Czech PM: EU Must Take Lead to End Gaza Fighting

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said the European Union must take the initiative to seek a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, noting the United States cannot be counted on at this time.

Mr. Topolanek made his remarks as the Czech Republic took over the EU's rotating presidency Thursday.

He said he is organizing a diplomatic mission to the Middle East that will look for a solution to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The Czech news agency said the mission will include EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the bloc's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and the foreign ministers from the Czech Republic, France and Sweden.  

The mission will consist of stops in Israel, the West Bank, Egypt and Jordan, and is expected to coincide with a trip by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday to Israel and the West Bank.
Mr. Sarkozy is pushing hard for an end to the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

At the Vatican today, Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to the violence in Gaza.  He also said he hopes Israelis and Palestinians have the opportunity to live in peace. 


Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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