EU lifts Libya sanctions, discusses future help

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 Qadhafi's rule. 

The EU's Official Journal listed 28 Libyan entities freed from restrictions, including the ports of Tripoli, al-Khoms, Brega, Ras Lanuf, Zawiyah and Zuwara. 

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 Qadhafi'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 to 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 Libya was a valuable ally for Europe.

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

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 told a news conference a total of US$15 billion would be freed out of the Libyan assets frozen under sanctions. The figure included US$3 billion the UN Sanctions Committee has approved for release in the United States and Britain and 1.5 billion euros 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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