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Gaddafi forces strike as Nato meets

Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have shelled a besieged western city, killing at least nine people, while the US told a Nato meeting that the alliance must intensify its political mission to isolate the Libyan leader and "bring about his departure".

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chaired a Cairo meeting of regional and international organisations on Libya and set three targets: reaching and implementing a ceasefire, delivering humanitarian aid and starting a dialogue on Libya's future.

"Shelling your own people is not acceptable," he said at a meeting at Arab League headquarters, referring to actions by Gaddafi's forces against anti-government rebels. "This is a violation of human rights."

Gaddafi's troops unleashed heavy shelling for three hours on the port city of Misrata, which is partly held by rebels.

The troops have laid siege to the city, taking control of some neighbourhoods. The port is Misrata's only lifeline.

Gaddafi's men hit the port with tank shells and Grad missiles, said a rebel who only gave his first name, Abdel-Salam. He said nine people were killed and 20 wounded in the barrage.

A doctor in Misrata, who gave his name only as Khaled for fear of retribution, said some of those killed were inside their houses asleep.

On the outskirts of Misrata, there is difficulty reaching the residents or delivering any humanitarian aid to them, since Gaddafi forces took control of the road, Khaled said.

Abdel-Salam, speaking by phone, said a cement factory in the area was destroyed and that residents rushed into the streets in search of safer neighbourhoods.

Misrata is Libya's third-largest city and the only one in the western part of the country still partly in rebel hands.

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