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Iran's Foreign Minister called on Monday for Muslim countries to break
Iran's Foreign Minister called on Monday for Muslim countries to break all ties, including diplomatic and trade, with Israel.

"In the letter that I sent today to my colleagues in a number of Islamic states, which unfortunately have political ties with the Zionist regime, and after pointing out which measures Venezuela and Mauritania had taken, I demanded that they cease relations with that regime," Manuchehr Motaki told journalists.

On January 9, Venezuela expelled Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Cohen and some of the embassy's personnel as a protest against Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip. Mauritania also announced that it would recall its ambassador from Israel in protest.

The foreign minister also said that one Islamic country, which he did not name, had already announced that "it will stop trade with Israel if others also take such measures."

An Israeli newspaper reported on Monday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had rejected appeals by his defense and foreign ministers for an immediate halt to operations in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Olmert is now believed to be planning to raise the issue of continuing military operations in the Gaza Strip with the country's security cabinet in order to get support from key ministers and security chiefs.

Last week, Olmert dismissed UN Security Council Resolution 1860, which called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Health Ministry has announced that at least 890 Palestinians, including 257 children and 68 women, have been killed and another 4,000 wounded in the more than two-week long Israeli assault on Gaza.

Israel's casualties are estimated at 13, including 10 military personnel.


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