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UN set to back raising Palestine flag

The draft resolution would allow the flags of Palestine and of the Holy See to be hoisted alongside those of the 193 member states
File photo shows Palestinian representative to the UN Riyad Mansour (AA)
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UNITED NATIONS, United States - A draft resolution on raising the Palestinian flag at the United Nations will likely be adopted next week in time for President Mahmoud Abbas' visit to New York, the Palestinian envoy said on Thursday.

The UN General Assembly will vote on 10 September on the measure that is almost certain to garner a majority of votes in the 193-nation forum.

"We have the votes and we are working to get as many votes as we can," said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations.

Once adopted, the UN will have 20 days to carry out the decision, which would be in time for Abbas' visit on 30 September.

Mansour declined to say whether a formal flag-raising ceremony would be held during Abbas' visit, an event that would highlight the Palestinians' aspirations for statehood.

"It is a symbolic thing but it is another step to solidify the pillars of the State of Palestine in the international arena and give our people a small hope that the international community is still supporting the independence of the State of Palestine," Mansour told reporters.

The draft resolution presented last week to the General Assembly would allow the flags of Palestine and of the Holy See to be hoisted alongside those of the 193 member states.

Both the Vatican and Palestine have non-member observer status at the United Nations.

Israeli anger

Israel's envoy to the United Nations this week expressed strong opposition to the initiative, accusing the Palestinians of trying to "score easy and meaningless points at the UN".

Ambassador Ron Prosor had asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly president Ron Kutesa to block the move, which would break with the UN practice of flying only the flags of member states.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban would abide by the General Assembly decision.

European countries were discussing the vote and could decide to abstain, according to a diplomat. 

The General Assembly upgraded the status of Palestine to that of a non-member observer state in 2012.

Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are among the world leaders converging on UN headquarters as of 25 September for an anti-poverty summit and the annual General Assembly debate.

Pope Francis is to make a much-anticipated address on 25 September. The Vatican has officially recognised Palestine as a state.

The Holy See said it would abide by the decision of the General Assembly. But it also noted that the tradition at the United Nations was to fly the flags of full members.