NATO and the European Union begin two-day talks in Brussels on Thursday over the situation in Libya, where battles between protesters and forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi have already claimed several thousand lives.
The main issue on the agenda is expected to be the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gaddafi from using warplanes against insurgents, who have been fighting against government troops and Gaddafi loyalists for their strongholds in the country's east.
Analysts say it is unlikely that a positive decision on a no-fly zone will be taken during the upcoming talks.
On the eve of the meeting, the Pentagon said it was preparing a "full range" of military options for Libya, but pledged to refrain from any action that would not be authorized by the UN Security Council.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Sky News: "A no-fly zone would be quite a significant undertaking and it would also require a United Nation mandate." British Foreign Secretary William Hague has also warned that imposing a no-fly zone on Libya would require a clear legal basis and broad international support.
Rasmussen said on Thursday in Brussels that NATO was "not looking to intervene in Libya, but we have asked our military to conduct the necessary planning for all eventualities." In the earlier interview with Sky News, he said "if requested and if needed we can respond at very short notice."
Russia and China, two of the Security Council's permanent members, have said they were against foreign military intervention in Libya.
The meeting will take place amid continuing fighting between insurgents and pro-Gaddafi forces in Zawiyah, the closest city to Gaddafi's stronghold of Tripoli. Several dozen people are believed to have died in clashes in Zawiyah.
Airstrikes and exchanges of gunfire have also been reported to take place in other disputed towns and cities. Media reports quoted witnesses as saying pro-Gaddafi forces have carried out airstrikes on rebel-held oil storage facilities at Ras Lanuf, Es Sider and Bin Jawad for the first time.
MOSCOW, March 10 (RIA Novosti)