Thanks to a huge weapons drop courtesy of the French.

(AFP) — Buoyed by French arms drops and intensified NATO air strikes on the regime’s frontline armour, Libya’s rebel army said it is poised for an offensive that could put it within striking distance of Tripoli.

The rebels’ announcement late on Saturday came as a prolonged deadlock on the battlefield prompted mounting pressure from countries outside the NATO-led coalition for a negotiated solution to a conflict that has dragged on for four and a half months.

Rebel fighters are readying an advance out of their hilltop enclave in the Nafusa Mountains, southwest of Tripoli, in the next 48 hours in a bid to recapture territory in the plains on the road to the capital, spokesman Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani said.

“In the next two days the (revolutionaries) will come up with answers, things will change on the front line,” he said.

The rebels had pulled back last week from around the plains town of Bir al-Ghanam, about 80 kilometres from Tripoli, in the face of loyalist bombardment.

But last week France made a series of controversial weapons drops to rebel fighters in the Nafusa Mountains and NATO has bombarded loyalist positions around Bir al-Ghanam and elsewhere on the front line around the rebel enclave.

In Gharyan, another Libyan government stronghold near the mountains, NATO aircraft struck eight targets during the previous four days, the alliance said on Saturday.

In its daily report for Saturday, NATO said it had launched a total of 52 strike sorties over Libya, hitting a tank near Gharyan and three armoured vehicles near Zlitan, also on the Nafusa front line.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi reacted furiously to the French arms drops to the rebels, calling on his supporters on Friday to go and retrieve theweapons.