Qatar jets head to Crete after Cyprus stopover

NICOSIA Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:57am EDT

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NICOSIA (Reuters) - Two Qatari fighter jets and a transport aircraft expected to participate in the no-fly zone over Libya left for Crete Tuesday after an unscheduled refueling stop in Cyprus.

The aircraft were given permission to land after pilots declared a fuel emergency, Cypriot government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said in a written statement.

Authorities initially refused the request from the two Mirage jets and a C-17 cargo plane to land for refueling, he said.

European and U.S. forces have sent warplanes against Libyan targets under a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing military action to protect civilians from leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Cyprus, which hosts two British bases, has said it does not want any involvement in military operations over Libya.

President Demetris Christofias said Sunday that his government opposed any use of the British bases on the island to enforce the no-fly zone, but conceded it had no power to stop their involvement.

Britain has sovereignty over the bases on Cyprus, a former colony. British base authorities have said the facilities in Cyprus were not being used to launch offensive strikes.

(Writing by Michele Kambas, editing by Tim Pearce)

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