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News Wrap: Abbas to Seek Palestinian Statehood at U.N. Security Council

September 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has confirmed he will go to the U.N. Security Council next week to seek full membership at the United Nations for his people.

In a televised speech today, Abbas said his aim is not to delegitimize Israel, but to end the occupation. The U.S. has threatened to veto the move, preferring direct talks with Israel as the path to an independent Palestinian state.

Activists reported at least 17 people died in Syria today after security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters. Thousands marched in Damascus and in cities across the country, some calling for the execution of President Bashar Assad. Home video showed demonstrators ducking bullets and running from gunfire and tear gas. The U.N. estimates that some 2,600 people have died so far in the six-month-long uprising.

There are new indications Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, may be ready to heed local and international calls to step down. Late yesterday, the U.S. State Department reported that a deal for Saleh to transfer power could be signed within a week. Today, amateur video showed thousands of protesters in the capital of Sana’a, and other major cities, demanding Saleh’s resignation.

In Libya today, rebels advanced on two remaining strongholds of deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi. Dozens of armed vehicles in Bani Walid made their way into the city center, exchanging gunfire with pro-Gadhafi loyalists. The fighters also faced resistance from sniper fire. A convoy of rebel tanks mounted with anti-aircraft guns also made its way into Gadhafi’s hometown, Sirte, before retreating from rocket fire by Gadhafi loyalists.

The fighting comes amid a visit from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He urged Gadhafi’s forces to lay down their arms.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkish prime minister (through translator): Right now, we have a very difficult situation and fighting going on in Sirte. I urge all the people, all our brothers there, to join the people of Benghazi and stop the bloodshed. Give your hand to each other. No need to have more people dead, more blood. Do not resist. This is the end. This is the time to join your brothers.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said there is still no indication Gadhafi has left Libya, but the U.S. is confident his regime has collapsed.

And in a related development, the United Nations General Assembly voted to give Libya’s seat to the National Transitional Council, made up of former rebels.

Back in the U.S., President Obama today signed into law the first major overhaul of the nation’s patent system in nearly 60 years. The America Invents Act is designed to streamline the patent process, reduce costly legal battles, and give the Patent Office more money to process applications faster. That office currently takes an average of three years to approve a patent.

At a signing ceremony in Alexandria, Va., the president said the bipartisan law would help bring products to market faster and spur innovation.

On Wall Street today, stocks closed strong, managing their first five-day winning streak since July. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 76 points to close at 11,509. The Nasdaq rose 15 points to close above 2,622. For the week, the Dow gained nearly 5 percent; the Nasdaq rose more than 6 percent.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.