AFP - French Prime Minister Francois Fillon admitted Tuesday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak paid for his and his family's New Year holiday on the Nile and lent them a plane to go sightseeing.
The revelation came as France's foreign minister battled calls for her resignation over a New Year holiday in Tunisia during which she used a private jet owned by a tycoon allegedly close to the country's ousted dictator.
Fillon's office rushed out a statement after the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine broke the story about his trip to Egypt, where 300 people have been killed in massive protests seeking to oust Mubarak.
The Fillon family got a free holiday that lasted from December 26 to January 2 in the Nile resort of Aswan, were treated to a Nile boat ride and a flight on an Egyptian government plane to go sight-seeing, it said.
"The prime minister was lodged during this visit by the Egyptian authorities," the statement said, noting that Fillon met Mubarak in Aswan on December 30, before anti-government protests kicked off in Egypt.
"The prime minister, again at the invitation of the authorities, used a plane from the Egyptian government fleet to travel from Aswan to Abu Simbel where he visited a temple," it said.
The prime minister was making this information public "in the interest of transparency," it added, and pointed out that Fillon personally paid for his family’s flight from France to Aswan on a French government plane.
It was also Le Canard Enchaine that broke the story about the foreign minister's end of year holiday in Tunisia, a former French colony.
has said she now deeply regretted her actions but she refuses to step down despite repeated calls from the opposition Socialists.
The outcry over Alliot-Marie came at a delicate time, after France was accused of being slow to react to the Tunisian uprising and of indulging Ben Ali's authoritarian regime.
France had warm ties with Ben Ali during his 23 years in power but just after he was driven out, right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy backed the protest movement and denied him refuge in France.
Last month, when rights groups were reporting that Tunisia's hated police had shot dead dozens of unarmed protesters, Alliot-Marie caused an outcry by suggesting France could help train the force.
Sarkozy last week added his voice to calls for immediate political transition in Egypt as pressure grew on Mubarak to step down amid mass protests.
Mubarak, 82, has said he will hang on until September but not run in that month's presidential election.
Sarkozy's call echoed that of US President Barack Obama, who has told the Egyptian president that an orderly transition needed to begin immediately.