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Obama vows Mideast peace effort from 'day one'

US president-elect Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast he will create a special team that will engage in Middle East peace efforts immediately after he takes office on January 20.

world Updated: Jan 11, 2009 19:23 IST

US president-elect Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast on Sunday he will create a special team that will engage in Middle East peace efforts immediately after he takes office on January 20.

"What I am doing right now is putting together the team so that on January 20th, starting on day one, we have the best possible people who are going to be immediately engaged in the Middle East peace process as a whole," he said in an interview with ABC's This Week program.

The team would "be engaging with all of the actors there. That will work to create a strategic approach that ensures that both Israelis and Palestinians can meet their aspirations," Obama said.

Until then, he said again that he would leave the administration of President George W. Bush to speak on foreign policy but indicated some continuity to the peace process.

"I think that if you look not just at the Bush administration, but also what happened under the (Bill) Clinton administration, you are seeing the general outlines of an approach," Obama said in the interview taped on Saturday.

Obama noted advice he received from Vice President Dick Cheney last week that his team should carefully study the outgoing administration's approach before throwing it away just to make a political point.

"I think that was pretty good advice," the president-elect said. "I should know what's going on before we make judgments and that we shouldn't be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric."

Under the Bush administration, the United States has been accused by the Palestinians of siding uncritically with Israel to the detriment of the peace process overall.

Obama stood by his words of July, during a visit to Israel, when he had said: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

Asked by ABC if he would repeat the remark in Israel now, he said: "I think that's a basic principle of any country is that they've got to protect their citizens."

Israel indicated for the first time on Sunday that an end was in sight to its war on the Palestinian group Hamas, amid some of the heaviest clashes of an offensive that has killed nearly 900 people in the Gaza Strip.

Israel is seeking US guarantees to stem arm smuggling into Gaza as part of diplomatic efforts to end the violence, a senior Israeli official told AFP.