Libyan rebels are composing a list of items they say the West must buy for them, citing the Obama administration’s reluctance to formally recognize them as Libyans’ legitimate representatives or give them access to dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s frozen assets.
Rebel sources told The Washington Times the list will include food and medicines, supplies they say are at critically low levels, especially in western areas like Misrata and towns in the Nafusa mountains.
The U.S. Treasury has frozen about $34 billion in assets of Col. Gadhafi’s regime.
The rebels want a portion of that money; however, the Obama administration cannot give it to them because it doesn’t officially recognize the rebels’ Transitional National Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
“If the U.S. doesn’t trust us with our own money, we will provide them lists and they should buy the supplies for us,” said Mohamed, a Misrata-based rebel spokesman who asked that only his first name be published out of concern for his safety.
He said providing such a list would lend greater transparency to how the money is spent.
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which officially recognize the council, have taken the lead in providing supplies to rebel-held parts of Libya, according to the rebels.
“Our friends from the UAE and Qatar have been amazing. But why should they buy supplies for us when we have money?” Mohamed said.
Multiple rebel officials told The Times that Mahmoud Jibril, the interim prime minister of the Transitional National Council, was downcast following his meetings in Washington last week.
They said Mr. Jibril had visited the U.S. with two goals in mind — recognition for the transitional council as the sole, legitimate representative of the Libyan people and access to frozen assets.
The Obama administration was cool to both requests.
“Our delegation wanted two things — recognition and money — and didn’t get either,” said Suleiman Fortiya, a member of the interim council.
In his meeting with Mr. Jibril on May 13, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon described the opposition as a “legitimate and credible interlocutor of the Libyan people,” according to a White House readout of the session.
Ali Aujali, who resigned as Libya’s ambassador to the U.S. after the uprising started in February, described the White House statement as “a good start.”
“But we are a little greedy, we need more,” he said at a meeting at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington on Thursday.
“We know the difficulties of legal recognition, but I think political recognition is very important and it is important if it comes from the U.S. because you are the leaders. Many countries are waiting to see how you deal with the council,” he added.