EU foreign ministers agreed Monday to freeze the assets of former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, his wife and their associates. The EU is also expected to look at offering better trade terms to Tunisia to help strengthen its economy.
REUTERS - European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to freeze the assets of Tunisia's former President Zine-al Abidine Ben Ali and his wife, an EU official said.
The sanctions could be extended in future to other people considered to have misappropriated state funds, the official said.
Ben Ali and his family built up interests in many Tunisian companies and industries during his two decades in power, including hotels, banks, tuna exports, construction, newspapers and pharmaceuticals.
He was driven out by a popular revolt on Jan. 14 and sought refuge in Saudi Arabia.
EU ministers meeting in Brussels were also expected to look at ways to offer better trade terms to Tunisia to help strengthen the country's economy.
Since Ben Ali's overthrow, the EU has been trying to create a new relationship with a country with which it developed strong trade and political ties during Ben Ali's 23 years in power.
France, Tunisia's former colonial ruler, Italy and Spain have all had good relations with Ben Ali and his government in recent years, while at the same time urging democratic reforms.
It was not yet clear where the Ben Ali family's assets were held, although Switzerland has said it intends to freeze any deposited there. France has announced measures to block any suspicious movements of Tunisian money.
Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs chief, spoke to Tunisia's foreign minister by telephone on Friday and invited him to come to Brussels this week to discuss how the EU could help the country as it tries to restore stability.
The EU plans to send a team of experts to Tunisia in the coming weeks to help plan new elections.
Date created : 2011-01-31