Sarkozy orders officials to "prioritize France" for vacations after PM's Egypt idyll

Paris, Feb 10(ANI): Following media outrage over French Prime Minister Frangois Fillon's admission to have enjoyed a free holiday on the Nile over the New Year at Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's expense, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a bid to quick-fix the matter, has ordered his officials to holiday in France on private vacations.

Should foreign governments extend invitations to French officials in future, that trip will have to be approved by none other than Fillon, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

"It's only by being irreproachable that highly placed decision makers will be able to shore up citizens' confidence in the institutions of the state," Sarkozy said in a statement.

"That which was common several years ago can be seen as shocking today," he added.

Revelation of Fillon's junket follows the more embarrassing story of Foreign Minister Michhle Alliot-Marie's free holiday ride on a corporate jet while in Tunisia for the purposes of sidestepping the onset of the revolution, which ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Alliot-Marie has resisted calls for her resignation so far. Following the revelations about the prime minister's trip, analysts say she is safe since her resignation would put even more pressure on Fillon, a centrist figure appreciated by all sides in France.

Earlier this week, Fillon's office had said in a statement that his family had enjoyed a free holiday from December 26 to January 2 in the Nile resort of Aswan, then went on a Nile boat ride and a flight on an Egyptian government plane to go sightseeing.

"The Prime Minister was lodged during the visit by the Egyptian authorities," the statement said, adding that unlike Alliot-Marie, Fillon's trip happened before any hint of anti-government protests in that country,

It was like an official visit because Fillon had met Mubarak in Aswan for 90 minutes on December 30, the statement added. (ANI)

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