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Palestinians Seek United Nations Status Upgrade Despite U.S. Qualms

The Palestinian Authority -- with support from its militant Islamist rival, Hamas -- will ask for a status upgrade at the United Nations, stopping short of full recognition. Margaret Warner reports on the international reaction and U.S. fears that this development will diminish chances of productive peace efforts with Israel.

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    The Palestinian Authority will make an historic move tomorrow at the United Nations, despite being discouraged by the United States.

    For Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, it is a moment of diplomatic and political opportunity, tomorrow's vote in the U.N. General Assembly.

  • PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS, Palestinian Authority (through translator):

    We are going to the United Nations to upgrade the status of Palestine to an observer state at the U.N. And this is the first step to accomplish our Palestinian rights.


    Abbas is seeking recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state, encompassing the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem along the pre-1967 war borders.

    His Fatah faction only rules now in part of the West Bank. Its Islamist rival, Hamas, which advocates violent resistance to Israel, controls Gaza. After long opposing Abbas' U.N. efforts, the militant Hamas recently endorsed the move.

    SAMI ABU ZUHRI, Hamas spokesperson (through translator): The Hamas movement is with all the diplomacy acts that adds to the Palestinian victories. We welcome the step for statehood at the United Nations, but we want it to be through a national program based on the resistance that keeps the Palestinian rights.


    General Assembly recognition would put Palestine on a par with the Vatican at the U.N., but wouldn't grant full representation. Last year, Abbas failed to win full U.N. membership for a state of Palestine.

    The U.S. is opposed to even limited recognition, saying it will endanger prospects for a negotiated settlement with Israel.

    State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland issued that warning again today.

  • VICTORIA NULAND, State Department:

    We are concerned that this vote is going to make the work of getting the parties back to the table more difficult.


    But the Palestinians' U.N. representative, Riyad Mansour, voiced the opposite view yesterday.

    RIYAD MANSOUR, permanent observer of Palestine to the United Nations: We should get ready for the day after. The day after that we desire is to create a conducive atmosphere to go to negotiation in order to reach an agreement with Israel that will end the occupation that started in 1967.


    A majority of the General Assembly's 193 members are expected to vote yes, not just the Muslim and developing countries, but a good number of European nations, too, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland and, as of yesterday, France.

  • LAURENT FABIUS, French Foreign Minister (through translator):

    You know that for, years and years, the constant position of France has been to recognize the Palestinian state. So that is why I am answering you directly. When the question is put before us, France will answer yes out of desire for coherence.


    Germany said again today it will vote no. Britain announced it will abstain, but would vote yes if the Palestinians pledge not to try to join the International Criminal Court, and agree to return to negotiations without conditions. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev dismissed Abbas' effort again today.

    MARK REGEV, Israeli government: It's not going to change anything on the ground. The only way to make life better for both Israelis and Palestinians, to solve the issues that separate us, is through peace talks, direct peace talks, and we are ready.


    For President Abbas, the U.N. win could boost his standing, after the recent conflict in Gaza bolstered Hamas among Palestinians and across the Middle East.