EU strikes deal to sanction sovereign Libya fund
The European Union agreed Tuesday to slap new sanctions on Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi's regime, notably targeting the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) -- the overseas investment vehicle for Tripoli's oil revenues.
The new sanctions on five economic "entities" also including the Libyan Central Bank were agreed at the expiry of a deadline for verbal objections, several EU diplomats said, awaiting rubber-stamping by governments in writing.
A spokesman for Hungary's EU chair confirmed an agreement in principle had been reached on sanctions but declined to name those targeted. He said the sanctions would hopefully be enforced by Friday.
The deal was reached after experts soothed fears expressed overnight by Malta as to the effect on major EU businesses in which the LIA holds important stakes, several sources said.
The state LIA, set up in 2006 to diversify national income, has significant shareholdings in Italian bank UniCredit, Italian defence and aeronautical group Finmeccanica, Juventus Football Club and Pearson, the publisher of the Financial Times which itself froze that individual holding last week.
Brussels had already imposed the toughest international sanctions yet on Gathafi's regime, ordering asset freezes and visa bans against the Libyan leader and 25 others for brutalising civilians.
The existing measures notably applied to the veteran ruler's seven sons and his daughter, along with his wife Safia al-Barassi. One new person was also added, another diplomat said.
The delegation from Malta, which lies between the Italian island of Sicily and Libya, had "raised questions about the (sanctions') impact on European companies," one of the diplomats said.
But sources said Malta backed down after experts vowed to "avoid undesirable effects on European companies."
It has been argued in Italy that the freezing of capital for the likes of Juventus will severely hamper the club's ability to compete in football's summer transfer market, for instance.
The EU sanctions, which target more people than a corresponding UN list, also enforced an embargo on arms sales to Libya, in line with the UN Security Council decision.
But toughening up the UN measures, the EU also slapped an embargo on sales to Libya of equipment which might be used for internal repression.
The sanctions allow the EU to keep up pressure on Gathafi to go, which foreign and security affairs chief Catherine Ashton's spokesman Michael Mann reiterated Tuesday is the bloc's set position.
Mann was forced to underline that stance after a senior EU official revealed that the embassies of eight EU states that are still open for business in Libya all back an independent United Nations or EU-assisted investigation into human rights violations there.
Gathafi's envoy to the United Nations called there on Saturday for sanctions to be suspended until such a probe gives proof of violations.
The eight states were: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and Romania.
Their position emerged after Agostino Miozzo, an Italian doctor who heads the EU diplomatic service's crisis management office, returned from a trip to Tripoli giving his "personal" endorsement.
That came after he met with the head of the Libyan foreign office's European affairs section, sparking suggestions that by engaging with the regime, the EU was casting doubt on the responsibility of Gathafi's regime for what the International Criminal Court and NATO have suggested could amount to crimes against humanity.
Mann said there was "no doubt" about the Libyan regime's abuses.
Should Ashton propose the idea of an independent probe to EU leaders at an extraordinary summit, its merit, he explained, would lie in apportioning "individual" responsibility within the regime's hierarchy.