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Fatah official: UK pressuring PLO to abandon UN bid

Nov. 8, 2012 5:05 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 17, 2012 8:47 P.M.)
By: Bassam Abu Eid
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The UK is pressuring the Palestinian Authority to abandon its bid to upgrade Palestine's status at the UN, a senior Fatah official said Thursday.

"Until this moment, there is no international pressure on the PA concerning the UN bid (from Europe), except from Britain," Nabil Shaath told Ma'an.

Shaath said London had pressured the PA to drop the bid and allow room for the US to launch new political initiatives, but he did not expect anything new until next year.

The US has threatened to cut off funding and take other measures if the Palestinians turn to the UN, but a British official said in September that UK aid was not at risk.

"The PA will not postpone the UN bid as it is a strategic decision," Shaath said, adding that the bid would be submitted by the end of November.

The Guardian newspaper reported in October that British diplomats have told Palestinian officials that a vote in the weeks following the US election would significantly decrease the chances of the next US administration taking steps to get peace negotiations re-started.

They are also warning of potentially serious financial consequences for the Palestinian Authority if it goes ahead, according to the report.

The Palestinians had postponed their initiative at the UN until after the US presidential election, which US President Barack Obama won on Tuesday.

Shaath welcomed the reelection of Obama and said he hoped the president would be more flexible in his second term. But, the PA cannot rely on a change in his approach and will not postpone the UN bid, he added.

"Obama is not Saladin for us but he's better than Richard the Lionheart Romney, who does not know anything about the Palestinian cause," Shaath said.

Saladin was a 12th century Muslim leader who defended Jerusalem against Richard the Lionheart, a Christian crusader.

Shaath said Obama's reelection was a defeat for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had backed Romney in a move that drew criticism the Israeli premier was interfering in domestic US affairs.

The Fatah leader said Netanyahu's miscalculation could cost him support in upcoming Israeli elections.

In late October Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt met with PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat and expressed the UK's "deep concern about developments that threaten our shared goal" of a two-state solution, particularly settlements.

"Along with EU and international partners, we are urging both sides to focus on dialogue, avoid steps that could undermine the prospects for peace and to work towards the resumption of direct negotiations without preconditions," he said.

Shaath said there were European countries that might change their positions toward the UN bid after elections bring in more socialist parties.

Fatah is a member in the socialist faction that is consisted of Netherlands, Ukraine, and Lithuania. "We are trying to convince Germany to vote for the UN bid," he said.

He said Germany's Social Democratic Party supported the bid. The opposition party has promised to lobby the government to vote for Palestine's upgrade, he said.

A Palestinian delegation is currently visiting Germany to drum up support for the UN resolution.
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