Libya Contact Group states press for release of Libyan assets in ?stanbul meeting



(From L-R) Fathi Al Baja, advisor of political affairs to head of National Transitional Council of Libya, Khalid Al Ghaith, UAE assistant minister, department of economic affairs, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu, Ambassador Kai Eide of Norway attend the political directors meeting of Libya Contact Group in ?stanbul on Thursday. (photo: AA)
The Libyan Contact Group urged the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution freeing up cash quickly in ?stanbul where senior officials from more than 30 nations were meeting on Thursday to discuss ways of assisting Libya’s opposition in the post-Gaddafi era and the unfreezing of billions in cash and assets.
Speaking at the Libya Contact Group meeting of senior diplomats in ?stanbul on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu also urged the United Nations to unfreeze Libyan assets and pledged full international support for a stable, prosperous and democratic Libya.
The US and many European nations also pressed on Thursday for the release of billions of dollars in frozen Libyan funds to help the cash-strapped rebels as the international community moved ahead on planning for a post-Gaddafi era.

Security Council diplomats said South Africa will likely drop its opposition to unfreezing $1.5 million of Libyan assets in US banks. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations have been taking place behind closed doors.

The Libyan opposition said it urgently needs at least $5 billion in frozen assets to pay state salaries, maintain vital services and repair critical oil facilities. Analysts estimate that as much as $110 billion is frozen in banks worldwide.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday that Italy plans to release $505 million in frozen Libyan assets.

Britain pressed South Africa to drop its opposition to a US proposal to unfreeze $1.5 billion in Libyan assets in American banks for urgent humanitarian needs.

Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the US Mission to the United Nations, said the United States was to call for a vote at about 4:30 p.m. EDT on a Security Council resolution to release the funds unless South Africa changes its mind and joins consensus in the council committee monitoring sanctions against Libya before then. The committee requires unanimous agreement of all 15 council members, but a resolution does not.

“We are making progress,” US deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said when asked about a possible deal with South Africa as she headed into a closed Security Council meeting Thursday afternoon.

“We expect to have the necessary support to pass the resolution,” a US diplomat reiterated Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

“We need urgent help,” Mahmoud Jibril, head of the opposition National Transitional Council, said in Milan on Wednesday after meeting with Berlusconi and before heading to the ?stanbul meeting. “We are here for an urgent call. There are high expectations. While the liberation of Tripoli is in the last and final stages, the battle is still going on.”

Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, who led the US delegation in ?stanbul, said the meeting was characterized by an “upbeat spirit and recognition of what our combined efforts have helped to achieve.”

He said the meeting’s participants, including representatives from 28 countries and organizations such as the UN, the European Union, NATO and the Arab League “recognized the considerable work that lies ahead, but reaffirmed the international community’s resolve to enhanced coordination during this transitional period.”

He said the TNC has committed to pursuing democratic reform, upholding Libya’s international obligations and respecting human rights as well as to distribute funds in a transparent manner that addresses the needs of the Libyan people.

“Now more than ever, we will look to the Transitional National Council to live up to those responsibilities and to implement its transition roadmap,” he said. “It is critical that the TNC continue to engage with stakeholders across Libya.”

Jibril warned that stability and security were at risk if rebel salaries, unpaid for four months, weren’t delivered. Among the other urgent priorities, he said, were collecting weapons, rebuilding a justice system and national army, providing care to the wounded in Libya and abroad, and rebuilding power stations.

UN political chief B. Lynn Pascoe said several ministers from the NTC were moving to the capital, Tripoli, even though there is still fighting there.

“It’s clear that the NTC is moving forward to form its government there, and to get its people in place early on, and the UN will be there with them, and right after them as conditions permit,” he told reporters after briefing the Security Council on Mideast issues.

“One thing that the Transitional National Council has made very clear is that they expect the UN to play a strong role in the post-conflict period,” he said. “Any process will be a Libyan-led one. What we are doing is trying to help them.”

The UN had been preparing for the possible deployment of military observers in the event of a ceasefire in Libya, but Pascoe said “there is at this point no plan whatsoever to have any (UN) blue helmets there.”

Italy’s Berlusconi announced plans to unfreeze Libyan assets following the meeting with Jibril, his second stop of a European diplomatic tour to push for the urgent release of billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets.

The United States has been trying for more than two weeks to get the Security Council sanctions committee to unfreeze the US assets to pay for immediate humanitarian aid, but South Africa objected.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called South African President Jacob Zuma and they “agreed that Libya now has the opportunity for transition to a peaceful, democratic and inclusive government and they discussed how the international community should actively and urgently support this process,” Cameron’s office said in statement.

Zuma has pledged to support the release of $500 million, and said African leaders meeting Thursday in Addis Ababa would discuss the unfreezing of additional assets.

British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said South Africa must join others in siding with the Libya people, and believed there would be “huge moral pressure” on Johannesburg.

“They wanted the world at one point to stand with them against apartheid,” Fox told BBC radio. “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.”

Contact group urges Gaddafi to turn himself in

The Libya Contact Group of international powers on Thursday urged Gaddafi to turn himself in to avoid further bloodshed in the North African nation.

In view of the seizure of Tripoli by the National Transitional Council (NTC) forces, they (participants) stressed the need for Gaddafi and his inner circle to turn themselves in to justice immediately in order to prevent further bloodshed and destruction of the national infrastructure,” it said.

Libyan rebel forces began to purge Tripoli’s streets of gunmen still loyal to Gaddafi on Thursday in the final phase of the battle for the Libyan capital.

Rebels said they were confident they could mop up diehard soldiers clinging to a leader now on the run, presumed to be in hiding in the country he ruled for four decades.

But the contact group, made up of 28 different nations and seven international organisations, called on the Libyan people to avoid exacting revenge and stressed the importance of  national reconciliation.

After a meeting of officials in ?stanbul, the Contact Group of allies against Gaddafi called on Libyans to avoid revenge.

“The participants attached utmost importance to the realisation of national reconciliation in Libya,” it said. “They agreed that such a process should be based on principles of inclusiveness, avoidance of retribution and vengeance.”

The rebel NTC has offered a reward for Gaddafi’s capture and the International Criminal Court has charged him with crimes against humanity.

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