The Obama administration said Friday it had lifted sanctions on more than $30 billion in assets it had applied against Libya's banks this year ahead of a historic visit to Tripoli by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The United States froze assets of the Libyan government and then-leader Muammar Qaddafi and four of his children in February, shortly after shuttering the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and evacuating staff. The move came amid escalating violence in Libya as Qaddafi sought to crush a rebellion against his rule.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement that Friday's action would unfreeze all government and Central Bank money within U.S. jurisdiction. Assets in the U.S. of the Qaddafi family and members of the former Qaddafi regime remain frozen.
The move will let the Libyan government access most of its worldwide holdings and help with the new government's transition, the White House said.
Panetta is expected to visit the Libyan capital on Saturday. He told reporters it will give him a better sense of the situation in the North African nation while allowing him to pay tribute to the people for bringing down Qaddafi and trying to create a democratic government.
Carney said the U.S. looked forward "to a continued close partnership with the new government of Libya during this transitional period and beyond, and believe that these assets can be an important resource for the Libyan people."