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Gaddafi forces continue to advance

Forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi have destroyed an oil pipeline and storage plant as they pounded rebels with artillery and gunfire in at least two major cities.

Gaddafi appeared to be keeping up the momentum in his fight against rebels trying to move on the capital Tripoli from territory they hold in eastern Libya.

The Sidr oil facility, 360 miles east of Tripoli was attacked by artillery and planes.

Gaddafi's successes have left Western powers struggling to come up with a plan to support the rebels without becoming ensnared in the complex and fast-moving conflict.

US president Barack Obama's most senior advisers were meeting to outline what steps are realistic. They planned to examine the ramifications of a no-fly zone over Libya and other potential military options.

Britain and France are pushing for the UN to create a no-fly zone and while the US may be persuaded to sign on, such a move is unlikely to win the backing of veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China, who traditionally object to such steps as infringements on national sovereignty.

The two sides in Libya traded barrages of artillery shells and rockets today about 12 miles west of the oil port of Ras Lanouf, an indication that regime forces were much closer than previously known. Ras Lanouf is the westernmost point seized by rebels moving along the country's main road on the Mediterranean coast.

Rebels also hold territory south of Tripoli and homes and other buildings in the city of Zawiya were shelled by government forces.

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