Qatar becomes 1st Arab country to fly over LibyaPosted: Updated:
(AP) - Tiny Qatar became the first Arab countryto fly combat missions over Libya on Friday after NATO agreed totake command of the no-fly zone part of air operations againstMoammar Gadhafi's regime. French and British jets struck Libyan military targets around abesieged eastern city, as talks in the Ethiopian capital to find away out of the crisis produced a statement from the Libyangovernment delegation saying his country was ready to talk withrebels and accept political reform, possibly including elections. The Qatari fighter jet flew its first sortie alongside a Frenchjet on Friday and the United Arab Emirates pledged 12 warplanes tothe effort to thwart Moammar Gadhafi. The international effort hasno other countries from the Arab League, a 22-member group that wasamong the driving forces behind the U.N. Security Council decisionto impose a no-fly zone over Libya. "Qatar has been a great ally from Day One," said MustafaGheriani, spokesman for opposition Benghazi city council. "It's anArab country to be proud of." The United States has provided millions of dollars in equipmentto many of the league's countries, including Saudi Arabia andJordan. Qatar has close ties to the U.S. military, a reputation forinternational mediation, and hosts the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera network. "Having our first Arab nation join and start flying with usemphasizes that the world wants the innocent Libyan peopleprotected from the atrocities perpetrated by pro-regime forces,"U.S. Air Forces Africa Commander Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward said. The international coalition confronting Gadhafi agreed to putNATO in charge of enforcing the no-fly zone, with Canadian Lt. Gen.Charles Bouchard at the helm, and hammered out a unified commandstructure. Despite the leadership confusion, Britain's senior militaryspokesman, said the mission was succeeding. "We have not been able to stop all Col. Gadhafi's attacks, andwe would never pretend that we could," Maj. Gen. John Lorimer toldreporters in London Friday. But, he said, "They are losingaircraft, tanks, guns that they cannot replace. His ability to usethese weapons against his own people is diminished daily." NATO also heads the ship blockade, but British officials onFriday have refused to say whether NATO ships would patrol therebel-held coastal areas in the east. A slide shown to journalistsFriday seemed to underline the ambiguity of the naval arms embargo. "The entire coast will need to be monitored," said Capt. KarlEvans, who briefed reporters at the Ministry of Defense in London.Behind him, a map of Libya visualizing the NATO blockade showedonly the 600 miles of Gadhafi-controlled coastlinehighlighted in red, with the rebel-held east seemingly left out.