US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on Tuesday that the United States will maintain political and economic pressure on Muammar Gaddafi until he steps down as Libyan leader.

Speaking in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" program, Rice also said it was premature to talk about providing material support to Libyan rebels who are fighting to oust Gaddafi, saying no clear-cut unified opposition has yet to coalesce.

RELATED:

Libyan rebels repel attack by gov't forces in Zawiya
Gaddafi: ‘My people love me'
Libyan rebels fight back military, shoot down aircraft

A Kremlin source on Tuesday suggested Gaddafi should step down and called the Libyan leader a "living political corpse who has no place in the modern civilised world," Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gaddafi was using "mercenaries and thugs" to suppress his own people and said the Libyan leader must step down immediately.

Opponents to the leadership of Gaddafi on Tuesday succeeded in repelling an attack by government forces on the Libyan city of Zawiya 50 kilometers west of Tripoli, The Associated Press reported.

Reports of casualties were unknown. The rebels and government forces were armed with heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons and armored tanks.

Click for full Jpost coverage of 

turmoil in the Middle East

Gaddafi deployed forces to a western border area in defiance of Western military and economic pressure, raising fears that one of the bloodiest Arab revolts may become more violent still.

Libyan forces re-asserted their presence at the remote Dehiba southern border crossing on Tuesday, decorating the border post with green Libyan flags.

Reporters on the Tunisian side saw Libyan army vehicles, and soldiers armed with Kalashnikov rifles. The previous day, there was no Libyan security presence at the border crossing. Dehiba is about 60 km (40 miles) from the town of Nalut.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger