NATO has carried out its heaviest air strikes against Libya's capital Tripoli on Tuesday in more than two months of bombing, amid upbeat comments from France and the United States on overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi's rule, reported Reuters.
Libyan officials said at least 19 people were killed in the six loud explosions within a duration of 10 minutes, following powerful strikes 24 hours earlier, including one on Gaddafi's compound. The state television blamed the attack on colonialist crusaders.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Tuesday that the NATO bombing campaign was making progress and should achieve its objectives within months. An alliance official described the Tuesday's early strike as the most concentrated to date, the report said.
Since the United Nations Security Council authorized all necessary measures to protect civilians from Gaddafi's forces, France, Britain and the United States are leading the air strikes, which started on March 19.
Juppe's remark came after the United States earlier said the Libyan leader's departure was inevitable. The three countries have declared they will keep up the campaign going until Gaddafi leaves power.
There are more and more centers of resistance (to Gaddafi), especially in the west, Juppe said during a question and answer session in the French parliament. Defections are speeding up. I can assure you that our will is to ensure that the mission in Libya does not last longer than a few months, the report stated.
France had said earlier this week that it would deploy attack helicopters along with Britain to ensure more precise attacks against Gaddafi forces embedded among the civilian population of Libyan cities.
The report stated Military analysts saying that these plans and the intensified bombing of Tripoli reflected growing Western worries that Libya's civil war was dragging on indecisively. But they said the new moves may not be enough to tip the balance quickly.
While critics argue that NATO has overstepped its mandate, rebels have complained Western forces are not doing enough to break Gaddafi's army.
Libyan news agency Jana said targets hit by NATO on Tuesday included a Tripoli mosque called Nuri Bani, though this could not be independently verified said the report.
Gaddafi was tired of fighting a civil war under constant pressure from NATO bombs, and would step down if allowed to remain in his country, a French newspaper reported.
France Soir, citing reliable sources, close to Libyan power, said people in Gaddafi's entourage had been holding secret meetings with representatives from Western countries, including France, for weeks. It also said that Gaddafi was traumatized by the death of a son and three grandchildren in a NATO raid, was tired of living as a hunted man and spent several hours a day watching Arabic news channels and surfing news on Arab, English and Italian web sites. In his public pronouncements, Gaddafi has vowed to fight to the death.