Rebel fighters train in the Libyan town of Kabaw, some 230 kilometres southwest of the capital, Tripoli. They now lay claim to Misrata. (Zohra Bensemra/Reuters)

Libyan rebels said Sunday they have taken full control of the western port city of Misrata, 200 kilometres  from Tripoli, the only major city in western Libya with a significant rebel toehold. The rebel claim hasn't been confirmed independently. 

In Misrata, rebel fighter Abdel Salam described the situation as static.

"The situation is almost frozen, as the rebels are in full control over Misrata," he said. "The rebels are not engaged in any major fighting fronts with Gadhafi forces."

The two sides have been battling intensively over Misrata, symbolic because of its location near Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi's capital. His forces shelled the city heavily and at some points took up positions inside Misrata neighbourhoods to fire at civilians and fighters, while avoiding NATO airstrikes. Rebels and residents say Gadhafi forces remain at the edges of the town.

More than 1,000 people have died in Misrata in the fighting and shelling.

Salam denied earlier reports suggesting that rebels were advancing toward the western city of Zlitan, which would be the next step on the road to Tripoli.

"It will be a big risk to advance. Anything could happen and cost us heavy casualties. This is not the right decision to take right now."

NATO urged to 'more intense military action'

The head of Britain's armed forces, Gen. David Richards, appeared to relate to the stalemate and frustration in the West over the slow pace of warfare in Libya, with Gadhafi still in power, able to taunt NATO for failing to unseat him.

In remarks published in The Sunday Telegraph in London, Richards urged NATO to widen the range of targets the alliance's planes are allowed to hit in the effort to stymie the Gadhafi's regime's attacks on protesters. Richards declared that "more intense military action" was needed or the conflict could end in stalemate.

A NATO spokesman in Naples, Italy, who declined to give his name, said there was a NATO airstrike at about midday Sunday near Zawara, 50 kilometres from the Tunisian border. He said it was a strike on a pro-Gadhafi military position where there was equipment being used to target civilians.

Tunisia's TAP news agency said that NATO planes bombed barracks and radar installations in the Libyan town of Boukamache, about 17 kilometres from the Tunisian border.

Meanwhile, the Libyan deputy foreign minister has dismissed efforts by the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants against three senior leaders.

Court prosecutors said earlier Sunday that they are putting the final touches to their case against three Libyan leaders on charges of murder and persecution in the brutal crackdown on anti-government rebels. Gadhafi is expected to be among them.

Khaled Kaim said late on Sunday that his government will "not show any attention to the decision."

He says Libya doesn't recognize the jurisdiction of the international court, nor do most African countries.