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Qatari government confirms it sent soldiers to Libya

altQatar has announced that it had sent hundreds of soldiers to assist Libyan rebels in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi and his regime. Qatar has been a strong supporter of the rebels, assisting them with weapons and other supplies.

"Qatar had supervised the rebels' plans because they are civilians and did not have enough military experience. We acted as the link between the rebels and NATO forces,” said Qatari chief of staff Major General Hamad bin Ali Al-Atiya. "We were among them and the numbers of Qataris on the ground were hundreds in every region."

Atiya made the comments yesterday at the sidelines of a meeting in Doha of military allies of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) called "Friends Committee in Support if Libya", comprising 13 countries including the United States, Britain and France.

Qatar played a key role in securing an Arab League resolution calling for international protection for Libyan civilians at the start of the uprising in March that culminated in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

It also sent warplanes to help the NATO-led operation enforcing the U.N. mandate to protect civilians, sold Libyan oil and shipped in fuel and other. Qatari aircraft and boats also flew and shipped in arms and ammunition for the rebels.

Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said that Qatar had been "a major partner in all the battles we fought," and that the Qataris had "planned" the battles which paved the way for NTC fighters to gradually take over Gaddafi-held towns and cities.

Atiya also said that after the departure of NATO troops, a new international coalition led by Qatar would oversee "military training, collecting weapons, and integrating the rebels in newly established military institutions."

Atiya yesterday said that Western countries had proposed setting up a new alliance headed by Qatar to support Libya after NATO ends its mission in the North African country.

He was speaking after NATO postponed until later this week a meeting that had been expected to formalise a decision to end its Libya mission at the end of the month after Libyan officials called for it to be kept going longer.

"After it became clear that NATO has a vision to withdraw at a certain point, Libya's friends from the Western countries have proposed this idea of setting up a new alliance to continue supporting Libya," Atiya, said in remarks carried by Al Jazeera television.

"And they have asked that it be headed by Qatar because Qatar is a friend of theirs and a close friend of Libya," he added without giving further details.

In Paris, the French Foreign Ministry said a proposed extension of NATO's mission would be studied. "We will take this request into consideration with our partners. France continues to support and help the National Transitional Council. We welcome the liberation of Libya and the fact that the operation, militarily speaking, is at its end," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Asked about a possible Qatari-led mission, the spokesman said: "We have taken note of this report but it is far too early to comment on it and we would not do so unilaterally."

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