Lawyer: Tunisia welcome to Ben Ali's Swiss assets

The Tunisian government is welcome to any of its deposed dictator's assets it can find hidden in Swiss banks, said his Beirut-based lawyer in a statement Monday, after previously denying there were any such funds.

Akram Azoury said in response to accusations that his client Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, ruler of Tunisia for 23 years, had hidden money away in Swiss accounts, he had authorized the Swiss government to turn over all such funds to the Tunisians.

"You are authorized to transfer any so-called assets or economic resources to the Tunisian state without needing to resort to any judicial or extra-judicial measures and without referring to my client," Azoury wrote in a letter he said he had sent to the Swiss ambassador in Beirut.

Azoury said it was a follow-up to his statement May 30 saying his client had no funds in Swiss accounts and he would gladly accompany Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki to Switzerland to repatriate any money he could find under Ben Ali's name.

Marzouki and other Tunisian officials have accused Ben Ali of squirreling away state funds abroad for his own use.

Tunisians last year overthrew Ben Ali in a popular uprising. He fled to Saudi Arabia, which has ignored Tunisian requests for his extradition.