Britain, France seeks to unlock Libyan assets at the UN

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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 rebels.

As rebel forces battled to cement their victory a day after overrunning the Tripoli compound of dictator Moamer Kadhafi, officials in Britain and France said they were seeking a new resolution at the UN to release the blocked assets.

It 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.

"Diplomatically we're engaged at the United Nations and elsewhere to pave the way for the unfreezing of assets," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said. A government source confirmed Britain was seeking a UN resolution.

In Paris, a diplomatic source also said France was seeking a new resolution on Libya.

Billions of dollars of cash, property and other assets owned by the Kadhafi regime in Western nations were frozen under a UN Security Council resolution after the dictator launched a crackdown in February on pro-democracy protesters.

In the United States, there are thought to be some $30 billion of assets, while the figure stands at around £12 billion ($20 billion, 14 billion euros) in Britain.

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.

Britain and France, which were two of the first countries to launch military action over Libya in March under a UN resolution 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 unfrozen 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.

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

Separately, foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said: "The National Transitional Council should have access to the financial resources frozen by Security Council resolutions.

"We are currently working to this end in New York, in close cooperation with our partners."

© 2011 AFP

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