The United States will present a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on Wednesday asking it to unfreeze $1.5 billion in Libyan assets for humanitarian needs, a council diplomat said.
The diplomat, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said he did not expect a vote on the resolution on Wednesday. The funds, he added, are needed for fuel and other emergency items and would not be used for military activities.
Western diplomats said the United States took the move to the council because South Africa had blocked an easing of restrictions at the UN sanctions committee.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday that Britain was working with allies at the UN to unfreeze Libyan assets which were blocked after Mouammar Qaddafi tried to brutally suppress an uprising.
“Diplomatically we’re engaged at the United Nations and elsewhere to pave the way for the unfreezing of assets,” Hague said.
Hague’s remarks came shortly after a French diplomatic source said Paris was also seeking a UN resolution to unblock assets.
“The objective is to come up with a resolution,” a French source said, while Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the Libyan rebels trying to form a government after overthrowing Qaddafi needed the funds.
“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,” Valero said.
Valero said that discussions were at a “preliminary stage” and would not confirm the report that a resolution was being drafted.
“For France, and for all of its partners, the priority is to help the Libyans take control of their own destiny,” he said.
Earlier, a British government source told AFP that London was seeking a new Libya resolution at the UN, which would include releasing assets to help rebels set up a government and meet urgent humanitarian needs.
The government source in London told AFP that Britain was “seeking a resolution at the United Nations.”
“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 ($20 billion, 14 billion euros) but that is not necessarily the amount that would be unfrozen,” it added.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution freezing the regime’s assets abroad after Qaddafi cracked down on protests in February but Western powers now want to release the assets after the rebels’ triumphant march on Tripoli.
Meanwhile, the UAE foreign minister said on Wednesday that as much as $700 million in Libyan assets is held in the United Arab Emirates and could be released as soon as the United Nations gives approval.
“I am not sure of about the amount of assets, it is in the range of $500 million to $700 million. The only way to unfreeze those assets is through a Security Council resolution,” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan told a news conference. “Definitely the UAE wants to see it as soon as possible and welcomes such a thought.”
The minister said the Arab League would discuss whether to grant Libya’s incoming government a seat at a meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday. He will travel to the insurgent bastion Benghazi next week.