EU's Ashton to Egypt: Official



EU`s Ashton to Egypt: Official Brussels: Chief EU diplomat Catherine Ashton will visit Egypt next Tuesday, 24 hours after foreign ministers consider an asset freeze against henchmen from the outgoing regime, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

English baroness Ashton "will go to Egypt on Tuesday, she has been invited" by Egyptian authorities, the spokesman told AFP, after Cairo initially blocked her attempts to match a trip to Tunisia with a similar visit to Egypt.

Ashton has a mandate from the leaders of the EU's 27 states to explore moves to boost democracy in North Africa while mobilising opportunities for investment from European states.

EU governments weighed requests from Egypt to freeze the assets of Hosni Mubarak's inner circle already yesterday, with France itself deciding to heighten money-laundering surveillance.

Cairo wanted a freeze slapped on assets belonging to seven people, including five parliamentarians and former government ministers and two of their associates. New names may be added to the list.

France has asked financial operators to pay "special attention" and apply "extra measures of vigilance" to suspect Egyptian assets.

The United States is also looking at similar sanctions, after Switzerland on Friday froze assets just hours after Mubarak's fall.

PTI