U.N. nears vote to release frozen Libyan assets
LONDON - The U.N. Security Council will vote this week on a resolution releasing billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets, a British official said Wednesday.
Diplomats were holding talks later Wednesday to consider a draft resolution drawn up by France, the U.S. and Britain to free up seized Libyan funds to help the country's opposition establish their leadership and pay for vital medical and humanitarian supplies.
"We are engaged at the United Nations and elsewhere to pave the way for the unfreezing of assets, the assets that have been frozen for five months but which ultimately belong to the Libyan people," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters.
Another British official, who demanded anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations, told The Associated Press that a draft resolution on the topic had been circulated at the United Nations and it was hoped a vote would take place Thursday or Friday.
Tentative discussions have also begun on a second resolution to cover the U.N.'s mandate in Libya which currently authorizes the NATO-led air campaign to protect civilians from attack, the official said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said the U.K. hopes to release about 12 billion pounds ($20 billion) of Libyan assets, while the U.S. says it will soon give Libya's opposition between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in frozen Qaddafi regime assets. The U.S. has said the vast majority of about $37 billion in frozen Libyan assets it holds are in real estate and other property.
The European Union is also exploring ways to unfreeze billions of dollars in assets to help the opposition National Transitional Council rebuild the Libyan economy, restore essential services, reform the police and the army, and pay government salaries.
Turkey's foreign minister said the issues would be discussed at a meeting Thursday in Istanbul, and financial support for Libya's opposition is likely to be raised next week when France hosts foreign ministers of the "contact group" of nations leading efforts to stabilize Libya.
The head of Libya's opposition government, Mahmoud Jibril, was holding talks in France later Wednesday with President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss what assistance his authority needs in the days and weeks ahead.
Sarkozy, who championed the costly NATO airstrike campaign against Qaddafi's forces despite a stalemate in recent months, lauded the oft-criticized military alliance.
"The tenacity of the allied forces paid off," he told a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, according to government spokeswoman Valerie Pecresse.
France was the first country to recognize Jibril's government and has been a driver of the NATO airstrike campaign against Qaddafi's forces.
The U.N. is also working on a post-conflict plan for Libya, and NATO planners are drawing up options for a possible role for the alliance in Libya after the civil war ends, officials said.
A defiant Qaddafi vowed to fight on after hundreds of Libyan rebels stormed his compound in Tripoli on Tuesday but did not find the longtime leader.
"The end appears inevitable, and near," Pecresse told reporters in Paris. "France, which took the initiative from the beginning ... wants to continue to do so."
Sarkozy was caught off guard by the uprisings that overthrew autocratic leaders in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year. He compensated by taking an early, strong line against Qaddafi.
"From now on, France's policy in the Middle East and North Africa is clear... Tyranny has no future in the face of democratic aspirations of the people," Sarkozy said Wednesday, according to Pecresse.
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