- Associated Press
Monday, February 21, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s top prosecutor on Monday requested that the foreign assets of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his family be frozen, state TV announced.

Security officials said the prosecutor general asked the Foreign Ministry to contact countries around the world so they can freeze his assets abroad. The president’s domestic assets were frozen soon after he stepped down, they added.

The freeze applies to Mr. Mubarak, his wife, and his two sons and two daughters-in-law, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to the press.

The announcement came as British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Cairo to meet with top Egyptian officials, the first trip of a world leader since Mr. Mubarak’s fall. He said he would talk to those in charge to ensure “this really is a genuine transition” to civilian rule.

Egyptian state media on Sunday had quoted Mr. Mubarak’s legal representative as saying the former president had submitted to authorities a declaration that he had no assets abroad. The former president is believed to be residing in his estate at the distant Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Egypt so far has asked for asset freezes of one top businessman and former ruling party official, as well as four former Cabinet ministers, who have been detained pending investigations.

The Mubarak’s family’s wealth — speculation has put it at anywhere from $1 billion to $70 billion — has come under growing scrutiny since Mr. Mubarak’s Feb. 11 ouster opened the floodgates to three decades of pent-up anger at the regime.

Watchdog groups allege that, under Mr. Mubarak, top officials and tycoons were given preferential treatment in land contracts, allowed to buy state industries at a fraction of their value during Egypt’s privatization process launched in the early 1990s, and got other perks that enabled them to increase their wealth exponentially. The perks came at a price — and the Mubaraks were major beneficiaries, the activists say.

Egyptian youth activists meeting with foreign diplomats in Cairo on Monday also singled out the search for Mr. Mubarak’s assets as one of the ways other countries could help Egypt following the three week uprising that transfixed the world.

“When Egypt gets back that money, it won’t need the foreign aid, and you will be relieved of that burden,” said Islam Lutfi, who represent the Muslim Brotherhood on the activist coalition.

In a meeting organized to brief the diplomats from the United States, the European Union and Australia on their activities and future plans, the seven activists said they are deeply worried that the military-backed government is not making enough effort to involve them in the consultations over the post-Mubarak era.

“The message they kept sending to us is that they are not ready to talk to the coalition,” said Ziad al-Oleimi, a member of the coalition that, along with young cadres from the Muslim Brotherhood, represents five youth organizations and political parties that initially launched the anti-Mubarak protests. “They only say we should help them to ensure stability, but never talk about what the people want.”

Mr. al-Oleimi, a lawyer, said that among urgent demands for which the young activists are pressing are the formation of a broad-based government with no Mubarak cronies in it, the lifting of emergency rule, the release of political prisoners and the abolishment of laws on political parties, and free and fair election.

The military council has dissolved parliament, which was stacked with Mubarak loyalists, and suspended the constitution, but it has declined to discuss specific actions on how to purge the political system of senior Mubarak loyalists.

The activists warned they will resort to mass protests again if their demands were not met.

The meeting took place as senior U.S. and European officials arrived in Egypt to meet with the country’s military leaders.

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns came Monday for a three-day visit that included a speech before the Arab League.

“We’ll continue to encourage concrete steps to build confidence and to sustain the momentum of the transition, ranging from the constitutional amendments that are being considered, through careful preparations for elections, to the further release of political detainees, to the lifting of the Emergency Law,” Mr. Burns said to the pan-Arab body.

The British prime minister met with Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and members of the country’s opposition groups.

He told reporters on the plane to Cairo that he would to “talk to those currently running Egypt to make sure this really is a genuine transition from military rule to civilian rule.”

Mr. Cameron told Mr. Tantawi, the head of the military council running the country, that Britain wanted to support Egypt’s transition to democracy. “As old friends of the Egyptian people, we come not to tell you how to do things, but to ask how we can help you do what we know you want to do,” he said.

Mr. Cameron said he would not meet with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest and best-organized opposition group, which was banned but tolerated under Mr. Mubarak.

The group announced Monday that it had chosen a name for its new political party, Freedom and Justice. Though allowed to compete in elections as independents, the Muslim Brotherhood was not allowed to turn itself formally into a political party under the previous regime.

Addressing recent anti-government protests around the region, Mr. Cameron called on Middle Eastern governments to respond with “reform, not repression.”

Libya’s response has been particularly brutal, and Mr. Cameron called its treatment of protesters “completely appalling and unacceptable.”

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