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Palestinians to seek U.N. support for state

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - The Palestinians plan to take their quest for independence to the U.N. Security Council, aiming to secure international support for a state, Palestinian officials said Sunday.

Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, said there was no time frame for the diplomatic initiative to secure backing for the state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “When we are ready, we will go,” he told Reuters.

Palestinians attributed the move to frustration at the lack of progress in peace negotiations with Israel which have been stalled for a year.

Despite months of diplomacy, the United States has failed to broker a resumption of talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Abbas has stuck by his demand for a total halt to Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank before any return to peace talks. He has resisted recent U.S. pressure to resume negotiations right away.

Head of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, Abbas aims to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in a 1967 war.

Mohammed Dahlan, a senior official in Abbas’s Fatah faction, told reporters that the diplomatic initiative had been agreed by the Palestine Liberation Organization executive which Abbas chairs. “We are now leading a diplomatic battle,” he said.


The initiative would be “a real test of the intentions of the international community,” he said. “If the American administration does not agree, that will be another setback.”

The United States, which had called for a freeze of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, eased the pressure in September by calling only for “restraint,” in a change of policy that frustrated the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership.

In the event of failure at the Security Council, where the United States wields veto power, Dahlan said other options included a unilateral declaration of statehood and “popular, comprehensive resistance against settlement and the occupation.”

He did not spell out what that might entail. In the past two decades, the Palestinians have twice launched uprisings in the occupied territories.

A senior Israeli minister speaking before Sunday’s weekly Israeli cabinet meeting in Jerusalem said unilateral moves by the Palestinians would harm peace efforts.

“Any unilateral statement that will be made by the Palestinians will not move the Israeli side forward in order to achieve peace,” Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who in June set a goal of establishing the institutions of a state within two years, said it was time for the international community to take responsibility for “the mission of ending the occupation.”

“This is the responsibility of the international community and when we talk about that and international law, of course we are talking about the United Nations,” he said at a news conference in Ramallah.

Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Eli Berlzon in Jerusalem; editing by Robin Pomeroy