Wed, Feb 16, 2011 - Page 6 News List

FALLOUT FROM NORTH AFRICA: EU ministers debate Egypt request to freeze assets

ON THE OFFENSIVE:Egypt’s interim rulers have sent requests to the EU and the US to freeze all assets connected to Hosni Mubarak’s officials, but not the former leader

AFP, BRUSSELS and WASHINGTON

EU ministers yesterday were to debate Egypt’s request to freeze the assets of leading members of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s regime, while considering proposals to increase aid and investment in the Arab world.

Finance ministers winding up two days of talks on the rumbling eurozone crisis have been directed by their governments to prioritize an accord on how to handle requests for action against the assets of Mubarak henchmen, but not against the deposed president himself.

Britain, Germany and France have each been asked by Egypt to freeze the assets of former regime officials.

Washington has also received requests from Egypt’s new -government to freeze the assets of officials who worked for Mubarak, a senior US official said on Monday.

The State Department official, who requested anonymity, told reporters that Washington had not been requested, however, to freeze the assets of Mubarak himself.

An EU diplomat, who asked not to be named, said a list of “six or seven” Egyptians, “but definitely not including Mubarak,” were being targeted in Cairo.

The EU would look at using a UN convention against corruption as grounds for freezing accounts and seizing assets, he said.

There was no word on the Egyptian requests from the ministers as they went into talks.

A French foreign ministry spokesman on Monday confirmed that the requests from Cairo -“concern neither former president Hosni Mubarak nor members of his family.”

In London, British Foreign Minister William Hague on Monday pointed to the similar course of action taken with Tunisia, where Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled last month in a popular revolt that lit the fuse for the mass protests that deposed Mubarak.

“We will of course cooperate with this request, working with EU and international partners as we have done in the case of Tunisia,” Hague told British lawmakers in London.

“If there is any evidence of illegality or misuse of state assets we will take firm and prompt action,” he said.

Mubarak stepped down last Friday after 30 years of rule, but remains in Egypt, holed up in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

French Finance Minister -Christine Lagarde said yesterday’s discussion would also cover “the situation in all these countries, Tunisia and Egypt in particular, to examine the financial and economic aspects.”

She said the EU needed to examine “how to join together to provide support for the democracy movement taking root in these countries.”

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