Libyan rebels urgently need world leaders to release at least $5 billion in frozen assets to pay state salaries and maintain vital services like medical care, a senior Libyan diplomat said Wednesday after talks with Western and Arab envoys.
The figure is higher than previous estimates on the rebels' immediate financial needs. The diplomat, Aref Ali Nayed, suggested that the rebels' transition team is expanding its short-term goals to include projects like clearing mines and disarming civilians as it takes over from the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.
"We cannot wait for this money," said Nayed, the Libyan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and spokesman for a rebel "stabilization team" working out of Dubai. The West tied up Libya's assets as part of the effort to cripple Gadhafi's regime.
Nayed urged the U.N. Security Council and others to unblock the funds by early next month or risk leaving the rebel leadership unable to meet public needs. Nayed said these include paying state workers, keeping hospitals running and starting to repair facilities of Libya's critical oil industry.
"It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the National Transitional Council is given every material and moral support to carry out its mission," said Khaled al-Attiyah, Qatar's minister of state for international cooperation, after hosting envoys from the United States, European nations and Turkey, which is hosting a major international conference on Libya on Thursday.
In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the U.N. Security Council will vote this week on a resolution releasing billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets.
Qatar is a leading Arab backer of Libya's rebels and took part in NATO-led military operations to weaken Gadhafi's militarily and politically.
Earlier Wednesday, Qatar's emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, met with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby to discuss Libya and efforts to aid the rebel leadership.