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UN Security Council to discuss Gaza


New York : The UN Security Council was due to meet late Saturday at UN headquarters in New York to discuss the Middle East conflict, hours after Israeli troops launched a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip.

Details of the hastily arranged, closed-door meeting were not available.

The Security Council has been unable to reach agreement on the violence since an Israeli bombing campaign began Dec 27, in response to stepped up rocket fire toward southern Israel by Gaza militants.

There was no vote on a recent resolution introduced by Arab countries, after Western powers in the Security Council deemed the measure one-sided against Israel.

Earlier Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the Security Council to act to stop the Israeli air and ground offensives. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement that Abbas called on the Security Council to convene immediately “to halt and stop the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.”

Several top Arab leaders and diplomats are expected this week to be in New York to make direct appeals for the United Nations to take action.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Saturday said that he was extremely disturbed by the start of the Israeli ground incursion. He said that the escalation would only make it harder for efforts to halt the conflict – by the Middle East Quartet, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and others – to succeed.

Ban telephoned with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to express deep concern and disappointment with the incursion, a UN spokeswoman said.

In Amman, Jordanian Foreign Minister Salah Bashir Saturday summoned ambassadors of the five UN Security Council veto powers and urged the world community “to shoulder its responsibilities” in forcing Israel to halt its military actions in Gaza.