Manama: Qatar's prime minister has defended his country's participation in military operations in Libya, saying the aim was to "stop the bloodbath".

An international coalition began strikes in Libya with combat jets and cruise missiles on Saturday, aiming to stop Muammar Gaddafi's violent suppression of a widespread revolt.

"Qatar's participation in this military operation stems from the belief that Arab countries should take part in this operation since the situation there [in Libya] is intolerable," Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasem Al Thani, said. "We are watching the killing there and the way it is done... This is not a confrontation between demonstrators and police, but a war declared against the protesters in which mercenaries are participating. And this must stop immediately," Shaikh Hamad, also Qatar's foreign minister, was quoted as saying by Qatar News Agency.

Qatar's position has been "clear from the beginning and is based on the idea that any harm against the Libyan people is unacceptable and that bloodbath in that country must end", Shaikh Hamad said in statements to Al Jazeera channel.

Clear intent

Qatar's active involvement was not intended to cause any harm to the Libyan people or to Gaddafi and his sons but was intended to put an end to the bloodbath, he said.

"Qatar is participating in the ongoing military action because it is necessary for Arab states to take part."

Qatar is the only Arab country that pledged, at an emergency meeting in Paris on Saturday, to participate in military operations in Libya.

The United States has stressed the importance of Arab participation in the international effort.

Reacting to claims of delay and hesitation over firming up a response to developments in Libya, Shaikh Hamad said any opinion or solution should have been forwarded to Qatar, especially considering that the massacre has been ongoing for weeks.

Qatar would have been the first country to join in if a team of Arab countries had been approached to persuade the Libyan authorities to halt the fighting, he said.

Shaikh Hamad insisted that the Arab League Council had not asked the West to intervene in Libya but urged the United Nations to impose a ‘no-fly zone' to protect civilians.

"We cooperate with the United Nations, participate in what it sets out to do and acknowledge its resolutions," he said. "We hoped that the Arabs would act to end the bloodshed but, regrettably, nothing was done. We hope that in the future Arabs will have a response mechanism in place at the Arab League to deal with such issues and situations. What is happening in Libyan and to the people there concerns us in Qatar, and the Emir, Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, is pained by the unfortunate events in Libya," he said.