France says to abstain in Palestinian Security Council vote

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France confirmed Friday that it would abstain in a Security Council vote on full Palestinian membership of the United Nations, deputy foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said.

"France reiterates its consistent proposal to envisage for Palestine, at this stage, the status of non-member observer state through a UN General Assembly vote that would be another step towards admission," Nadal said.

"While the region is seeing upheavals, the legitimacy of the Palestinian desire for a state is indisputable. The Palestinian demand however has no chance of achieving anything at the Security Council notably because of the United States' stated opposition.

"France... has warned the international community of the risks of confrontation and blockage that such a move could have.

"That's why yesterday France's permanent representative at the United Nations said that France would have no choice but to abstain at the Security Council," Nadal said.

The declaration confirmed what France, along with Britain and Colombia, reportedly told the Security Council at a closed-door hearing on Thursday, namely that they would abstain in any eventual Palestinian vote.

The promised abstentions on top of the US threat to veto such a resolution adds to pressure on the Palestinians to find an alternative way to press their case for greater international recognition.

France fears a diplomatic disaster for the Palestinians in any vote at the UN Security Council, with a UN diplomat saying that France wanted to send the message to "stop the train before the train wreck."

French envoys had told Palestinian counterparts in New York that they feared the campaign could inspire violence and they did not understand the Palestinian strategy in seeking UN membership.

"The situation is very dire, very dangerous, there is no peace process," the diplomat said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has told Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas that France is ready to help the Palestinians get super-observer status at the UN General Assembly if he gives up the bid for full membership.

This would still be a first step to full membership for the Palestinian state.

"France is ready to work on it with them," said the diplomat. But the official added that France did not give a commitment to support any resolution on the Palestinian status put to the General Assembly, where no veto is possible and the Palestinians would easily get a majority.

The latest blow to the Palestinian bid came after the UN's education, science and culture body UNESCO voted Monday to accept Palestinian membership.

The United States and Israel, which retaliated by cutting off funding to UNESCO, say that there must be direct Palestinian-Israel talks to set up an accord on a Palestinian state.

© 2011 AFP

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