Tripoli: An African Union plan to halt Libya`s civil war collapsed, and rebels said the increasingly bloody siege of the city of Misrata by Muammar Gaddafi`s troops made talk of a ceasefire meaningless.
The Red Cross said it was opening a Tripoli office and would send a team to Misrata to help civilians trapped by fighting, but one of Gaddafi`s ministers warned any aid operation involving foreign troops would be seen as a declaration of war.
Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said after talks with the AU delegation in Benghazi in the rebel-held east on Monday:
"The African Union initiative does not include the departure of Gaddafi and his sons from the Libyan political scene, therefore it is outdated." Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi`s son Saif quickly dismissed the idea of his father stepping down.
"We want new blood, that`s what we want for Libya`s future. But to talk of (Gaddafi) leaving, that`s truly ridiculous," he told French news channel BFM TV.
"If the West wants democracy, a new constitution, elections, well, we agree. We agree on this point but the West must help us to provide a propitious climate. But all these bombings, this support given to rebel groups, all that is counter-productive."
Libyan television said the "colonial and crusader aggressors" hit military and civilian sites in Al Jufrah district in central Libya on Monday.
Rebels in the coastal city of Misrata, under siege for six weeks, scorned reports that Gaddafi had accepted a ceasefire, saying they were fighting house-to-house battles with his forces, who fired rockets into the city.
Western leaders also rejected any deal that did not include Gaddafi`s removal, and NATO refused to suspend its bombing of his forces unless there was a credible ceasefire.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a Brussels news briefing that Gaddafi`s government had announced ceasefires in the past, but "they did not keep their promises."
"Any future proposal that does not include this, we cannot accept," he said, accusing Gaddafi of bombing, shelling and shooting civilians.
A resident of Misrata told Reuters there was heavy fighting on the eastern approaches and in the center.
Rebels told Reuters that Gaddafi`s forces had intensified the assault, for the first time firing truck-mounted, Russian-made Grad rockets into the city, where conditions for civilians are said to be desperate.
Human Rights Watch accused Gaddafi`s forces of indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Misrata which violated international law. It said about 250 people had died.
At the front outside the eastern rebel-held town of Ajdabiyah, rebels buried the charred bodies of Gaddafi troops killed in air strikes and said they were advancing westwards.
Pro-Gaddafi forces also fired rockets toward the town of Zintan on Monday, a resident called Abdulrahman said.
"Gaddafi`s forces fired four rockets toward Zintan around 16:00 (10 a.m. EST) today. No one was wounded," he said.
Abdulrahman said NATO aircraft could be heard above Zintan on Monday evening, but there were no air strikes.
Pro-Gaddafi forces have remained on the outskirts of Zintan, some 160 km (100 miles) southwest of Tripoli, from where they have launched attacks on the town. NATO airstrikes hit weapons depots belonging to pro-Gaddafi forces near Zintan, Abdulrahman said last Friday.