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Ground Battle for Libya Stalls in East


People look at weapons belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, destroyed by a coalition air strike, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah, March 23, 2011

People look at weapons belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, destroyed by a coalition air strike, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah, March 23, 2011

Libyan government and opposition forces are locked in a battle to take a key eastern town, while foreign states continue to debate a U.N.-backed operation to protect Libyan civilians.

The Western-led mission kept up its attacks Wednesday aimed in part at enforcing a no-fly zone over northern Libya.

But even as U.S. fighter jets took off from an Italian base in the morning, forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi kept up their ground offensive on rebel-held areas.

Residents of Misrata said snipers continued to dominate parts of the western town, while local doctors said hospitals continued to be overwhelmed by victims of government attacks.

In the east, pro-Gadhafi forces have been able to hold off rebel attempts to retake Ajdabiya, relying on the superiority of Grad rockets and tanks against the opposition's make-shift units.

There are reports of airstrikes on government targets in both Misrata and Ajdabiya, but those could not independently confirmed. As the fighting continues, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a broadening of the effort, currently spearheaded by the U.S, Britain and France.

"We will be getting logistic contributions from countries like Kuwait and also Jordan. I hope further support will be forthcoming," said Cameron. "But I would be clear about this, because we had to act so quickly on Saturday, it wasn't possible to bring forward as much Arab support as perhaps would have been welcomed, I think, by everybody in the house."

Although the aid is limited, it is one of the few positive developments coalition leaders have encountered in recent days.

Criticism of the mission has come not just from Arab nations, but also Germany, Russia, Turkey and China.

With concerns rising, NATO ambassadors were debating Wednesday how to proceed with the operation. The United States says it is eager to hand over control quickly, but it remained unclear who would pick up the lead.

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