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Barack Obama, who takes over as U.S. president from George W. Bush on January 20, broke his silence about the violence in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, calling the loss of civilian lives in Gaza and in Israel a "source of deep concern for me."

Obama added he would adhere to his principle that only Bush should be the voice of U.S. foreign policy at this time but he would have plenty to say after his inauguration in two weeks.

Nonetheless, Obama said that he is "not backing at all from what I've said during the campaign we're going to engage effectively and consistently in the peace process."

"We've got plenty to say about Gaza, and on January 20, you'll hear directly from me," he added.

Meanwhile, the United States on Tuesday signaled some flexibility over Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip, saying it would like to see "an immediate ceasefire" but emphasizing any such agreement must be durable, sustainable and indefinite.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack also said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to the United Nations on Tuesday was designed to show that the United States was open a variety of ways to achieve a cease-fire.

"We would like an immediate cease-fire, absolutely," McCormack told reporters, speaking after Israeli tank shells killed at least 40 Palestinians at a United Nations school where civilians had taken shelter. "An immediate cease-fire that is durable, sustainable and not time-limited."

Rice was headed to the United Nations on Tuesday to meet Arab ministers as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a bid to get a cease-fire deal in Gaza, the State Department said.

"The purpose of her trip is to move forward the international efforts to create a cease-fire in Gaza," said a State Department official.