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Palestinian envoy hails solidarity with Nicaragua, to Israel's chagrin

MANAGUA – The Palestinian ambassador in Managua, Walid Ibrahim Muaqqat, applauded the Nicaraguan government´s criticism of Israel´s military attack in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Ambassador Ehud Moshe Eitam called for more balanced dialogue on the subject.

In a statement last week, the Nicaraguan government pushed for a halt of what it called Israel´s “criminal acts” in Gaza.

Speaking Friday to the press at a Managua university, Ambassador Muaqqat thanked President Daniel Ortega and also demanded an end to Israel´s raid, which by then had left 430 Palestinians dead, newswire EFE reported.

The attack started after Hamas began launching rockets against southern Israeli towns following an end last month to its six-month truce with Israel.

Yesterday, the ninth day of hostilities, the Palestinian death toll reached about 500, following a push Saturday night by Israel´s ground forces into Gaza, the Associated Press reported.

Muaqqat said the incursion was not “a war” with Hamas, but rather “a massacre, an act of genocide.”

Israel´s Ambassador Eitam, for his part, said Nicaragua´s statements signaled an “unfortunate” bias.

“I´ve never heard President Ortega ever criticize or call on Hamas … not to attack Israel,” the Israeli diplomat told Nicaraguan daily La Prensa.

“When (Ortega) criticizes just one side, especially when he criticizes Israel, he doesn´t have the positive impact … that I believe he wants to have. He should be much more balanced,” Eitam said.

Venezuela´s government, a close Nicaraguan ally, also called Israel´s acts “criminal,” while other Latin American nations, including members of the Common Market of the South, expressed “concern and repudiation toward the spiral of violence and intimidation taking place in the Gaza Strip,” according to news agency MercoPress.

The U.S. State Department announced yesterday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has canceled her planned trip to China “due to the events in the Middle East,” Reuters reported. It was not clear, however, whether Rice would visit the conflicted region.

On Saturday, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the United States was working toward a cease-fire “as soon as possible” but did not call for an immediate end to the hostilities, according to Reuters.

However, efforts toward global common ground around a truce failed in the United Nations, with the United States blocking any resolution that could come out of the late Saturday Security Council meeting.

Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Alejandro Wolff said the United States believes there is no clear sign that Hamas would halt 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, according to U.S. television channel CBS News´ Web site.

U.N. General Assembly President Miguel d´Escoto, a Nicaraguan Sandinista priest, chided the Security Council, calling its failure to act swiftly a “monstrosity,” the TV channel reported.

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