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UN chief to meet Arab ministers on Gaza

world Updated: Jan 05, 2009 10:44 IST
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The UN chief urged the divided Security Council to work toward a speedy end to the escalating crisis in Gaza and planned to meet on Monday with Arab ministers flying to New York to press for an immediate halt to the violence.

Late Saturday, the United States blocked approval of a Security Council statement calling for an immediate cease-fire and expressing serious concern at the escalation of violence after Israeli tanks and artillery began a ground assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza, council diplomats said.

US deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the United States saw no prospect of Hamas abiding by the council's earlier call for an immediate end to attacks on Israel. Therefore, he said, a new statement at this time "would not be adhered to and would have no underpinning for success, (and) would not do credit to the council."

In a statement released Sunday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "Given the crucial juncture at which we have arrived in the search for a cease-fire, I appeal to all members of the international community to display the unity and commitment required to bring this escalating crisis to an end."

While the council took no action on Saturday night, an Arab draft resolution circulated by Libya on Wednesday night that would condemn Israel and halt its military attacks on Gaza remains on the table. It would have to be revised, however, since the United States called it "unacceptable" and "unbalanced" because it doesn't call for an end to the Hamas rocketing of Israel.

Ban said he "will be working actively with members of the council and other key players, in particular Arab leaders ... to facilitate the emergence of a consensus."

He said he regretted the council had not been able to reach agreement yet.

Ban recalled Robert Serry, his special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, from Jerusalem to brief him on the situation on the ground.

With more than 510 Palestinians killed in Gaza and more than 2,500 injured, some Middle Eastern and European governments have strongly criticized Israel for use of excessive force. Israel says it launched the offensive to stop rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza, which have traumatized southern Israel. Ban said he remains "extremely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Gaza.

The UN is in close contact with Israeli authorities to press them to open crossing into Gaza to allow in, particularly, wheat grain and fuel for the power plant, as well as other essential supplies, Ban said.

The main power plant in Gaza has been shut down since Tuesday because Israel has blocked fuel deliveries, and UN officials have said they desperately need wheat flour.