France could release 230 mn euros of Libyan assets: Juppe

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French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday that France could "very soon" release 230 million euros of the previous regime's frozen assets to the Libyan central bank.

Juppe, who arrived in Tripoli for a two-day visit, also said it was up to the Libyan people to decide what kind of democracy they want.

"It (France) has already taken a decision to unfreeze the funds," Juppe said at a news conference with Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib.

"I confirmed to the prime minister that unfreezing of 230 million euros ($300 million) could happen very soon for the benefit of the Libyan central bank," he said, adding that Paris was working at the UN Security Council to release billions of dollars in assets still frozen.

Libyan leaders have regularly called upon world powers to release these assets to meet the daily needs of the government, including for salaries, and to kick-start reconstruction activities across a country severely devastated by the conflict that ousted long-time leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Juppe also said only the Libyans themselves could decide the kind of democracy they wanted.

"It is upon the Libyan people and the Libyan people alone to choose their future, to build democracy as they conceive it and to choose their priorities," he said after talks with Kib.

Western nations have raised concerns after Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the ruling National Transitional Council, said in a speech at an October 23 liberation day rally that Islamic sharia law will be the main law in the new Libya.

Afterwards, France and the European Union called for respect for human rights in Libya.

Shortly after his speech, Jalil tried to assure the international community by saying that Libyans were "moderate Muslims."

In building democracy in Libya, Juppe said that France "was ready to help... while respecting the sovereignty of Libya."

Kib said he wanted to reassure Libyans about the intentions of France.

"We have seen and heard from him (Juppe) that France respected our right to determine our path... and that France... would not influence the way we choose," Kib said at the news conference.

Asked about the implementation of sharia and the role of women in the "new Libya", Kib stressed that the country was "a moderate Muslim nation."

"We respect all other faiths. The question lies in understanding the word sharia," he said, adding that "women will have a major role in the present and the future of Libya."

© 2011 AFP

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