Arab League backs bid for UN nod to Palestine

The Arab League on Sunday backed a Palestinian plan to ask the U.N. General Assembly to recognize a state of Palestine, but stopped short of setting a date for the bid, Palestinian officials said.

Instead, Arab League representatives meeting in Doha asked a committee to prepare the U.N. appeal and report back on Sept. 5, said Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking by phone from Doha.

Timing is crucial, with a U.N. bid before November potentially disrupting the U.S. presidential race.

The U.S. and Israel oppose the quest for unilateral recognition. They say a Palestinian state must be set up through negotiations. Israeli-Palestinian talks broke off in 2008 and the two sides disagree on how to restart them.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel has increasingly blurred the pre-1967 frontier by moving half a million Israelis into the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The General Assembly could at best accept "Palestine" as a non-member observer state. Palestinian officials have said the main purpose of winning General Assembly recognition is to reaffirm the 1967 lines as the borders of a future Palestinian state.

Last year, Abbas sought full U.N. membership for Palestine but failed to win the necessary votes in the U.N. Security Council.

Palestinian officials have said they are confident they can win the required majority in the General Assembly.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, who also attended the Doha meeting, said the Palestinians would contact U.N. member states individually and in groups to affirm their support for recognizing Palestine. He suggested the Palestinians are not in a rush, saying that they would seek General Assembly recognition "when all other options are closed and there is no hope to return to negotiations."