News / Africa

    Italy to Unfreeze $505 Million in Libyan Assets

    Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, right, shakes hand with Mahmoud Jibril, deputy chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council, at the prefecture building in Milan, Italy, August 25, 2011
    Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, right, shakes hand with Mahmoud Jibril, deputy chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council, at the prefecture building in Milan, Italy, August 25, 2011
    Sabina Castelfranco

    Italian banks are to unfreeze Libyan assets worth more than $500 million.  The announcement came during a visit to Italy by Libyan rebel representative Mahmoud Jibril.

    'First payment'

    Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Italy is preparing to release $505 million in frozen Libyan assets in Italian banks, calling it the first payment.

    He made the announcement after meeting in Milan with Mahmoud Jibril, a leader of Libya’s rebel council.

    Jibril was on the second stop on a European diplomatic tour, after meeting French leaders in Paris.

    France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, greets the head of Libya's opposition government Mahmoud Jibril at the Elysee Palace in Paris, August 24, 2011.
    France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, greets the head of Libya's opposition government Mahmoud Jibril at the Elysee Palace in Paris, August 24, 2011.

    His mission is aimed at securing the release of billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets. Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler and biggest trading partner, has not disclosed the total Libyan assets held there.

    Urgent need

    The Libyan opposition says it urgently needs at least $5 billion of frozen assets to pay state salaries, maintain vital services and repair critical oil facilities.

    Jibril said international financial assistance is needed to avoid destabilization in Libya.  

    “Despite the situation in my country, I should be there inside the country, but because of the grave consequences if we don’t receive urgent assistance - the destabilization inside Tripoli and other parts of the country will be really beyond control,” said Jibril

    Security at risk

    He warned that stability and security will be at risk if salaries, unpaid for four months, aren’t delivered.

    Jibril also spoke of other urgent priorities. He said these include collecting weapons, rebuilding a justice system and national army, providing care to the wounded in Libya and abroad, and rebuilding power stations.

    Berlusconi repeated Italy’s position that the next Libyan government include all elements of civil society, and that the transitional council will not permit acts of revenge against those who remained loyal to Gadhafi.

    The meeting between Jibril and the Italian prime minister began just moments after the release in Libya of four Italian journalists taken at gunpoint in a raid Wednesday morning.  Berlusconi said he considered it a good omen for the future.

    Oil

    Jibril also met with Italian oil giant ENI’s chief executive Paolo Scaroni, who is planning to travel to Libya next week to sign an agreement with the Libyan transitional council to supply gasoline for vehicles and natural gas to make electricity to meet immediate needs.

    A Libyan worker chats with two rebels in a vehicle as they patrol an oil refinery controlled by anti Gadhafi forces on the western outskirt of Zawiya city, Libya, August 19, 2011
    A Libyan worker chats with two rebels in a vehicle as they patrol an oil refinery controlled by anti Gadhafi forces on the western outskirt of Zawiya city, Libya, August 19, 2011

    ENI is the largest foreign energy producer in Libya. Scaroni said the company would first re-launch natural gas production, adding that it is likely to take six to eight months for oil production to resume at normal levels.

    ENI has already dispatched technicians to Benghazi to prepare to restart oil and natural gas production. ENI derives 13 percent of its revenues and 15 percent of its production from Libya. Before the conflict, ENI pumped about 280,000 barrels of natural gas and oil a day.

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