US, allies expect larger Arab military role in Libya

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Hillary Clinton
Washington, Mar 23: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today said the United States expects "more announcements" of Arab participation in UN-backed military action in Libya in the coming days.

Five days after the United States, Britain and France launched air strikes to protect Libyans from Muammar Gaddafi's security forces, Qatar is the only Arab country to have offered warplanes for a no-fly zone.

"We are very satisfied by the Arab participation and there will be more announcements in the days ahead," Clinton told reporters when asked if the allies were getting robust Arab military support.

Obama administration officials have said that pledges of Arab political leadership and active participation in a no-fly zone in a fellow Arab country were crucial to the US decision to go ahead with military action in Libya.

Following unpopular US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last decade, US officials had balked at launching a US military campaign in a third Muslim country that risked further fuelling anti-American sentiment.

The 22-member Arab League endorsed the air exclusion zone in which allied warplanes and attacks on Libyan air defences ground Gaddafi''s air power.

However, a day after the military action began, Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa had courted controversy by speaking out against the air and missile strikes against Libya, saying they exceed the bounds set by UN Resolution 1973.

But after a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Cairo on Monday, Mussa got back behind the military strikes.

A senior US administration official told reporters yesterday that Arab support remained strong.

"With regard to Arab participation, this just takes time and it's a complicated process to reach these kinds of decisions," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

"But we're confident that you're going to see more Arab participation than you have seen already, and I think you're going to see that over the course of the next two or three days," the official said.

The United Arab Emirates said on Monday that its involvement in Libya is limited to humanitarian assistance, after reports that it would send warplanes to patrol the no-fly zone.

The Arab League, UAE, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar and Iraq represented Arab nations at a summit in Paris on Saturday on the Libyan crisis, raising expectations for broad Arab participation in the subsequent military action.

AFP

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