February 28, 2011 / 5:31 PM / in 7 years

Canada says Libya sanctions won't affect firms

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The sanctions that Canada has imposed on Libya do not affect the commercial operations of firms such as engineering company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc, government House Leader John Baird said on Monday.

Baird also said Ottawa had blocked unspecified financial dealings the Libyan government had planned to carry out in Canada. He declined to give further details.

Canada announced late on Sunday it would “impose an asset freeze on, and a prohibition of financial transactions with the government of Libya, its institutions and agencies, including the Libyan Central Bank”.

SNC-Lavalin and oil company Suncor Energy Inc both have operations in Libya. Baird said the sanctions would not stop the companies from doing business there.

“This doesn’t eliminate commercial activities,” he told reporters.

“We are hoping that the hard line taken by the international community, and the even harder line taken by our government against the current Libyan regime will bring about change quickly, and the negative impact of these sanctions will be limited and will be very short term,” he said.

Suncor, Canada’s biggest oil company, said last week that it had evacuated all its expatriate staff in Libya and that field operations were shut down. The company produced nearly 35,000 barrels of oil a day in Libya in the fourth quarter.

The company said on Monday it won’t comment on the sanctions until it’s clear on what the measures entail.

“Until we understand the details of the sanctions, planned or imposed by Canadian and other governments, there is little we can say,” Michael Lawrence, a spokesman for Suncor, said in an email.

A spokeswoman for SNC-Lavalin -- whose Libyan projects include a prison, a water pipeline and an airport -- said the company was waiting for more details on the sanctions before commenting.

Asked what restrictions Canadian companies would face, Baird said: “They can operate there, they can operate commercially. What they can’t do is operate financially with either the Libyan government or the central bank of Libya.”

Reporting by Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson and Peter Galloway

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