrad General Trading (MGT), including distribution rights across the Middle East.

"Saudi Arabia has already ordered 5m 1.5 litre bottles," said Mathlouthi.

A sum of US$4mis being invested into the project, which hopes to be up and running before the end of the year.

Annual sales of 200 million bottles are targeted.

"Several countries in the Middle East, including Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan and Libya have already agreed about distribution rights," he said.

Mathlouthi is a French entrepreneur who says that by providing an alternative to Coca-Cola he is "combating US imperialism and Zionism by providing a substitute for American goods."

The drink appeals directly to anti-US sentiments with the slogan, "Don't drink stupid, drink with commitment." As an added incentive, 20% of the price of each bottle sold goes to charity - half to Palestinian charities, half to European organisations.