Thu, Feb 17, 2011 - Page 6 News List

FALLOUT FROM NORTH AFRICA: French minister in new embarrassment over Tunisian links

AFP, PARIS

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie faced fresh embarrassment yesterday over her links to Tunisia after it was revealed her parents bought a company from a friend there during its popular uprising.

A report in the investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaine revived a scandal which has seen Alliot-Marie resist calls to resign over alleged compromising links to Tunisia’s former authoritarian rulers.

It said her father Bernard Marie and his wife Renee, both in their 90s, bought shares in a property company from Tunisian businessman Aziz Miled, who it said was close to relatives of former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In a statement late on Tuesday, Alliot-Marie defended her parents against what she branded an undue attack on their private affairs. She did not explicitly address the allegations in the report.

“Their private life is their business. The acquisitions they make for themselves concern only them,” she said. “I cannot conceive that one could attack the families of politicians, in this case my parents.”

Bernard Marie insisted on Europe 1 radio that he and his wife were “the only ones responsible in this affair,” saying that before leaving France he had called Miled, a long-time friend, to arrange the holiday.

Alliot-Marie had earlier said the family accepted a spontaneous offer of a lift in Miled’s plane after they arrived in Tunisia, but played down his role in the holiday.

“It was at my request that Mr Miled organized our stay together in a hotel” that he owns in the Tunisian resort of Tabarka, her father said.

Le Canard Enchaine last month broke the initial story that Alliot-Marie accepted free rides in a plane owned by Miled, also during her December holiday, while the uprising that drove out Ben Ali was under way.

The weekly said Alliot-Marie’s parents already held 13 percent of a real estate company, Ikram, mostly owned by Miled and his son, from whom they bought the remaining stake on Dec. 30 in a deal at a hotel owned by Miled.

It said the minister was also at the hotel at the time. The total amount of the transaction was not known.

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