* UAE key Arab participant in no-fly zone force
* Pilot ejects safely, plane damaged
* Official says plane had not suffered combat damage
(Recasts with UAE saying its pilot ejected, adds detail on plane’s mission, paragraph 5; previous BRUSSELS)
DUBAI, April 27 (Reuters) - The pilot of a United Arab Emirates plane taking part in air operations over Libya on Wednesday was forced to eject while landing at an airbase in Italy, the official UAE news agency said.
NATO had previously said the pilot of an F-16 fighter enforcing the no-fly zone ejected while nearing the outbound runway of Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily.
It declined to reveal the nationality of the aircraft, which suffered “substantial damage”, but an alliance official said the pilot was in good condition. The airfield was temporarily closed but should reopen later in the day.
“The pilot ejected safely,” it said.
The UAE statement said the aircraft veered off course during landing due to bad weather conditions, without elaborating.
The NATO official said the plane was on a routine transfer flight from Sardinia and had not suffered combat damage.
A total of 14 of the 28 NATO nations have been taking part in the Libya mission, which includes airstrikes, a no-fly zone and naval enforcement of an arms embargo.
Non-NATO states Sweden, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are also taking part.
Wednesday’s incident is the first announced by NATO involving one of its planes since it took over the Libya mission on March 31.
On March 21, the U.S. military said a U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter jet crashed during a mission over Libya. It blamed mechanical failure and said the pilot ejected safety. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Rex Merrifield and Sophie Hares)