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Nato takes command of no-fly zone

Qatar became the first Arab country to fly combat missions over Libya on Friday after Nato agreed to take command of the no-fly zone over the country.

French and British jets struck Libyan military targets around a besieged eastern city, as talks in the Ethiopian capital to find a way out of the crisis produced a Libyan government statement saying they were ready to implement an unspecified "road map" in Libya.

The Qatari fighter jet flew its first sortie alongside a French jet, while the United Arab Emirates pledged 12 warplanes to the effort to thwart Muammar Gaddafi.

The international effort has no other countries from the Arab League, a 22-member group that was among the driving forces behind the UN Security Council decision to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

The United States has provided millions of dollars in equipment to many of the league's countries, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

"Having our first Arab nation join and start flying with us emphasises that the world wants the innocent Libyan people protected from the atrocities perpetrated by pro-regime forces," said US Air Forces Africa Commander Maj Gen Margaret Woodward.

Canadian Lt Gen Charles Bouchard was designated to lead what the country's defence minister described as "yet to be fully defined Nato operations".

The international coalition confronting Gaddafi has agreed to put Nato in charge of enforcing the no-fly zone, but was still hammering out a deal to relieve US forces of command of all military operations in the country.

President Barack Obama and Defence Secretary Robert Gates have both said that American command of the operations would last only a few days.

British and French warplanes, meanwhile, hit near the town of Ajdabiya, destroying an artillery battery and armoured vehicles. Ajdabiya and the western city of Misrata, in particular, have suffered because the rebels lack the heavy weapons to fight Gaddafi's forces.

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