United Nations: The UN Security Council is ready to release Libyan assets frozen under UN sanctions to buy humanitarian aid for the population facing growing shortages, diplomats said.
   
Muammar Gaddafi's government and the rival rebel opposition have both asked the United Nations for access to the assets in order to purchase much-needed medicine and other essential supplies.
   
Portugual's UN Ambassador Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral, who chairs the Security Council's Libya sanctions committee, told reporters that the two sides would have to make a formal request to the committee but added that there appeared to be a consensus on the committee in favour of unblocking funds.
   
Cabral said he has asked UN special envoy on Libya Abdul Ilah al-Khatib to tell the rival governments that the sanctions committee was ready to act in days once "concrete" requests are received.
   
The ambassador said a system would have to be set up in order to distribute supplies "without any discrimination and through a totally transparent process."
   
He also insisted it would be nothing like the $64 billion oil-for-food program in Iraq that was overshadowed by corruption allegations.
   
Cabral said UN agencies or other international organizations should handle any goods sent to Libya.
   
On February 26, the Security Council ordered all countries to freeze assets and ban travel by Gaddafi and his close associates. It also ordered an arms embargo.
   
The sanctions list was expanded in March when more individuals were added to the list, along with Libyan banks and the Libyan National Oil Corporation.
   
Aid groups across Libya have reported shortages of basic items like vaccines and painkillers. They say stockpiles in the Gaddafi-controlled west and the rebel-held east have been rapidly depleted by five months of war.
   
Although some essential goods could be imported under the current sanctions regime, they cannot be paid for because Libyan assets abroad are frozen and foreign banks are refusing
to do business with Libyan entities.

(Agencies)