The smoke rises after coalition strikes in Tripoli June 7 2011
The smoke rises after coalition strikes in Tripoli June 7 2011

Nato defence ministers are today meeting in Brussels to review the results of two months of air strikes in Libya, just as the alliance steps up its campaign.

During the meeting, the organisation's defence ministers are expected to review the operation's main achievements and set out further strategies to maintain the pressure on Col Gaddafi. As they become increasingly certain that his days in power are numbered, Nato commanders are also expected to discuss what will happen once the air campaign ends and the transitional phase starts.

TheBritish Ministry of Defence said Nato targets included a secret police headquarters in the heart of Tripoli and a major military installation on the outskirts.

The meeting comes after more explosions were heard overnight in the capital. On Tuesday, Nato significantly intensified its bombing campaign on Tripoli which prompted the Libyan government to claim 31 people had been killed as a result of the strikes.

Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has vowed to remain in the country "dead or alive", saying martyrdom would be a "million times better" than surrender and urged supporters to defy Nato and gather at his Tripoli compound.

In a defiant move, he made an audio broadcast from a secret location before releasing footage of him apparently meeting "tribal chiefs" to show he was unaffected by the heavy bombardment of Tripoli.

During a nine-minute speech, the Libyan leader said: "Despite the bombings, we will never submit" before adding ""I am near the bombing but I am still resisting."

Addressing Nato directly he also warned "We are stronger than your missiles, stronger than you. The Libyan people will march, in the direction of the east or the west, or to any place where there are armed gangs to strip them of their arms without fighting," he said.

He added: "Your planes will not be able to stop these marches of the millions, nor will the armed gangs that you support be able to resist for even a minute in the face of these marches... We are stronger than your missiles, stronger than your planes and the voice of the Libyan people is louder than explosions"

During his address Gaddafi claimed he was ready to unleash between 250,000 to 500,00 armed Libyans to swarm across the country to cleanse it from "armed gangs," a reference to the rebels controlling the east of the country.

The claims are seen by many as yet another attempt by Gaddafi to try and pretend that he still is in an strong position and has the upper hand on the rebels at a time when the regime has been hit by a string of defections from high-profile figures. The latest to change camp is Libyan Labour Minister al-Amin Manfur who announced at a meeting of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva that he was changing sides before adding he would be on his way to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Col Gaddafi's government officials are not the only ones turning against him as on Tuesday, the head of the High-Level African Union Panel on Libya, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, also said Col Gaddafi's departure had "become necessary" which indicates that after Russian and Chinese U-turns the AU is now also calling for the leader to step down.

As the conflict on the ground still appears to be locked in a stalemate, Nato commanders insist that Col Gaddafi's forces have lost the initiative.

While Nato, the coalition forces and the National Transitional Council have made it clear that the only viable option is for Gaddafi to step out of power, nobody really knows when the regime will collapse and how it will all end.

As the Nato meeting is expected to focus on the future of Libya without Gaddafi everybody wonders whether the Alliance will send troops on the ground to support the new regime and ensure a return to peace. It is strange how while the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are drawing to a close now the organisation sees it as its responsibility to plan the transitional phase in Libya. It seems stranger however that the leaders of the transitional council, who will presumably be at the forefront of this very same transitional phase, have not been included in the meeting. How can Nato focus on how it should act and what type of forces and humanitarian package should be deployed without any Libyan intput and especially as they officially do not have any troops on the ground, which must make it difficult for them to truly assess the extent of the situation?

While the Libyan regime has been ridiculed for falsely introducing car crash victims as being victims of Nato strikes, pretending, on the other hand that the bombardments have caused no victims is also a lie. Nato's air campaigns have killed civilians in more than one country. Just a few weeks ago, 18 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during air strikes.

While diplomats in Brussels assure they have little appetite for a major post-war Nato role, and try to play down the organisation's future involvement in the post Gaddafi era, they said the same when things were just getting started in Libya. However as just last week the bloc agreed to extend its air operations over Libya for a further 90 days, it became clear that they will not stop unless Gaddafi leaves. Perhaps what the Nato commanders should also focus on during their meeting is how the new government will have to re-build the various government institutions and other buildings that have been destroyed by the bombardments campaign and rebuild Tripoli which is staring to look like a typical city struck by war.