Germany debates safe haven offer for Mubarak

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Politicians from Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition yesterday openly supported proposals to offer the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, temporary sanctuary at a luxury clinic in Germany.

Several MPs in Ms Merkel's conservative CDU party said they were broadly in favour of plans, allegedly put forward by Washington, to invite Mr Mubarak to Germany to undergo a health check.

"The German government should send a discreet message to Mubarak telling him that he can come to Germany if he wants," said Elmar Brok, a German conservative MEP. "If this is a way to bring about peaceful change in Egypt, then it should be done," he told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.

His remarks were echoed by Martin Schulz, a Social Democrat MEP. "I am in favour of any measures that would enable him personally to make a worthy exit and facilitate a change of power in Egypt," he said.

Ms Merkel has refused to be drawn on the possibility. Human rights activists and Green MPs said they opposed the idea. "Mubarak must not be allowed to avoid his responsibilities to the Egyptian people by escaping to a German clinic," said Cem Özdemir, the Greens' leader.

* The French Prime Minister, François Fillon, admitted last night he and his family received free flights and accommodation from the Egyptian government just after Christmas. The French government was already reeling from revelations that its Foreign Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, had taken trips in a private jet belonging to a close associate of the ousted Tunisian president, Zine Ben Ali, during protests against his rule.