Britain 'disappointed' at S. African block on Libyan funds
Britain expressed disappointment Thursday at a South African decision to block the immediate release of $1.5 billion of Libyan assets frozen in the United States.
The US is seeking agreement at the United Nations Security Council to unlock the Libyan state funds to provide humanitarian aid as the country's rebels move closer to total victory against leader Moamer Kadhafi's regime.
The funds were frozen under UN resolutions after Kadhafi launched a crackdown on an anti-regime revolt in February.
But South Africa insisted in talks at the UN Wednesday the council wait for the African Union to decide whether to recognise the rebel National Transitional Concil (NTC) at a summit later Thursday before approving the US move.
British Defence Minister Liam Fox said South Africa's decision was disappointing and urged them to reconsider.
"It is very clear what side the Libyan people are on and I think that is what the South African government should respond to, I think there will be huge moral pressure on South Africa," he told BBC radio.
"They wanted the world at one point to stand with them against apartheid.
"I think they now need to stand with the Libyan people, help unfreeze their assets and allow their authorities to get access to the capital they need to rebuild the country and it's disappointing the stance they have taken so far, I hope that even now they will change their minds."
The US has set a Thursday deadline for South Africa to lift a block on releasing the funds, saying that if there was deadlock it would seek a Security Council vote on a resolution demanding that the money be made available "as soon as possible".
© 2011 AFP