US to release up to $1.5 bln Libya assets, EU plans to unfreeze assets once UN approves


The United States is seeking to release in the coming days between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets to the Libyan rebels, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday, as the European Union was preparing to unfreeze Libyan assets once the United Nations gives its approval.

Nuland said that the money would come from the roughly $30 billion in Libyan assets that the United States froze earlier this year, only about one-tenth of which, or $3 billion, is liquid.

The spokeswoman told reporters at her daily briefing that the United States was working in the UN sanctions committee to obtain its blessing to release the frozen assets and that it hoped “this process will be complete in the coming days.”

The spokeswoman said the United States was confident that 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 Qaddafi regime has nearly collapsed and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday about how the UN. could give Libya humanitarian relief, security assistance if requested and support on matters such as constitution-writing.

The European Union foreign policy chief, meanwhile, said the bloc was preparing to unfreeze Libyan assets quickly once the United Nations gives its approval.

Libya’s transitional administration will need funds to make sure public sector workers like policemen or nurses are paid, stores have sufficient supplies and the economy can be developed again, Catherine Ashton said in Brussels. She held discussions with the EU’s 27 member states, the leader of the Libyan National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

“This is a rich country. The question is how to get the economy moving again quickly,” the EU foreign policy chief said.

Ashton did not say whether the EU was pushing for sanctions to be lifted before strongman Muammar Qaddafi’s regime is officially toppled.

However, an EU official said that it was up to the individual member states to decide when exactly to remove the sanctions, which on top of asset freezes also include travel bans for people close to the regime. The official declined to be named in line with the EU’s policy for technical briefings.

Libyan rebels currently control about 80 percent of Tripoli, Ashton said, citing her conversation with Jalil.

EU nations are also looking to provide aid, medical supplies and fuel needed in the capital, Ashton said, adding that the rebel forces were expecting conflict around Qaddafi’s compound.

She said she will travel to New York Friday to discuss the strategy on Libya with officials from the Arab League, the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation under the auspices of the UN.