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We will seek U.N. status upgrade: Palestinian leader

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The Palestinians will seek to upgrade their status at the United Nations this month bolstered by the support of Arab countries, Islamic states and the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement, the Palestinian president said on Wednesday (September 5).

Mahmoud Abbas told a meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers at the Arab League Headquarters in Cairo that international support for the Palestinian position had bolstered their determination to go forwards at the U.N.

Previous Palestinian attempts to improve their formal status at the global body -- a U.N. observer “entity” with no voting rights -- have failed.

The Palestinian foreign minister had earlier said they would ask to be made a non-member observer state at the U.N. General Assembly later this month.

“And therefore we have come today to tell our brothers at the beginning of our dialogue, that we are going to the [U.N.] General Assembly this month in light of the latest action taken by the Arab Follow Up Committee in Doha, and also in light of other decisions at the Islamic Summit and the Non-Aligned Summit, and the Congress of the Socialist International in South Africa,” he said.

“As we have said, we wish strongly to take our case to the General Assembly, and to carry out discussions and consultations with everyone until we reach an appropriate and acceptable decision to welcome Palestine as a non-member observer state,” he added.

Abbas also told the assembled ministers that recent attempts at a reconciliation between feuding Palestinian factions had failed because Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip, had rejected the idea of holding new elections.

“They ask us what are the disagreements with them [Hamas and other Palestinian parties]? The issue is elections, and going to elections. Why don’t they [Hamas] want to hold elections? They have shut down the conversation and do not want to talk about it,” he said.

“We have refrained from commenting or making accusations because we don’t want to create controversy, but we say to ask the people who hold that position -- why don't they want to hold elections?” Abbas added.

The Palestinian President also reiterated that he was not opposed to exhuming the grave of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who a recent investigation says may have been poisoned.

“We are awaiting the results of the investigative committee, whether it be looking for trace evidence, or whether it be exhuming the grave,” he said.

“We do not believe that the exhumation of the grave conflicts with Islamic Law in the case of necessity -- and now there is a necessity, and we agree to the exhumation of the grave so we can know the truth,” he added.

A simple majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly would be enough to bestow non-member observer status, bypassing the Security Council - where the United States, Israel's ally, has a veto.

A similar statehood upgrade drive last year proved short-lived amid financial sanctions and diplomatic counter-lobbying by Israel and the United States.