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Libya's Jalil demands release of Gaddafi billions

17 December, 2011

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WARSAW: Libya's interim leadership demanded on Friday the release of up to $160 billion of assets frozen in sanctions against former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

"All the Libyan people want from the international community is to try to speed the process of unfreezing our assets so we can pay wages and go back to normal," National Transitional Council chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said.

"As all are aware ...the money of Muammar Gaddafi, between 140-160 billion dollars is frozen under international decisions," he told a European Union rights and development conference in Warsaw. "If we get this money back we can help Libyans recover," Jalil said, adding that so far individual countries had released just a fraction of the frozen cash.

"There is also a financial crisis in the world and it might be beneficial for them to keep this money for a while," Jalil said. "If a country has four billion US dollars, they just unfreeze maybe 100 million." He said the money is needed for reconstruction and to help the families of up to 25,000 rebel fighters killed during the uprising against Gaddafi. "The number of martyrs is 24,000 to 25,000 and among them are 5,000-6000 married people who left behind widows and children — there are also some 35,000 wounded and injured persons," Jalil said.

The International Criminal Court chief prosecutor said on Thursday that there were serious suspicions that the killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was a war crime. Luis Moreno Ocampo also said the Libyan government must tell the court by January 10 whether they will hand over Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam.

Gaddafi was captured and killed on October 23 in murky circumstances, and Moreno-Ocampo told reporters "we are raising our concerns" with the interim government and asking how it would investigate crimes by all sides in the uprising against the Libyan strongman. "The death of Muammar Gaddafi is one of the issues to be clarified - what happened - because there are serious suspicions that it was a war crime," Moreno Ocampo told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council.

A UN commission of inquiry is also to go to Libya and Moreno-Ocampo said he would speak with member nations of the Security Council to see if they had evidence on the Gaddafi killing. Responding to comments by Luis Moreno-Ocampo that Gaddafi's killing could amount to a war crime, Jalil said Libyan authorities were "very ready to share all the findings" of an ongoing investigation. He did not specify when the probe may be completed.

Speaking of Syria, where the United Nations claims over 5,000 people have perished in a government crackdown over 10 months of anti-regime protests, Jalil called on strongman President Bashar al-Assad to step down immediately. "The Syrian solution should be a completely peaceful one through President Assad stepping down and leaving the Syrian people to choose their destiny," Jalil said.

A New York-based rights group is urging NATO to investigate civilian deaths the alliance may have caused during its eight-month military operation in Libya that helped bring about the ouster and death of Muammar Gaddafi. Libya's new interim government, which has been in control of the oil-producing OPEC member since former leader Gaddafi was forced to flee Tripoli in August, estimates that more than 40,000 Libyans were killed during the country's civil war, Libyan UN envoy Ibrahim Dabbashi told Reuters.

"Gaddafi was responsible for these deaths," Dabbashi told Reuters on Thursday. Fred Abrahams of Human Rights Watch (HRW), a rights advocacy group, is in Libya and has been investigating several dozen civilian casualties allegedly caused by NATO. During the war, Gaddafi's forces were eager to show journalists, HRW and other rights groups what it claimed were sites of civilian massacres caused by NATO airstrikes.

Many of the corpses displayed for reporters were clearly military personnel, not civilians. Nor were the civilians necessarily victims of NATO attacks. Abrahams has been investigating the matter to determine as precisely as possible how many civilians were killed by the NATO airstrikes, which began in March and ceased in October. "By our count, up to 50 civilians died in the (NATO) campaign, perhaps more," Abrahams told Reuters.

"We're not alleging unlawful attacks, let alone war crimes," he said. "We believe the onus is on NATO to investigate these cases thoroughly so they can identify and correct the mistakes." He urged NATO to consider compensation "as appropriate".

End.

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