Brussels, Feb 01 (Agencies): Europe's foreign ministers on Monday froze the assets of ousted Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia from 1987, and his wife in response to a request from the Tunisian authorities.

The move against Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi were decided at a meeting of the European Union's 27 ministers.

Several dozen associates of the deposed leader, listed by the new authorities in Tunis, may face similar action in the following days, diplomatic sources said.

Tunisia's former leading couple and their associates are suspected of having pocketed much of the country's wealth for several years and of having taken personal stakes in much of the economy. The EU has also assured to assist the transitional government in organising free elections.

The bloc too will resume dialogues begun under the Ben Ali regime in May 2010 to offer Tunisia a special status in its ties with the EU enabling tariff cuts to boost trade and better cooperation with the union.

An EU mission flew to Tunis on Monday to monitor the situation on the ground and the country's new Foreign Minister Ahmed Abderraouf Ounais is due in Brussels on Wednesday for talks.

"I believe the situation there is very calm," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "This is a moment where we can see real change and we will move forward."

The recent unrest in Tunisia and the wave of anti-government protests in Egypt dominated the regular meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels amid pressure for Europe to speak up on the disturbance in its Arab neighbourhood.

Ashton urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to urgently heed the calls of change from the street and immediately enter talks with the opposition.

In addition to her meeting with the Tunisian minister on Wednesday, Ashton will hold talks with Yemen's foreign minister to urge one of the Arab world's poorest countries to move forward on the road to democracy and offer the union's assistance to that end.