Italy to unfreeze $505 million in Libyan assets

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that Italy plans to release €350 million ($505 million) in frozen Libyan assets, as Britain pressed South Africa to drop its opposition to UN Security Council moves to unfreeze $1.5 billion.

Berlusconi made the announcement following a meeting in Milan with the leader of Libya's rebel Cabinet, the second stop of a European diplomatic tour to push for the urgent release of billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets.



Mahmoud Jibril was in Paris on Wednesday and heads from Italy to Istanbul for a meeting of the so-called Contact Group of 30 nations.



The Libyan opposition says it urgently needs at least $5 billion in frozen assets to pay state salaries, maintain vital services and repair critical oil facilities.



"We are here for an urgent call," Jibril said. "There are high expectations. While the liberation of Tripoli is in the last and final stages, the battle is still going on. We need urgent help."



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.



The U.N. Security Council, meanwhile, is preparing to vote this week on a resolution that would release $1.5 billion in Libyan assets in U.S. banks that the world body froze to thwart Gadhafi's ability to wage war on his people. Analysts estimate that as much as $110 billion is frozen in banks worldwide.



The United States has been trying for more than two weeks to get the Security Council committee that monitors sanctions against Libya to unfreeze the U.S. assets to pay for immediate humanitarian aid, but diplomats said South Africa objected. In the committee, agreement of all 15 council nations is required.



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 that 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."



Joining the chorus for speedy U.N. action, Turkey's foreign minister pressed the United Nations to urgently unfreeze Libyan assets and alleviate the rebels' financial needs. Speaking at a meeting of the so-called Contact Group of nations leading efforts to stabilize Libya, Ahmet Davutoglu also said NATO operations should be maintained until "physical security prevails."



In Milan, Berlusconi's meeting with Jibril started just moments after the release of four Italian journalists taken at gunpoint in Libya in a raid Thursday. "We consider it a good omen for the future," Berlusconi said.



Berlusconi described the planned release of (euro) 350 million as a first tranche, but he indicated no time frame. Italy has not disclosed the total Libyan assets held in Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler and biggest trading partner. Any release of Libyan assets from Italy or elsewhere would require a U.N. resolution.



The Italian leader also said that the chief executive of the Italian oil giant Eni, Paolo Scaroni, would travel to Libya next week to sign an agreement with the Libyan transitional council to supply gas for vehicles and natural gas to make electricity to meet immediate needs.



Scaroni, who sat in the front row of the press conference with Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, said after that the supplies would be repaid in petroleum when oil production resumes. Eni executives have said that would be about a year after the security situation permits oil workers to resume work at the installations.



Berlusconi repeated Italy's position that the next Libyan government include all elements of civil society, and that the national transition council will not permit acts of revenge against those who remained loyal to Gadhafi.



Trade between Italy and Libya amounted to €11 billion ($15.9 billion) in 2010, before trade between the countries was halted in February with the outbreak of civil war. That was down from a pre-economic crisis high of €20 billion ($28.9 billion) in 2008.



Eni already has dispatched technicians to Benghazi to prepare to restart oil and natural gas production. Eni, which derives 13 percent of its revenues and 15 percent of its production from Libya, pumped about 280,000 barrels of natural gas and oil a day before the civil war.

AP

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Jonathan de Guzman of the Netherlands and Willian of Brazil compete for the ball
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice