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Obama Says He Cannot Take Stand on Gaza Until He Takes Office

President-elect Barack Obama says he is concerned about the violence in Gaza, but that it would not be right for him to speak at length about the conflict until he takes office later this month.

A television journalist pressed President-elect Barack Obama at a Washington news conference Wednesday on his reluctance to comment on the fighting in Gaza, saying that Mr. Obama's silence could be misinterpreted in the Arab world.

Mr. Obama said that while he has not refrained from addressing domestic policy issues, his decision not to comment on the Mideast crisis does not mean he is unconcerned about the violence.

"We cannot have two administrations running foreign policy at the same time," he said. "We simply can't do it. And so as a consequence, what am I doing is I am being briefed consistently, my national security team is fully up to speed on it. But the situation of domestic policy making and foreign policy making are two different things."

University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato says that Mr. Obama is making the right distinction between domestic and foreign policy issues for a president-elect waiting to take office.

"As far as foreign policy is concerned, it is essential for any nation to present a united front beyond the 'water's edge' [abroad], and that is the position of the incumbent president," he said. "The incumbent president has the responsibility to project American policy and power abroad. Any confusion, constitutionally, about who is really president, who is exercising power, probably helps the United States' enemies."

Sabato said Mr. Obama is in a difficult position largely because the United States has a relatively long transition period between its elections in early November and its presidential inauguration in late January.

"Most other democratic societies have a transition ranging from 24 hours to approximately two weeks," he said. "We, of course, have a three-month - a 77-day period for a transition. So it is only natural that people abroad assume Obama is already running things. Well he is not."

Some critics have said Mr. Obama has been reluctant to stake out a position on the violence in Gaza because there is no easy answer to this latest outbreak of the long-standing and complex conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But Gaza and other foreign policy issues will be Mr. Obama's responsibility less than two weeks from now when he takes the oath of office on January 20.