Palestinian leader says nothing can stop UN bid

RAMALLAH – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday he'll not be deterred from seeking UN recognition of a state of Palestine, despite what he said was "tremendous pressure" to drop the request and instead seek to resume peace talks with Israel.

Abbas spoke to reporters en route to the United Nations, where he is to seek UN membership for "Palestine" in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War.

The US and Israel oppose Abbas' bid, saying a state can only be established through negotiations. Abbas has said that negotiations remain his preference, but that they must be based on the pre-1967 war frontiers and a halt of all Israeli settlement construction on occupied land.

Abbas said Monday that even if Israel were to agree to those two demands, "we will go to the UN because there is no contradiction between negotiations and going to the UN"

Officials from the Quartet of Mideast mediators — the US, European Union, Russia and the United Nations — have been holding talks in recent days in hopes of persuading the Palestinians to drop the UN bid and instead resume peace talks with Israel.

The Palestinian leader said he came under "tremendous pressure" in recent days, but that the proposals for a new framework for talks were unacceptable.

Full UN membership can only be bestowed by the UN Security Council, where the recognition bid could be derailed if fewer than nine of the 15 members vote in favor or if the US uses its veto, as it said it would.

Abbas said his plan, for now, is to go to the Security Council, but suggested that he might change tactics at the last minute and go for the lesser option of General Assembly approval of Palestine as a nonmember observer state. Chances for success are much higher in the General Assembly, which Abbas is to address Friday.

"From now until delivering the speech at the General Assembly, we have no thought except going to the Security Council," he said. "Then, whatever the decision is, we will sit with the leadership and decide."

Asked whether he was threatened by US officials trying to stop him from seeking UN recognition, Abbas said: "It's not a matter of threats, but they (the Americans) said that things will be very difficult after September. … We don't know to what extent. We will know later."

He said he has not been told officially that US aid to the Palestinians would be cut. For months, congressional Republicans and Democrats have threatened to cut off some US$500 million in economic and security assistance if the Palestinians move forward with the UN bid.

Abbas said he's not scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

Concerning the possibility of mass protests in the Palestinian territories, Abbas said the only violence might come from Israeli settlers. In recent months, there has been an upswing in attacks by settlers on Palestinians and their property, some of it as retaliation for attempts by Israeli troops to remove unauthorized settler outposts.

"We will never return to an intifada (uprising). We will never return to violence," Abbas said. "All our people will do is demonstrate peacefully inside the (Palestinian) cities."

Abbas, however, holds no sway over the Gaza Strip or its rulers from the anti-Israel group Hamas, which drove out forces loyal to Abbas during a power struggle in 2007.

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