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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015