Landmines and trenches filled with petrol ready to be set alight are hindering Libyan insurgents’ attempts to take control of Brega, according to a rebel commander.
They say they have encircled the town but are still being attacked by Colonel Gaddafi’s forces.
A doctor said on Tuesday 18 anti-government fighters were killed and 150 wounded in clashes around Brega, a strategic town on the advance towards Tripoli.
In Paris rebel leaders from Misrata have asked President Sarkozy for more help. Their hosts want to avoid a prolonged conflict. The French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, said one idea being studied was to let Gaddafi stay in Libya as long as he quits power.
While the French entertained the rebels, the Russians were meeting the Libyan government. In Moscow both countries’ foreign ministers held talks: Russia like the west seeking an end to the war.
“The difference is that we are prepared to continue talks with this regime in order to induce it into political contact with the opposition, and in the end to induce it to leave power,” said Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Duma International Affairs Committee.
Moscow, a strong critic of NATO’s military campaign against Gaddafi, says the talks were held at Tripoli’s initiative.
The Libyan leader has been stepping up his efforts to show off his support in the towns he still controls. Tuesday’s rally in al Azizyah town 40km southwest of Tripoli, the fifth in 12 days, heard him vow to fight on.