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Spain puts a freeze on Gaddafi's Costa "ranch"

Zapatero offers 300 million euros to rebuild restless nations

In accordance with sanctions imposed by the European Union, the Spanish government announced Wednesday that it was freezing a tourism project near Marbella belonging to Libyan strongman Muammar Gadaffi.

Gaddafi owns some 6,000 hectares in Benahavis, on the southern Costa del Sol, where he had planned to build an estimated 1,900 homes, a golf course and a convention center. On paper, the property belongs to the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank, but for the past 20 years it has been known as "Gaddafi's ranch."

Foreign Ministry sources said that the government was putting a lean on the land and freezing all transactions related to it until it could clear up who owns the property. Officials were also looking for other assets in Spain belonging to the Libyan leader but so far have not detected any.

Speaking from Tunisia, where he is on an official visit, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said that Spain was supporting the rapid changes that were taking place in the Arab world. The Spanish leader met with Tunisian Prime Minister Benji Caid Sebsi, who is heading an interim government following a people's uprising that in January put an end to President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year rule.

Zapatero said that Spain was offering a 300-million eurolow-interest loan to the European Investment Bank that will go to aid recovery projects in nations around the Mediterranean that have been affected by unrest in recent weeks. The bank has about 10 billion euros in aid.

"Spain and Europe's role must be support and stimulus for societies that are promoting democratic change and seeking liberty," Zapatero said.