The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced joining of the Western coalition to help protect civilians and to enforce a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over strife-torn Libya.
UAE state news agency WAM quoted Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan as saying on Friday that six F-16 and six Mirage aircraft would join the patrols to enforce the no-fly zone established over Libya "in the coming days."
This is in addition to UAE planes deployed on humanitarian operations in that North African country.
UAE is the second Gulf state to send warplanes to the multi-nation military mission. Qatar had contributed two fighter jets and two military transport planes to the coalition.
A number of Arab and African countries are opposed to Col. Moammar Qadhafi clinging to power by trying to put down the popular revolt.
In an important development on late Thursday, the Western coalition agreed to transfer the command and control of the no-fly zone to NATO starting immediately.
At a special briefing in Washington, DC, senior American administration officials said it would take "a couple of days to really complete the transfer."
A consensus on handing over responsibility of the challenging multi-nation military mission to the alliance was reached after hectic consultations between the Foreign Ministers of Turkey, France, Britain, and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Talking to reporters on return from the White House after meeting with President Barack Obama and the national security team, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said NATO was well-suited to coordinating this international effort and ensuring that all participating nations were working effectively together toward "our shared goals."
"This coalition includes countries beyond NATO, including Arab partners, and we expect all of them to be providing important political guidance going forward," she added.
She reiterated that Arab leadership and participation in resolving the Libyan crisis were crucial.
Clinton said all 28 allies have authorized military authorities to develop an operation plan for NATO to take on the broader civilian protection mission under Resolution 1973.
French fighter jets shot down a Galeb single-engine military aircraft on Thursday over the western city of Misrata, which had been pounded by forces loyal to Qadhafi in the past few days.
It was the first incident of its kind since American, British and French forces began joint air strikes on Saturday to enforce the no-fly zone over the oil-rich country.
A U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution, passed last week, had decided to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to protect the civilians from aerial bombings and authorized any military action needed to implement such a ban, short of an occupation.
by RTT Staff Writer
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