The Coca-Cola Company plans to defend itself against a property claim from three Egyptian citizens living in Canada.

Coca-Cola Co. was reacting after the US Supreme Court dismissed a request from the soft drinks giant to block the lawsuit from the Bigio family. The Bigios claim that property now leased to a Coca-Cola Co. bottler in Egypt was seized from the family in the 1960s by the Egyptian government.

The family launched its legal action against Coca-Cola Co. in 1997 as The Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Egypt, in which Coca-Cola Co. holds a 42% stake, leases the property from local insurance firm Misr.

The Bigios has insisted that its case is heard in the US as the family feels it is not safe enough to pursue its claim in Egypt. Yesterday, the US Supreme Court said the family could proceed with the lawsuit in the US.

However, Coca-Cola Co. has told just-drinks today (20 March) that it is not "the proper defendant" in the case. "This case involves a dispute over ownership of property in Egypt. The Coca-Cola Company is not the proper defendant," a spokesman said.

"We have never had, and currently do not have, any ownership interest in the property at issue in the litigation. The company has a number of strong defences it will assert in district court." The spokesman declined to comment further on the nature of the case.

In the past, Coca-Cola has agreed to have the case heard in Egypt, arguing that the Bigios claim turns on an interpretation of government documents in Egypt.