Rebel gains 'change Libya dynamic'
The seizure by Libyan rebels of two key oil towns could produce "a very different political dynamic" in Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said.
The rebels continued their rapid advance westwards, taking the coastal towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf as the regime's forces fell back in the face of coalition air strikes.
Dr Fox said that the rebel gains could give them effective control of Libya's entire oil export industry, potentially weakening Colonel Gaddafi's grip on power in Tripoli.
"As they move round the coast, of course, the rebels will increasingly control the exit points of Libya's oil," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.
"That will produce a very dynamic and a very different equilibrium inside Libya. How that will play out in terms of public opinion and the Gaddafi regime remains to be seen."
The latest rebel advance came after coalition air strikes - including by RAF Tornado GR4s - targeted the regime's tanks and armoured vehicles around the strategic town of Ajdabiya, which fell to the rebels on Saturday.
That opened the path to Brega, a major oil export terminal, and the massive oil refining complex of Ras Lanuf, which together accounted for a large slice of Libya's 1.5 million barrels a day of exports, before production stopped with the uprising last month.
Dr Fox told Sky News's Murnaghan programme: "There is no doubt that we've given a fillip to the rebels, that they have increased confidence and I hope that what will ultimately happen is that, without further bloodshed, the people of Libya will rise up and be able to determine what sort of government they want."
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said that Col Gaddafi's capability to move armour to threaten the rebels' strongholds in the east, such as Benghazi, had "pretty well been eliminated".
Nato ambassadors meeting in Brussels later agreed that the alliance would take command of all international military operations in relation to Libya, including airstrikes on Col Gaddafi's forces.