Europe favours Mubarak assets freeze but needs Egypt request

Written by: Pti
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Brussels, Feb 14 (AFP) European nations today backedcalls to freeze assets held abroad by former president HosniMubarak but held off taking action until Egypt submitted arequest.

Going into talks of the 17 nations that share theeuro, the head of the eurozone area, Luxembourg Prime MinisterJean-Claude Juncker, said he favoured a freeze on assets heldby Mubarak on the continent.

Asked if he would follow Switzerland''s lead Friday inslapping a freeze on Mubarak, Juncker gave a categorical"yes." But an EU spokeswoman, echoing Britain''s position, saidthe ball was in Cairo''s court.

"We are in contact with the Egyptian authorities. Wewill take appropriate measures if this issue comes up, whennecesssary," said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreignpolicy chief Catherine Ashton.

She recalled that an EU freeze on assets held byousted Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his familyand associates was decided "in consultation with the Tunisianauthorities."

"This is a process, we would need an assessment and adecision by the 27 member states," she added.

In London, Britain likewise deflected growingpressure to move on the issue, saying it could only act if itreceived a request from Cairo.

Newspapers reported that Mubarak has assets worthmillions of pounds in Britain, but a spokesman for PrimeMinister David Cameron added that any action should come aspart of an international arrangement.

"As I understand the situation on asset freezing,there has to be some international effort... and a request hasto be made" by the Egyptian authorities, Cameron''s spokesmantold reporters.

Diplomats told AFP at the weekend that broadagreement was in place among the 27 EU nations that, shouldEgypt take action to recover Mubarak wealth, and Brussels beinvited to follow suit, the EU would implement the freeze.

Switzerland on Friday ordered a freeze on anyassets belonging to the 82-year-old and his entourage butBritish officials have said they would likely take actionthrough an international body such as the EU.

"Countries act together to freeze assets so itnormally comes through some international gathering," thespokesman said.

The European Union on Friday slapped asset freezeson 46 associates of ousted Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine BenAli, an EU official told AFP. (AFP)

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