US seeks UN Council pressure to unblock Libya aid
UNITED NATIONS—The United States on Wednesday sought UN Security Council pressure on South Africa to end opposition to unfreezing $1.5 billion of Libyan assets to pay for emergency humanitarian aid.
The Security Council held talks on Libyan aid, and US diplomats said that if a block on releasing the money was not agreed they would seek a full vote by the 15-member body within 48 hours.
South African diplomats said their country did not oppose humanitarian aid but the question of easing UN sanctions requires broader approval of Libya’s opposition transitional government. The South African government wants to wait until after an African Union summit on Thursday and Friday before going ahead.
The dispute over the emergency aid comes as key Security Council members prepare a wider resolution setting out a UN role in Libya after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi and the conditions for the lifting of all sanctions on the country.
The United States first asked the UN’s Libya sanctions committee for permission to unfreeze $1.5 billion of assets on August 8, a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
Some countries raised concerns which the US administration says it has answered. South Africa has continued to block the move on the committee, the diplomat added.
“There is one country that has had a delaying tactic every day for the last four days,” a senior US State Department official told reporters in Washington on condition of anonymity.
The United States circulated a draft resolution on the $1.5 billion at Wednesday’s meeting. If opposition to unfreezing assets is not lifted, US diplomats said they would seek a council vote on the resolution on Thursday or Friday.
“Now it is urgent. This money is needed for fuel for generators in hospitals, desalination plants and other facilities where it could run out in days,” said the western diplomat.
The Security Council imposed sanctions, including freezing the assets of Libyan state entities, in resolutions passed in February and March to put pressure on Gadhafi’s government.
A South African diplomat said his country had approved $500 million of the package which would go to non-government groups.
It still has doubts about money that would go direct to Libya’s National Transitional Council, which is still not fully recognized by the international community, and through a special fund set up by the international contact group on Libya, said the diplomat.
The African Union is expected to give a sign of its attitude to the transitional government at its summit in Addis Ababa.
The United States and European nations say that the UN must now quickly move to change the sanctions to help the opposition National Transitional Council, that many Western governments now recognize.
The UN special envoy to Libya, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib and Ian Martin, the leader of a UN team planning for post-conflict Libya, are in Doha holding talks with the rebel government.
Another Western diplomat said that if the transitional government quickly defeats Gadhafi and establishes itself as the government in Tripoli, the Security Council could pass a resolution on Libya allowing for a UN operation in the country and definitively ending sanctions.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.