London, Feb 9 (IANS) French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has admitted he enjoyed a New Year holiday in Egypt sponsored by President Hosni Mubarak.
Fillon’s office said his family were treated to a free holiday from Dec 26 to Jan 2 in the Nile resort of Aswan, then went on a boat ride on the river, and used an Egyptian government plane for sightseeing, all courtesy to Mubarak, the Telegraph reported here.
“The prime minister was lodged during this visit by the Egyptian authorities,” the prime minister’s office was quoted as saying in a statement.
Fillon claimed he admitted to the trip “in the interests of transparency”.
“The prime minister, again at the invitation of the authorities, used a plane from the Egyptian government fleet to travel from Aswan to Abu Simbel, where he visited a temple,” the statement said.
Fillon said he had personally paid for his family’s flights from France to Aswan on a French government plane. Fillon has a Welsh wife, Penelope, and five children. Only once in Egypt did he accept Mubarak’s holiday and excursion offers, his office said.
The admission comes amid calls that Michele Alliot-Marie, France’s foreign minister, resign over a New Year holiday in Tunisia during which she twice used a private jet owned by a tycoon allegedly close to the country’s deposed president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
Unlike Alliot-Marie, however, Fillon’s trip took place before there was any hint of anti-government unrest and there was an official side to it, as he met Mubarak in Aswan for 90 minutes Dec 30.
The Egyptian president has been facing mass unrest in his country for the past 16 days. The agitation which began across Egypt Jan 25 is believed to have been triggered by a similar uprising in Tunisia where nearly a month-long demonstrations led to the ouster of Ben Ali.
Thousands of protesters have gathered at the Egyptian capital Cairo’s Tahrir Square demanding immediate ouster of the 82-year-old leader who is in power for three decades.
The latest revelations sparked outrage among the French opposition, who accused the government of being guests of “Air Ben Ali” and “Air Mubarak”.
Martine Aubry, the Socialist party leader, said: “Day after day ones sees just how much this government has lost its sense of public spirit”.
The revelation is hugely embarrassing for Fillon, who last year ordered government ministers to “prefer the train and commercial flights” whenever possible.