France’s prime minister spent family Christmas break as guest of Mubarak
Admission from François Fillon comes as French ministers’ links with unpopular Middle East regimes come under scrutiny
The French prime minister, François Fillon, has admitted that he and his family spent their Christmas holiday as a guest of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.
The admission came as Egypt’s president was grappling with widespread protests and calls for him to stand down, and as French ministers’ personal links with unpopular regimes in the region came under unprecedented scrutiny.
Fillon is the second French cabinet minister forced to admit accepting the largesse of autocratic leaders in a fortnight. Foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie has faced calls to resign since it was discovered she had taken two flights in a private jet belonging to a Tunisian businessman during the country’s revolution.
A statement from Fillon’s office said he flew to Aswan in Egypt with his Welsh-born wife Penelope and their children on 26 December at the invitation of the Egyptian authorities. They used a French plane reserved for government ministersfor reasons of security, and returned to Paris on 2 January.
It said: “As it was a private visit his ticket and that of members of his family were billed to him personally at a price determined by the air force according to the rules applying to him and that are applied every time he makes a private visit.”
While in Egypt he and his family travelled to visit the temple of Abu Simbel using an official Egyptian plane.
“The prime minister was provided accommodation during his stay by the Egyptian authorities. The prime minister, also at the invitation of the Egyptian authorities, borrowed a plane from the Egyptian government fleet to go from Aswan to Abu Simbel where he visited the temple.
“He also took a boat trip on the Nile under the same conditions”.
Fillon met Mubarak on 30 December in Aswan. The statement, issued by Matignon, the prime minister’s office, said he was providing the information “because he was concerned about transparency”.Fillon had given his support to Alliot-Marie after she faced severe criticism over taking a holiday in Tunisia after the unrest, which led to the overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, and for using a private jet belonging to the businessman Aziz Milad, who was said to have links with the regime.