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U.S. Shoots Down U.N. Call For Ceasefire

By CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk reporting from the United Nations:

The U.N. met for four hours Saturday night after Israel began a ground incursion into Gaza, but failed to reach agreement on any statement, and rejected a Libyan-sponsored proposal calling for an immediate ceasefire.

The U.N. Security Council had issued a consensus statement on New Year's Eve, but the Deputy U.S. Ambassador, Alejandro Wolff, blocked anything in writing which would have come out of the late-night meeting, which took place shortly after the ground incursion began.

The reason, Wolff said, was that the U.S. believed that there was no immediate prospect that Hamas militants would cease their rocket attacks against Israel.

"We're not going to equate the actions of Israel, a member state of the United Nations, with the actions of the terrorist group Hamas; there is no equivalence there," Wolff said. "The Charter of this organization respects the right of every member state to exercise its self-defense. And Israel's self-defense is not negotiable."

Meeting in emergency session but failing to issue any written statement of consensus, finger-pointing was the only common ground. The Palestinian Representative said the U.S. was the only nation which blocked a statement. The Libyan Ambassador said that the lack of a unified position by the Arab nations was also at fault.

It was not surprising that the Security Council did not reach an agreement, since the United States - with veto power on the Council - supports Israel's position that negotiations should take place outside the U.N. until the moment that Hamas stops the shelling of southern Israel. But the lack of agreement stands in stark contrast with a U.N. Security Council Resolution passed only two weeks earlier, during calmer days, which called for a two-state solution and a restart of the peace negotiations.

The Security Council was scolded by U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto, a former Nicaraguan Sandinista, who called the lack of action by the Security Council an illustration of the Security Council's disfunctionality. He called the failure of action a "monstrosity."

"There are some members of the Security Council that are trying to protect their own political interests," d'Escoto said. "This is a real shame … people are dying."

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he was certain that the ground incursion would increase civilian suffering.

The only sign of agreement was a verbal statement by France's U.N. Ambassador who, as Council president, announced there were "strong convergences" among the 15 members to express serious concern about the deteriorating situation in Gaza and the need for "an immediate, permanent and fully respected ceasefire."

The Security Council will return when a high level delegation of Arab ambassadors arrives in New York Sunday or Monday and will hear from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

The diplomatic stalemate reflected the divisions within the Security Council about what to do next - to have the U.N. formulate a plan, or to enforce an agreement once Hamas has agreed to a ceasefire and the parties involved agree to international monitors to secure against the smuggling of arms into Gaza.

In the end, if a durable ceasefire is put into place, it is likely that the U.N. Security Council would be asked by its members to put together a new road map to enforce the peace - but there appears to be no prospect of that at least in the next few days.

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