Tunisian in French scandal taken off Swiss blacklist

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The name of a Tunisian businessman at the centre of a political scandal involving France's foreign minister was removed on Friday from a Swiss list of associates of Tunisia's ousted president.

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was forced to fight off calls to resign this week over alleged links between former Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the businessman, Aziz Miled, who owned a private jet she used for a holiday.

However, Miled's name was no longer included on a revised and more detailed list of 48 names published on Friday by the Swiss foreign ministry following fresh information given by Tunisia's authorities.

The blacklist forms the basis of a freeze on any possible funds in Switzerland belonging to Ben Ali, his family and his entourage.

"Switzerland adapted its list based on information transmitted by Tunisian authorities under mutual judicial assistance," Jenny Piaget, a spokeswoman for the Swiss foreign ministry, told AFP.

Miled's name was among about 40 included in the first blocking list published on January 19 and revised on January 28.

The allegations raised pressure on Alliot-Marie, who was already under fire over France's position on Ben Ali as he was driven from Tunisia by popular protests last month.

When rights groups were already reporting that Tunisia's hated police had shot dead dozens of unarmed protesters, Alliot-Marie suggested France could train the force to better maintain order.

It later emerged that France had approved the export of police equipment to Tunisia at the height of the violence.

Alliot-Marie admitted she and her family accepted a flight on a jet owned by Miled, but denied he was a close associate of Ben Ali, as the investigative satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine had reported.

Alliot-Marie angrily rejected the newspaper report as "lies" and insisted there were was no question of her resigning "over false claims".

Swiss authorities have said their freeze on Tunisian assets has netted a Swiss franc sum in the two-digit millions.

© 2011 AFP

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