Libya wants assets unfrozen for "humanitarian needs"

Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:13pm GMT

* Libya says "no legal grounds" to divert funds to rebels

* Finance Minister says country has "contingency reserves"

TRIPOLI, April 13 (Reuters) - Libya said on Wednesday it had reserves in gold and other assets that would help its people cope with sanctions, but it also called for funds it holds abroad to be "unfrozen immediately" for humanitarian needs.

Planning and Finance Minister Abdulhafid Zlitni estimated that about $120 billion of Libya's assets had been frozen as part of sanctions, but that the North African country still had significant "contingency reserves," without giving details.

He also told a news conference there were "no legal grounds" for diverting Libyan assets to rebels fighting the government of Muammar Gaddafi.

"We have confidence that the banks cannot do that, they don't have the legal grounds to do it," Zlitni said.

Earlier on Wednesday, a group of Western powers and Middle Eastern states called for the first time for Gaddafi to step aside, and said they would work to create a financial mechanism to help rebels run the eastern region of Libya they control.

The World Food Programme said Libya was facing a humanitarian crisis and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the group's meeting in Doha that up to 3.6 million people, or more than half the population, could need assistance.   Continued...

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