TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya will donate $100 million in humanitarian aid to the Syrian opposition and allow them to open an office in Tripoli, a government spokesman said on Wednesday, in a further sign of its strong support for forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad.
Representatives from the Syrian National Council (SNC) visited Tripoli this week after Mustafa Abdel, chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), made the initial offer earlier this month to host an SNC office there.
Libya’s new government was one of the first foreign states to recognise the SNC as the legitimate authority in Syria in October - a gesture it said showed solidarity following Libya’s own struggle to oust Muammar Gaddafi and end 42 years of autocratic rule.
Asked whether Libya, which has its own hefty reconstruction needs after last year’s war, could afford such aid, NTC spokesman Mohammed al-Harizy told Reuters: “There is no problem”.
However he said it was too early to determine how the aid, including medicine and food, would be delivered: “We will see how this aid can be delivered. We don’t know yet.”
At an earlier news conference, Harizy said the NTC had decided on “financial support for humanitarian needs to the equivalent of $100 million”.
“It will be up to the prime minister’s office to determine the mechanism in collaboration with the Libyan aid authority and Libyan Red Crescent,” he said, adding that Libyans should also donate and “support the Syrian revolution in the international arena”.
Underlining the difficulty in reaching Syrians needing help, U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos said on Wednesday she was “deeply disappointed” Syria had refused to allow her to visit the country and assess the need for emergency relief in besieged towns.
Syrian troops launched a ground attack in Homs on Wednesday in an apparent attempt to overrun the rebel-held Baba Amro neighbourhood that has endured 25 days of siege and fierce bombardment, opposition sources said.
Libya expelled the Syrian charge d’affaires and his Tripoli staff earlier this month in protest at the crackdown against Assad’s opponents.
Reporting by Taha Zargoun; Editing by Ben Harding