Thursday, May 5, 2011

U.S. to free up frozen Libyan funds for humanitarian aid

"That Money!" what it's all about

Obama’s administration announced about an hour ago that it will seize a small chunk of the billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets in U.S. institutions and use it for humanitarian aid in Libya, in what officials called a fresh signal to the country’s leader, Moammar Gadahfi, that his resources are imperiled.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
The move was disclosed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting here of Arab and NATO countries, which was called to show support for Libyan rebels, who have been trying to topple Gadahfi for three months.

The 22 countries in attendance also agreed to set up a fund to manage donations to help the rebel-controlled areas. Kuwait has pledged $180 million, and Qatar said it would contribute at least $400 million more.

The event marked a deepening of the international commitment to the Libyan opposition, and Mahmoud Jibril, a top official in the rebels’ transitional government, said the funds pledged were “a good start.”

Still, although the amounts to be made available to the rebel leadership are not clear, the results appeared to fall short of rebels’ hopes for pledges of $2 billion to $3 billion in loans and aid. They have said that they are running perilously short of money to buy gasoline, medicine and food and to pay government salaries in the areas they control.

Food shortages in Libya

Jalal el-Gallal, a rebel spokesman, said Thursday that the funds would not be used to buy weapons. “The main thing is to make sure that the economy is kept afloat, that the requirements for food and medicine are met, and needs are supplied for the 2 million-plus people in the liberated area,” he said.

Rebels in Benghazi, their stronghold in the east, and the western city of Misurata have requested assistance.

Libya has become a test case of international resolve to prevent widespread killing by a government facing the anti-dictatorial fervor sweeping the Middle East. A NATO bombing campaign that began nearly seven weeks ago has bolstered the rebels, allowing them to hold on to eastern Libya and Misurata in the face of superior firepower. But the two forces are increasingly bogged down in a stalemate.

N.A.T.O. assult helicopter

NATO and its allies are trying to crank up the pressure on Gadahfi through intensified military strikes, tighter enforcement of economic sanctions and support for the rebels.

“We urge all our partners to join in increasing the pressure on Gadahfi, to sharpen the choice for him and those around him, and to provide much-needed support to the opposition,” Clinton said at a closed-door session with senior diplomats, according to a transcript provided by her staff members.

Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani
 Qatar’s prime minister, Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, said that what was lacking was not a will to donate. “What we had a shortage of is a mechanism. And now we have a mechanism” to ensure donations are handled properly, he said at a news conference. The fund will be overseen by Libyan rebel officials as well as authorities from Qatar and Europe.

Clinton told journalists that “there is an effort, with urgency, to meet the request” for funds from the rebels’ coordinating body, the Transitional National Council. But she urged patience.

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