ABU DHABI — The six Gulf Arab states expressed support for a no-fly zone over Libya on Monday, amid divisions among the major powers over military intervention in the North African nation.
"The Gulf Cooperation Council demands that the UN Security Council take all necessary measures to protect civilians, including enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya," the six-nation bloc said in a statement.
The GCC statement also condemned the "crimes committed against civilians, the use of heavy arms and the recruitment of mercenaries" by the Libyan regime.
United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said the Gulf monarchies had reached their decision after Libyan authorities "totally refused to allow aid" to reach civilians.
He said "those responsible should be brought to justice".
"We call on the international community, especially the UN Security Council, to face their responsibilities in helping the dear people," Sheikh Abdullah told a GCC foreign ministers' meeting in Abu Dhabi.
"The meeting is being held amid difficult changes the brotherly Libyan people are going through, prompting us to join our efforts to help them in their crisis," he said.
The UN Security Council unanimously imposed sanctions against the Kadhafi regime and on February 26 ordered an investigation into possible crimes against humanity.
But the major powers have been deeply divided over British and French calls for the council to order a no-fly zone.
"At the UN Security Council we are working closely with partners on a contingency basis on elements of a resolution on a no-fly zone, making clear the need for regional support, a clear trigger for such a resolution and an appropriate legal basis," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Russia, which holds a veto as a permanent member of the council, signalled its opposition. "The Libyans must resolve their problems themselves," said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Outgoing GCC secretary general Abdulrahman al-Attiyah hit out at Moamer Kadhafi's regime saying he hoped for an end to "the nightmare that has sat on a country like Libya... for over four decades."
Relations between Kadhafi and the oil-rich Gulf states have long been strained, particularly with regional giant Saudi Arabia.
During an Arab summit in the Qatari capital Doha in 2009, the Libyan leader publicly insulted Saudi King Abdullah in front of the assembled heads of state.
"You are always lying and you're facing the grave and you were made by Britain and protected by the United States," Kadhafi told the king.
The Gulf foreign ministers expressed support for two GCC member states -- Bahrain and Oman -- which have been hit by the wave of protests that has rocked the Arab world this year.
The UAE foreign minister praised the Omani authorities' handling of the demonstrations, saying he had "confidence in the ability of Sultan Qaboos's government in wisely resolving these issues."
Earlier on Monday, Qaboos announced a major cabinet reshuffle, sacking several ministers in response to the protesters' grievances, which include corruption and the slow pace of democratic reform.
"We are aware that the fate of our countries and people is one and that whatever hits our brothers affects us as our security is one and and our future is one," Sheikh Abdullah said.
He also praised the "wisdom" of Bahrain's King Hamad in handling the "protests that took place" in the tiny but strategic kingdom, saying the king had "put the interests of Bahrain and its people over all other considerations."
Anti-government protests in the Shiite-majority country, which is ruled by a Sunni dynasty, entered their 22nd day on Monday.
The Gulf states agreed to meet in Riyadh on Thursday for further talks on the situation in Bahrain and Oman.
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