UN releases $1.5 billion for Libya
The UN Security Council on Thursday released $1.5 billion of seized Libyan assets to be used for emergency aid after the United States and South Africa ended a dispute over the money.
The assets were frozen in US banks, but South Africa had blocked the release on the UN Security Council's sanctions committee, saying it would imply recognition of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC).
With the dispute dragging on for two weeks, the United States had threatened to seek a full UN Security Council vote on Thursday to make the assets available.
The last-minute accord with South Africa meant that the United States did not press for the vote. A new request was immediately made and approved by the Libya sanctions committee, diplomats said.
"The money will be moving within days," a US diplomat said.
The new request made no mention of the transitional council, only that the money would be directed through the "relevant authorities."
Neither South Africa nor the African Union has recognized the NTC, and South African diplomats had insisted that sending money to the rebel government implied international recognition.
South Africa's UN ambassador Baso Sangqu said that an African Union summit in Addis Ababa had approved the accord with the United States.
He added, however, that "these concerns are not going to go away until and unless the AU has taken" a decision on recognition.
"We are very pleased with the outcome," deputy US ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told reporters after the accord was struck.
"It is extremely important that everyone on the council recognizes the need to support the Libyan people at this time," she said, adding that the "relevant authorities are the NTC."
The United States said Thursday that the $1.5 billion of Libyan assets it wants released would pay for UN programs, energy bills, health, education and food, and would not be used for any "military purposes."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said $500 million would go toward UN programs in Libya, including $120 million for services provided by UN agencies like the World Health Organization, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN children's fund, UNICEF, and the World Food Program.
"The rest of that $500 million would be held to pay for future UN-led programming," Nuland said.
Another $500 million will go towards paying for energy bills owed to foreign entities which provide electricity for desalination plants, hospitals and other public facilities.
"None of this will go for lethal or military purposes," Nuland insisted.
The third tranche of $500 million will be placed in a so-called Temporary Financial Mechanism (TFM), set up in June by the international community, and will pay for future health, education and food needs.
© 2011 AFP