EU lifts Libya sanctions, discusses future help

SOPOT, Poland Fri Sep 2, 2011 10:32am EDT

SOPOT, Poland (Reuters) - The European Union lifted sanctions on Libyan ports, oil firms and banks on Friday as foreign ministers met to discuss how to help the country's transition from four decades of Muammar Gaddafi's rule.

The EU's Official Journal listed 28 Libyan entities freed from restrictions, including the ports of Tripoli, Al Khoms, Brega, Ras Lanuf, Zawiya and Zuara.

Also listed were Libyan Arab Airlines and energy firms including the Ras Lanuf Oil and Gas Processing Co. and the Sirte and Waha oil companies.

Banks listed were the National Commercial Bank, Gumhouria Bank, Sahara Bank and First Gulf Libyan Bank.

The formal lifting of the sanctions came a day after world powers meeting in Paris freed up billions of dollars to help Libya's new rulers rebuild the nation after 42 years of Gaddafi's rule and six months of civil war.

European Union foreign ministers meeting in the Polish seaside resort of Sopot on Friday and Saturday were to discuss how to help to stabilize Libya after the conflict.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said the United Nations would have a leading role in helping to demilitarize Libya and ensure safety after the conflict ends, but Europe had shown it has capabilities in this area.

"The way the EU will assist Libya depends firstly on what the Libyan authorities want," he told Reuters.

"We have a trust credit among the new authorities and we will want to use it to support peaceful transformation toward a democracy in Libya," he said, adding that oil-exporting North African state was a valuable ally for Europe.

"Libya is potentially a wealthy country, key because of Europe's drive to diversify energy sources," he said.

EU member states have been discussing the possibility of helping Libya with security sector reform and in police training. The transitional administration has called for help in reforming the judiciary reforms and improving governance.

"Everybody agrees this has to be a United Nations-led involvement, which is not likely to be of any military nature. The Libyans have said no to both military observers and any peacekeeping mission," said Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja.

"A police mission looks perhaps the likeliest possibility at the moment," he added.

Earlier this week, NATO allies, most of whom are EU members, started mapping out ways the military alliance could support Libya's ruling interim council in ensuring a peaceful transition.

One option being discussed is for NATO to deploy forces to maintain an arms embargo in Libya, even after a no-fly zone mandated by the United Nations is lifted and hostilities cease.

NATO has conducted an air campaign that includes enforcing the no-fly zone and a ban on weapons imports to Libya since late March to protect civilians during the civil war.

In the Paris talks with Libya's National Transitional Council, France, Britain and other powers vowed to keep up their military backing as long as needed, but said the focus was now on reconstruction.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday a total of $15 billion would be freed out of the Libyan assets frozen under sanctions. The figure included $3 billion the U.N. Sanctions Committee has approved for release in the United States and Britain and 1.5 billion euros ($2.16 billion) in France.

It also includes 2.6 billion euros of assets in Italy, a billion in Germany and 700 million euros in the Netherlands.

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