U.S. flying relief supplies to refugees in Tunisia

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Two U.S. Air Force cargo planes flew blankets, water and other relief supplies to Tunisia on Friday as part of an international effort to help refugees who fled from the fighting in Libya.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that in addition to the C-130 cargo planes headed to Djerba,Tunisia, the U.S. Agency for International Development chartered two civilian aircraft to help repatriate foreign workers who have fled Libya amid an armed insurrection against the government of Moammar Gadhafi.

“We know that there is a lot of confusion on the ground that is often difficult for us to sort through to get to what the actual facts are,” Mrs. Clinton said. “But the United States remains deeply concerned about the welfare of the Libyan people. Both the Libyans and those who are fleeing Libya are the subject of our outreach.”

Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said the C-130 cargo planes flew from Ramstein air base in Germany and picked up the supplies at a USAID warehouse in Italy before heading to Tunisia. He said they included 4,000 blankets, 9,600 10-liter water containers and 40 rolls of plastic sheeting that can be used for shelter.

He said the planes are expected to fly afterward to a naval base at Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete, and then return to Tunisia on Saturday to pick up an unspecified number of stranded Egyptians and fly them home. President Obama announced the plan Thursday.

Col. Lapan said the U.S. military effort, which includes the dispatching of 400 Marines from the U.S. to augment those already aboard the USS Kearsarge in the Mediterranean Sea, is known as Operation Odyssey Dawn. He said the 400 Marines are currently at Souda Bay and will link up with the Kearsarge soon.

In another anti-Gadhafi move, the Treasury Department announced Friday that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will visit Germany Tuesday for discussions with senior German government officials about global efforts to use economic sanctions to apply maximum pressure against the Libyan leader.

The Treasury announcement said the discussions will be in Frankfurt, which is headquarters of the European Central Bank, and Berlin. They also will review sanctions being imposed against Iran regarding its nuclear program.

Mr. Geithner told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that the amount of Libyan assets that have been frozen in the United States now totals around $32 billion, up from an original estimate of $30 billion that Treasury had made on Monday.

The figure represents the largest amount ever frozen by a U.S. sanctions order. Mr. Obama issued an executive order on Feb. 25 freezing the assets.

Associated Press writer Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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