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Arab states ask U N to press Israel to leave Gaza

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, July 6 (Reuters) Arab states asked the U N Security Council today to demand Israel's immediate withdrawal from Gaza, but France and the United States criticized their proposed resolution as unbalanced.

''From a first look at this, we think it is far from anything that could be brought to a vote,'' John Bolton, the U S Ambassador to the United Nations told reporters.

''It is not balanced enough, and we will propose amendments, and we think it requires a lot of work,'' added French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere after the council's initial closed-door talks on the draft.

Israel sent tanks and troops into Gaza and detained dozens of Palestinian officials last week after Palestinian militants seized an Israeli soldier. The situation has steadily worsened since then, with 22 Palestinians -- including civilians as well as militants -- killed since the offensive began.

Israeli forces pushed deeper into the Gaza Strip overnight and killed 12 Palestinians in air strikes and other clashes after militants from the ruling Hamas movement for the first time fired rockets into a major Israeli city.

The draft put forward by Arab governments at the United Nations was introduced in the 15-nation Security Council by Qatar, the council's sole Arab member.

It condemned ''the large-scale military assault being carried out by Israel'' in Gaza and the arrest and detention of elected Palestinian officials.

The draft text demanded Israel ''immediately cease its aggression against the Palestinian civilian population,'' withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip and release all detained Palestinian officials.

Diplomats said the measure would require extensive revisions to stand a chance in the council, where the United States, Israel's closest ally, has veto power.

Junior council diplomats planned to take an initial look at the text during informal closed-door talks later in the day.

Bolton, asked what changes Washington would seek, responded: ''I'm not sure there are amendments that we could propose that would make it into an acceptable resolution.'' Reuters SHB DB2341

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