US Asks UN to Release $1.5 Billion to Libyan Opposition

Posted August 24th, 2011 at 7:40 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States has introduced a resolution in the U.N. Security Council that would would unfreeze about $1.5 billion in Libyan assets for urgent humanitarian needs.

The assets, which were blocked under U.N. sanctions, would be released to the Transitional National Council led by opponents of embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The draft resolution, introduced Wednesday evening, proposes releasing up to $500 million for international humanitarian organizations and to help fund a U.N. humanitarian appeal. Another $500 million would be used for the purchase of fuel for electricity, water plants and hospitals, and the rest for the provision of social services, including education, healthcare, food subsidies and other humanitarian needs.

South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Baso Sangqu said Pretoria does not object to releasing the first $500 million to international humanitarian organizations and to help fund a U.N. humanitarian appeal, but that it has concerns about the remaining $1 billion. Sangqu said “it is important the the monies of Libya go to the rightful owners of Libya, and to the rightful people of Libya.”

The African Union and Security Council are due to discuss the Libyan issues Thursday. Ambassador Sangqu said Pretoria has not yet recognized the TNC as the sole, legal representative of the Libyan people, and that is another reason why it is reluctant to release the funds.

A U.S. official said Washington prefers to settle the matter by consensus through the sanctions committee and hopes that South Africa, as the sole holdout, will change its position. The official said that even if it does not, the U.S. will bring the resolution to a vote either Thursday or Friday, so the funds can be released quickly.

The African Union, which tried to mediate the Libyan conflict, has yet to recognize the rebels. AU heads of state are scheduled to hold a series of meetings in Ethiopia this week.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said his country would consider establishing relations with the anti-Gadhafi forces if they can “unite the country.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he had invited world leaders from countries who consider themselves “friends of Libya” to meet in Paris September 1 to discuss Libya's future.

In Washington Wednesday, the State Department said U.S. officials are much more worried about proliferation of Libya's conventional weapons than they are about possible misuse of the country's chemical agents and radioactive materials.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he will continue to recognize Gadhafi as Libya's legitimate ruler and again condemned the NATO airstrikes in the country. He accused Western countries of seeking to steal Libya's resources.