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Defying U.S., Palestinians press forward with U.N. bid

RAMALLAH, West Bank — In a direct challenge to the United States, Palestinians said Thursday they will ask the Security Council next week to accept them as a full member of the United Nations, even though Washington has promised to veto the measure.

The Palestinian assertion came as a senior U.S. diplomatic team was in the region trying to avert an embarrassing showdown and relaunch peace talks.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton refused to say Thursday whether she thought the team's efforts to deter the Palestinians were working. Two senior U.S. diplomats are making their second visit in a week to Israel and the West Bank.

By pushing forward, the Palestinians risk putting President Barack Obama in the uneasy position of having to veto a measure supported by most of the international community.

Foreign Minister Riad Malki told foreign journalists the Palestinians were not looking for a fight. But he said the American stance puts the United States in a "confrontational position" with the rest of the world, and suggested American credibility could be at stake. "I don't know what it means to the standing of the U.S. in the United Nations and among the countries of the world," he said.

Even so, the Palestinians left the door open for compromise.

Malki said the Palestinians were still ready to listen to suggestions from American envoys. And in New York, his U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said a final decision on whether to pursue recognition in the Security Council, or seek a lesser, symbolic status in the General Assembly had not yet been made.

"The final decision will be taken in the next few days as to which path we will follow," Mansour said.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney emphasized that negotiation with Israel was the only viable path to Palestinian statehood.

"The Palestinians will not and cannot achieve statehood through a declaration at the United Nations. It is a distraction, and in fact, it's counterproductive," he said, adding that "the only way to resolve the issues between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and to ultimately create a Palestinian state, is through direct negotiations."

The Palestinians seek an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as their capital. Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Mideast war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects a complete pullout from the West Bank and says Israel must retain East Jerusalem, which it considers an inseparable part of its capital. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

The Palestinians say they are turning to the U.N. in frustration after years of failed peace talks.

While a U.N. vote will not change the situation on the ground, the Palestinians believe it will improve their position in future talks.

In particular, they say Israel must accept the 1967 borders as the basis of a future agreement.

Defying U.S., Palestinians press forward with U.N. bid 09/15/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 15, 2011 10:59pm]
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