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.
The militants detonated several explosive-laden cars before trying to break into the prison amid heavy fighting with the prison guards.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah, whose country has tried to mediate in the dispute, said Saturday's meeting had led to limited progress.
Media reported that two police officers had suffered minor injuries in clashes with counter demonstators.
Both the state police and the Secret Service declined to specify the nature of the threat.
EU leaders asked the European Commission, the EU executive, to draw up proposals for new sanctions on Russia over its action in Ukraine within a week, though they did not say when they could be implemented.
Organizers on their Facebook page said the march on Saturday was held to protest police killings, brutality, profiling and cover-ups.
The handovers appeared to mark a slight easing in tension between the two countries after a sharp escalation late last week.
The move is likely to trigger mass protests in the city's Central business district by disappointed democracy activists.
The plan aims for the immediate allocation of about 1.5 billion shekels ($419 million) to the Defense Ministry for some of the costs of the war, it added.
Migrants have been streaming out of North Africa in rickety boats in rising numbers for years.
Maryam al-Khawaja is the daughter of Shi'ite Muslim activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, who has been detained in the Sunni monarchy since 2011 and is on hunger strike.
Pro-Palestinian British MP George Galloway attacked in London street by man said to have been shouting about the Holocaust.
The U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji were detained by militants on Thursday, one of several groups attacked in the volatile frontier between Syria and Israel.
Australia will join Canada, Italy, France, Britain and the United States in providing arms and humanitarian relief as part of a multinational effort to be coordinated by Iraq and other countries in the region.
The activists asked Woolworths to remove Israeli products from its shelves and respect an International boycott of Israel.
Islamabad voiced concern over alleged Indian border violations on Pakistan.