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U.S. Intensifies Push for Cease-fire in Gaza

President-elect Barack Obama has said that the Middle East will be a top foreign policy priority, but the task of negotiating a cease-fire to the current burst of Gaza fighting still falls to the Bush administration. Analysts examine the U.S. role in Mideast peace talks.

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    Secretary of State Rice's trip to the United Nations today to pursue a possible cease-fire in Gaza came just days after the U.S. blocked a proposed U.N. resolution calling for an immediate halt to the fighting.

    And late today, President-elect Obama promised to move quickly on the broader Mideast conflict once he takes office.

    For more on the U.S. role in the Gaza crisis, we go to Martin Indyk, former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, now director of the Saban Center for Mideast Policy at the Brookings Institution. His book about U.S.-Mideast diplomacy, "Innocent Abroad," was released this week.

    And Robert Malley, a former National Security Council official, he's now Mideast program director at the International Crisis Group.

    Welcome to you both.

    So here we have Secretary Rice up at the U.N. pursuing a cease-fire. The State Department spokesman even used the word "immediate." Is this a change?

    MARTIN INDYK, Saban Center for Middle East Policy: Well, I think that, for the last few days, the administration's actually been working behind the scenes on a cease-fire or at least a critical — one of the critical elements of a cease-fire, which is how to stop smuggling of offensive weapons into Gaza once a cease-fire is in place.

    So now they've come out in public because there's this big event in the Security Council with Abu Mazen, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. This is an effort to show that he is playing a role in trying to help the Palestinians.

    He's obviously been weakened by the fact that Hamas is getting all of the attention, particularly in the Arab street. And so the effort to get a cease-fire is not just to stop the violence, but also to strengthen those who've been undermined by it, those parties who actually want to make peace.

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