Qatar, UAE in coalition striking Libya: Gulf bloc

US, British and French planes targeted Muammar Gaddafi`s anti-aircraft sites.

Updated: Mar 21, 2011, 15:43 PM IST

Abu Dhabi: The head of the Gulf`s main political bloc said on Monday that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates remain part of the international military coalition striking Libya, but stressed the mission seeks only to protect civilians.

The reaffirmation of the Gulf states` backing for the multinational force follows criticism by the Arab League`s chief over the heavy missile barrages by US and European forces against Libyan air defences, tanks and other targets.

"What is happening now is not an intervention. It is about protecting the people from bloodshed," said Abdul Rahman bin Hamad al-Attiyah, secretary general of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

But he did not clarify the role of Qatar or the UAE in the Libyan operations or whether they have taken part in warplane missions so far. The statement came as US, British and French planes targeted Gaddafi`s anti-aircraft sites for a second night and also destroyed a line of his tanks moving onto the rebel capital in eastern Libya.

On Sunday, the Arab League chief, Amr Moussa, raised questions about Arab participation in the coalition after saying the attacks on Muammar Gaddafi`s forces go beyond the mandate to impose a no-fly zone to halt Libyan air raids on rebel strongholds. Libya has claimed dozens of civilians have been killed in the strikes by the US and European forces.

In London, a Foreign Office spokesperson denied those claims.

"Unlike Gaddafi, the coalition is not attacking civilians. The UN resolution authorizes all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people," the spokesperson said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy. "All missions are meticulously planned to ensure every care is taken to avoid civilian casualties."

The UAE and Qatar also have joined Saudi-led forces in Bahrain to support the nation`s embattled Sunni leadership after more than a month of anti-government protests led by the country`s Shi’ite majority.

Al-Attiyah said there is no timeline on the presence of the more than 1,500 Gulf troops in Bahrain — which has come under sharp criticism from Iran and its Shi’ite allies around the Middle East.

"The arrival of forces is not an act of repression," he claimed.

Al-Attiyah spoke on the sidelines of a regional security meeting in Abu Dhabi. The GCC includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Bureau Report