Pro-Gaddafi forces ambushed rebels advancing towards the capital Tripoli yesterday and recaptured lost territory, undermining US intelligence claims that the rebels are gaining the upper hand in the fighting. Rebel units, backed by Nato airstrikes, had seized the village of Al-Qawalish and were hoping to use it as a springboard to take Garyan, a town on the main road to Tripoli, 60 miles to the north.
A news agency reported one rebel fighter as saying "we were moving forward when suddenly we were ambushed". The rebels deny that any negotiations are taking place with Gaddafi's regime. Reacting to a French government suggestion that a political solution is taking shape, Mahmoud Jebril, a senior member of the rebels' Transitional National Council (TNC), said "all this talk about negotiations between the regime and the TNC are totally false".
Mr Jebril added: "There are ideas flying in the air but no coherent, comprehensive initiative has so far been put on the table."