British trade officials will be dispatched to Libya to strike up oil deals with the new government.

UK Trade and Investment, the Government’s business-promotion department, has confirmed it will send a team to Tripoli “very soon” so as not to miss out on oil contracts to Russian and Chinese competitors.

A senior Whitehall official said: “British oil companies have been major players in Libya and I’m sure that they will want to get back in there.”

The RAF has flown £140m of Libyan banknotes (280m Libyan dinars) to Libya after an assets freeze aimed at Col Muammar Gaddafi was lifted.

The cash, printed in the UK, is the first tranche of £950m that will be handed to Libya's Central Bank.

A Whitehall official said the money should be available for cash machines and banks in Libya very quickly.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said: “These banknotes will help address urgent humanitarian needs, instil confidence in the banking sector, pay salaries of key public sector workers and free up liquidity in the economy.”

British prime minister David Cameron, French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and representatives from more than 50 countries are due to meet at a summit in Paris on the day that Gaddafi would have celebrated the 42nd anniversary of the coup that brought him to power.

The Friends of Libya meeting will give the National Transitional Council its first major international platform as the legitimate government of Libya.

In its transition to power, it has promised economic rewards for countries, such as Britain and France, which took a lead role in backing the revolt against Gaddafi.

It has recently been revealed David Cameron set up a unit to block fuel supplies to Col Gaddafi's forces.

The secret "Libya oil cell" also ensured that petrol and diesel continued to get through to the rebels in the east.

The Whitehall-based unit was made up of a handful of civil servants, ministers and military figures.

It played a crucial role in starving the regime's war effort of fuel while making sure that the rebels could continue taking the fight to Gaddafi, Whitehall officials told our correspondent.

Meanwhile, Russia and China, which did not support the Nato intervention, will be fighting to preserve lucrative energy and construction contracts.

Mikhail Margelov, Russia’s Africa envoy, said Moscow, which struck arms, energy and infrastructure deals worth billions with Gaddafi’s regime, does not want to lose out. “We intend to uphold Russian economic and other interests in Libya,” he said.