Nicolas Sarkozy will on Friday urge "targeted air strikes" on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's key military command headquarters as EU and Nato splits emerged over preparations for military intervention in Libya.
David Cameron will tell a summit of European leaders that "Gaddafi must go now" and that it is time for the EU to end international recognition for his regime and to strip him of diplomatic status as a head of state.
But the Prime Minister and French President will clash over "grandstanding" by France, which attempted to seize international leadership by detailing surgical strikes on Gaddafi's military assets.
EU foreign ministers and Nato defence ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday discussed imposing a no-fly zone over Libya but there was opposition from Germany to British and French calls for quick action.
As Col. Gaddafi's forces stepped rocket attacks on rebels, the EU agreed new sanctions that would "cut off the tap" of oil revenues, income worth £500 million to his regime over the last three weeks.
The EU added five financial institutions, including the £40 billion Libyan Investment Authority, Libya's central bank and national oil company to its sanctions list, which includes Gaddafi, his family and senior officials.
President Sarkozy has polarised debate over military action with a "strategic plan" that includes "striking an extremely limited number of points which are the source of the most deadly operations" by Gaddafi's forces.
French officials on Thursday briefed that Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizia command headquarters in Tripoli, an important airbase in Sirte and the key Sebha military complex in the south had been targeted.
"We are not there yet. We are first going to ask for legal authorisation to prevent the use of force by Gaddafi," said a French official.
British officials said the Government was extremely sceptical of any suggestion about air strikes. Privately, British ministers believe that the suggestion is a theatrical gesture by Mr Sarkozy which has little support across Europe.
"There is a lot of scepticism about it," said one British source.
Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, publicly rejected suggestions that a no-fly operation would have to start with air strikes on Libyan air defences and other targets.
"In Iraq that was not the way that we carried out the no-fly zone – there are alternatives," Dr Fox said.
"Rather than taking out air defences, you can say that 'if your air defence radar locks on to any of our aircraft, we regard that as a hostile act and we would take subsequent action'."
Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, led EU and Nato opposition to a no-fly zone adds military intervention.
Documents seen by The Daily Telegraph on Thursday night showed that the Prime Minister was fighting to win EU support for "possible contingencies as the situation evolves, including a no-fly zone".
Negotiations in the UN Security Council over a British and French resolution for a no-fly zone are thought to focus on a call for a ceasefire as a move to overcome Russian and Chinese opposition to any military action.
An EU summit call today for Gaddafi to "relinquish power immediately" is seen as vital for helping to win support from Arab League meeting of foreign ministers on Saturday.
Britain was also cautious about French suggestions that the anti-Gaddafi Interim National Council should be recognised as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people.
William Hague, the foreign secretary said that Britain was happy to talk to the council, but stopped well short of recognition. A letter written by Mr Hague yesterday urged the EU to strip Gaddafi of diplomatic recognition.
"The EU and its member states will not work or co-operate with Gaddafi [and should] support the suspension of Gaddafi's sovereign immunity, removing from him the protection enjoyed by heads of state," he wrote.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, meanwhile announced she will travel to Egypt and Tunisia next week where she will meet members of Libya's opposition.
The US also announced that it was suspending relations with the Libyan embassy in Washington, as President Barack Obama faced criticism at home for not taking a stronger leadership role in tackling Libya.
Click to view image: 'France'
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