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Egypt Proposes Israel-Palestinian Cease-Fire


Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has proposed an immediate cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, to be followed by talks on long-term arrangements and guarantees, including an end to the blockade of Gaza.

Mr. Mubarak made the proposal Tuesday after talks with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh.

He said the guarantees include securing the borders and opening of the border crossings for humanitarian aid.

Mr. Mubarak's proposal came as a delegation from Hamas is in Cairo for talks with Egyptian mediators on a possible cease-fire with Israel.

Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman met with a Palestinian delegation headed by two Hamas political leaders, Emad al-Alami and Mohammed Nasr, based in Syria.

Hamas officials say the group will consider a cease-fire only if Israel ends its offensive in Gaza and reopens the territory's borders.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the offensive will continue until Israel achieves "peace and tranquility" for residents of southern Israel, who have been targets of Hamas rocket attacks.

The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to meet Tuesday regarding an expected draft resolution by Arab leaders calling for Israel to stop its offensive.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will join the talks along with the foreign ministers of several European and Middle East nations.

Arab leaders hope their proposed resolution will not be blocked by the United States, which has objected to earlier drafts that failed to address Hamas rocket attacks.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will attend Tuesday's Security Council meeting.

A State Department official says the main purpose of her New York visit will be to consult with U.S. friends and allies, including Arab foreign ministers, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.

Mideast envoy Tony Blair, who represents the Quartet of Middle East peace brokers, said Tuesday an immediate cease-fire is possible if the tunnels used to ferry arms from Egypt into Gaza are closed.

Meanwhile, Venezuela said it was expelling Israeli ambassador and some of the personnel from the country in response to Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip.

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