ABU DHABI // The UAE will send 12 warplanes to help enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, becoming the second Arab state to provide military support to the coalition's intervention against Col Muammar Qaddafi's regime.
The UAE will send six Mirage and six F-16 fighter jets to the country, according to a statement released today by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the biggest military contribution yet by an Arab country to the operation.
Sheikh Abdullah said the decision was an extension of the UAE’s commitment to humanitarian operations in Libya.
“As an extension of those humanitarian operations the UAE Air Force has committed six F-16 and six Mirage aircraft to participate in the patrols that will enforce the No Fly Zone now established over Libya,” said Sheikh Abdullah.
A UN Security Council resolution issued last week authorised the use of military force to enforce a no-fly zone “all necessary measures” short of a ground invasion of Libya to protect civilians as fears grew of an imminent onslaught by pro-Qaddafi forces on rebel-held cities.
Arab support was seen as crucial by Western diplomats and officials to the operation, to avoid painting it as a Western-led intervention that could be used as a propaganda tool by Col Qaddafi.
In a response to the UAE’s announcement, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “We welcome this important step. It underscores both the breadth of this international coalition and the depth of concern in the region for the plight of the Libyan people.”