Muammar Gaddafi’s troops seized the strategic Libyan oil town of Brega yesterday, forcing rebels to retreat eastward and putting extra pressure on world powers still deliberating on a no-fly zone.

The government offensive had already driven the rebels out of Ras Lanuf, another oil terminal 62 miles to the west on the coast road. And the seizure of Brega and its refinery deprived the rebels of more territory and yet another source of fuel.

The government, in a message on state television, said it was certain of victory and threatened to “bury” the rebels, who it linked to al Qaeda and “foreign security services.”

A United Nations humanitarian coordinator sent to Tripoli told Reuters he wanted access to areas on both sides of the conflict to assess the impact of the violence on civilians.

On the diplomatic front, France said it would intensify its efforts to persuade world powers to impose a no-fly zone on Libya, where Gaddafi’s troops seemed to have gained the initiative in their struggle with rebels seeking an end to his four-decade rule.

Meanwhile Libya said it would welcome an African Union panel that will try to help resolve the crisis, but condemned an Arab League call for a no-fly zone over the country.