TRIPOLI, Libya -- Tiny 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 part of air operations against Moammar Gadhafi's regime.
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 statement from the Libyan government delegation saying his country was ready to talk with rebels and accept political reform, possibly including elections.
It not immediately unclear what was behind the offer from Libyan negotiator Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi. Rebels, who were not at the talks, say they will not negotiate with Gadhafi.
The Qatari fighter jet flew its first sortie alongside a French jet on Friday and the United Arab Emirates pledged 12 warplanes to the effort to thwart Moammar Gadhafi. The international effort has no other countries from the Arab League, a 22-member group that was among the driving forces behind the U.N. Security Council decision to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
"Qatar has been a great ally from Day One," said Mustafa Gheriani, spokesman for opposition Benghazi city council. "It's an Arab country to be proud of."
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 emphasizes that the world wants the innocent Libyan people protected from the atrocities perpetrated by pro-regime forces," U.S. Air Forces Africa Commander Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward said.
The international coalition confronting Gadhafi agreed to put NATO in charge of enforcing the no-fly zone, with Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard at the helm, and hammered out a unified command structure.
Despite the leadership confusion, Britain's senior military spokesman, said the mission was succeeding.