NATO, Arab and African ministers agreed Wednesday “to work urgently” with the Libyan rebel leadership to set up a mechanism by which some frozen assets belonging to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and his family might be transferred to the rebel cause.
The agreement came at the first meeting between representatives of the NATO-led coalition, regional leaders and the rebels in a closed-door conference here that was billed as the beginning of a continuing dialogue. The meeting came at a time of growing frictions among the allied countries and with the rebels themselves over how much military force to apply on the Qaddafi regime.
But those divisions were set aside — for the moment, at least.
“This is the money of the Libyans, not of Colonel Qaddafi,” said the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, who added that the assistance would be aimed “at humanitarian and daily needs.”
He said, “People need food, or they need to pay salaries to workers.”
Rebel leaders in Benghazi received the news as an indication that the international community was prepared to sell them weapons in their struggle to overthrow Colonel Qaddafi.
“We have made a request to those friendly nations and those who have made their official recognition, and we are in the final stages of requesting military equipment,” said Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, a member of the rebels’ governing body, the Transitional National Council, and its spokesman.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any problem about getting military equipment in,” Mr. Ghoga said.
He cited a statement by Mr. Frattini that the Libyan rebels had “every right to purchase weapons for their self-protection.” However, Mr. Ghoga declined to reveal whether any concrete agreements for weapons shipments had been reached with the three countries that have recognized the council: Italy, France and Qatar.