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Tunisian president asks Swiss to give back funds

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09:31 CEST+02:00

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on Monday urged Switzerland to accelerate the restitution of frozen assets belonging to ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to his country.

"We want this money returned as soon as possible," Marzouki told Swiss television RTS.

"If it's returned in 50 years' time like with money of the Jews, that's pointless," he said, referring to Jewish assets deposited in Swiss banks during World War II which were only returned to Holocaust survivors or their descendants five decades later.

He underlined that his country is in pressing needs of the funds.

"We have 800,000 unemployed people. The regions are about to explode because people cannot stand any more misery," he said.

On January 19th 2011, Switzerland froze assets belonging to the Ben Ali regime amid the authorities' repression of peaceful demonstrations.

Bern said in October that some 60 million francs ($63 million) worth of Tunisian assets had been blocked.

Marzouki said the figures were "derisory."

"I think we are talking about just 10 percent of the assets which have been deposited in Swiss banks," he said.

The Swiss foreign ministry said in response that the country "is determined to return as soon as possible the assets currently blocked in Switzerland the ilicit origins of which have been established.

"It hopes that the questions of legitimate ownership of the funds blocked in Switzerland are quickly resolved by judicial authorities and that the illegally obtained assets can be restituted."

Marzouki will be in Geneva to attend the International Labour Organization's annual meeting which opens on Wednesday.

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