Canada unlocks Libyan assets; SNC Lavalin on hold

Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:42am EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has obtained U.N. approval to unfreeze $2.2 billion in Libyan assets for humanitarian aid and reestablished its diplomatic mission in Tripoli on Tuesday, government officials said.

The released money will be used to rebuild infrastructure and to pay wages of police, teachers and essential services following Libya's six-month uprising, Foreign Minister John Baird told reporters.

Meanwhile, Canadian engineering giant SNC Lavalin Group Inc said it would still monitor the situation before returning to work on its Libyan projects, which include a prison, a water pipeline and an airport.

Forces of the new ruling National Transitional Council overran Tripoli on August 23 and are now battling the last few strongholds loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

"While security still remains a challenge on the ground, life is slowly returning to normal in Tripoli," Baird said.

Baird spokesman Chris Day said the Canadian mission was working from a temporary location while the government refurbishes the embassy and puts security in place.

Ottawa hopes reopening the mission will help Canadian businesses win contracts as Libya rebuilds.

"It is very important to have a diplomatic presence there. With the new government in place it's also important to have commercial operations there to help Canadian companies who are already on the ground and can assist the new Libyan government in the next few weeks and years," Baird said.

SNC Lavalin spokeswoman Claudia Martin said the company does plan to go back to Libya but was looking into security.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird talks to the media at the U.S. State Department in Washington, August 4, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing</p>