Tripoli: In order to rush aid and supplies to the beleaguered Western Libyan city Misruta, NATO on Wednesday said it would form a sea bridge to the city after it was cut off by Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

"We are going to open a sea corridor to the city to let Libyan rebels ship aid and supplies to the besieged Mediterranean port city and at no moment Gaddafi's military forces will be able to stop this," France's Defence Minister Gerard Longuet announced.

NATO also announced that it would step up the pace of air strikes on Libya despite the use of civilians as human shields by Gaddafi's forces.

"Misruta is our number one priority," NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said. She said Gaddafi's troops were adjusting their tactic to deal with threats from coalition air strikes,
travelling in trucks and light vehicles to the front line and hiding their tanks from sight.

She claimed the NATO had so far taken out 30 percent of Gaddafi's military power and had struck targets near Misruta on Wednesday. Earlier on Wednesday, Libyan rebel forces totally abandoned the oil town of Brega and headed east towards Ajdabiya in the face of renewed offencive by troops loyal to regime.


Rebel army head slams NATO
The NATO's announcement of stepping up its military action came after rebel military chief Gen Abdul Fatah Younis in Benghazi said that NATO was doing nothing as loyalist forces continued their 40-day long artillery bombardment of civilians in the Western city.

"I would like to say to you people that NATO did not provide to us what we need," Gen Younis said.

He charged that NATO was enforcing UN sanctioned no-fly zone selectively and had barred the rebels from using MiG fighters to give cover to their fighters.

Younis, a former Interior Minister, said that rebels had made a number of MiG fighters serviceable and wanted to use them to pound Gaddafi's forces.

His strong lashing came after Gaddafi's forces had almost pushed out rebels from most of the key cities.

"NATO should be with us or we will ask the (Transitional National Council, the rebel government) to raise this to the Security Council. This is a dangerous situation,"
Younis warned.

The General said, "NATO is moving very slowly, allowing Gaddafi's forces to advance... NATO has become our problem."

Gaddafi offers talks
Buoyed by his huge successes against rebels, Gaddafi offered to hold talks with opposition if the insurgents disarmed.

Gaddafi's son Seif ul-Islam told a news channel that if the foreign interference ended, he and his father were ready to move Libya towards democratic elections under a elected Prime Minister with Gaddafi remaining only in a figure head role.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has ruled out sending ground troops to Libya and reiterated that any change in the leadership would be determined by the people of the country and not by any external forces.

 

(Agencies)