Britain says Egypt seeks ex-officials' assets freeze

14th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Egypt has asked Britain to freeze the assets of several former regime officials, and EU finance ministers will discuss the issue in Brussels on Monday, foreign minister William Hague said.

Hague also said Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq had told him opposition figures will be included in a reshuffled cabinet within the next week following the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak.

"We have... received a request from the Egyptian government to freeze the assets of several former Egyptian officials," Hague told parliament.

"We will of course cooperate with this request, working with EU and international partners as we have done in the case of Tunisia.

"The Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister George Osborne) will discuss economic support and possible freezing measures relating to assets with EU finance ministers tonight and tomorrow in Brussels."

Hague added: "If there is any evidence of illegality or misuse of state assets we will take firm and prompt action."

He did not specifically mention Mubarak, who stepped down last Friday after weeks of protests against his authoritarian 30-year rule but remains in Egypt.

The EU and Britain alike had both earlier insisted that they needed a request from Cairo to act against Mubarak's assets, and also that any freeze should be part of an international framework such as the European Union.

The head of the eurozone area, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, said earlier Monday he wanted the region to follow Switzerland's lead in freezing assets held by Mubarak.

Britain's government has been under growing pressure to freeze funds belonging to Mubarak and his entourage amid reports that they stashed millions of pounds in accounts in Britain and elsewhere.

Hague said he had spoken to Shafiq, the Egyptian prime minister, to discuss the situation in the country, where the military have suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament ahead of fresh elections in six months.

"I encouraged the Egyptian government to make further moves to accommodate the views of opposition figures and was pleased to hear from prime minister Shafiq that members of the opposition should be included in a reshuffled cabinet due in the next week," Hague said.

"We would also like to see a clear timetable for free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections and a genuinely inclusive dialogue about the country's future."

Hague said Britain welcomed the Egyptian military's commitment to "all regional and international obligations and treaties," a reference to the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.

© 2011 AFP

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