Nato must widen the target of air strikes in Libya to increase the pressure on the Gaddafi regime or risk allowing the dictator to cling to power, the head of the UK's armed forces said today.
Chief of the Defence Staff General David Richards called on the alliance to "up the ante" by allowing the bombing to include infrastructure targets.
"The military campaign to date has been a significant success for Nato and our Arab allies," he said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph.
"But we need to do more. If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Gaddafi clinging to power.
"At present, Nato is not attacking infrastructure targets in Libya. But if we want to increase the pressure on Gaddafi's regime then we need to give serious consideration to increasing the range of targets we can hit."
While Gaddafi was not being targeted, he said, should the dictator be killed in a strike on a command and control centre that would be "within the rules".
And he insisted that there had so far been "hardly any civilian casualties as a result of the extreme care Nato has taken in the selection of bombing targets".
He spoke as a Nato official said it was aware of reports of civilian deaths in a strike on the coastal town of Brega but insisted that warplanes had targeted a "clearly identified" military command and control site.
The Libyan government claims as many as 11 men were killed and said they were clerics who had met to pray for peace. Others claimed the victims had been sent by the regime to show the town was in their hands.
Many civilians are regularly packed into the heavily-fortified Gaddafi family compound in Tripoli, a Nato target. in what the regime claims is a voluntary effort to defend the leader.
It has tried to counter reports that Gaddafi has been injured by playing a defiant audio recording on state TV in which he taunted Nato that he was "in a place where you can't get to and kill me".