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Palestinians uncertain about next move in U.N. bid

November 11, 2011 |  1:12 pm

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi
REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- After gaining momentum with their successful bid to join UNESCO, Palestinians now seem uncertain about their next move to win full membership in the United Nations and seem frustrated by their rate of progress.

The Palestinians' U.N. application was discussed Friday in the U.N. Security Council, but no vote was taken. Divisions among council members –- including a veto threat from the U.S. -– make the application almost certain to fail.

Palestinian leaders have privately conceded that they don’t even have the nine votes needed to forward the application to the General Assembly, meaning the Obama administration may not have to use its veto.

Eight countries are believed to support the bid: China, Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Lebanon, Nigeria and Gabon. Those expected to abstain or vote no include Bosnia, Britain, Colombia, France, Germany and Portugal. The U.S. has said it will vote no, arguing that Palestinians should instead return to the negotiating table with Israel in order to win statehood.

Palestinian Authority observer Riyad Mansour, who once predicted Palestinians would garner the nine needed votes for full U.N. membership, told reporters Friday that eight votes is “nothing to be ashamed of.” His comments came after the Security Council’s admission committee, which had been reviewing the application, declared that its members were deadlocked.

Palestinian leaders previously said they would push for a Security Council vote during Friday’s meeting, but later backed away once it became clear that they lacked the needed votes.

Their next move is unclear. After winning membership in UNESCO Oct. 31, Palestinians vowed to pursue membership in more than a dozen other U.N. and international agencies. A few days later, they said they would suspend that effort and focus instead on full membership in the U.N., no matter how long it took.

Now Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki says they have changed their mind again.

“We may reconsider what was said last week regarding not applying for other U.N. agencies if our bid at the Security Council fails,” he said.

Another option is turning to the U.N. General Assembly, where Palestinians probably could win support for a resolution upgrading their status to a “nonmember state” from the current “nonmember entity.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is traveling in Tunisia, has not spoken publicly recently about where he hopes to take the campaign next.

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-- Edmund Sanders. Maher Abukhater in Ramallah contributed to this report.

Photo: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi in Tunis on Friday. Credit: Beji Caid Essebsi / Associated Press

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