TRIPOLI (AFP) - Coalition forces carried out a seventh day of air strikes against the Libyan regimes forces on Friday as Western powers battled to find a way to hand control of the campaign to NATO. France insisted on keeping the 28-member alliance out of decision-making with President Nicolas Sarkozy holding out hopes of a diplomatic initiative to end the conflict. Britain and France were jointly preparing a political and diplomatic solution, he said. Coalition warplanes, meanwhile, pounded Colonel Moamer Gaddafis forces in the strategic eastern town of Ajdabiya, boosting rebel efforts to launch new offensives, AFP journalists reported. Plumes of smoke filled the sky as the pace of air strikes escalated. Terrified residents were fleeing the city, 160 kilometers south of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Anti-aircraft fire raked the Libyan skies overnight, with at least three explosions shaking the capital Tripoli and the eastern suburb of Tajura. At least one blast was heard from the centre of the city, while others came from Tajura, home to military bases, an AFP journalist reported. US warships and submarines had fired 16 new Tomahawk cruise missiles at Libyan targets in the 24 hours to 0500 GMT Friday, the Pentagon said, adding that coalition warplanes carried out 153 sorties over the same period. The total number of Tomahawks launched at Libya rose to at least 170. Libyan state television said civilian and military sites in Tripoli and Tajura had come under fire from long-range missiles. In the streets of Tajura, where several military bases are situated, a thick pall of smoke rose into the sky after a seventh day of bombing, and the streets were practically deserted despite Friday prayers, although hooded, armed men stood guard at the main junctions. A French fighter jet destroyed an artillery battery overnight outside Ajdabiya, at least part of which was still in rebel hands. Rebels fighting to retake the town, which sits at a junction on roads leading from rebel strongholds Benghazi and Tobruk, were being held off by loyalist armoured vehicles. But two huge explosions were heard from the city and a smoke clouds billowed into the sky. NATO states have agreed to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya but have yet to decide whether to take over all military operations from a US-led coalition that has fired a barrage of missiles on Gaddafis army. We are taking action as part of a broad international effort to protect civilians against the Gaddafi regime, said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. France argues that political control of the campaign should rest in the hands of a steering committee of coalition countries, claiming that flying the mission under the NATO flag would alienate Arab allies. At NATO headquarters, military planners were rapidly drawing up plans to take over the broader mission with the aim of getting them ready for a decision by ambassadors of the 28-nation alliance on Sunday, NATO officials said. But in Brussels, a NATO official said planning for NATOs no-fly operation assumed a mission lasting 90 days, although this could be extended or shortened as required. Until the alliance agrees to take over all operations, NATOs task will be limited to preventing Gaddafis jets from flying while the coalition will continue to target artillery on the ground. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he expected NATO to take full command of military operations in Libya within a matter of days. Referring to key talks in London next Tuesday, President Sarkozy said: There will certainly be a Franco-British initiative to clearly show the solution is not only military but also political and diplomatic. On Thursday, a Libyan warplane that had dared to flout the no-fly zone was destroyed by a French fighter after it landed in Misrata, 214 kilometres east of Tripoli. Fighting also raged in rebel-held Misrata. Coalition air strikes since Saturday have been targeting air defences in a bid to protect civilians under the terms of a UN resolution. The Pentagon said 12 countries were now taking part in the coalition seeking to enforce the no-fly zone - including two Arab nations, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Qatari warplanes have overflown Libya, becoming the first Arab state to take part in military operations to enforce the no-fly zone, its air force announced. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said significant progress had been made in just five days, but that the danger is far from over, and Gaddafis forces remain a serious threat to the safety of the people. She also underscored crucial Arab support for the operation, and praised Qatar and the Emirates for joining the coalition. In Addis Ababa, a high-level delegation sent by the embattled Libyan leader joined African Union talks on the crisis, which also included EU, UN, Arab League and Islamic Conference representatives and said Tripoli was ready to implement a road map envisaged by the conference. Meanwhile, Libyan authorities moved to scotch rumours circulating in Tripoli that a fuel shortage was imminent, saying oil distribution companies had large quantities of fuel Oil distribution companies said the large quantities of oil that they have will be enough to cover all demand, the official JANA news agency said. Reports of an oil shortage had circulated in recent days in the Libyan capital prompting endless queues at petrol stations. Canadian Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard is to head NATOs military campaign in Libya, Defense Minister Peter MacKay announced Friday. Tripoli is ready to implement the road map envisaged by the African Union for a solution to the Libyan crisis, Moamer Gaddafis delegation to AU talks said Friday. We are ready to implement the Road Map envisaged (by) the High-Level Committee mandated by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, the delegation said in a statement. Al-Qaedas offshoot in North Africa has snatched surface-to-air missiles from an arsenal in Libya during the civil strife there, Chads president said in an interview to be published Monday. President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday said France and Britain were readying a political and diplomatic solution on Libya.