Prominent U.S. lawmakers tore into the plan of the administration to withdraw from air attacks in Libya, saying the decision was “odd”, “troubling” and “unnerving”, according to reports.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told a Congressional committee on Thursday that U.S. forces will significantly dilute their role in Libya, and hand over key duties to the NATO forces.

Republican senator and former presidential candidate John McCain said, Your timing is exquisite, after it was announced that U.S. would stop combat missions on Saturday, ABC News said.

Another Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, said the decision will erode congressional support for the Libya mission. The idea that the AC-130s and the A-10s and American air power is grounded unless the place goes to hell is just so unnerving that I can't express it adequately, Graham said.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi defied international pressure and dismissed the effectiveness of the airstrikes aimed at crippling his hold on the country. He also brushed aside defections in his ranks in his latest address on Thursday. As usual he directed fire on foreign powers, accusing them of being power-mad.

In another development that doesn’t augur well for the cause of the rebels, German Foreign Minister said he favored a ceasefire as military action appeared futile in resolving the crisis. The visit of a senior aide to Gaddafi's influential son Seif Al-Islam to London highlights perhaps the greater favor this line of argument is receiving in diplomatic circles. It has been reported that Seif is in London to broker a peace deal under which Gaddafi will step down.

Meanwhile, the rebels are increasingly finding it difficult to stand up to Gaddafi's superior fire power and losing many cities they previously held. However, there is no unanimity among western supporters on whether they should arm the rebels.