TRIPOLI (AFP) - Libyan rebels captured three western villages on the road to Tripoli on Wednesday, as NATO insisted it could complete its mission without putting soldiers on the ground against strongman Moamer Gaddafi. The Western military alliance which has carried out 10 weeks of air strikes against Gaddafi's forces can see out its mission without ground troops, its operations commander said in a briefing on an Italian aircraft carrier. Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard also said that the military situation in western Libya, where there has been an upsurge in fighting between regime loyalists and rebel forces, was developing "very positively." "I do believe we can complete the mission without bringing in ground troops," the Canadian general told reporters off Libyan shores on the Garibaldi. "We are receiving adequate assets to complete the mission and carry out our mandate." NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague later on Wednesday for talks on the operation. Senior military officials from Britain and France, key players in the NATO campaign, have expressed concerns about how to maintain the NATO operation, which has been extended for a second three-month period from June 27. Libyan state television said that a NATO strike on a bus in the town of Kikla, south of the capital, on Wednesday had killed 12 of its passengers. There was no immediate word from the alliance on the report. Anti-Gaddafi rebels, meanwhile, seized three villages as they sought control of a key junction connecting the towns of Yefren and Zintan, west of Tripoli, an AFP correspondent reported. Rebels were seen patrolling the streets of Zawit Bagoul, 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) from Zintan. Pro-Gaddafi positions on the outskirts of Zawit Bagoul were deserted and loyalists left behind clothes, shoes and ammunition. The correspondent said the rebels later also moved into Lawania, about seven kilometres away, and then Ghanymma, less than 10 kilometres from Yefren, as NATO aircraft were heard overhead. Libyan authorities organised a visit Wednesday for Tripoli-based foreign journalists to Gharyan, 100 kilometres south of the capital and 30 kilometres from hotly-disputed Yefren, to show the situation in the town was calm. Anti-regime graffiti on the walls had been painted over and activity in Gharyan appeared normal. In its latest operational update, NATO said it struck several targets including a truck-mounted gun near Yefren on Tuesday. Ahead of his talks with the NATO chief, Cameron insisted that Britain could sustain its Libya operation long-term, after its navy chief warned of tough choices if the campaign lasts more than six months. The premier said he had met First Sea Lord Admiral Mark Stanhope, the head of the Royal Navy, following his comments. "I had a meeting with the first sea lord yesterday and he agreed that we can sustain this mission for as long as we need to," he said. Following a three-day pause in NATO strikes on Tripoli, powerful explosions rocked the Libyan capital late on Tuesday, with black smoke rising from a site close to downtown. In its operational update, NATO said Wednesday it had also struck an air defence support facility in Tripoli and two surface-to-air missile launchers nearby. South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane gave a thinly veiled warning to the UN Security Council that the air strikes in Libya were harming efforts to agree a Western-drafted resolution on Syria's crackdown on protests. "NATO activities will undoubtedly have a bearing on other important matters that the council has to deal with in accordance with its mandate," she said. The South African government has repeatedly accused NATO of exceeding it UN mandate to protect civilians. In Washington, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers sought to throw a roadblock in front of President Barack Obama's Libya policy, filing a lawsuit that charges that US military operations are unconstitutional. Anti-war Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich and nine other members of the House signed the lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's circumvention of Congress in authorising use of military force in a protracted campaign. "With regard to the war in Libya, we believe that the law was violated. We have asked the courts to move to protect the American people from the results of these illegal policies," Kucinich said. The White House has said it will soon issue a detailed report to Congress on Libya and the US military intervention.