The United States is presenting a resolution to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday that would release $1.5 billion of the Qaddafi regime’s frozen assets for humanitarian purposes in Libya.
The U.S. has been negotiating the release of the funds for weeks, and has made the case to the Security Council that Libya’s interim government can responsibly handle the influx of cash.
“We would not have taken this step if we did not have confidence” in the Transitional National Council, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday. A U.N. diplomat who would only speak on background said mechanisms were in place to make sure the money was “well accounted for, monitored, and tracked,” but would not give specific details on what those mechanisms will be.
The diplomat said that 14 of the 15 member nations of the Security Council have already agreed to back the measure, with the exception of South Africa. If the resolution introduced on Wednesday does not convince South Africa into joining the consensus, the United States will likely call a vote on the measure on Thursday, the diplomat said.
“We would prefer for the U.N. Sanctions Committee to take action,” but if negotiations fail, the U.S. will “find ways to do this unilaterally,” Nuland said on Tuesday. She stressed that the U.S. will seek to work through U.N. channels first; if the United States loosens its own sanctions without U.N. permission, it would be violating international law.
The $1.5 billion would go to serve strictly “humanitarian needs,” the U.N. diplomat said. It would be split into three different “baskets” of funds: direct humanitarian aid, administered through non-governmental organizations; fuel for fulfilling basic needs, administered through companies on the ground in Libya; and money for basic infrastructure needs, like managing the health-care system, that will be transferred to the temporary financial mechanism, a fund that facilitates financial contributions to the Libyan Transitional National Council.
The release would represent a “first tranche” of assets, with more to follow, American Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said on CNN on Tuesday. The TNC has been lobbying for the release of the frozen assets, citing humanitarian need.
The $1.5 billion represents a little less than half of the total liquid assets frozen by the United States, Nuland said. The U.S. Treasury has frozen roughly $37 billion in assets since President Obama issued an executive order in February.