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NATO says one of its air strikes in the Libyan capital of Tripoli went astray and may have killed civilians.

The military alliance said the errant strike early on June 19 may have been due to "a weapons system failure."

Libyan officials say nine civilians were killed in the attack, including two children.

A NATO commander said it "regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives and takes great care in conducting strikes."

In an interview with the "Financial Times," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev criticized the way Western countries had interpreted UN resolution 1973 on Libya.

The Russian leader accused the military alliance of turning the resolution into "a scrap of paper to cover up a pointless military operation".

Earlier, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told CNN that NATO should be allowed to continue its task in Libya and predicted Qaddafi will eventually fall.

Elsewhere, rebels are reported to have suffered heavy casualties when they came under artillery fire from Qaddafi forces near the city of Misrata.

compiled from agency reports