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Abbas to address UN ahead of upgrade vote

Nov. 28, 2012 6:27 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 29, 2012 4:07 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas will address the UN General Assembly in New York before it votes on upgrading the PLO's status on Thursday, a Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.

Omar Awadallah, who heads the ministry's UN department, told Ma'an the vote was expected at around midnight Jerusalem time.

Representatives of some member states will also address the assembly before voting to explain their positions, Awadallah said.

An overwhelming majority of countries support the resolution to upgrade Palestine's UN status to non-member state "because these states prefer to back peace, and peoples' rights to peace, while they oppose occupation and wars," he added.

Awadallah said 132 countries had already recognized the state of Palestine, and the number is increasing. Six states -- including Israel, the United States, Canada, Micronesia, and Nauru -- are expected to vote against the resolution.

Germany said Wednesday that it was opposing the diplomatic upgrade for the Palestinians at the United Nations, joining Israel and the United States which say the only genuine route to statehood is via a peace agreement made in direct talks with Israel.

Australia, which usually votes in support of Israel at the UN, will abstain from the vote on Thursday, Australian media reported Wednesday.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard failed to get cabinet support for a "no" vote, and called off a vote in the caucus to avoid defeat, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

More European states joined France on Wednesday in backing Palestine's UN bid for limited statehood, but Britain held back, saying it wanted an assurance that Palestine would not pursue Israel through the International Criminal Court.

With overwhelming support from the developing world, the PLO appears certain to earn approval in the 193-member UN General Assembly for a status upgrade to "observer state" on Thursday.

Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, Norway, Spain and Austria said they would vote for the upgrade. France gave its approval on Tuesday.

The Swiss approval followed a visit to Berne by Abbas this month as the country hesitated between voting in favor of the resolution or abstaining.

Abbas had reiterated his commitment to relaunch the peace process immediately following the UN vote, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said.

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