- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — NATO aircraft blasted an oil terminal in a key eastern city at nightfall Sunday, Libyan TV reported, after Britain urged the alliance to widen its assault on areas controlled by Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

The TV report said the bombs hit methanol tanks at the oil port of Ras Lanouf, causing leaks. NATO officials had no immediate comment.

The reported attack came as the Libyan conflict appeared largely at a stalemate, with each side claiming gains one day, only to be turned back the next.

Libyan rebels said Sunday they had taken full control of the western port city of Misrata, 125 miles from Tripoli, the only major city in western Libya with a significant rebel toehold. The rebel claim could not be confirmed.

In Misrata, rebel fighter Abdel Salam described the situation in Misrata as static.

“The situation is almost frozen, as the rebels are in full control over Misrata,” he said. “The rebels are not engaged in any major fighting fronts with Gadhafi forces.”

The two sides have been battling intensively over Misrata, symbolic because of its location near Col. Gadhafi’s capital, Tripoli. His forces shelled Misrata heavily and at some points took up positions inside neighborhoods to fire at civilians and fighters while avoiding NATO airstrikes. Rebels and residents said Gadhafi forces remain at the edges of the town.

More than 1,000 people have died in Misrata in the fighting and shelling.

Mr. Salam denied earlier reports suggesting that that rebels were advancing toward the western city of Zlitan, which would be the next step on the road to Tripoli.

“The rebels agreed that it is better not to move forward or open new fronts,” he said.

He added: “It will be a big risk to advance. Anything could happen and cost us heavy causalities. This is not the right decision to take right now.”

The head of Britain’s armed forces, Gen. David Richards, appeared to relate to the stalemate and frustration in the West over the slow pace of warfare in Libya, with Col. Gadhafi still in power, able to taunt NATO for failing to unseat him.

In remarks published in the Sunday Telegraph in London, Gen. Richards urged NATO to widen the range of targets the alliance’s planes are allowed to hit in the effort to stymie the Gadhafi’s regime’s attacks on protesters. Gen. Richards declared that “more intense military action” was needed or the conflict could end in a stalemate.

While refusing to comment on the reported attack on Ras Lanouf, which is about halfway between Tripoli and the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya, a NATO spokesman in Naples who declined to give his name said there was a NATO airstrike at about midday Sunday near Zawara, 50 kilometers from the Tunisian border. He said it was a strike on a pro-Gadhafi military position where there was equipment being used to target civilians.

Tunisia’s TAP news agency said that NATO planes bombed barracks and radar installations in the Libyan town of Boukamache, about 11 miles from the Tunisian border.

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