Pro-government forces have intensified attacks on Libyan rebels, forcing them back towards the key town of Bin Jawad.
The renewed fighting came as delegates from dozens of countries were gathering in London for a conference on the future of Libya.
US President Obama earlier defended the first military intervention of his presidency, insisting that US involvement would be limited.
But he also said overthrowing Col Gaddafi by force would be a mistake.
Anti-Gaddafi forces had made rapid progress westwards from their stronghold in Benghazi in recent days – greatly aided by international air strikes – seizing a number of coastal communities and important oil installations, including Ras Lanuf, Brega, Uqayla and Bin Jawad.
But on Tuesday rebel fighters said pro-Gaddafi forces had used heavy weaponry to check their advance.
They had reportedly been forced to retreat from the town of Nawfaliya, 125km (75 miles) from Col Gaddafi’s birthplace Sirte, towards the coastal town of Bin Jawad.
A Pentagon spokesman in Washington, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, said that because the Libyan rebels were not well organised, any military gains they made would be tenuous.
He said the rebels were clearly benefiting from actions of the US, which has started using heavily-armed low-flying aircraft against government forces.
Meanwhile, ships from the US Sixth Fleet attacked three Libyan ships that had been firing indiscriminately at merchant ships in the port of Misrata, west of Sirte.
One of the vessels was destroyed and a second beached, while the third was abandoned, US Navy officials were quoted as saying by Reuters.
In eastern Libya, rebel radio has been urging more people in the west of the country to join the anti-Gaddafi uprising.
To read more, visit:Â http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12892798
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