UNITED NATIONS — The Security Council took its first official step Wednesday to consider the Palestinians' request for U.N. membership.
Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam, who holds this month's rotating council presidency, announced that he was forwarding the Palestinians' request to the committee on new admissions, which includes all 15 member states on the council.
The step is required by council rules of procedure.
The committee will meet to consider the request for membership on Friday.
Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour thanked the council for quickly and unanimously agreeing to act on the Palestinian application.
The process could take weeks before it comes to a final vote in the council, where the United States has vowed to veto the measure if it receives the necessary nine of 15 council votes in favor of membership for Palestine.
Israel defends housing plan: The Israeli government on Wednesday rejected international criticism of its decision to build 1,100 new Jewish housing units in East Jerusalem, saying the plans do not hinder peace efforts with the Palestinians. Israel said Tuesday that it had approved the new construction in the neighborhood of Gilo in southeast Jerusalem. The Palestinians condemned the plan, and the U.S., European Union and United Nations all expressed their disappointment over the settlements. The Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt all settlement construction in East Jerusalem as a condition for resuming peace talks.