Libya’s rebel leadership: ‘We cannot do anything without money’

Libya’s rebel leadership on Friday pleaded with the United States and other countries to unfreeze billions of dollars, saying the funds are vital to establish peace and stability in the nation.

“Our friends throughout the world are talking about the procedures needed to bring back peace and stability,” Mahmoud Jibril, a senior leader of the National Transitional Council, told reporters at an international conference in Turkey.

“This is urgent. But we cannot do that unless we can fulfill our duties,”

His call for funds came a day after the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee approved a U.S. request to free up $1.5 billion of the at least $100 billion in Libyan assets frozen at the start of the war.

The rebel government issued the plea for money as the United Nations called on rebels and forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi to avoid revenge killings as evidence emerged of executions in the battle for Tripoli.

The group urged Gadhafi and his inner circle to surrender and prevent further bloodshed, a call he has defied as he exhorted loyalists not to surrender.

“Do not leave Tripoli for the rats, do not leave them. Fight them, destroy them,” said an audio message purportedly of Gadhafi that was released Thursday.

CNN cannot independently confirm whether the recording was that of Gadhafi.

A dozen bodies, with their hands bound behind them, were discovered near Gadhafi’s compound where fierce fighting erupted Thursday.

Rebels at the scene told CNN they had been executed by Gadhafi’s men, but it was not immediately clear. The victims were black Africans, who composed a large part of Gadhafi’s army.

The discovery of the bodies came a day after a doctor at a Tripoli hospital told CNN that he had examined a number of dead rebels who appeared to have been executed with a bullet to the head.

The National Transitional Council, the rebel leadership, says it is determined to flush Gadhafi out with minimal civilian losses.

“We don’t want to spill a lot of blood, you know, because they are our brothers,” said one rebel fighter, who declined to give his name.

The possibility of executions in Tripoli emerged as the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee approved a U.S. request to free up $1.5 billion in Libyan assets frozen at the start of the war.

The money, a small portion of the more than $100 billion seized, will be used to provide food and fuel for civilians as well as other humanitarian needs.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the rebel leadership to move quickly to build a working government that protects the rights of Libyans.

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“There can be no place in the new Libya for revenge attacks and reprisals,” she said in a statement.

But Jibril said it would be impossible to lead a new Libya if there was no money to create it.

Jibril made the comments following a meeting of the Libya Contact Group, an alliance of 29 countries, gathered this week in Turkey to plan for a post- Gadhafi era in Libya.

Jibril said the rebel leadership desperately needed the money to establish the new government, provide food, water and electricity to the population, create a military and care for all those wounded in the months-long war.

“Now we are entering a new phase, the expectation phase. We can not do anything without money,” Jibril said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country shares the opinion that the frozen assets belonging to Libya should be returned without delay.

“We see the $1.5 billion in assets released by the (U.N. Security Council) as confirmation of the freedom of the Libyan country,” he said during a joint news conference.

As a result, he said he saw no reason that the remaining billions should not be released to the transitional council, Libya’s interim government.

Transitional council officials have announced they are moving its political base to Tripoli from its strong in Benghazi in eastern Libya.

Hisham Abu Hajer, the coordinator of the rebels’ brigades in Tripoli, said about four or five ministerial level officials with the council were already in Tripoli.

Fighting was reported in Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte and other loyalist strongholds near the Tunisian border and east of Tripoli.

Rebels said they controlled Tripoli’s international airport, but were struggling to secure an area east of it controlled by Gadhafi loyalists.

The loyalists resumed sporadic shelling of the airport Friday and NATO jets, according to a CNN team that witnessed the attack. Four empty passenger aircrafts have been destroyed in the strikes.

Fighting also erupted in parts of the Libyan capital as rebels tried to clear several neighborhoods, where rebels believed Gadhafi was hiding.

The hunt reached a fever pitch with rebels surrounding one apartment building and going door-to-door looking for him, said CNN’s Nic Robertson, who was travelling with the rebels.

Much of Tripoli’s southern neighborhoods remained dangerous, a senior opposition official said.

“We have 80% of Tripoli liberated,” Abu Hajer said.

The Arab League was expected to officially seat the National Transitional  Council in Cairo on Saturday, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, who was in Istanbul for a meeting of the Libya Contact Group — an alliance of countries working to rebuild Libya.

Meanwhile, a NATO official told CNN the alliance is trying to determine how many surface-to-air missiles (SAMS) are remaining in Libya and who controls them.

The U.S. military estimated several months ago that Libya had an arsenal of 20,000 SAMs, but it was not clear how many have been destroyed and who controlled the remaining missiles.

Ten tons of mustard gas stored at the Waddan Ammunition Reservation in Libya are secure “inside massive steel containers within heavy bunkers,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

A U.S. official said the same Libyan government unit that had been guarding the mustard gas stockpile is still doing so, an indication that Gadhafi security forces are still present.

But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said monitoring of the facility has determined “they have neither abandoned their posts, nor tried to gain access to the materials.”

The materials “are secure, guarded and not disturbed,” the official said.

(edition.cnn.com / 26.08.2011)

 

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