The U.N. Security Council meets Thursday for more discussions on a resolution to set up a "no-fly" zone over Libya, as forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi pound rebel strongholds.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday Washington hopes for a vote on the resolution "no later" than Thursday. Britain, France and Lebanon introduced the document, with the support of the Arab League.
Some Western powers are pressing for quick passage of a resolution to establish a no-fly zone and authorize other steps in support of the rebels. The lightly armed and poorly organized opposition fighters have lost ground repeatedly in recent days to Gadhafi's army, with its aircraft, tanks and heavy weapons.
However, some Security Council members, including Germany and Russia, have expressed doubt over the implementation and potential effectiveness of a no-fly zone. There have also been calls for Arab countries to participate in the implementation if one is approved.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate cease-fire in Libya, saying he is "gravely concerned" about the increasing military escalation by government forces.
Witnesses say government shelling of the opposition-controlled western city of Misrata killed at least five people Wednesday. Pro-Gadhafi forces also pounded the eastern town of Ajdabiya, but rebels denied government claims that it had regained control of the town.
Ajdabiya is the last large town on the road to the opposition's eastern stronghold of Benghazi. The Libyan government urged Benghazi residents to hand over weapons and support a government advance on the city.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to Security Council members, urging them to come together without delay to "save the martyred people of Libya." He said the worst outcome would be to allow "the force of arms" to overrule the decisions of the Arab League and the Security Council.
Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, said in a television interview that whatever decision the council takes it will be too late. Seif al-Islam told EuroNews that pro-Gadhafi forces are almost to Benghazi and that within 48 hours everything would be finished.