Tags: gaza | ceasefire

U.S. Expects Gaza Ceasefire in 'Day or So'

Monday, 12 Jan 2009 01:46 PM

By Stewart Stogel

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NEW YORK -- A senior State Department official tells Newsmax that he expects Israel and Hamas to implement a de-facto ceasefire soon.

Speaking on background, the U.S. official added, "the Israelis and Hamas know that they have to wrap this thing up, it cannot go on. We expect them to agree to a ceasefire in the next day or so."

The diplomat explained that the White House never expected an immediate ceasefire, even after the U.N. Security Council resolution passed Thursday called for just that.

"We never thought that everything would stop as soon as the council passed its resolution. It simply wasn't practical."

The unexpected vote, on which the U.S. abstained, "may have confused the Israelis, but we couldn't let the Arab foreign ministers leave empty handed," the State Department official added.

More than 17 foreign ministers from around the world had traveled on New York to confer on the Gaza crisis.

The Arabs had expected the U.S. to vote in favor of a resolution it helped write, but less than an hour before the Thursday evening council meeting, Rice told Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki she "had been instructed to abstain."

The U.S. source confirmed that Rice was instructed to change the vote in a personal phone call from President Bush. Bush had been in contact with the senior Israeli leadership throughout the day.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told an audience in the border city of Ashkelon that Rice was "left embarrassed" by Bush's action at the U.N.:

"He (Bush) immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote for it. She was left quite embarrassed."

While Rice may have felt embarrassed, Arabs privately heaped scorn on French Nicolas Sarkozy, who had been leading international efforts to broker a ceasefire.

According to the US official, Sarkozy wanted the Council to delay any vote for 24 hours so he could attend the meeting in NYC. France chairs the presidency of the UN body for the month of January.

"They (the Arabs) wanted a vote before Friday, their day of rest. They were quite angry and confused over the French request."

The final vote was 14-0-1 with Washington abstaining.

Now in its third week, with fighting still ranging, the Palestinian U.N. delegation was contemplating re-calling Arab foreign ministers to NYC for another emergency Council meeting.

"It is too soon for that," explained the American official. "We should see a ceasefire soon," he added.

He added that the White House is not likely to endorse any new U.N. action until Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon returns from the region.

Ban will leave for the Mid-East on Tuesday and not expected back in New York until at least the weekend.

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