Geneva, (Agencies): The Swiss government has ordered a freeze on any assets belonging to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his entourage shortly after he was forced from office, the Foreign Ministry said.

The Ministry in a statement said, "The Federal Council (government) has decided to freeze any assets of the former Egyptian president and his entourage in Switzerland with immediate effect."

It added that the three-year freeze was aimed at preventing any risk of embezzlement of Egyptian state property.

Apart from any cash or investments in Swiss bank accounts, the order, which was published at 5:30 pm (2200 IST) according to Swiss news agency ATS, also applies to the sale or transfer of any residential or commercial property.

The Swiss government also called on Egyptian authorities "to respond to the legitimate desire of the Egyptian people in a credible, participatory and transparent manner."

The Swiss ambassador in Egypt described the situation as people massed on the streets of Cairo as "World Cup euphoria multiplied by 10", ATS reported.

Swiss authorities slapped a similar freeze on the assets of Tunisia's ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last month a few a days after he was ousted.

The 30-year-old autocratic regime in Egypt came to an end on Friday as the 82-year-old Hosni Mubarak resigned as President and handed control to the military, bowing down after a historic 18-day wave of pro-democracy demonstrations by hundreds of thousands.

A massive crowd in Cairo's central Tahrir Square exploded into joy, waving Egyptian flags, and car horns and celebratory shots in the air were heard around the city of 18 million in joy after Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on national TV just after nightfall.

"In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as President of the republic," a grim-looking Suleiman said. "He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state. God is our protector and succor."

Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, whose young suporters were among the organizers of the protest movement said, "This is the greatest day of my life."

"The country has been liberated after decades of repression," he said adding that he expects a "beautiful" transition of power.

Prez flees Cairo

In what was labelled as ‘Friday Farewell’, reports indicated that a defiant President Hosni Mubarak may have left Cairo for the southern resort city of Sharm-el-Shaikh, while massive outraged Egyptians thronged the streets in what they called the "final stage" of their campaign to topple an autocratic regime, laying a siege at the presidential palace.

The build up for celebrations turned into one of despair and widespread anger after Mubarak refused to budge from his position on Thursday night and the crowds moved out from the Tahrir Square on the 18th day of their protests, marching to the presidential palace and surrounding the state television building, institutions they consider symbols of the regime.

Some reports said he may be bound for his residence at the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh.

Farewell Friday

In what was labelled as a 'Farewell Friday', huge rallies snaked into the city centre after the Friday prayers, and many parts of the country observed a shutdown with some more workers joining the protesters.

Labelling Friday's march, in which a call was given for millions to come onto the streets, as a 'Farewell Friday', hordes of people also started converging on Mubarak's Abedeen Palace and the state-television office, vowing to take the struggle to the "doorsteps of the political institutions", Al Jazeera reported.

As hundreds of people surrounded the radio and television building in Cairo, which they see as a mouthpiece of Mubarak's regime, some reports said several employees of the state television had quit jobs.

In a significant boost to the marchers, leading clerics of the Al Azhar mosque also joined their ranks after the Friday prayers.

Army support for Prez

Earlier in the day, the Army appeared to throw its weight behind Mubarak's transition plan, assuring the protesters that it will guarantee a free and fair election in September, and asking them to go home and get to work.

Hugely disappointed by the military's stand, the protesters pledged to take their campaign to a final stage, calling on millions to join the street protests on a 'Farewell Friday'.

The developments came a day after Mubarak appeared on television and dashed the hopes of the people by reiterating that he will step down only in September. The 82-year-old also announced that he would be transferring some of his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman.

The 'Go Mubarak, Go Suleiman' cry growing shriller, the infuriated protesters marched to the Abedeen palace after Friday prayers and almost laid a siege to it, amid a heavy military presence.

 

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