France will release 230 million euros (193 million pounds) to Libyan authorities in the next few days and help them recover the rest of their frozen assets, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on a visit to Tripoli.
Libya’s leadership has expressed growing frustration that, three months after Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown, only a fraction of the frozen assets, estimated at $150 billion, have been released to pay for wages and rebuilding the country.
“We are sure that the frozen amount belongs to the Libyan people. France will release 230 million euros in the next few days and we are going to work with our partners in the Security Council to unfreeze the (remaining) Libyan assets,” Juppe, speaking through an interpreter, told a news conference, Reuters reports.
The freezing of Libyan assets was part of a package of measures designed to put pressure on Gaddafi’s administration to stop attacking civilian protesters during this year’s revolt against his 42-year rule.
Gaddafi was forced from power in August but by late November only about $18 billion of the $150 billion in seized assets had been released by special dispensation from the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee.
Diplomats said last month that of the $18 billion, only about $3 billion had been made available to Tripoli.
Some countries have said they have legal concerns about the ownership of the assets, while others want reassurances that Libya’s fragile government is sufficiently competent and cohesive to be able to use the money effectively.
Last week the governor of Libya’s central bank, the prime minister, the finance minister and the head of the interim leadership, the National Transitional Council, signed a letter to the U.N. asking it to release the funds.
Juppe was speaking to reporters after talks with caretaker prime minister Abdurrahim El-Keib. The Libyan official thanked France for the leading role it took in backing the rebellion against Gaddafi’s rule.
Asked about the prospects for contracts which French companies won in Libya under Gaddafi’s rule, Juppe said: “Now we have one partner, which is the legitimate government of Libya.”
“We will study the possibility of the continuation of these agreements or of adapting them.”