World Bulletin / News Desk
Switzerland has blocked nearly one billion Swiss francs ($1.07 billion) in stolen assets linked to dictators in four countries at the centre of the Arab spring - Egypt, Libya, Syria and Tunisia - the Swiss foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
Swiss authorities are cooperating with judicial authorities in Tunisia and Egypt to speed restoration of the funds, but it is expected to take years, said Valentin Zellweger, head of the international law department at the Swiss foreign ministry.
"Today a total of one billion francs is blocked in the framework of Arab spring," he told a news briefing in Geneva, giving the latest figures for funds frozen since early 2011.
The bulk of the assets, nearly 700 million francs, are tied to former President Hosni Mubarak and his entourage, he said.
Swiss foreign minister Didier Burkhalter held talks in Cairo on Sunday with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamal Amr on judicial cooperation to restore the embezzled funds, he said.
Some 60 million francs linked to ousted Tunisian president Ben Ali has also been seized, Zellweger said. In line with U.N. Security Council sanctions, 100 million francs linked to the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and 100 million francs linked to Syrian President Bashir al-Assad and associates are blocked.
Switzerland has worked hard in recent years to improve its image as a haven for ill-gotten gains, seizing the assets of deposed dictators and agreeing in 2009 to soften strict bank secrecy to help other countries catch tax cheats.
"In the past, the affair that was resolved most quickly was Abacha and it took 5 years," Zellweger said, referring to assets linked to the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.
Zuma was due to meet Lesotho's Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to try to resolve a political crisis in the small mountain kingdom after an apparent coup
The swift end to the ISIL's encirclement of the Shi'ite Turkmen town of 15,000 came amid a push by Kurdish peshmerga, Shi'ite militias and Iraqi troops, after U.S. air strikes
The official Saudi Press Agency reported that the 17 were were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 2-1/2 years to 26 years.
Berlin has announced it will send military supplies that will arm more than 4,000 Kurdish troops.
Mohammad Mohaqeq, one of Abdullah's vice presidential running mates, told Reuters the two sides could not agree on the powers of the chief executive, blaming the Ghani camp for hardening its position
Before his disappearance, activist and lawyer Mudar Hassan Khadur represented a rare but growing voice of public dissent among Alawites
The group was being held at a centre for illegal immigrants near the capital Skopje and that Macedonia plans to repatriate the immigrants to Greece.
If Ukraine scrapped its non-alliance status after the Oct. 26 vote, NATO would discuss with Kiev "how to move forward", Rasmussen said
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the government would not hesitate to enforce its writ and was considering cracking down against those attacking state institutions.
The government will seek to bring all abductees back regardless of whether they have been officially recognised as abducted
Negotiators hope a deal can draw a line under the decades of hostilities and instability in the desert north of the West African nation.
Protests descended into deadly chaos over the weekend, with demonstrators clashing with police in a central area near many government buildings and embassies
Israel announced the appropriation of land in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem, a move which an anti-settlement group said was the biggest such claim in 30 years
Miguel Vasquez, a spokesman for the Mayan elders, defended their decision, saying "the constitution protects us because we need to conserve and preserve our culture."
Voters in Scotland will decide on Sept. 18 whether they want to form an independent state with opinion polls showing Scots are likely to vote to keep their 307-union with England intact.
Iceland cut the level back to orange - the next highest level - saying the eruption was not creating ash.