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Nato boss: We'll get more warplanes

Nato's secretary general has said he expects member nations to provide extra ground-attack aircraft soon to strike Muammar Gaddafi's forces in Libya.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen's comments came despite no concrete commitments emerging from a two-meeting summit of the alliance.

Nato's top military commander, US Navy admiral James Stavridis, has said there is a growing need for precision attack aircraft to avoid civilian casualties as Gaddafi's forces camouflage themselves and hide in populated areas to avoid Western air strikes.

American officials said the commander is looking for about eight to 10 additional planes.

In an interview following the two-day meeting, Mr Fogh Rasmussen refused to confirm that number and would not comment on what specific types of planes were needed, but said he was confident that military commanders would get the additional resources soon.

"What we need is a small number of precision aircraft fighters and without going into details, I'm hopeful that nations will step up to the plate," he said, noting that the two-day Berlin meeting was not held to solicit new pledges of support. "I think all Nato allies realise that of course the operation must be fully resourced."

The need for the additional aircraft had come as the situation had changed on the ground, Mr Fogh Rasmussen said. "At the beginning we targeted fixed military capacities on the ground - gradually we have moved into targeting moving targets like tanks, armoured vehicles and other military capacities," he said. "We have also seen Gaddafi change his tactics into using civilian vehicles, hiding tanks and armoured vehicles in the cities, using human shields and all that makes it necessary to gradually adapt our tactics."

Meanwhile troops loyal to Gaddafi unleashed heavy shelling on Misrata on Friday, pushing troops and tanks into the rebel-held western city, a witness said. Elsewhere in Libya, Nato warplanes struck Gaddafi's home town of Sirte in the east, Libyan TV said.

Rebels in Misrata claim Gaddafi's forces have been using cluster bombs, which pose particular risk to civilians because they scatter small bomblets over a wide area. New York-based Human Rights Watch reported that such munitions were used, saying its researchers inspected remnants and interviewed witnesses.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim denied the use of cluster bombs. "Absolutely not," he said when asked about the allegations. "We can never do this. We challenge them to prove it."

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