By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011; 11:20 PM
Treasury Department officials on Tuesday ratcheted up the financial pressure on Libya, freezing the assets of the foreign minister and 16 state-owned entities in a widening of the three-week-old U.S. sanctions effort.
Treasury officials hope the inclusion of Foreign Minister Musa Kusa will underscore their determination to isolate Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and his supporters. Kusa previously served as Libya's intelligence chief.
They also added to the sanctions list a selection of firms and entities at the core of Libya's economy, including banks, a major oil company, and the Libyan Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund that controls more than $40 billion in assets.
"Today's designation of Moussa Koussa builds on the strong steps taken by the United States to apply targeted, financial pressure on the Qadhafi regime," David S. Cohen, the acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement. "The identification of state-owned companies furthers Libya's isolation from the U.S. financial system."
Treasury's action Tuesday is part of a mounting global campaign to identify and freeze assets controlled by Gaddafi, his family and their allies.
On Feb. 25, President Obama signed Executive Order 13566, which freezes any assets that fall under U.S. jurisdictions, including the cash, investments and real estate of targeted people, firms and institutions. About $32 billion worth of assets have been frozen.
Since then, the European Union and a host of other countries have approved similar sanctions.
The aim of the sanctions effort is to preserve assets belonging to the Libyan people from theft by Gaddafi and his associates. Treasury officials also want to deprive the government of financial resources that might be used in military attacks on civilian protesters who have called on Gaddafi to resign.
Treasury officials have said they intend to target military, intelligence and government officials involved in planning and executing the recent bombing and shooting of civilians.
In the past, the stigma of being targeted publicly - and possibly being held accountable for rights violations in international tribunals - has spurred some of those targeted in other countries to abandon their efforts or to defect.