Qatar first Arab state to patrol Libya no-fly zone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Qatar on Friday became the first Arab country to begin patrolling a U.N.-backed no-fly zone aimed at preventing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces from attacking civilians, the coalition task force said in a statement.

A Qatari Mirage 2000-5 jet joined a similar French air force plane to patrol a sector of Libyan air space, the statement said.

Qatar has deployed six Mirage 2000-5 warplanes and two C-17A transport aircraft to Europe to support the no-fly zone and deliver humanitarian assistance to Libyan civilians.

The United Arab Emirates announced on Thursday it would join the coalition, but it has not yet begun flying missions, the statement said.

“We are very happy to have the Qatar Emiri Air Force become part of our coalition team,” said Major General Margaret Woodward, an air commander for the operation.

“Having our first Arab nation join and start flying with us emphasizes that the world wants the innocent Libyan people protected from the atrocities perpetrated by pro-regime forces,” she said. “Our efforts have been effective in protecting the citizens from fear of an air attack.”

Eleven countries are directly involved in enforcing the no-fly zone, the statement said. They are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

Qatar first Arab state to patrol Libya no-fly zone