LIBYA: U.S., U.N., EU may release frozen Libyan assets to new government
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The United States is working with the United Nations to release from $1 to $1.5 billion in U.S.-held frozen Libyan assets, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a briefing in Washington DC on Tuesday.
Nuland said officials plan to give the assets to Libyan rebels’ National Transitional Council for humanitarian purposes and to “help it establish a secure, stable government.’
The U.S. has $37 billion in frozen Libyan money, while Germany blocked 7.3 billion euros. Britain has frozen about 12 billion pounds and the Netherlands has frozen 3 billion euros, according to the Associated Press.
While they wait for the green light from the U.N., Germany and the Netherlands each agreed to lend the Libyan rebels 100 million euros to fund immediate rebuilding and humanitarian needs. The money will then be deducted from the assets they unfreeze.
Nuland said U.S. officials were confident the money would be used properly.
“We would not have taken this step if we didn’t have confidence that the money would get to the people who need it,” she said.
Nuland also said it was clear the Kadafi regime has nearly collapsed and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday about how the U.N. could provide Libya with humanitarian relief, security assistance and help writing their constitution.
Once the UN gives its approval, European Union member countries were also preparing to unfreeze Libyan assets, according to Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, who spoke with reporters in Brussels Tuesday.
Libya’s transitional government will need money to pay public sector workers such as policemen and nurses, ensure stores are stocked and the economy can be redeveloped, Ashton said.
She said she held discussions with the EU’s 27 member states, the leader of the Libyan National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, and Ban Ki-Moon.
“This is a rich country. The question is how to get the economy moving again quickly,” Ashton said.
Ashton did not say whether the EU was pushing for sanctions to be lifted before Kadafi’s regime is officially overthrown. She said she will travel to New York Friday to discuss Libya strategy with officials from the Arab League, the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation under the auspices of the U.N.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called for the U.N. Security Council Tuesday to quickly pass a new resolution that would unblock Libyan assets, which he said was vital to rebuilding Libya.
Members of the rebel National Transitional Council in Benghazi said Tuesday that they plan to fly to Tripoli Wednesday to start forming a new government.
Jalil, the transitional council’s leader, told the BBC that under the new government, Kadafi’s aides will face justice and fair criminal trials.
He advised Libyans to be tolerant, saying they should ‘avoid taking matters into their own hands and... abide by court rulings.’
He and other leaders of the new government have expressed concern about possible revenge attacks by groups within the revolutionary army.
The international Libya Contact Group will meet in Istanbul in “the coming days” to discuss steps to aid Libya at its “historical juncture,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in televised comments from Benghazi Tuesday.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Top photo: Rebel fighters gesture inside Moammar Kadafi’s main compound, Bab Azizia, in Tripoli, Tuesday. Credit: Sergey Ponomarev / Associated Press