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Ben Ali barred from politics while in Saudi


Ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been barred from any political activity relating to his country while he shelters in Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Wednesday.

"This act (of sheltering Ben Ali) should not lead to any kind of activity in Tunisia from the kingdom... There are conditions, and no act in this regard will be allowed," Faisal told Saudi television.

Saudi Arabia has kept a total blackout on Ben Ali's activities since he landed early on Saturday in the Red Sea city of Jeddah with six members of his family.

In a palace statement, Saudi Arabia said Saturday the move was "out of concern for the exceptional circumstances facing the brotherly Tunisian people and in support of the security and stability of their country."

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia in disgrace after 23 years of iron-fisted rule following a wave of protests in which dozens of people were killed.

"We support the Tunisian people in reaching their goals," Faisal said in Wenesday's television interview, a transcript of which was published by state news agency SPA.

He said the kingdom had agreed to receive Ben Ali in line with "an old tradition."

"It is not the first time that the kingdom helps someone seeking protection... I do not believe that this affects the Tunisian people and their will, or that it represents an interference in internal affairs," the foreign minister added.

Several other leaders who found refuge in Saudi Arabia in the past were taken under the same conditions.

Until his death in 2003, Uganda's ex-president Idi Amin spent more than two decades in exile in the oil-rich kingdom, while being kept away from politics and the media.

Saudi Arabia, which allows political asylum in public interest cases, also granted asylum to ex-Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by Pervez Musharraf and sent into exile in 2000 before returning to his country in 2007.

During his stay in the Gulf monarchy, Sharif as well did not engage in any political activities.