UN 'to convene assembly over Gaza'

General assembly to meet in emergency session over ongoing Gaza crisis.

    Rice said she had urged Israel to accept the
    Egypt-France proposal [AFP]

    Amid continued diplomatic activity, Egyptian officials said on Wednesday that an Israeli team would travel to Cairo for talks on an Egyptian-French ceasefire initiative but it was not clear if members of the Palestinian group Hamas and the Palestinian Authority would attend.

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    The Egyptian-French initiative would see an immediate temporary truce to allow aid into Gaza, negotiations and measures to prevent arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza.

    On Wednesday Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said at the UN that the US considered a ceasefire "necessary" and that she had impressed on Israeli and Arab ministers "the importance of moving [the French-Egyptian] initiative forward".

    She reiterated her belief, however, that any ceasefire "will not allow a return to the status quo".

    Libya, currently the only Arab nation serving as a non-permanent member of the security council, had been urging council members to back its resolution, while other members of the council had reportedly favoured issuing a non-binding "presidential statement".

    But the US had blocked an earlier Libyan draft resolution that Washington and its allies saw as anti-Israel.

    Meanwhile the French government had initially said that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had accepted the Egypt-France initiative to end the crisis, but Israel and Hamas have said the proposal was still under discussion.

    Initiative

    Mark Regev, a spokesman for Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, said on Wednesday regarding the proposal: "We welcome the French-Egyptian initiative. We want to see it succeed," adding that talks would "continue on the basis of that initiative".

    "A sustainable calm in the south will be based upon the total absence of hostile fire from Gaza into Israel and an effective arms embargo on Hamas that enjoys international support," he said.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera from Beirut, Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official, said "the [Hamas] movement is now discussing its stance to the Egyptian initiative, keeping in mind that there are, in principle, a number of reservations on this initiative".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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