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U.S. Treasury Freezes Record $30 Billion in Libyan Assets

The U.S. Treasury has frozen $30 billion in cash and securities of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and his government in what amounts to the largest ever such U.S. action, a Treasury official said today.

The freeze began over the weekend as a result of President Barack Obama’s executive order issued Feb. 25.

“This is the largest blocking under any sanctions program ever,” said David Cohen, acting Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. The $30 billion blocked by the U.S. doesn’t include any Libyan funds frozen by European governments under separate orders, he said.

The freezing of Libyan assets in the U.S. is part of the Obama administration’s effort to pressure Qaddafi to step down and allow for a transitional government to be formed in the North African country that has been wracked by violence in the last several days.

Cohen said he had no details on the types of assets or the number of banks involved in the freeze.

The executive order applies to any cash or investments owned by Qaddafi, his family members, the Libyan government, or the central bank of Libya, Cohen said.

He didn’t rule out the freezing of additional assets if they are discovered in subsequent reviews.

“There may be some additional money that will be blocked as a result, but I can’t say what that would be,” Cohen said in a conference call with reporters.

He said he didnt think Libyan officials had sought to withdraw large amounts of money from U.S. accounts in the last few days.

“We have not seen evidence that there was an effort to liquidate these accounts,” Cohen said.

He also said the U.S. is considering whether to expand the asset blockage to other individuals.

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