Gaddafi regime 'to use tribes in Misrata battle'

A senior Libyan government official said the Libyan army will pull out of the besieged, rebel-held city of Misrata and be replaced by armed tribesmen.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told journalists late yesterday that "we will leave it for the tribes around Misrata and the Misrata people to deal with the situation in Misrata".

Mr Khaim cited Nato airstrikes as the reason for the army withdrawing from the city. "The tactic of the army is to have a surgical solution but with the airstrikes it doesn't work."

The announcement may come as a surprise to US military officials, who earlier expressed fears of a "stalemate" in the conflict, and confessed that allied air-strikes have so far failed to deal a decisive blow to Muammar Gaddafi. Admiral Mike Mullen told a news conference that although the bombardment has stemmed the advance of government troops, it has not allowed rebel fighters to launch significant counter-attacks.

Conflict in Misrata, the only rebel stronghold in the west of Libya, is largely street fighting. The US deployed two unmanned aircraft piloted from the US on Thursday, but poor weather forced both to turn back.