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29 March 2011 US President Barack Obama has defended the first military intervention of his presidency, insisting US involvement in Libya will be limited. He said US participation in the coalition had saved "countless lives", but that overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi by force would be a mistake. Having led the initial campaign, the US would hand over to Nato allies on Wednesday, he said. Meanwhile, the rebel advance inside Libya has been slowed down near Sirte. After a rapid rebel advance westwards from the rebel stronghold in Benghazi in recent days, their forces were held outside the coastal town of Bin Jawad. In eastern Libya, rebel radio has been urging more people in the west of the country to join the anti-Gaddafi uprising. While Nato insists it is impartial in the conflict, Russia has renewed its expressions of concern, saying intervention in an internal civil war is not sanctioned by UN Security Council Resolution 1973. Some 40 delegations - from the coalition, the UN, Nato, the African Union and Arab League - are preparing to meet in London on Tuesday to discuss the way forward for Libya. 'Regime change' ruled out: "We have stopped Gaddafi's deadly advance," said Mr Obama, speaking from the National Defense University in Washington DC. But the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground would now move to US allies. "Because of this transition to a broader, Nato-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation - to our military, and to American taxpayers - will be reduced significantly," Mr Obama said. "We must always measure our interests against the need for action," the president continued. "But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what's right." Earlier on Monday, in a video conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Obama had agreed that Col Gaddafi "had lost any legitimacy to rule and should leave power, and that the Libyan people should have the political space to determine their own future", the White House said. Advance slows: Anti-Gaddafi rebels have seized a number of coastal communities and important oil installations in recent days, including Ras Lanuf, Brega, Uqayla and Bin Jawad. However, repeated attacks by government troops have prevented them reaching Sirte, a symbolic target for the rebels as the birthplace of Col Gaddafi. Bombardments of the road between Bin Jawad and Nawfaliyah reportedly sent the rebels fleeing back towards Bin Jawad. A Pentagon spokesman in Washington, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, said that because the Libyan rebels were not well organised, any military gains they make would be tenuous. He said the rebels were clearly benefiting from actions of the US, which has started using heavily-armed low-flying aircraft against government forces. Nato has denied its air strikes are meant to provide cover for a rebel advance. Source: BBC News