Palestinians will submit UN membership letter

UNITED NATIONS — The Palestinians brushed aside heated Israeli objections and a promised U.S. veto Monday, vowing to submit a letter formally requesting full U.N. membership when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the General Assembly.

As the Palestinians edged closer to seeking statehood recognition from the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Abbas to meet with him in New York. The leader of Israel said he wanted to resume peace talks, upping the pressure on Abbas and building on the frenzied diplomacy swirling around the Palestinians bid.

Regardless, Abbas said he had not been swayed by what he called "tremendous pressure" to drop the bid for U.N. recognition and instead to resume peace talks with Israel. Senior aides to the Palestinian leader said Abbas was undaunted by threats of punitive measures.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, however, there was still time to find a solution to the diplomatic crisis.

"We continue to believe and are pressing the point that the only way to a two-state solution, which is what we support and want to see happen, is through negotiations," Clinton told reporters at a New York hotel. "No matter what does or doesn't happen this week, it will not produce the kind of result that everyone is hoping for."

She joined Netanyahu in calling for new talks and repeated the United States' position that the only path to a separate state for Palestinians is through negotiations with Israel.

Nabil Shaath, senior aide to Abbas said that Abbas informed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon during their meeting Monday that he would present him with a letter requesting full membership Friday, ahead of Abbas' speech to the General Assembly.

Shaath said the secretary-general promised to "speed up the discussion of the request." Earlier in the day, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian observer to the U.N., said Abbas would submit the request after the speech.

Shaath said last-ditch efforts to dissuade the Palestinian president from approaching the Security Council had failed and that offers had fallen short of Palestinian aspirations. He said Palestinians had been threatened with harsh punitive measures but that they had decided to move ahead.

The comment appeared to reflect the warnings by some in the U.S. Congress that current and future financial aid to the Palestinian Authority could be in jeopardy if they move ahead with the membership bid.

The push at the world body is the first step to statehood for Palestinians who have for decades complained of being guests in their own land. Although any submission by the Palestinians could wait weeks or months for the U.N. action, it has sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity with Mideast mediators scrambling to find a way to draw the two sides back to a negotiating table.

Each side in on-again-off-again Israeli-Palestinian talks has accused the other of being untrustworthy and intransigent participants in the peace process.

Palestinians will submit UN membership letter 09/19/11 [Last modified: Monday, September 19, 2011 11:43pm]

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