UN eases sanctions on non-lethal aid to Libya


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council voted Thursday to ease sanctions on non-lethal military equipment for the Libyan government but warned that the country is awash with illegal weapons.

A resolution adopted unanimously welcomed last July's national elections in Libya and the establishment of a General National Congress, but it expressed serious concern over escalating security incidents and reports of sexual violence and human rights violations.

The resolution, which extends the U.N. political mission in Libya for a year, also authorized the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Libya to lift an asset freeze against the Libyan Investment Authority and the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio "as soon as practical" and ensure the assets are used to help Libya's people.

Before the vote, Tarek Mitri, who heads the U.N. mission, told the council that while the Libyan people have come a long way since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted 17 months ago, "the security problem remains formidable."

Improving security is hampered by weak government institutions, poor coordination of security efforts and continuing mistrust of state security forces by many who fought in the revolution, most of whom remain armed, he said.

"The country remains awash with unsecured weapons and munitions that continue to pose a regional security risk, given Libya's porous borders," he said.

Mitri said the past few weeks have seen increasing political polarization over a proposed law with extensive criteria for holding public office, which led to armed intimidation of the General National Congress on March 5 and the attempted assassination of President Mohammed el-Megarif.

The Security Council decided that Libya will no longer have to seek approval from the sanctions committee to import non-lethal military equipment "intended solely for humanitarian or protective use" or for related technical assistance and training. It also decided that Libya doesn't need to notify and wait for approval from the sanctions committee to import such equipment, assistance and training "when intended solely for security or disarmament assistance to the Libyan government."

The resolution expressed concern at the illicit proliferation of all arms — especially heavy and light weapons and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles — from Libya and "its negative impact on regional and international peace and security."

The council also expressed serious concern at reports of sexual violence in prison and detention facilities and the lack of justice for detainees, many held since the revolution. It called on the Libyan government to promote and protect human rights and ensure that all violators are held accountable.

Prime Minister Ali Zidan, who met President Barack Obama in Washington before coming to New York to address the council, said he wanted to reassure the international community that Libya is moving steadily and confidently towards establishing a democratic country that respects the rule of law and human rights.

"The security challenges we meet today are enormous and difficult but ... we have moved forward in controlling weapons from and into Libya," he said.

Zidan said the government has controlled its borders with Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan and Egypt and is training police, the military and a national guard that will take security responsibility outside urban areas. It also expects approval of a plan to revamp the justice system next week, he said.

The prime minister asked for international help in finding money hidden by the Gadhafi regime.