Britain has no intention of getting involved in a war in Libya, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday. Asked for reassurance that Britain would not get dragged into war as it seeks to step up pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Cameron told parliament: "There is no intention to get involved in another war or to see an invasion or massive ground troops. That is not what is being looked at."
"What is being looked at is how do we tighten the pressure on an unacceptable, illegitimate regime to try and give that country some chance of peaceful transition," he said.
Group of Eight powers gathered in Paris on Monday to thrash out a common line on possible intervention to ground the warplanes pounding Libya's rebels.
As forces loyal to Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi pushed their fierce assault against the rebels to the key town of Ajdabiya, the eight powers were seeking a common front, with host France pushing for a no-fly zone over Libya.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe vowed to step up efforts to get approval for the measure, which is backed by the 22-nation Arab League, considered crucial for dealing with the region.
But Britain and France, which are drafting a resolution for the U.N. Security Council, failed last week to convince their European Union partners to back the move, and the United States and Russia are also lukewarm.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Paris to sit down with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and their counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
Clinton has said a no-fly zone plan would be presented to NATO on Tuesday.
China, the only veto-wielding member of the Security Council not represented at the Paris G8 talks, is opposed to a no-fly zone.
The Arab League's weekend call for a U.N. no-fly zone appeared to satisfy one of three conditions set by NATO for it to police Libyan air space, that of regional support. The other two are proof its help is needed, and a U.N. Security Council resolution.
News of humanitarian suffering or atrocities could persuade more powers that help is needed and also spur the Security Council into action. But while Human Rights Watch has reported a wave of arbitrary arrests and disappearances in Tripoli, hard evidence is so far largely lacking.
"Everyone here is puzzled as to how many casualties the international community judges to be enough for them to help. Maybe we should start committing suicide to reach the required number," said opposiditon fighters spokesman Essam Gheriani in Benghazi.
"It is shameful," he said. "We are hoping today for some development such as a resolution" at the Security Council.
Time running out
Libyan planes bombed Ajdabiyah on Monday, the only sizeable town between the frontline around Brega and the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. From Ajdabiyah there are roads to Benghazi and also Tobruk, which could allow Gaddafi's troops to encircle Benghazi.
Government tanks and planes have proved more than a match for the lightly armed, but enthusiastic rag-tag rebel force, especially in the flat desert terrain in between major towns.
The government, vowing to "bury" the rebels, took the oil terminal town of Brega on Sunday in what looked like an increasingly confident drive towards the rebel stronghold Benghazi. But the rebels said they had re-taken Brega on Sunday night. There was no way of verifying the rival claims.
Outside of the east insurgents only hold Libya's third city of Misrata, 200 km (130 miles) east of the capital. Rebels and residents there report an assault on the city has been held up a mutiny within the ranks of the besieging government forces.
"The fighting has stopped now. Early on Monday we heard five shells after a fierce night of fighting and now it has stopped," Mohammed, a resident of Misrata, told Reuters by telephone.
"We are not sure why it has stopped. Maybe they got tired or maybe one group won over the other. Things are not clear."
The government strongly denies the reports and it is impossible to verify them, but Gaddafi's troops do appear to have held off attacking Misrata for the last three days.
State television carried a confident official message. "We are certain of our victory, whatever the price," it said.
There is now a very real possibility that by the time world powers agree on a response to the conflict in Libya, Gaddafi's forces may have already secured victory, analysts said.
"The international community has to act now -- not only to protect Benghazi from an onslaught but because of what it means for the rest of the world if Gaddafi is allowed to remain the leader of Libya," said Geoff Porter, a U.S.-based political risk consultant who specializes in North Africa.
Security Council consultations
Britain, alongside France, has led calls for a no-fly zone.
"If Gaddafi went on to be able to dominate much of the country, well this would be a long nightmare for the Libyan people and this would be a pariah state for some time to come," Hague told BBC Radio.
At the United Nations, a diplomat told Reuters the Security Council would hold consultations on a no-fly zone on Monday.
Russia and China, diplomats said, would have difficulty vetoing authorization for a no-fly zone when the Arab League had requested it. Envoys said Moscow and Beijing might prefer to abstain when the issue came to a vote.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday banned Gaddafi and his family from Russia and from carrying out financial transactions there. While Russia has opposed military intervention in Libya, it has not ruled out a no-fly zone as long as it is backed by the Security Council.
Moscow asked for more specific details of the Arab League proposal for a no-fly zone, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Only make things worse
Only make things worse
NATO member Turkey said a no-fly zone would only make things worse in Libya.
Instead Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has told Gaddafi he should name a president with popular support as a way to end his country's crisis.
Erdogan told Al Arabiya television in an interview he expected Gaddafi to take "positive steps in this direction".
"We want a halt to the fighting by both of the sides, both in the east and west of Libya," Erdogan said.
Gaddafi has been Libya's leader for four decades but does not carry the title of president.
"I called Gaddafi three times and I proposed to him that all the while he says that he is not a president, that he nominates someone picked by him who enjoys the support of the Libyan people to be the president for the coming period," Erdogan said.
Speaking about his proposal, Erdogan said: "I requested that from him and I spoke to his son." His quotes were translated into Arabic by Al Arabiya.
Turkey has stressed that the 28-member military alliance can intervene only when one of its members is attacked.
During a visit to Germany late last month, Erdogan said a NATO intervention in Libya would be "unthinkable" and "absurd".
Gaddafi met the Russian, Chinese and Indian ambassadors and urged their countries to invest in Libya's oil sector, badly disrupted by the uprising and the flight of tens of thousands of expatriates oil workers.