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U.N. assembly urges Gaza truce, drops radical text

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly called in a nonbinding resolution on Friday for an immediate, durable cease-fire in Gaza, rejecting a more radical text proposed by a group of Muslim and Latin American states.

Although the resolution has no teeth, diplomats who supported it said the overwhelming majority in favour presented a cohesive moderate world viewpoint that would strengthen Egyptian mediating efforts in the Gaza crisis.

The assembly’s electronic scoreboard showed 142 countries in favour, four opposed and eight abstaining. But the exact figures were not immediately clear as several countries said their votes had not registered due to electrical faults.

Voting against were Israel, the United States and the Pacific island of Nauru, which believed the resolution was biased against Israel. Venezuela, which thought it was too soft on the Jewish state, was also shown by the board as voting against although the country’s delegate said he abstained.

The assembly’s resolution followed closely the text of a Security Council resolution adopted last week. The council’s cease-fire call has not been heeded either by Israel, which attacked the Gaza Strip on December 27 to try to stamp out Palestinian rocket fire, or by Israel’s Hamas foes.

Like the council’s text, Friday’s resolution calls for “an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.”

The adopted text was hammered out in negotiations between the European Union and the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador, Riyad Mansour, and was supported by moderate Arab states.

Its backers narrowly headed off an attempt by a small group of radical Muslim and Latin American states, headed by Ecuador, to have the assembly vote on a text sharply critical of Israel.

Mansour told the session that resolution would have split the assembly and made a “gift” to Israel.

The EU-Palestinian text included a phrase, opposed by the radicals, that “the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected and their suffering must end.”

Israeli envoy Meirav Eilon Shahar nevertheless dismissed the resolution as “deeply flawed and flagrantly one-sided.”

U.S. envoy Alejandro Wolff said the resolution was “neither necessary nor helpful” because the Security Council had already spoken and peace efforts were under way.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari, one of the radical group, said the majority that supported the adopted resolution “is not the one that the Palestinian people need.”

Editing by Chris Wilson