The French and British Foreign ministers are both urging NATO officials to increase their activity in Libya in order destroy weaponry used by Moammar Gaddafi’s forces and to better protect civilians from Gaddafi’s violent incursions.

Alain Juppe of France has warned that despite NATO’s air strikes on Gaddafi military targets, Libyan civilians remain at risk.

NATO must play its role fully. It wanted to take the lead in operations, Juppe said. “It [NATO] must play its role today which means preventing Gaddafi from using heavy weapons to shell [civilian] populations.”

Juppe’s counterpart in Britain, William Hague, has implored NATO to intensify its air campaign, while again calling on Gaddafi to step down.

We must maintain and intensify our efforts in NATO,” he said. That is why the United Kingdom has in the last weeks supplied additional aircraft capable of striking ground targets threatening the civilian population. Of course it would be welcome if other countries also did the same,

NATO has defended its performance in Libya.

NATO is conducting its military operations in Libya with vigor within the current mandate. The pace of the operations is determined by the need to protect the population, the alliance said in a statement.

Juppe’s and Hague’s comments come one day after Libyan rebel groups rejected a peace proposal by leaders of the African Union, which called for, among other things, a cessation of NATO strikes on Libya.

Gavin Hewitt, a correspondent for BBC, commented: “What Juppe's comments represent is an increasing sense of frustration at the way the military operation is going. For several weeks now there have been interventions by both NATO and other aircraft over Libya and yet still… Gaddafi's forces are able to use heavy weapons against civilians in Misrata.”

Hewitt added: “There is a fear in this capital and elsewhere that we could be heading towards some sort of stalemate - something that for the French and others would be unacceptable. Make no mistake there is an implied criticism of NATO. The frustration creeping in here also exists in London. I think the French find it embarrassing that several weeks after this operation started the civilians in Misrata are still being hit with heavy weapons and the message - certainly from Alain Juppe is that they want to see further action taken, particularly outside of that town.”