Abu Dhabi: Qatar and the UAE are part of the international coalition that is implementing a UN-imposed no-fly zone over Libya, whose regime has lost legitimacy and must go, the outgoing chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said Monday.
While stressing the mission of the multinational force seeks only to protect civilians, Hamad Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah, Secretary-General of the GCC, said what is happening now is not a foreign intervention. “It is about protecting the [Libyan] people from bloodshed,” he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of a regional security conference organised by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) in Abu Dhabi, Al Attiyah did not clarify the role of Qatar or the UAE in the Libyan operations or whether they have taken part in the ongoing operation so far.
The statement came as British, French and American planes bombarded Muammar Gaddafi’s anti-aircaft sites for a second night and also destroyed a line of his tanks moving onto Benghazil in eastern Libya.
The Arab League chief, Amr Mousa, on Sunday criticised Arab participation in the coalition and said the attacks on 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 US and European forces.
Al Attiyah said the GCC countries, their leaders and everybody were in pain and believe “these operations were prompted by the Libyan regime, which has lost legitimacy and must go to protect our brothers and their gains.”
Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who addressed the conference “Global Strategic Development: A Futuristic Vision”, didn’t answer queries of reporters.
Shaikh Abdullah said: “We in the Arab World are experiencing exceptional circumstances that will have significant and long-term implications for the region as a whole.”
The GCC chief stressed the deployment of the Peninsula Shield forces in Bahrain was to protect strategic infrastructure in line with the joint defence pact among the GCC countries.
“The deployment of the forces was not an act of repression and not in violation of the agreement endorsed by the GCC countries to achieve security and stability for citizens and residents,” Al Attiyah said.
The UAE and Qatar also joined Saudi-led forces in Bahrain to support its leadership after more than a month of anti-government protests.
Al Attiyah said there is no timeline on the presence of the more than 1,500 Gulf troops in Bahrain. He stressed GCC countries don’t intervene in the internal affairs of other countries and don’t accept any foreign intervention from any party including Iran. “Maintaining our security is a red line.”
King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa of Bahrain said the deployment of the Peninsula Shield forces was not to restore domestic order in Bahrain but to “have the duty of defending any country of the GCC states.”
During his meeting with commanders of the forces, the Bahraini king said there was an “external plot” which has been ongoing for at least 30 years targeting the GCC. He asserted that the plot has failed. He did not elaborate.
A Saudi force of about 1,000 troops from the Gulf Peninsula Shield force arrived in Bahrain on March 13 after unprecedented violence erupted between protesters and government forces.
The UAE also sent 500 police officers to Bahrain. The Peninsula Shield is composed of joint military forces that the GCC established in 1986.