US pushing Abbas to drop full UN statehood campaign


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Palestinian leaders are coming under mounting pressure from the US to abandon their plans to seek recognition of statehood at the UN, as Israel continues an intense lobbying effort to persuade member states that the bid would lead to "violence and bloodshed".

Mohammed Shtayyeh, a senior member of the delegation which the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will take to New York next week, insisted the leadership was united behind the strategy, despite attempts by American officials to deflect them.

The US Middle East envoy David Hale met Mr Abbas here on Wednesday to press Washington's case that the UN initiative would disrupt rather than aid its struggle to get a resumption of negotiations between the two sides.

Dr Shtayyeh admitted yesterday that the West Bank leadership was under "very serious pressure" from Washington but added: "At the end of the day, Abu Mazen [Mr Abbas, pictured] has to weigh things. He has been saying for two years 'Give us something'. And now he has no choice."

He insisted a formal request would be put for full membership to the UN Security Council, which Washington has made clear it will veto. European diplomats have been trying to persuade the Palestinians that a better course would be to go directly to the UN General Assembly to seek the lesser status of a "non-member state". At the same time, the EU is trying to agree conditions under which it could support such a move, including a call for early Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

While acknowledging there is a majority in the General Assembly in favour of the Palestinian move, Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UN, said in an interview with Maariv that he was trying to enlarge a "moral minority" of countries to send a message "that a Palestinian state can only be established through negotiations".