Britain, France seek UN resolution to unlock Libya assets

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Britain and France said Wednesday they were seeking a new United Nations resolution to unlock frozen Libyan assets in a bid to deliver urgently needed funds to the anti-Kadhafi rebels.

As rebels battled to cement victory a day after storming the Tripoli compound of embattled leader Moamer Kadhafi, London and Paris, both veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, said a resolution was being discussed.

In Britain alone, around £12 billion ($20 billion, 14 billion euros) of the Libyan regime's assets were frozen this year after Kadhafi launched a bloody crackdown on the rebels.

"Diplomatically we're engaged at the United Nations and elsewhere to pave the way for the unfreezing of assets... that have been frozen for five months but which ultimately belong to the Libyan people," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

A government source in London confirmed Britain was working with its international partners on a UN resolution to release funds to help support the new leadership in Libya.

A diplomatic source in Paris said France was also seeking a new resolution.

The European drive came a day after the United States said it was working through the UN to release up to $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets for the cash-strapped rebels.

Some $30 billion of Libyan assets are frozen in the United States.

Billions of dollars of cash, property and other assets belonging to the Kadhafi regime in the West were frozen in February under a UN Security Council resolution.

With anti-Kadhafi forces now appearing close to total victory in Libya after a grinding six-month fight supported by a NATO bombing campaign, attention has turned to freeing up the cash for the rebel National Transitional Council.

The council, which has won widespread international recognition as the new legitimate authority in Libya, is in need of funds to set up a new government and to meet urgent humanitarian needs.

Elsewhere, Germany, which currently holds a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and Turkey called for a UN resolution to be passed swiftly to unfreeze Libyan assets.

"In New York, we are working on creating the conditions for the UN Security Council to unblock the country's frozen assets abroad for the benefit of the Libyan people," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Tuesday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the Libyans were "urgently in need of financial resources."

Britain and France, which were two of the first countries to launch UN-mandated military action over Libya in March to protect civilians from Kadhafi's forces, confirmed they were seeking a new resolution.

A British government source told AFP that Britain was "seeking a resolution at the United Nations" which would include unblocking frozen assets.

"We are exploring with partners in New York the best way of unfreezing the assets," said the source.

"The total amount frozen in the UK is £12 billion but that is not necessarily the amount that would be unfrozen," it added.

In France, a diplomatic source told AFP that the "objective is to come up with a resolution."

The pledges from the European powers came after the United States said Tuesday it was seeking to release up to $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets to help the rebels in the immediate future.

The figure corresponds to just under half the liquid assets that were frozen in the United States. The remainder of the $30 billion frozen is in property or other forms.

"We are working in the UN sanctions committee to be able to do this," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

© 2011 AFP

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