ancient ruins
© Alamy
Hiding place: Nato has refused to rule out bombing the UNESCO World Heritage site of Leptis Magna if Colonel Gaddafi is hiding weapons there.

Nato has refused to rule out bombing Libya's ancient Roman ruins if Colonel Gaddafi is using them to hide military equipment.

Rebels in the divided country claim the under-pressure Libyan leader could be hiding rocket launchers at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Leptis Magna - which is between the capital Tripoli and rebel-held Misrata.

Wing Commander Mike Bracken, a spokesman for Nato's Libya mission, said it would be a concern for the alliance if Gaddafi and his forces were to violate international law and hide themselves in such a location.

According to CNN, he said: 'If we were to take on any targets we would consider all risks.'

However, he said that Nato could not confirm rebel concerns that weapons might be placed at the heritage site.

The Russian head of the World Chess Federation revealed today that Colonel Gaddafi told him during a game of chess that he is open to talks with Nato and the country's rebels.
Muammar Gaddafi, chess

Relaxed: Colonel Gaddafi, right, enjoys a game of chess with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, left, the Russian head of the World Chess Federation.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said Gaddafi told him that he was ready to immediately start peace talks once Nato stops air raids, but shrugged off international demands for him to leave.

Russia has joined the West in urging the Libyan leader to step down, and Kremlin foreign affairs advisor Sergei Prikhodko said Ilyumzhinov had conveyed Moscow's official position during his meeting with the Libyan leader on Sunday.

IIyumzhinov said at a news conference that Gaddafi replied he had no official job to resign from and that he has no intention of leaving the country.
Muammar Gaddafi
Peace move: It has been claimed that Colonel Gaddafi told Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the Russian head of the World Chess Federation, that he is open to talks with Nato and Libya's rebels

'I will not go anywhere, my relatives died here and I will also die in that land,' Ilyumzhinov quoted the Libyan leader as telling him during the meeting.

In further developments today, a Nato airstrike hit an area near Colonel Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli. It follows concerns by military leaders over the ability to sustain the operations if the alliance mission drags on.

A column of grey smoke could be seen rising from the area around Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound shortly before dawn.

The blast was felt at a hotel where journalists stay in the capital.

Fighter: A Libyan rebel from Zlitan walks towards the trench at the frontline, west of the rebel-held city of Misrata

It was not clear what was targeted, and Libyan officials did not comment.

East of the capital, alliance aircraft have begun dropping leaflets warning government troops to abandon their posts outside Zlitan, which lies just west of the rebel-held port city of Misrata.

Rebel forces have been advancing along the Mediterranean coast toward Zlitan, but say they have been instructed by Nato to withdraw ahead of expected bombing runs to old front lines in Dafniya.

The 3-by-5 inch leaflets intended for forces loyal to Gaddafi carry the Nato symbol and a picture of an Apache attack helicopter and burning tanks on one side.

Happy: A rebel fighter tears a portrait of Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi after taking the town of Ryayna, along the Nefusa mountain frontline, during fighting between the rebels and soldiers loyal to Gaddafi.

Green Arabic writing warns: 'There's no place to hide. It's not too late to stop fighting.

'If you continue to threaten civilians, you will face destruction.'

The message on the reverse urges soldiers to 'stop and stay away from fighting now.'

Nato's nearly three-month air campaign has grounded Gaddafi's air forces and weakened his military capabilities.

But there are signs the pace of operations has put a strain on the trans-Atlantic alliance.
On guard: A fighter
© Apega/WENN

On guard: A fighter on the frontline in Libya as rebels look to repel Gaddafi's troops.

In London, the head of the Royal Navy warned that the British fleet - a key contributor to the Libya mission - will be unable to maintain the pace of operations if the mission drags on until the end of the year.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said yesterday that he was comfortable with Nato's decision to extend the Libya operation to the end of September, but said that beyond that the government would need to make 'challenging decisions.'

'If we do it longer than six months we will have to re-prioritize forces," he said.

Nato said today that it had carried out 62 air strikes in Libya on Monday, hitting military targets in Tripoli and four other cities in Gaddafi controlled territory.

The alliance has considerably stepped up the pace of air attacks over the past several days.