France expels 14 Libyan diplomats for loyalty to Gaddafi

"Many of these people were using their status as diplomats as a cover," French diplomat says; move follows decision to help fund Libya rebels.

By REUTERS
May 6, 2011 11:22
2 minute read.
Rebel fighters take part in a training session

Libyan rebels with guns 311 (r). (photo credit: REUTERS/Esam al-Fetori)

 
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France expelled 14 Libyan diplomats on Friday due to their loyalty to the government of Muammar Gaddafi, the French foreign ministry said.

"The decision (to expel them) was taken some time ago, but there was a process to follow," said a French diplomat, who asked not to be named. "Many of these people were using their status as diplomats as a cover."

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On Thursday, an anti-Gaddafi coalition called the Libya Contact Group, which in addition to the US includes France, Britain and Italy, as well as Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan, agreed in Rome to set up a fund to help the rebels, who are desperately short of cash.

The rebel Transitional National Council, based in the eastern city of Benghazi, says it needs $2 billion to $3 billion in immediate aid. A spokesman said the rebels only had funds to pay for basic needs until the end of May.

Qatari Prime Minister Hammad bin Jassim al-Thani said his country pledged $400 million to $500 million to a so-called Temporary Financial Mechanism. Kuwait promised $180 million.

However, others were more cautious about putting a figure on how much they might provide and Britain said it had already contributed enough.

"The temporary financial mechanism is well defined now and will be operation in the next few weeks," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told reporters. He said Paris was still evaluating its contribution.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington would try to pass legislation to unblock billions of dollars in Libyan assets for the rebels.

Washington has frozen about $30 billion in assets owned by Muammar Gaddafi's government but there are legal obstacles to accessing them. Because of UN sanctions, the rebels are unable to sell oil abroad.

"It's a good start," said Mahmoud Jabril, head of the rebels' interim government.

The Rome meeting discussed ways to stop Gaddafi from exporting crude oil or importing refined petroleum as the coalition searched for ways to isolate the Tripoli government from world markets.

"The regime must not be allowed any access to oil and gas revenues to support actions against the Libyan people," a final statement said.

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