UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council lifted sanctions on Libya’s central bank and a subsidiary on Friday, clearing the way for their overseas assets to be unfrozen to ease a budget crisis in the North African nation, a council diplomat said.
The Central Bank of Libya and the Libyan Foreign Bank, which is wholly owned by the central bank, were taken off the sanctions list.
After a rebellion broke out in February against leader Moammar Gaddafi, the Security Council froze Libyan assets abroad, estimated at $150 billion. Most of that has remained beyond the reach of the oil-rich country’s new rulers.
Gaddafi’s 42-year rule collapsed when his forces fled Tripoli in August, and he was killed in October as the war ended.
Yet by late November, only about $18 billion in seized assets had been released by the Security Council’s sanctions committee, and diplomats said only about $3 billion of that had been made available to Tripoli.
A U.N. resolution in September removed sanctions from the national oil company but left them largely in place on the central bank and the Libyan Foreign Bank.
Last week, Libya’s new leadership wrote to the committee asking it to delist the two banks. The move was “essential for the economic stability of Libya,” said the letter, obtained by Reuters.
The interim Libyan government says it urgently needs the cash to pay public-sector workers and to start rebuilding state institutions.
Diplomats said the delisting of the two banks did not necessarily mean the frozen assets would be instantly available to Tripoli, as foreign institutions holding them might seek authorization from governments.