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Abbas in Lebanon to rally support for UN bid

Aug. 16, 2011 7:54 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 17, 2011 5:10 P.M.)
BEIRUT (AFP) -- President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Beirut Tuesday to seek support for the Palestinian bid for UN membership in September, which will come as Lebanon serves as head of the Security Council.

Abbas will meet with President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and other leaders during a two-day stay, a government official said on condition of anonymity.

Lebanon is one of 10 non-permanent current members of the United Nations Security Council and will serve as president of the council in September. It is expected to support the bid.

Following the collapse of direct peace talks with Israel in September last year, the Palestinians adopted a diplomatic strategy aimed at securing UN recognition for a state within the frontiers that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War.

They now plan to present their bid for UN membership on September 20, despite Israeli opposition.

Lebanon, which remains technically in a state of war with Israel, approved the recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in November 2008 but the decision was never implemented.

Mikati's cabinet, in which Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies hold majority, last week agreed to apply the decision, making Lebanon the last Arab country to recognize a Palestinian state.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees estimates that some 425,000 Palestinian refugees reside in Lebanon, a country with a population of four million. Other estimates however put the number at some 250,000.

By long-standing convention, the Lebanese army does not enter the country's 12 refugee camps, leaving security inside the destitute camps to the Palestinians.

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