US freezes Libyan assets (Lead)

March 1st, 2011 - 4:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 1 (IANS) The US has frozen at least $30 billion in Libyan government assets as part of efforts to loosen besieged strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s grip on power.The $30 billion is the largest amount ever blocked under any sanctions programme, David Cohen, Treasury Department’s acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said announcing the freeze Monday.

American officials slapped the sanctions on Libya last Friday, and the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Libya Saturday.

President Barack Obama met Monday with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss a variety of measures under consideration. Ban later told reporters that “further action may well be necessary”.

Gaddafi “has lost his legitimacy when he declared war on his people”, Ban said of the Libyan leader. “This is again a totally unacceptable situation. I sincerely hope and urge him to listen to the peoples’ call. That’s my message to him.”

All options are still on the table, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“Gaddafi and those around him must be held accountable (for any actions) which violate international legal obligations and common decency,” she said. “Through their actions, they have lost the legitimacy to govern.”

Susan Rice, US ambassador to the UN, called Gaddafi “delusional”, adding that “when he (Gaddafi) can laugh when talking to American and international journalists while he is slaughtering his own people, it only underscores how unfit he is to lead and how disconnected he is from reality”.

The imposition of a no-fly zone over certain portions of the increasingly chaotic country is among the courses of action being contemplated, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

Carney indicated that exile is “certainly one option” for the Libyan leader. He also said that American officials are “actively reaching out” to Libyan opponents of the ruling regime, Carney said.

But any speculation on US assistance to the Libyan rebels is premature, Rice said, calling it “unclear at this point who will emerge as the critical opposition element. We await to see how the opposition will coalesce”.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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