US frees Libya of debilitating sanctions

The US said on Friday it was lifting “most” sanctions against Libya to recognise the country’s political transition but kept assets of former strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s family frozen.

The move followed similar action by the UN Security Council as the world seeks to help the fledgling new government in Libya develop in what Washington has called a “responsible” manner.

“Today, after careful consultation with the new Libyan government, the US rolled back most US sanctions on the government of Libya to keep our commitment to the Libyan people,” the White House said in a statement.

The move unlocks all Libyan government and central bank assets within US jurisdiction but keeps assets of Gaddafi and his family frozen.

“These measures, along with the steps taken today by the UN Security Council, will allow the Libyan government to access most of its worldwide holdings,” the White House said.

‘Close partnership’
The Obama administration said it was also helping Libya with technical steps required to make the freed assets available as quickly as possible.

“The US is proud of the role we played in supporting the Libyan people’s efforts to end the Gaddafi regime,” the statement from White House spokesperson Jay Carney said.

“We look forward to a continued close partnership with the new government of Libya during this transitional period and beyond, and believe that these assets can be an important resource for the Libyan people.”

The UN Security Council also lifted sanctions on Libya’s central bank and one of the country’s key foreign investment banks in a bid to ease a cash crunch, diplomats said.

The interim government has stepped up calls in recent weeks to release the estimated $150-billion frozen abroad to help pay salaries and keep services running.

In a letter to the Security Council, National Transitional Council chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said the release of funds was “essential for the economic stability of Libya”.

The official request for the lifting of sanctions was made one week ago and no objections were made by any of the council’s 15-members enabling the assets freeze to be lifted on Friday.—AFP

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