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    Abbas Heads to Brazil to Launch New Palestinian Embassy

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, attends the midnight Mass ceremony at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, 25 Dec 2010
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, attends the midnight Mass ceremony at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, 25 Dec 2010

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is traveling to Brazil, where he will preside over a cornerstone-laying ceremony for a new Palestinian embassy in the capital, Brasilia.

    The ceremony will take place Friday, and comes after Brazil announced earlier this month that it had recognized Palestine as an independent state within its pre-1967 borders.

    On Saturday, Mr. Abbas is due to attend the inauguration of Brazil's president-elect, Dilma Rousseff.  He is also expected to hold meetings with other Latin American leaders.

    Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador issued similar recognition of Palestinian statehood this month.  Uruguay says it may do the same next year.  Israel and the United States have criticized those declarations, saying the borders of a future Palestinian state must be determined in direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

    The diplomatic drive is part of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's two-year plan to establish all institutions and attributes of statehood by mid-2011.  Analysts say the aim is to create momentum for a diplomatic domino effect leading to a possible bid for recognition at the United Nations General Assembly next September.

    The late Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, unilaterally declared statehood in 1988, winning recognition from about 100 mainly Arab, communist and non-aligned states.  But it had no direct impact on efforts to resolve the Middle East conflict.

    Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians were revived by the U.S. in September after a year's suspension.  The negotiations collapsed within weeks when Israel refused to extend a partial freeze on West Bank settlement construction.

    Palestinian leaders say they will not negotiate while Israel builds homes for Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas the Palestinians claim for a future state.

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

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