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The United States is working with its allies on a cease-fire agreement that would end Hamas rocket fire, open Gaza's border crossings and deal with the tunnels in which goods are smuggled from Egypt into the coastal strip, the US State Department said Monday.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack outlined these three main elements of the arrangement America would like to see implemented as members of the international community issued louder calls for an immediate end to hostilities.
US President George W. Bush, in his first public appearance in which he addressed the situation in Gaza, also spoke of the desire for a cease-fire, while strongly backing Israel.
"All of us of course would like to see, you know, violence stop, but not at the expense of an agreement that does not prevent the crisis from happening again," he said at the White House on Monday.
"I know people are saying, let's have a cease-fire. And those are noble ambitions. But any cease-fire must have the conditions in it so that Hamas does not use Gaza as a place from which to launch rockets."
Bush said, "I understand Israel's desire to protect itself and that the situation now taking place, in Gaza, was caused by Hamas."
Earlier, Bush said that it was necessary for monitoring of the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt to ensure that Hamas doesn't smuggle in more weapons.
But McCormack declined to address the specifics of any arrangements with international observers, though he did refer to the agreement for movement and access concerning the borders of the Gaza Strip, which the US negotiated in 2005 when Israel had withdrawn from the territory.
"There is material to work with there," McCormack said, noting that the European Union had acted as an observer force in that case.
Right now, the United States has been helping train and equip the Egyptian security forces that are monitoring the tunnels, a program started in the wake of Congressional conditioning of some US aid to Egypt on stepped up efforts to monitor the tunnels.
McCormack noted that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had made 17 calls in the past few days to international leaders, though she doesn't currently have plans to travel to the region.
She did, however, cancel a long-anticipated trip to China to deal with the crisis.
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