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Shoukry: 'No legal reason' restricting Ahmed Shafiq

Foreign minister's remarks follow confusion over whether Egypt's ally UAE has placed a travel ban on Ahmed Shafiq.

Ahmed Shafiq

There is no legal reason restricting Ahmed Shafiq, the former Egyptian prime minister, from contesting the 2018 presidential elections, according to the country's foreign minister.

Sameh Shoukry made the remarks while participating in a meeting on the Mediterranean in Italy on Friday, just days after Shafiq announced his intention to run.

Shafiq, a former Egyptian air force commander who currently lives in the UAE, announced his intention on Wednesday to run in the upcoming elelction.

Later in the day, he said in a video message that he had been blocked from leaving the UAE.

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, a close ally of the UAE, is widely expected to seek a second term but has yet to announce it.

"I see no reason why he should not run. I say that as a layman. I know he's had some issues with the judiciary. I am not sure whether those have been resolved or not," Shoukry said in Rome.

"But in principle he is free to represent himself to the electorate. As in any society, it's up to the electorate to decide."

Khaled Ali, a prominent Egyptian rights lawyer, has also voiced his intention to contest the 2018 elections.

Trial in absentia

After losing the closely contested 2012 presidential election to his Islamist rival Mohamed Morsi, Shafiq fled to the UAE.

He was placed on trial in absentia in Egypt and found guilty of corruption charges.

He was later acquitted, clearing his path for a potential return to Egypt.

In his video message, Shafiq said that UAE officials had placed a travel ban on him, preventing him from embarking on a tour of Egyptian expatriate communities.

"I reject any intervention in Egypt's affairs by preventing me from participating in a constitutional right and a holy mission to serve my country," Shafiq said.

"I call on the UAE leaders to order the lifting of any restrictions on my ability to travel," he said.

Anwar Gargash, UAE's junior foreign minister, hit back at Shafiq's "lack of gratitude" via Twitter.

"[Shafiq] took refuge in the UAE and ran away from Egypt after the results of the 2012 presidential election. We presented him with every facility and generous hospitality despite our severe reservations about some of his positions," Gargash said.

Samer Shehata, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, USA, said it was unknown if Sisi was behind Shafiq's alleged travel ban.

Speaking from Norman, Oklahoma, Shehata said Shafiq's inability to leave the UAE was to the advantage of Sisi and also benefits the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

"The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are among the staunchest supporters of the current Egyptian president, so they have an interest in Sisi continuing," Shehata said.

"They are in favour of Sisi staying in power and not in seeing [the appearance of] any potential challengers."

However, Shehata thinks Shafiq has got little chance of actually winning the presidential election.

"The reality is that the system is engineered so that Sisi will win. He will win another term next year", he said.

Shafiq was prime minister for just over a month during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, which led to the fall of long-serving leader Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi was removed in 2013 in a coup led by Sisi, then Egypt's defence minister, but Shafiq remained in the UAE.

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