PARIS — Top diplomats from some of the world's biggest powers deferred Tuesday to the U.N. Security Council to take action against Libya, as France and Britain failed to win support for a no-fly zone to halt the advance of Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

The envoys from the Group of Eight prominent economies insisted Gadhafi must leave power. France said they agreed that a new U.N. resolution should be adopted by week's end with measures to help Libyan rebels, who have sought a no-fly zone imposed by foreign powers.

A final communique after a two-day meeting in Paris of G-8 foreign ministers warned of "dire consequences" if Gadhafi did not honor the Libyan people's claim to basic rights, freedom of expression, and representative government.

The halting efforts to raise pressure against Gadhafi's 42-year regime came as his forces used tanks, warships and artillery Tuesday to gain ground near the rebels' base in eastern Libya.

The G-8 ministers agreed that more action within the U.N. Security Council is needed to pressure Gadhafi to leave, possibly with new sanctions, but not military action, diplomats said.

"The G-8 agreed that we hope the U.N. Security Council should adopt as soon as possible — that is to say by the end of this week — a measure that allows us to help the opposition based in Benghazi," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said, without elaborating.

Meanwhile, at U.N. headquarters, diplomats said experts from Britain, France, Lebanon, the United States and Germany were meeting to finalize the text of a draft resolution. The draft was expected to be circulated to the 15-member Security Council later Tuesday, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks have been private.

One diplomat said the resolution will be in two parts, with Lebanon, the council's only Arab member, proposing part one, which would establish a no-fly zone over Libya, and Britain and the United States proposing a second part on other measures to strengthen sanctions approved by the Security Council on Feb. 26.

The council then imposed an arms embargo on Libya and ordered all countries to freeze assets and ban travel for Gadhafi and some close associates. It also referred the regime's deadly crackdown on protesters to the International Criminal Court, for an investigation of possible crimes against humanity.

The proposed new resolution would call for more muscular enforcement of the arms embargo, add names of individuals, companies and other entities to the list of those subject to travel bans and asset freezes, and ban commercial flights bringing arms or mercenaries into Libya, the diplomat said. It would also establish a panel of experts to monitor implementation.

U.N. diplomats are expecting tough negotiations on the resolution.

One diplomat said the Security Council will be looking to see whether members of the Arab League, which is pressing for the no-fly zone, are ready to seriously participate in the establishment and operation of a zone.

But in Paris, France — one of the no-fly zone's biggest backers — was moving away from its earlier proposition to study one.

"I don't want the no-fly zone to be at the center of all the reflection," said Juppe. "We British and French envisaged proposing to our partners not a no-fly zone — contrary to what some have said — but the use of air power for targeted strikes on air strips or the Libyan regime's 20 aircraft."

"This proposal wasn't implemented," Juppe said. He said the Security Council has an array of possible measures including strengthened sanctions, establishment of a humanitarian aid zone, and a maritime embargo.

Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed support for planning for "all possible contingencies ... including a no-fly zone or other options against air attacks."

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country is waiting for more details and clarity from the Arab League about its proposals for Libya before approving any military intervention.

On Saturday, the Arab bloc called on the U.N. "to shoulder its responsibility ... to impose a no-fly zone over the movement of Libyan military planes and to create safe zones in the places vulnerable to airstrikes."

But Amr Moussa, the league's secretary-general, said a no-fly zone would be humanitarian measure to protect Libyan civilians and foreigners in the country — not a military intervention.

Germany's envoy said his country was "very skeptical" about military action, and diplomats confirmed that Germany was one of the most reticent countries on hand Tuesday about the no-fly zone proposal of its EU allies.

"We do not want to get sucked into a war in North Africa. We want to avoid any slippery slope in this direction," Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle said.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of Italy, a former colonial power in Libya that has had strong economic ties to Gadhafi's regime, said he thought it would be "a mistake to mix up the need for speed and the need for effectiveness. Obviously things are moving fast on the ground — tanks move faster than debates at the U.N. Security Council."

He added that the African Union should also be involved. The African bloc is facing myriad conflicts on the continent — and Libya is a member state.

Comment on this story

Juppe suggested in a radio interview Tuesday that events on the ground in Libya have already outpaced diplomatic efforts.

"If we had used military force last week to neutralize some airstrips and the several dozen planes that they have, perhaps the reversal taking place to the detriment of the opposition wouldn't have happened," Juppe told Europe-1 radio.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who on Monday met with her counterparts and Sarkozy, traveled to Egypt for talks Tuesday and was not attending the ministers' gathering.

Alessandra Rizzo in Rome and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.