U.S. freezes Libyan assets, takes steps to aid refugees
Monday, February 28, 2011; 4:37 PM
GENEVA - U.S. and Europeans leaders took new steps Monday to tighten the noose on Libya's besieged government, with the U.S. Treasury announcing the freeze of $30 billion in Libyan assets.
"As of today, at least $30 billion in government of Libya assets under U.S. jurisdiction have been blocked," David Cohen, Treasury's acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in Washington. "This is the largest blocking under any sanctions program ever."
The action was taken under an executive order issued Friday by President Obama. The order covers assets belonging to longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, four of his children, the Libyan government and its entities, such as the Libyan Central Bank and the Libyan Investment Authority. Cohen said he has no details on the types of assets that were frozen or the banks involved, but he said the freeze order covers "any bank that is organized under the laws of the United States or any branch operating overseas of a U.S. bank."
There was no indication before the freeze that the Gaddafis or the Libyan government had tried to liquidate a significant amount of assets, Cohen told reporters. He said Treasury is still "considering whether to add to the list of individuals who have been designated." Because of a combination of U.S., European Union and U.N. Security Council sanctions, the United States now believes that all Gaddafi and Libyan assets worldwide are frozen, Cohen said.
In Geneva, U.S. and European leaders focused on sending aid to rebels and refugees, toughening sanctions and calling for the ouster of Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya for more than 41 years.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, addressing a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council, announced new efforts to stem the Libyan humanitarian crisis. Some $10 million in relief funds have been set aside by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and two teams of experts are being dispatched immediately to Libya's borders to assess the refugee crisis and organize the delivery of aid.
U.S. officials are particularly concerned about shortages of medical supplies and a breakdown in distribution networks that is preventing food from getting into the country.
Clinton predicted that additional punitive measures would be announced within the coming days by European allies, which have maintained closer economic and diplomatic ties with Libya than the United States has.
The European Union, meeting in Brussels, voted to approve wide-ranging sanctions similar to those adopted over the weekend by the United States and the United Nations. The European Union also slapped Libya with an arms embargo and imposed a visa ban for members of Gaddafi's inner circle, as world powers moved quickly and in virtual lockstep to punish the Libyan government for its violent crackdown on demonstrators.
The new actions are being carefully calibrated to ensure that ordinary Libyans are not harmed, Clinton said at a news conference at Geneva's Palais des Nations.
"We are very aware of the need to block access to resources and assets that Gaddafi and his family could get a hold of," she said. "At the same time, we are well aware of the need to keep resources coming in so the people themselves can use them to meet specific needs."
In her address, Clinton catalogued the atrocities that Gaddafi's regime is alleged to have committed and said the international community is "speaking with one voice" in demanding his immediate removal.