Libya’s Rebel Envoy Tours Europe for Frozen Assets

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 6:10 am (UTC-5)
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The head of Libya's rebel National Transitional Council is continuing his tour of European countries Thursday in the hopes of securing the release of billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets.

Mahmoud Jibril is scheduled to meet in Italy with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a day after he met French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

While in France Wednesday, Jibril said the “bigger, more fierce battle” of rebuilding Libya has not yet started. He urged the French government to release Libya's frozen assets as soon as possible, saying he hoped this crisis could be the start of a strategic partnership with the European nation.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged he would support NATO's mission in Libya to protect civilians for as long as it is required. Earlier, Mr. 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.

Separately, the United Nations Security Council is preparing to vote on a resolution that would unfreeze about $1.5 billion in Libyan assets for urgent humanitarian needs.

The draft resolution, which the United States introduced late Wednesday, 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.

A vote is expected either Thursday or Friday.

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.

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.