Libyan rebels tightened Wednesday their siege of Sirte, the hometown of the fugitive leader Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, whom they said was being "surrounded, dpa reported.
The spokesman for the rebels' military council in Tripoli, Anis Sharif, was quoted by the pro-rebel Free Libya TV as saying that Gaddafi was trapped, and it was a matter of time before he is captured or killed.
"Gaddafi is trapped in a 60-kilometre radius area surrounded by forces of the (rebels') Transitional National Council," he said.
"He can't get out," said Sharif, who added that rebel forces were preparing to either capture him or kill him.
He did not disclose Gaddafi's whereabouts, but said he was still in Libya.
Gaddafi has been on the run since rebels overran his fortified compound in Tripoli in late August, amid conflicting reports about his exact location.
Earlier Wednesday, Gaddafi's spokesman Moussa Ibrahim was quoted as saying that the former dictator has not fled the country.
The comments came a day after a convoy of Libyan vehicles was reported crossing into neighbouring Niger, amid rumours that it was possibly carrying Gaddafi and high-ranking officials.
"Our leader is still in Libya. He is in good health and in high spirits," Ibrahim told the Damascus-based Al Rai television.
"Our leader will not be reached by those fractious groups," Ibrahim said, referring to the rebel forces who now control most of Libya.
He added that Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam was also in Libya, moving from one place to another.
Niger confirmed that Gaddafi's internal security chief, Mansour Daw, was allowed to enter the country, but gave no details.
Meanwhile, rebels were mobilizing their forces on the outskirts of Sirte, one of three towns still controlled by pro-Gaddafi forces, reported broadcaster Al Arabiya.
The rebels and Gaddafi loyalists fought firece battles around the town, according to the report.
The Dubai-based television quoted witnesses as saying that NATO pounded targets of pro-Gaddafi fighters near Sirte, Libya's third biggest town.
Libya's interim rulers, who control most of the North African country, have given pro-Gaddafi towns until Saturday to surrender or face further fighting.
In Paris, the envoy of the Transitional National Council Saif al-Nasr said Wednesday that the council planned to disarm the rebels, who toppled Gaddafi, by buying back their weapons and inviting them to join the national army.
"Once security is established, we will recover all the weapons," al-Nasr told the German Press Agency dpa, saying there was "a plan to buy back the arms."
Libya is awash with weapons, including large amounts of shoulder-fired aircraft missiles snatched from the Gaddafi troops' stockpiles over the course of a six-month armed conflict against the Gaddafi regime.