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We are stepping up strikes - Nato

Nato has dismissed rebel criticism of the pace of its military campaign in Libya, saying its number of air strikes is increasing every day.

"The ambition and precision of our strikes has not changed. The facts speak for themselves," said Carmen Romero, Nato's deputy spokesman.

She said the situation in the besieged rebel-held town of Misrata remains a priority for Nato's military operation.

On Tuesday, Abdel-Fattah Younis, chief of staff for the rebel military and Muammar Gaddafi's former interior minister, said Nato did not "do anything", even though the UN Security Council has given the alliance the right to act.

He blamed Nato's bureaucratic procedures for eight-hour delays between the time the rebels inform Nato of enemy targets and when its attack planes arrive. "The people will die and this crime will be on the face of the international community forever. What is Nato doing?" Mr Younis said.

Nato assumed command of the aerial onslaught on Libya a week ago, conducting 851 sorties in the first six days. Canadian Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, who commands the Libyan operation from his headquarters in Naples, Italy, estimated that 30% of Gaddafi's military capacity had been destroyed.

Ms Romero said that contrary to rebel claims, "the tempo of operations is even increasing". She said the alliance flew 137 missions on Monday, 186 on Tuesday, and that 198 were planned for Wednesday, but added that Nato's priority was to avoid harming civilians and therefore "all operations are carried out in a very vigilant way".

Meanwhile, a former US congressman is in the Libyan capital for talks with Muammar Gaddafi on efforts to end the country's crisis. A spokesman for Curt Weldon says he arrived in Tripoli today after Gaddafi invited him.

Mr Weldon would be one of the few high-profile Westerners to meet Gaddafi since the rebellion against his four-decade rule began in February.

Mr Weldon is a Republican from Pennsylvania who served in Congress for two decades before losing his seat in 2006. It is not clear why Gaddafi sought to meet him, although Mr Weldon was part of a bipartisan delegation that visited Libya in 2004.

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