Saturday, March 26, 2011

Qatar Becomes First Arab State to Overfly Libya

Qatari warplanes have flown over Libya, becoming the first Arab state to take part in military operations to enforce a no-fly zone under a U.N. resolution, its air force announced March 25.

The air force said an undisclosed number of planes had "overflown sister Libya as part of the international coalition" to enforce the no-fly zone imposed on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces "to protect civilians."

It did not specify a date for the start of Qatari operations nor a location for the first flights, in a brief statement carried by state news agency QNA.

But two Qatari Mirage jet fighters and a C-17 Globemaster transport plane landed on March 22 in Cyprus for refueling on their way to deployment. State television said they were headed for a U.S. air base on Crete.

The United Arab Emirates, like Qatar a key U.S. ally, said on March 24 it has committed six F-16 and six Mirage fighters to help enforce the no-fly zone over its fellow Arab country and that its flights would start "in the coming days."

The 22-member Arab League endorsed the no-fly zone before Western warplanes under Security Council Resolution 1973 launched attacks on the air defenses of Gadhafi's forces battling an armed revolt.

But with Arab states seen as slow to contribute, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier this week that Washington expected "more announcements" of Arab participation in the days ahead.

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