(Adds details, actions by White House, background)
WASHINGTON, March 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury Department said on Tuesday it was freezing the assets of Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa and 16 Libyan firms to further isolate Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
“Today’s designation of Moussa Koussa builds on the strong steps taken by the United States to apply targeted financial pressure on the Gaddafi regime,” said David Cohen, the Treasury’s acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Treasury said Moussa Koussa formerly headed Libya’s intelligence agency. It said that any of his assets that fall under U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen and Americans are prohibited from doing any business with Moussa Koussa.
The firms that were named include: Afriqiyah Airlines; National Oil Corporation; Libya Investment Authority; Libya Africa Investment Portfolio; Libyan African Investment Company; Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company; Libya Arab Foreign Bank; Economic and Social Development Fund Company; Gomhouria Bank; Al Wafa Bank; Agricultural Bank; National Commercial Bank; National Banking Corporation; Sahara Bank; Savings and Real Estate Investment Bank, and First Gulf Libyan Bank.
Earlier, the White House had announced that it was exploring ways to tap into some of the billions of dollars of assets seized from Gaddafi’s government to help the embattled Libyan opposition.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Mahmoud Jebril, a member of the anti-Gaddafi Libyan National Council in Paris Monday. She said in Cairo Tuesday that Washington was looking at ways to support the opposition group but made no mention of using seized Libyan assets.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Feb. 25 freezing the assets of Gaddafi, his family and top officials, as well as the Libyan government, the country’s central bank and sovereign wealth funds. The U.S. Treasury said at least $30 billion in assets in the United States had been blocked. (Reporting by Glenn Somerville and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Neil Stempleman)