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Swiss identify nearly $1 billion assets to freeze

The Swiss government says it has identified potential assets to be frozen worth 830 million Swiss francs ($957 million) belonging to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi and the ousted presidents of Egypt and Tunisia.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, speaking at a diplomatic meeting in the Tunisian capital Tunis, said Monday that the assets include 360 million Swiss francs ($415 million) that may belong to Gadhafi or his entourage.

She said Switzerland had also linked some 410 million francs ($473 million) to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and 60 million francs ($69 million) to Tunisia's deposed autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Switzerland has ordered banks and other financial institutions to freeze possible assets belonging to the three men and their key supporters to prevent the funds from being secretly withdrawn. The Swiss government has said that Tunisia and Egypt have already started legal proceedings to claim the assets.

The government added that neither country has provided the necessary evidence of possible criminal wrongdoing involving the money to start unblocking the frozen assets of the ousted presidents.

Switzerland froze assets linked to Ben Ali and 40 people in his entourage on Jan. 19, less than a week after he was toppled by popular revolt. On Feb. 11, Switzerland froze assets of Mubarak and his associates.

The Swiss government sent diplomatic cables to Tunisia and Egypt in late March explaining that they must submit evidence so authorities can decide if the offenses are punishable in Switzerland.

In both cases, the money will remain locked away for three years while the two countries satisfy the Swiss legal requirements.