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Palestinians Set Date for UN Statehood Bid

"Lebanon will hold the presidency of the Security Council in September and this will help us."

RAMALLAH, West Bank (The Blaze/AP) -- Palestinians will present their bid for United Nations membership on Sept. 20, the Palestinian foreign minister told French news service AFP Saturday.

Though a statehood bid has been widely expected, Riyad al-Maliki's announcement is the first confirmation of a precise date.

According to the report, P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas will personally present the request to become a full-fledged state to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on the first day of the body's new session.

Maliki said the P.A. chose September because Lebanon will hold the rotating Security Council presidency and be in a strong position to push the bid forward.

"Lebanon will hold the presidency of the Security Council in September and this will help us because the president of the council has special prerogatives, which is crucial," Maliki told AFP.

The move will likely set the stage for a showdown with the U.S., which is expected to veto the bid -- even at a time when Arab countries are rising up against authoritarian rulers.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said the P.A. is "going to the U.N. with all options open....We are going to the Security Council, we are going to the General Assembly. We are not limiting ourselves to one thing."

She urged the U.S. to abstain if it would not support the Palestinian bid outright.

(Related: Palestinian Authority Threatens to Disband if U.S. Thwarts Palestinian Statehood Efforts in September)

But the U.S., Israel's closest ally, has much invested in a peace process it has sponsored for decades, and wants the Palestinian state to emerge from negotiations, not unilateral action.

The Palestinians, however, seem to have given up on negotiations with the current hardline Israeli government. Talks have stalled for the past few years, and Palestinians instead want the U.N. to recognize their future state in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and east Jerusalem - territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

Israel withdrew settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 but still occupies the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Ordinarily, the Security Council recommends membership and then refers the request to the General Assembly. If the council vetoes membership or delays deliberation, the Palestinians could appeal directly to the General Assembly, where they are assured the simple majority they need. They could also skip the Security Council altogether and go straight to the Assembly.

But an Assembly resolution would likely yield "nonmember state" status - at best a symbolic victory because it doesn't empower them to challenge the occupation.

Ashrawi said the Palestinians were still drafting the text of the statehood bid and had not decided whether it would mention details such as borders or Jerusalem, whose eastern sector they claim for a future capital.

The current Israeli government, unlike earlier coalitions, insists on retaining sovereignty over all of the holy city, rejecting Palestinian claims to the traditionally Arab eastern sector for a capital.

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