New Libya leaders seek to unfreeze funds
Head of rebel cabinet tours Europe in a bid to secure the release of billions of dollars in UN-frozen Libyan assets.
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2011 12:15
Nicolas Sarkozy, right, was the first European leader to recognise the National Transitional Council [EPA]

The head of Libya's rebel cabinet has launched a European diplomatic tour, hoping to project an image of a government-in-waiting and secure the release of billions of dollars in UN-frozen Libyan assets.

Mahmoud Jibril, who met Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome on Thursday, called on Italy and other nations for help now that the 42-year autocratic regime of Muammar Gaddafi seems near its end.

"It is our expectation that our friends in Italy will provide for the civilians. If we do not receive this assistance, Tripoli and other parts of the country will be beyond control," he said.

"The biggest destabilising element for [the] NTC would be a situation when we would not be able to pay our people their salaries. We also need to be able to provide security and infrastructure.

"None of this can happen if we do not have the funds."

The Italian prime minister said his country will provide gas and oil for the immediate needs of the rebels.

"We have confirmed that we will unfreeze the Libyan assets frozen with Italian banks to the amount of $350m," he said.

In wide-ranging remarks on Wednesday about his country's future, Jibril laid out plans for the post-Gaddafi era, including forming a commission to draft a new constitution that would be subject to a national referendum.

Jibril began his European trip by meeting President Nicolas Sarkozy of France on Wednesday. Along with Britain, France has been the major international power to take a leading role in a six-month air onslaught by NATO in Libya.

His trips come as the UN Security Council prepares to vote this week on a resolution that would release $1.5bn in Libyan assets in US banks that the world body froze as a way to crimp Gaddafi's ability to wage war on his people.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday that the UN should take "urgent" action to unfreeze the assets.

"We need to take action within the UN Security Council to institute the legal framework for the alleviation of the NTC's urgent financial needs, especially finding a solution to the usage of frozen Libyan assets by the NTC is of critical importance," he said.

The United States and the European Union have called for the quick release of assets to help rebuild Libya's economy, restore essential services, reform the police and the army, and pay government salaries.

'Necessary support'

At a joint news conference, Jibril thanked Sarkozy for France's support in "protecting civilians" and appealed for more help "to obtain the unfreezing of Libyan funds so we can transform (our) promises into reality".

Earlier on Wednesday in London, William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said, "We are engaged at the United Nations and elsewhere to pave the way for the unfreezing of assets, the assets that have been frozen for five months but which ultimately belong to the Libyan people."

The US and its allies have been trying for more than two weeks to get the UN Security Council committee that monitors sanctions against Libya to agree to unfreeze the assets. The decision to lift the sanctions must be unanimous.

Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions have been private, said all 15 nations agreed except South Africa, so the US, Britain and France decided to introduce a resolution instead.

"We expect it to have the necessary support to pass," a US diplomat said.

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