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Palestinians Fight ‘Tremendous Pressure’ in UN Membership Bid

September 26, 2011

Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) -- The Palestinians are pushing back against “tremendous pressure” at the United Nations by the veto-wielding U.S. and will seek a Security Council vote on membership in a “few weeks,” a Palestinian envoy said.

“We also have many other friends on the Security Council and we are engaging them to be on the positive side of history,” Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said today in New York, three days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas presented his case for statehood at the General Assembly.

The Security Council decided today to meet in two days to have the admissions committee take up the Palestinians membership request, a process that can last days, weeks or months. The U.S. is seeking to delay a showdown while diplomats try to resurrect peace talks that broke down a year ago over construction of Jewish settlements in West Bank.

The U.S. is leaning on Security Council members to abstain from voting, leaving the Palestinians struggling to retain supporters even among the nine nations in the 15-member body that recognize a Palestinian state.

Mansour said Abbas will dispatch diplomats to the capitals of council members Nigeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Gabon, which are critical swing votes.

Abbas hasn’t agreed to a proposal by the Middle East Quartet to restart direct talks with Israel with a timetable for a peace accord by the end of 2012. The Quartet plan doesn’t specify a halt to the expansion of settlements, which has been a demand of the Palestinians since construction resumed last year after a temporary freeze.

Veto Power

While the U.S. has Security Council veto power to prevent the application for full state membership from going to a vote in the General Assembly, where the Palestinians enjoy more than a two-thirds majority, the Obama administration is reluctant to use it because of the potential political backlash in the Arab world. No one has vetoed an admissions request since 1976, when the U.S. blocked Vietnam.

Rather than appear isolated, the U.S. has focused its diplomatic efforts on showing that the initiative falls short of the nine votes needed in the Security Council.

Envoys from Bosnia, Gabon and Nigeria left the Security Council session today, declining to comment on where they stand.

“We are in continuous contact with them,” Mansour said. “Gabon and Nigeria are two good friends of Palestine.”

Pressed by Both Sides

It’s the first time a Palestinian official has acknowledged publicly the extent to which smaller countries in the 15-member body are being pressed by both sides.

China, Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa have all thrown their weight behind the Palestinians and are all represented on the Security Council this year.

Lebanon, the only Arab country represented in the decision- making body, also supports the membership. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met today with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Makati at the United Nations as part of the U.S. effort to stress efforts to resume peace talks.

In the Security Council, the procedures permit any member to ask for a vote any time, after giving the members 24-hour notice. Lebanon would be the likeliest candidate to do that for Abbas should the Palestinian leadership want to bring the issue to a vote.

The Palestinians can sidestep the council and go to the General Assembly to seek to raise Palestinian status at the UN from “entity” to “non-member state.”

This route, a step short of full membership, requires only a simple majority in the 193-member assembly where, Mansour said, 131 countries have bilaterally recognized Palestine as a state.

--Editorss: Terry Atlas, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporters on this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson in New York at; Peter S. Green in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at

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