William Hague looking serious 311.
(photo credit: AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
LONDON — Britain's foreign secretary said Monday that the European Union will discuss a request from Egypt's military rulers to freeze assets held by members of ex-President Hosni Mubarak's ousted regime.
William Hague told the House of Commons that Egypt's new leaders had requested that the UK and others take action against several ex-officials, but did not specify whether they included Mubarak himself.
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Hague said European Union finance ministers would discuss the request later Monday and on Tuesday during their talks in Brussels.
"If there is any evidence of illegality or misuse of state assets we will take firm and prompt action," Hague said.
To impose an asset freeze on an outgoing leader, the EU needs the backing of all 27 member states and usually coordinates its actions with the incoming government.
Last week, the bloc announced a freeze on the assets of 48 ex-Tunisian officials, including former president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali and his wife.
Hague, who last week carried out a three-day, five country tour of the Middle East and northern Africa — but did not visit Egypt — said he spoke Sunday with Egypt's Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.
He told lawmakers he had called on Egypt's military government to quickly set out a timetable for parliamentary and presidential elections.
"It is in our national interest as well as theirs for them to make a successful transition to a broad-based government and an open and democratic society," Hague said.
He said he also urged the immediate release of protesters, journalists and human rights campaigners detained during protests which led to Mubarak's ouster.
"In Egypt, as in Tunisia, there is now a precious moment of opportunity
for the people of Egypt to achieve a stable and democratic future,"
Hague also expressed his concern that unrest in the Middle East could
further stall progress of peace talks between Israel and the
Palestinians. He said both sides must show "the visionary boldness to
return to talks and make genuine compromises."
He also warned that political upheaval in the region should not distract
world powers from the task of curbing Iran's ambition to develop
Britain and allies are discussing "steps to increase the legitimate
peaceful pressure" on Tehran to comply with UN demands to open up its
secretive nuclear program, he said.