September 13, 2011 / 2:33 PM / 6 years ago

Canada unlocks Libyan assets; SNC Lavalin on hold

3 Min Read

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

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.

"We are pleased and encouraged to hear that the government of Canada has lifted its sanctions for resuming business in Libya. This is positive news and as we have always maintained, once the situation is stabilized, it is our intention to return to this country," she said.

"We look forward to continuing the projects that were already underway, but before proceeding, we must be 100 percent certain that the situation is stable and secure from the perspective of the safety of our people."

Suncor Energy said last week that it was confident it would return to Libya but the timing was unclear.

Reporting by Louise Egan, Randall Palmer and Nicole Mordant; editing by Janet Guttsman

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