Libyan Rebels Seek $2 Billion From Allies, Tarhouni Says

Libya’s opposition said it is discussing with allies the possibility of borrowing $2 billion in order to import food, medicine, fuel and possibly weapons to combat Muammar Qaddafi’s forces.

“The short term loans is an option on the table that we discussed with our friends” at a conference today in Qatar, Ali Tarhouni, the National Transitional Council’s finance minister said in an interview today in Benghazi. The borrowing may have a term of as long as two years and would be backed by Libyan assets frozen abroad, which could be used to reimburse the lenders once unlocked, he said.

“We immediately are trying to access $2 billion and this number could rise,” he said. “We should be able to access these funds to import medicine, food, fuel, even armaments, but we are concentrating on the first ones.” The council needs reserves of commodities and medicine to help areas “liberated from Qaddafi,” Tarhouni said.

The rebels’ transitional government is pressing the international coalition, led by the U.S., that has joined its struggle against Qaddafi to step up support. At the Qatar meeting today, the host nation’s Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim Al-Thani said his country would “look into” supplying equipment to help the rebels defend themselves.

The coalition also said it is examining a “temporary financial mechanism” so the rebels can access government assets frozen abroad as part of sanctions against Qaddafi’s regime.

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