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Libya Welcomes UN Decision Lifting Sanctions on Its Banks

2011-12-17 – www.sherwestravel.com

The Libyan authorities and the public in general welcomed the United Nations Security Council's decision Friday that, in efforts to help Libya deal with a cash crisis, it lifted sanctions on the country's central bank and also on its foreign investment subsidiary, the Libyan Foreign Bank, thus clearing the way for Libya's new interim government to unlock billions of dollars of assets held abroad and in so doing, ease a cash crunch.

The banks' foreign assets were frozen as part of sanctions against the former dictatorial regime of Muammar Al Qathafi early in the conflict, in February, that eventually ousted him from power after a 43-year rule. They included an arms embargo and a freeze on assets held at foreign banks.

On Friday, the UN Security Council agreed to unfreeze the assets by late Friday, unless there were objections, and as there were none as the deadline passed, the sanctions were lifted, in a move that UK's foreign secretary William Hague said, marked another significant moment in Libya's transition.

Mr Hague went on to say in a statement: "It means that Libya's government will now have full access to the significant funds needed to help rebuild the country, to underpin stability and to ensure that Libyans can make the transactions that are essential to everyday life."

He added that as the first step, with regard to London, the UK would now free some $10bn held in Britain. He also said that Britain would pressure the European Union to quickly release frozen sums.

The US Treasury too said that it would allow for the release of more than $30bn in blocked central bank and LAFB (Libyan Arab Foreign Bank) assets. “The Libyan government now has the ability and responsibility to manage these funds," the Treasury said, just before US defence secretary Leon Panetta was due to pay a visit to Libya on Saturday.

Following the UN decision, the White House said in a statement that "the United States rolled back most US sanctions on the government of Libya to keep our commitment to the Libyan people".

The UN security council's decision comes after increased calls by Libya's interim government for the release of some $150bn held abroad in order to pay employee salaries and keep the country's basis services running.

In a letter to the Security Council, the head of Libya's National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said the release of funds was “essential for the economic stability of Libya; for confidence in the banking sector; for the smooth execution and settlement of both domestic and international banking transactions; and to underpin the social and micro stability of the new Libya.”

The official request was made a week ago. None of the council’s 15 members found any objections, enabling the assets freeze to be lifted on Friday.

Some sanctions were eased after the overthrow of former leader Muammar Al Qathafi, but for legal and technical reasons the process of releasing the bulk of the money had been very slow, leading to increased frustration not only among Libya's leaders, but also the civilians who have been eagerly waiting to get decent wages after the liberation of the country.

Following the fall of the regime in August, the UN agreed to unfreeze Libyan dinars worth about $1.5bn being held in UK banks. At about the same time the UN also agreed to a US request to unblock $1.5bn in frozen Libyan assets. A UN resolution in September had already eased sanctions on Libya’s national oil company.

On a UN level, an arms embargo and an assets freeze against the last remaining members of the Al Qathafi family and associates remains in place, along with some financial institutions including Libya’s key sovereign wealth fund. The US government also said it was keeping sanctions against the Qaddafi family.

 
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Sherwes Travel • P.O. Box 91713 Dath El Emad • Tripoli • Libya • Tel/fax: +218-21-4801370 • Cellphone: +218-925201677
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