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Marwan Barghouti warns of protests if US wields veto

Aug. 10, 2011 1:24 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 14, 2011 6:50 P.M.)
CAIRO (AFP) -- A Palestinian leader jailed in Israel has warned Washington that vetoing a Palestinian state at the United Nations would spark huge regional protests, Egypt's official MENA news agency reported Wednesday.

Marwan Barghouti, a leading member of the dominant Fatah party convicted of organizing attacks against Israelis during the second intifada, gave an interview to MENA through his lawyer from an Israeli prison.

"Voting against the Palestinian state would be a historic, deadly mistake in the record of US President Barack Obama, in whom there was hope for change," he said of Palestinian plans to ask the United Nations for state recognition.

Washington, which has failed in its efforts to mediate peace between the Palestinians and Israel, will veto the proposal if it reaches the UN Security Council.

"Such a veto will be confronted by millions-strong protests throughout the Arab and Muslim world, indeed throughout the whole world," Barghouti was quoted as saying.

Obama's push for an elusive peace deal has foundered on Israel's refusal to stop expanding Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, occupied since 1967.

Barghuti, in jail since 2002, is still widely respected in the Palestinian territories but is now seen more as a symbol of resistance to the occupation rather than a hands-on organiser.

He was convicted of five counts of murder, including a shooting at a Tel Aviv restaurant that killed three.

His comments may further worry Israel's government, which said on Sunday that the Palestinians were planning "bloodshed" to coincide with the UN General Assembly meeting in September, although it provided no proof of the charge.

The Palestinians have so far sat out on regional anti-regime demonstrations, but they have staged lengthy uprisings twice in the past three decades which Israeli intelligence services failed to predict.

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