GAZA

Western, Arab ministers agree on draft UN resolution

Western and Arab foreign ministers have agreed in principle on a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, diplomats say.

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AFP - Western and Arab foreign ministers on Thursday agreed on a compromise draft resolution calling for an immediate Gaza ceasefire and decided to put it to a UN Security Council vote, a Palestinian diplomat said.

 

"There's an agreement accepting the amendments of the Arabs," Ryad Mansour, the Palestinian observer to the UN, told reporters.

 

The UN Security Council meanwhile scheduled closed-door consultations for 5 p.m. (2200 GMT) Thursday presumably to hold a vote on the text that reconciles rival drafts proposed by the Arab and Western ministers.

 

Adoption by the 15-member council of the compromise draft, which was sought by Libya on behalf of the Arab UN group, is virtually certain given that the three key Western members -- the United States, Britain and France -- are now onboard.

 

The agreement was announced after four days of intensive bargaining involving British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and several Arab foreign ministers as well as Arab League chief Amr Mussa.

 

Miliband, in agreement with his US and French counterparts, early Thursday presented a new draft resolution to the Arab delegation which had earlier produced its own revised draft demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

 

Arab ministers are under public pressure to secure an immediate end to Israel's 13-day military onslaught in Gaza that has killed more than 760 Palestinians.

 

The Arab and Western ministers held several frantic rounds of bargaining that apparently produced the compromise deal.

 

In a key concession to the Arabs, a text circulated by the British delegation earlier Thursday "calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire" in Gaza and "for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."

 

An earlier version merely "stressed the need" for an immediate ceasefire.

 

The latest British draft available also "condemns all acts of hostilities and terror directed against civilians" and for "the lifting of the Israeli blockade" of Gaza.

 

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