Tags: un | us | gazq

U.N., U.S. Divided Over Gaza Strife

Monday, 29 Dec 2008 07:24 PM

By Stewart Stogel

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UNITED NATIONS -- The strained relations between the White House and the United Nations over the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip rose to the surface during the weekend and again Monday morning.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon showed his frustration with the Bush administration by calling an impromptu press briefing. During the short gathering, he issued a terse statement, took no questions, and left abruptly.

"I am deeply alarmed by the current escalation of violence in and around Gaza. This is unacceptable. I have repeatedly condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas militants against Israel. While recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, I have also condemned the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza . . . both Israel and Hamas must halt their acts of violence and take all necessary measures to avoid civilian casualties . . . I expect all parties to fully heed my call. In particular, Israel must keep open all border crossings necessary for the continued provision of humanitarian supplies."

The strongly worded Ban proclamation contrasts with several White House statements that clearly put the onus for the violence on Hamas.

To support its position, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad effectively sidelined the U.N. Security Council from doing no more than issuing a vaguely worded criticism of the situation over the weekend.

Ban, who was pressuring the council behind the scenes from his home on the Upper East Side to take a "more definitive" posture, was relegated to no more than an "observer" by the maneuverings of the U.S. delegation.

Many Arab diplomats at the United Nations expect an invasion of Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces.

"They are going to invade," said Syria's U.N. ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari. "I have no doubt about it," .

On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters that "it is all-out war with Hamas."

The IDF has called up more than 7,000 reservists for possible military duty.

Israel's emergency medical care organization, the Red Star of David, has put out a call for 12,000 volunteers and announced it was sending an additional 400 ambulances to area surrounding the Gaza border.

What Ban Ki-moon can do next is anyone's guess. Other than using his position to increase diplomatic pressure, the U.N. chief has found that without U.S. support he has little real authority.

More importantly, the beleaguered Ban risks losing any base to seek re-election for a second five-year term in 2012.

Israel's U.N. mission and the U.S. delegation had no reaction to Ban's statement Monday.

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