Congress to vote on aid to Libyan rebels

The US took a step closer to providing financial assistance to the Libyan rebels May 11, as Sen. John Kerry announced he is drafting legislation to free up some of the $34 billion in the Tripoli regime’s assets frozen by the White House. Rebel leaders arrived in Washington to press the Obama administration on the plan, saying they are down to less than two weeks of cash reserves and are hard-pressed to pay for food, fuel, and medicine. “I needed something yesterday,” Ali Tarhouni, finance minister for Libya’s Transitional National Council, said in an interview. “The issue for me is running a war economy with no resources.”

Libya’s oil production, while mostly in rebel-held territory, has plummeted to some 100,000 barrels per day from 1.6 million bpd. Tarhouni, a former professor at the University of Washington, and Mahmoud Jibril, the rebel council’s foreign minister, met with White House officials. More meetings are set for this week with the Treasury and State departments. The rebels are initially seeking $3 billion for six months of operations. “We’re seeking to push the legislation through as quickly as possible,” said Kerry. The US has so far given the rebels $25 million in “humanitarian” aid. (WSJ, May 12)

The Washington meetings came as NATO warplanes struck a command center in Tripoli, and rebels claimed advances, including a major outward push from Misrata. Rebel spokesman, Col. Ahmed Bani said opposition forces had pushed Moammar Qaddafi’s troops out of rocket range on the west side of Misrata and dislodged them from the city’s airport. β€œThe picture is looking good for us,’’ he said. (AP, May 11)

See our last posts on Libya and the regional revolutions

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