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Gaddafi's forces stay on offensive

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces are continuing to bombard rebels with rockets and artillery as efforts to find a solution to the Libyan crisis rumble on.

Diplomatic efforts to find a solution were picking up momentum as hopes faded for a rebel military victory.

The rebels have proven too weak to effect any change themselves, so any realistic hopes of unseating Gaddafi now rest on international political pressure combined with sustained Nato air strikes.

Nato planes destroyed four tanks near Zintan, 75 miles south-west of the capital, Tripoli, on Wednesday. A separate strike destroyed an ammunition storage site south-west of Sirte, a Gaddafi stronghold and home to the Libyan leader's tribe. British jets patrolling near Misrata also fired missiles and destroyed a tank.

"We will continue to strike at the regime's supplies and supply lines and reduce their ability to fight," said the commander of the Nato operation, Canadian Lt Gen Charles Bouchard.

Several rockets struck Ajdabiya, the main gateway town into the rebel-held east. Witnesses also reported shelling in Misrata.

Weeks of fierce government bombardment of Misrata have terrorised the residents, killing dozens of people and leaving food and medical supplies scarce.

Meanwhile, a rebel spokesman urged the US military to reassert a stronger role in the air campaign or risk more civilian casualties. The appeal by Mahmoud Shammam appeared to set the urgent tone for the rebels' meetings with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and senior Western and Arab envoys.

Mr Shammam said the anti-Gaddafi forces will not drop their demands that any peace proposal requires Gaddafi and his inner circle to leave the country.

"When the Americans were involved the mission was very active and it was more leaning toward protecting the civilians," he said. "Nato is very slow responding to these attacks on the civilians. We'd like to see more work toward protecting the civilians," he said before the one-day conference began.

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