Libyan Rebels Urge Stronger U.S. Military Role

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Libyan rebels are asking the U.S. to take a stronger lead in the NATO-led air campaign or risk more civilian casualties in the stalemate fighting between Moammar Gadhafi and the forces seeking to end his 40-year long rule.

"When the Americans were involved, the mission was very active and it was more leaning toward protecting the civilians," rebel spokesman Mahmoud Shammam said.

On Tuesday, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet complained that France and Britain were carrying "the brunt of the burden."

He said the reduced U.S. effort have made it impossible "to loosen the noose around Misrata," which has become a symbol of the resistance against Gadhafi. American forces are now in support roles, not combat, in the airstrike campaign.

"Let's be realistic. The fact that the U.S. has left the sort of the kinetic part of the air operation has had a sizable impact. That is fairly obvious," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said.

France has also urged NATO to target more of Gadhafi's heavy weapons, which are being used on civilians. Gadhafi's forces have recently been shelling the major western city of Misrata under rebel control.

International groups warn the city is experiencing a dire humanitarian crisis. Residents say dozens of people are dead and food and medical supplies are scarce.

"NATO is very slow responding to these attacks on the civilians. We'd like to see more work toward protecting the civilians," Shammam said before a one-day conference that includes Britain's foreign secretary, senior State Department envoy William J. Burns, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

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