UN's Ban calls for timetable of Israeli withdrawal

Sat Jan 17, 2009 1:40pm EST

(Adds details, background)

BEIRUT, Jan 17 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday that if Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in the Gaza Strip it should include a timetable for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Hamas-ruled enclave.

Israel is planning to announce on Saturday a halt to its three-week Gaza offensive without any deal with Hamas, an Israeli official said.

Ban said he could not confirm whether Israel would declare a halt to the fighting, though he hoped it would.

"This unilateral declaration should be accompanied by a timetable for Israeli withdrawal," Ban told reporters in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

Ban confirmed that he would be attending a summit meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on Sunday organized by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss Gaza. (Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Dominic Evans)