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November 03, 2011

Palestinians Face Setback on UN Membership Bid

France says is would abstain from any vote on Palestinian membership in the United Nations because it "has no chance of success."

The French foreign ministry said in a statement Friday that while it regards the Palestinians' aspiration for statehood as legitimate, their request for full U.N. membership has no chance of being accepted, particularly because of U.S. opposition.

The French government also again warned the international community that there are potential risks that could result if the fight for Palestinian statehood plays out in the United Nations.

Palestinians need at least nine votes in the 15-member U.N. Security Council for their membership resolution to succeed.  The United States has pledged to veto the measure if it is brought to a vote.

On Thursday, U.N. envoys from France, Britain and Colombia announced they planned to abstain from the vote.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted the application for U.N. membership in September in a bid to gain Palestinian statehood recognition.  U.S. officials have been urging Palestinians to instead return to direct peace talks with Israel.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians heightened on Monday after the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO, approved a Palestinian request for full membership.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his government to freeze the country's $2 million annual funding of UNESCO.  The United States also plans to stop funding the agency.

Also this week, the Israeli Cabinet announced it would expedite construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and suspend the transfer of tax revenue it collects for the Palestinian Authority.

A senior Israeli official said the moves were a punitive response to what he called recent unilateral actions by the Palestinians.

The Palestinians' U.N. observer urged the Security Council to take action against Israel for accelerating settlement building and what he said was "illegally hijacking" Palestinian tax revenue.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down more than one year ago after an Israeli moratorium on West Bank settlement construction expired. Palestinians oppose building on land they want as part of a future state.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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