Abbas pursues drive for Palestinian recognition

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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas arrived in Strasbourg Wednesday to address parliamentarians from Council of Europe states, pursuing his drive for UN recognition.

Abbas, who will address the council's parliamentary assembly Thursday, was buoyed by the body's decision to grant the Palestinian National Council "Partner for Democracy Status."

The PNC is the legislative arm of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), and the status will enable it to participate in the Europe assembly's proceedings, without voting rights.

In return the parliamentary assembly of the 47-member pan-European rights body will monitor Palestinian moves in several areas, including "refraining from violence, rejecting terrorism (and) recognising the right of Israel to exist."

Abbas last month submitted a request to the United Nations seeking full membership status, a move the United States has vowed to block.

Following his address Thursday he will hold a press conference with assembly chairman Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey, before heading for a tour of Latin America.

On Wednesday the Palestinians won another key victory when the UNESCO executive committee backed their bid to become a member of the cultural body with the rights of a state.

Palestine's Arab allies braved intense US and French diplomatic pressure to bring the motion before the committee's member states, which passed it by 40 votes in favour to four against, with 14 abstentions.

To nail down their first victory, the Palestinians will need the backing of two thirds of UNESCO's 193 member states in a vote on October 25 in Paris. Until then, they retain their observer status.

© 2011 AFP

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