Abbas support

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Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, presented the proposal after talks with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday.

A Palestinian official said Hamas leaders had been briefed in Egypt on the proposals by Mubarak and were discussing them internally.

Sarkozy also said that he had spoken to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, about Mubarak's initiative and "he will react soon".

Israel's ambassador to the UN said on Tuesday that the Israelis were taking the ceasefire proposal "very seriously".

"I am sure that it will be considered and you will find out whether it was accepted," Gabriela Shalev told reporters in New York. "But we take it very, very seriously."

The Mubarak-Sarkozy plan got immediate support from Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, whose Palestinian Authority lost control of Gaza to Hamas in July 2007.

"I express my support for the plan set in motion today by Mubarak and Sarkozy," he said as he flew to New York to attend the security council meeting in hopes of getting a legally binding resolution for an immediate ceasefire.

'Urban offensive'

Israel continues to insist that it wants all rocket fire to stop, as well as guarantees that Hamas does not re-arm.

According to two senior Israeli political sources, Olmert's security cabinet, convening on Wednesday morning, will discuss a third - and final – stage of the offensive, but the ministers may defer a vote on approving the plan.

"The plan is to enter the urban centres," the source told the Reuters news agency, noting the first phase was a series of air raids launched on December 27 and the second a ground invasion that began on January 3.

Mark Regev, Olmert's spokesman, declined comment, saying: "We do not generally discuss the agendas of the security cabinet."