ABU DHABI // The ongoing military strikes in Libya fall within the mandate granted by the UN Security Council, said a top Gulf official yesterday.
Abdul Rahman al Atiyyah, the secretary general of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), said these operations were necessary to protect Libyan civilians, and fell within the mandate offered by the Security Council.
"What is happening now is not intervention, it is for the protection of the Libyan people and civilians from the waterfalls of blood," Mr al Attiyah said. "These operations are to stop the bloodshed occurring in Libya."
Mr al Atiyyah's comments contrasted with statements by Amr Moussa, the Arab League's secretary general, on Sunday, in which he said the scope of the military intervention in Libya may have surpassed the mandate of the no-fly zone, which the Arab League supported. Mr Moussa subsequently withdrew the comment.
An international coalition on Sunday began enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, where rebels are seeking the overthrow Col Muammar Qaddafi.
Col Qaddafi's air force had threatened to provide a knockout blow to the rebels, as his troops neared the city of Benghazi, the rebel capital.
But the UN Security Council voted on Thursday night to authorise all necessary measures to protect Libyan civilians, including enforcing a no-fly zone. French aircraft began patrolling Libyan airspace on Saturday, and the US launched cruise missiles on the same day against 20 Libyan air defence facilities.
Mr al Atiyyah, who described Col Qaddafi's attacks on civilians as crimes against humanity, called on the Libyan leader to step down, saying "the Libyan regime, whose legitimacy is gone, has to leave".
The leaders of the Gulf were "pained", he said, by the occurrences in Libya.
The GCC led calls for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, condemning Col Qaddafi's use of heavy weaponry and foreign mercenaries against his own citizens.
Mr al Atiyyah said the UAE and Qatar were part of the coalition to protect civilians in Libya, but did not elaborate on the specific role they will play.
"They are part of the international coalition, the UAE and Qatar," he said. "They are there because they want to stop bloodshed."
In a statement released yesterday by WAM, the state news agency, the UAE said that its role was confined to delivering humanitarian assistance.
Juma Mubarak al Junaibi, Undersecretary of the UAE Foreign Ministry, said: "The UAE is assuming its humanitarian role within the framework of brotherhood and friendship with the Libyan people".
Mr al Atiyyah was speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
The conference, at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, was inaugurated by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Sheikh Abdullah said that the region was going through "extraordinary circumstances" whose consequences and impact would be far-reaching.
The Gulf bloc called for the imposition of a no-fly zone at a meeting of its foreign ministers two weeks ago here. This was followed by similar statements by the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
Arab and Muslim support for UN intervention was seen as crucial in order to avoid painting the coalition as a foreign attack on Libya, which could hand a propaganda coup to Col Qaddafi.