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Protests continue as Tunisia probes finances of ousted president

A Tunisian prosecutor has opened an investigation into the overseas assets of deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his family, as protests continue in the capital Tunis.

Tunisian protestor with flag

Protestors continued to rally in Tunis on Wednesday

Tunisian prosecutors on Wednesday launched an investigation into the overseas assets of the deposed president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his family, as protests continued in the capital, Tunis.

The state news agency TAP says the inquiry will examine possible illegal transactions through bank accounts, real estate and other assets belonging to Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi and other relatives.

In addition, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said at a news conference in Bern that "any funds in Switzerland" would be frozen "with immediate effect."

The same freeze is also being applied to assets stemming from Laurent Gbagbo, who is clinging onto presidential power in Ivory Coast despite losing a presidential election on November 28.

"Switzerland wants to avoid our financial center being used to hide funds illegally taken from the populations concerned," added Calmy-Rey.

A police officer faces protestors during a demonstration

People are angry Ben Ali's RCD party has been included in the new government

Protests continue in the capital

In central Tunis around 2,000 protestors rallied against the inclusion of old regime figures in their new government.

"We want a new parliament, a new constitution, a new republic! People rise up against the Ben Ali loyalists!" chanted protestors.

Four opponents of Ben Ali quit the unity government within a day of being appointed, in protest against the number of old ministers who were still included.

The United Nations is now sending a team of human rights officials to Tunisia to look into weeks of violence and advise the new coalition government.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the team should be on the ground by next week.

Pillay told a news conference in Geneva that more than 100 people have been killed in the violence over the past month.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane

Tunisian Foreign Minister Morjane spent a day with the Arab League on Tuesday

Arab League meets in Egypt

Also on Wednesday, the leader of the Arab League, Amr Mussa warned that the grievances of ordinary Tunisians that sparked the uprising were linked to "unprecedented anger" in the region.

Speaking at an Arab economic summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Mussa warned "the Arab soul is broken by poverty, unemployment and general recession."

"The political problems, the majority of which have not been fixed ... have driven the Arab citizen to a state of unprecedented anger and frustration," he said.

The summit marks the first gathering of Arab leaders since Ben Ali was forced to step down and flee to Saudi Arabia.

However many leaders disagreed there was any comparison between their nations and Tunisia.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said the prospect of a Tunisia-style uprising in Egypt was "nonsense."

Author: Catherine Bolsover (AFP, AP, Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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