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EU partially lifts Libya sanctions

EU member states yesterday agreed to start lifting sanctions against Libya imposed in different batches earlier this year in the wake of the Gaddafi regime’s reaction to the popular uprising.

In a decision taken in Brussels by “written procedure”, the EU decided to unfreeze the assets of about 28 Libyan entities out of the more than 50 that were hit by sanctions.

The list of companies involved will only be unveiled today. According to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, the decision affects six Libyan port authorities, a number of banks and oil companies.

“Our goal is to provide resources to the interim government and the Libyan people and the economy can function again,” Lady Ashton said in her announcement. “The EU has acted swiftly in the light of the developments on the ground,” she said.

An EU official specified that the delisted companies also included Libyan Arab Airlines. However, the official clarified that the assets of the Libyan Investment Authority and the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company Limited were still frozen as they were also covered by UN sanctions.

“We have to wait for a decision by the United Nations’ Security Council prior to unfreezing the assets of Lia and Lafico”, the official said. “At the moment there are no time frames. It may take days or a few weeks,” he said.

Lafico, one of the main Libyan investment arms used by the Gaddafi regime, has a number of investments in Malta, including shareholding in the Corinthia Group, the hotels Vivaldi and Milano Due, air services company Medavia and switchgear assembly plant Medelec. Despite the government freezing a total of €377 million in Libyan assets since the start of the conflict, it is still business as usual for these Maltese companies as they were only impeded from passing-on any dividends to their Libyan shareholders without disrupting their day-to-day business.

Malta has also frozen about €86 million directly attributed to members of Muammar Gaddafi’s family.

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