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France unblocks Libya cash, "unaware" of oil

PARIS (Reuters) - France has approval to release 1.5 billion euros ($2.16 billion) of Libyan assets to help the country's interim ruling council rebuild the country, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday.

The minister also said he was unaware of a reported deal between France and Libya's interim rulers that would grant the former access to a large share of Libya's oil.

Juppe, interviewed on RTL radio shortly before the start of an international conference on Libya in Paris, said the situation in Libya had largely stabilized and it was now time to help the interim rulers after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

France revealed on Wednesday that it had asked the United Nations Sanctions Committee to unfreeze 1.5 billion euros of a total 7.6 billion euros in assets parked in French banks.

"We have to help the National Transitional Council because the country is devastated, the humanitarian situation is difficult and there's a lack of water, electricity and fuel," Juppe said.

The French newspaper Liberation reported on Thursday that it had obtained a letter showing that the National Transitional Council had agreed in April to give France priority access to 35 percent of Libya's oil.

"I am not aware of this letter," said Juppe.

"What I know is the National Transitional Council said very officially that concerning the reconstruction of Libya it would turn in preference to those who helped it. That seems fair and logical to me."

"There's a declaration by the National Transitional Council but I am not aware of a formal deal. We're not alone. Italy is also there, (and) the Americans. You know this operation in Libya costs a lot. It's also an investment in the future because a democratic Libya is a country that will develop, offering stability, security and development in the region.

(Reporting by Brian Love, editing by Tim Pearce)

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