Aid for Libya begins to flow as US, SA end spat

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday released $1.5-billion of seized Libyan assets to be used for emergency aid after the United States and South Africa ended a dispute over the money.

The assets were frozen in US banks, but South Africa had blocked the release on the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee, saying it would imply recognition of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC).

With the dispute dragging on for two weeks, the United States had threatened to seek a full UN Security Council vote on Thursday to make the assets available.

The last-minute accord with South Africa meant that the United States did not press for the vote. A new request was immediately made and approved by the Libya sanctions committee, diplomats said.

“The money will be moving within days,” a US diplomat said.

The new request made no mention of the transitional council, only that the money would be directed through the “relevant authorities”.

Neither South Africa nor the African Union has recognised the NTC, and South African diplomats had insisted that sending money to the rebel government implied international recognition.

South Africa’s UN ambassador Baso Sangqu said that an African Union summit in Addis Ababa had approved the accord with the United States.

He added, however, that “these concerns are not going to go away until and unless the AU has taken” a decision on recognition.

“We are very pleased with the outcome,” deputy US ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told reporters after the accord was struck.

“It is extremely important that everyone on the council recognises the need to support the Libyan people at this time,” she said, adding that the “relevant authorities are the NTC”.

The United States said on Thursday that the $1.5-billion of Libyan assets it wants released would pay for UN programmes, energy bills, health, education and food, and would not be used for any “military purposes”.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said $500-million would go toward UN programmes in Libya, including $120-million for services provided by UN agencies such as the World Health Organisation, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN children’s fund, Unicef, and the World Food Programme.

“The rest of that $500-million would be held to pay for future UN-led programming,” Nuland said.

Another $500-million will go towards paying for energy bills owed to foreign entities which provide electricity for desalination plants, hospitals and other public facilities.

“None of this will go for lethal or military purposes,” Nuland insisted.

The third tranche of $500-million will be placed in a so-called Temporary Financial Mechanism, set up in June by the international community, and will pay for future health, education and food needs.

AU ‘undermined’
President Jacob Zuma had argued that the Libyan crisis was the latest example of Africa being shown a lack of respect by the rest of the world. “Those who have the power to bomb other countries have undermined the AU’s efforts and initiatives to handle the situation in Libya,” he said.

“The situation in Libya has been of concern as it has been accompanied by the undermining of the African continent’s role in finding a solution. We could have avoided a lot of loss of life in Libya,” he said.

Zuma said powerful nations had abused the Security Council resolution “to further interests other than to protect civilians and assist the Libyan people”.

Domestic hostility towards Zuma for supporting the UN resolution has been led by the African National Congress Youth League.

Some ANC members feel residual loyalty to Gaddafi for his support during the struggle against apartheid. Former president Nelson Mandela was once quoted as saying: “Those who feel irritated by our friendship with President Gaddafi can go jump in the pool.” – AFP, Staff reporters

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade cling to power appears to be in increasing jeopardy as anti-government protesters grow more impatient. For more news click here.

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