Palestinians Urge U.N. Action Against Israel

The Palestinians urged the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to take action against Israel for accelerating settlement construction and "illegally hijacking" Palestinian tax revenue in retaliation for their new membership in UNESCO.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. observer, said the Palestinians also want the Security Council to move quickly on their application to become a full member of the United Nations.

Palestine won its first major international endorsement on Monday when the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted to grant it full membership, a decision that immediately led to a cutoff in funding from the United States and Canada.

Israel retaliated by announcing construction of 2,000 new apartments in east Jerusalem, where the Palestinians want their capital, and suspending the transfer of tax payments totaling some $100 million that it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

Mansour warned that if Israel's retaliatory actions aren't stopped immediately, the volatile region might see further "escalations and provocations."

"The bottom line is we want the Security Council to react to this latest escalation and provocation with a view of stopping it and containing it," Mansour said, adding that it would welcome a council statement or resolution.

The United States, Israel's closest ally, sharply criticized the new construction and tax suspension on Wednesday, but whether it would support even the most mild Security Council action -- a press statement -- remains to be seen.

The UNESCO vote came as the Security Council is considering an application for full U.N. membership by the Palestinians.

The council's committee on admissions met Thursday afternoon to record positions of the 15 members so that a report can be prepared for consideration by the committee on Nov. 11.

Diplomats said six countries announced support for Palestinian membership -- China, Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon. Three countries announced they would abstain -- France, Britain and Colombia -- and the United States said it would oppose the

Palestinian bid, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

Four countries didn't announce a final position -- Nigeria, Gabon, Germany and Portugal -- while Bosnia said it was unable to make a statement because the government does not have an agreed position, the diplomats said. Bosnia's three-member presidency is split on the issue which means it will most likely abstain.

Mansour told reporters that after the Nov. 11 meeting -- the ninth by the admissions committee -- "it is time for the Security Council to act on our application," even though the U.S. has promised a veto if the Palestinians don't get the minimum of nine "yes" votes.

"We would like this application to come to a close," he said, but he wouldn't give a date for a vote.

Mansour said "it's very unfortunate" that Palestine's membership in UNESCO has led the U.S. to cut $60 million in annual funding and Canada to end its $10 million a year contribution to the organization.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press that Palestinian efforts to join U.N. agencies beyond UNESCO are "not beneficial for anybody" and could lead to even further cuts in funding that would affect millions of people.

Mansour responded saying "Palestine is studying everything including the ramifications of being a member at UNESCO ... and the implications."

"We are not rushing into anything," he said. "We want to be ready for all steps, any steps that we might take in the future based on full knowledge" of the ramifications of the UNESCO vote.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said earlier Thursday there were no immediate plans to apply for membership at other U.N. agencies and the focus would be on the U.N. membership bid at the Security Council.