WASHINGTON, Aug 23: The United States said on Tuesday that it would not send its ground forces into Libya, even for peacekeeping operations.

The Obama administration also has decided to unfreeze about $35 billion of Libyan assets in the United States and send more than a billion dollars to the Transitional National Council within days, officials said.

US and Nato officials are also quietly encouraging the TNC to name an interim government to replace the crumbling Qadhafi regime.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Col Dave Lapan told reporters that the US had no plan to send ground forces into Libya, even to assist international peacekeeping efforts. There will be no US troops in Libya even after the Qadhafi regime is replaced.

Col Lapan also said that US official believed Col Qadhafi was still in Libya, but did not offer further detail on his presumed whereabouts. He said US surveillance operations over Libya, as part of the Nato mission, were expected to continue in the coming days.

Earlier, President Barack Obama noted in a televised speech that the Qadhafi regime had been brought close to a collapse “without putting a single US troop on the ground” and he intended to continue this policy.

At the State Department, spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the US might transfer between $1 billion and $1.5 billion of frozen Libyan assets in the US to the TNC within days.

US Ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice said the United States was already working with the world body to remove “legal and diplomatic hurdles to begin the process of unfreezing” between $33 to $35 billion of Libyan assets.

Meanwhile, the US media reported that as efforts to form an interim government in Libya began, the NTC's chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, a former justice minister, emerged as the frontrunner.

Mr Jalil is popular in the east and has a reputation for integrity but it is not clear if he is interested.

Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the NTC's executive board, is second on the list.

Other names include Ali Tarhouni, a member of the executive board, and Shokri Ghanem, a former prime minister.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon noted that the US had so far spent $896 million on military operations in Libya.

The price tag includes the amounts for daily air operations in the initial days of the uprising, munitions used in the operation and humanitarian assistance for the Libyan people.

The US has also promised $25 million in non-lethal aid to the Libyan Transitional National Council.

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