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France pushes EU for Ben Ali assets freeze

Protester ducks during gun fire at a demonstration in downtown Tunis
Protester ducks during gun fire at a demonstration in downtown Tunis Reuters

The European Union says it is studying a possible freeze of assets belonging to deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his relatives. France says it has asked the EU to adopt a list of names of Ben Ali allies who will be targeted by the assets freeze.

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“It’s an option on the table,” said Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton. “We are going to see what we can do and stay in contact with the Tunisian authorities.”

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Ambassadors representing EU member states are expected to discuss a possible freeze in Brussels on Friday. EU foreign ministers are set to make a decision before 31 January.

France says it has asked its anti-money-laundering centre Tracfin to block unusual movements of funds on Ben Ali’s accounts.

Switzerland followed suit on Wednesday and blocked funds belonging to Ben Ali and his entourage in the country.

Also on Thursday:

  • Hundreds of Tunisians called on the new governemt to resign on a protest outside the HQ of the former ruling party, the RCD, with troops firing warning shots to stop some demonstrators from scaling a wall surrounding the offices;
  • Former Ben Ali minister, Zouheir M'dhaffer resigned from the new governemt, which held its first meeting in the afternoon;
  • Ammar Amroussia, journalist and spokesperson for the banned Tunisian Workers' Communist Party, was freed - he was jailed in December in the wake of the protest which led to Ben Ali's downfall.
  • Dissident journalist Fahem Boukadous was also freed from a four-year jail term, which started last July.

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