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Lebanon upgrades Palestinian delegation to embassy

Aug. 17, 2011 8:43 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 20, 2011 11:32 P.M.)
BEIRUT (AFP) -- Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas hoisted the flag of "the state of Palestine" in Beirut on Wednesday as he inaugurated the Palestinian embassy in Beirut.

The ceremony, which saw the Palestinian delegation upgraded to an embassy, was attended by Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and top Palestinian officials, including top PA official Saeb Erekat and intelligence chief Maged Faraj.

Abbas is in Beirut on a two-day visit to rally the support of Lebanon, one of the 10 non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, ahead of a Palestinian bid for UN membership. Lebanon takes over temporary presidency of the Security Council in September.

"So far 122 states [out of 193 UN member countries] support us to achieve this goal," said Abbas, according to Lebanon's state-run news agency.

The Palestinians have said they will formally submit their request for UN membership to United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon on September 20 when world leaders begin gathering in New York for the 66th session of the General Assembly.

According to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees [UNRWA], some 425,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, a country of four million.

Other estimates suggest a population of 250,000 people.

Faced with a lack of progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, a number of European countries have upgraded the status of Palestinian delegations, including Britain and France which is considering recognizing a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian decision to seek UN membership comes after direct peace talks with Israel collapsed late last year in an intractable dispute over Jewish settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land.

Israel is implacably opposed to such a move, saying negotiations are the only way to resolve the conflict and establish a Palestinian state in a position which is backed by Washington.

Israel has occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem since 1967.
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