2ND LD: U.N. Security Council passes resolution on Gaza truce, U.S. abstains.
(EDS: RECASTING WITH PASSAGE OF RESOLUTION)
The U.N. Security Council on Thursday passed a resolution calling for an ''immediate and durable'' cease-fire between Hamas militants and Israel in the Gaza Strip, while the United States abstained.
Fourteen of the Security Council's 15 members voted in support of the final British text of the resolution, which ''stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading for the full withdrawal of the Israeli forces from Gaza.''
The consensus was struck after three days of hard bargaining between envoys from key Arab countries and three of the Security Council's five veto-wielding powers -- the United States, Britain and France.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States ''fully supports'' the resolution but abstained because Washington ''thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation efforts in order to see what this resolution might have been supporting.''
''After a great deal of consideration, we decided that this resolution, the text of which we support, the goals of which we support and the objectives that we fully support, should indeed be allowed to go forward,'' she said. ''I believe in doing so the council has provided a road map for a sustainable, durable peace in Gaza.''
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told reporters, ''I think it is very significant that over the last three days we should have built genuine consensus on the details of a strong resolution which calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease fire.''
''Our job here is to support the efforts for peace on the ground and to help turn good words on paper into changes on the ground, that are desperately needed,'' he said.
Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations Yukio Takasu said, ''Japan hopes that this resolution will help create conditions to renew efforts for putting the peace process back on track.''
The resolution also calls on member states to step up efforts to prevent illicit trafficking of arms and munitions.
It seeks to ensure the re-opening of crossing points between the Palestinian Authority and Israel on the basis of a 2005 agreement.
The resolution also welcomes Egypt's initiative that calls for an immediate cease-fire for a specific time in Hamas-ruled Gaza to enable humanitarian aid to the area.
The initiative would also allow for talks between the warring parties to occur in Egypt to prevent a recurrence and to address such issues as protecting the border, reopening the crossing points and lifting the blockade.
The proposal would also enable Egypt to invite the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian factions to work toward achieving a national reconciliation.
On Thursday Israeli officials traveled to Egypt to discuss the cease-fire proposal initiated by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that was being brokered by France and backed by the United States.
But the Islamist group Hamas and other Palestinian factions on Thursday rejected the cease-fire proposal by Egypt.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country currently holds the presidency of the Security Council, met with Miliband and with U.S. Secretary of State Rice over three days, while also working with other diplomats from the Arab League in pursuit of a common ground on the wording of the text.
Earlier Thursday two separate draft resolutions were on the table. Envoys from France, Britain and the United States shuttled between meetings with the Arab League group to discuss amendments until they reached a consensus on the final wording.
A text put forward Tuesday by Libya, the only Arab member of the council, had demanded an ''immediate and permanent cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.''
The other resolution, put forward by France, and backed by Britain and the United States, called for other wording that stressed ''the urgency of an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire.''
In the latest developments on the ground, an Israeli tank attacked a U.N. aid convoy, killing two workers of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in separate incidents and injuring a contract worker.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon condemned the attack and called again for an ''immediate cease-fire'' to facilitate humanitarian access and to allow aid workers to safely reach people in need.
U.N. officials estimate so far that more than 750 people have been killed in the area almost two weeks into the Israeli offensive against Hamas.