The UAE will dispatch 12 fighter jets to support the no-fly zone over Libya, becoming the second Arab country after Qatar to aid an international coalition in its efforts to reduce Muammar Qaddafi’s ability to launch air-strikes against rebel forces.

The UAE will send six Mirage fighters, and six F-16 fighter bombers to the conflict zone, the biggest Arab contribution to the air operations yet, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, said on 25 March.

The minister did not give a date for the departure of the war planes.

The UAE had voiced support for a UN resolution calling for an active role in the struggle between Qaddafi loyalists and rebel forces at a meeting between Arab League and Western representatives in Paris.

The country’s enthusiasm for taking part in no-fly zone operations had reportedly waned, however, in response to the Western reactions to the violent response of the government of Bahrain to protests over the past month. The UAE pledged only to provide humanitarian aid to Libya as a result. The UAE has since set up an refugee camp on the Tunisian border to Libya, and sent humanitarian aid to the rebel-held town of Benghazi.

Qatar on 22 March sent two Mirage fighters and two transport planes in aid of coalition efforts. Three days later, the UAE apparently changed its position.

Qaddafi has meanwhile suffered his first major strategic setback, as coalition air attacks helped rebel forces secure the city of Ajdabiya.