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Libya Opposition Urges Quick Release of Frozen Assets

Libyan rebel leader and senior member of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) Mahmoud Jibril, speaks during a joint news conference with Turkey's FM Ahmet Davutoglu (R) in Istanbul, August 26, 2011
Libyan rebel leader and senior member of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) Mahmoud Jibril, speaks during a joint news conference with Turkey's FM Ahmet Davutoglu (R) in Istanbul, August 26, 2011

The leader of Libya's opposition coalition, Mahmoud Jibril, has warned that the country could face a crisis unless the international community acts quickly to release the estimated $150 billion in assets frozen by United Nations sanctions. Jibril made the appeal in Istanbul, after a meeting with Turkey's foreign minister.

The head of Libya's Transitional National Council (TNC), Mahmoud Jibril, met Friday with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The talks focused on establishing international recognition of the rebel leadership and the release of billions of dollars in Libyan assets frozen under U.N. sanctions. Jibril announced the new leaders hope to take the Libyan seat at the United Nations next month. But for the rebel leader, money is the key priority.

He says all the people who fought will go back home - that there are martyrs and wounded, all of whom have families. He says there also are civil servants who must be paid. He says it is important that Libyans return to a normal way of life, and it is for that reason that those assets must be released. He says if that does not happen, there could be a crisis of legitimacy.

Jibril stressed that the funds will be vital for establishing a new army and police force. He says maintaining security and stability is a particular concern of the international community. Observers say a lawless Libya could become a base for groups linked to al-Qaida. But Jibril says the funds also are needed to help in the reconciliation process.

He says the TNC would like to see support moving even into areas under the control of Moammar Gadhafi's forces, so the needs of those people can also be met. He says that way, they can feel they are part of the Libyan people as a whole.

Foreign Minister Davutoglu pledged Turkey's complete support to Libya's new leaders, saying recognition of their flag, the release of financial assets and international recognition are the three main pillars of international legitimacy, and they must now be fulfilled.

Davutoglu announced they will be expediting the release of $200 million in credit on top of $100 million in aid already given to the TNC. The Turkish foreign minister also said they are looking to arrange direct flights to Benghazi, the center of the Libyan opposition, ahead of an Islamic holiday next week.  International relations expert Soli Ozel says Turkey is looking after its investments.

"The most important thing for Turkey now is to be able to collect $17 billion [in] outstanding debts and make sure when Libya is rebuilt that Turkish contractors are going to get their fare share," said Ozel. "But I think to the extent that Turkey can help with institution-building they will be happy to do it and are capable to help out on that."

Turkey is already helping in the training of both the police and army in Afghanistan. Offering similar assistance to Libya was reportedly discussed in Friday's meeting, as well as the reconstruction of Libya. Ankara does appear well placed when the scramble for Libyan contracts begins.

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