The Palestinians plan to submit a formal request for full United Nations membership to the Security Council by September 23, despite the United States' opposition and Europe's reservations, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will refer to this request in his speech to the General Assembly on that date, Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh said yesterday.

Shtayyeh, a senior member of Abbas' Fatah party, was a member of the special PLO committee that prepared the UN bid.

Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah, he sought to dispel rumors that the PA has decided against applying to the Security Council and will instead apply only to the General Assembly. The latter cannot grant full UN membership, but can recognize an applicant as a nonmember state with observer status.

"We are going to the United Nations, we are going to the Security Council," he said. "We are going to seek full membership based on [the] 1967 borders."

Meetings with European and American officials have not yielded any written proposal for resuming Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that the Palestinians view as serious, he said. But even if the West did draft such a proposal, he added, it would be meaningless without Israeli consent, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will never accept the Palestinians' two key demands: the 1967 borders and a cessation of settlement construction.

He said that Hamas leader Khaled Meshal had expressed support for the UN bid.

Going to the UN is part of a strategy for transferring the Palestinian struggle for independence from the bilateral to the multinational arena, since the bilateral arena has proven a failure, Shtayyeh said. But he insisted this in no way contradicts a resumption of negotiations. The UN bid is aimed not at delegitimizing Israel, but at delegitimizing the occupation and legitimizing the State of Palestine, he said.

Palestinians, he added, have no intention of accompanying their UN bid with violence, and will not "fall into the trap set" by what he referred to as daily attacks by settlers against Palestinians.

He also said Palestinians understand that the reality of life in the West Bank will be no different the day after the UN vote than it was before - unless settlers escalate their assaults, in which case the situation will deteriorate, he warned.

Once their membership application is submitted, he noted, Palestinians have no control over the timetable of subsequent events, such as when a special Security Council panel starts discussing the application or when it submit its recommendations to the full council. But based on past experience, he said, the process could take days, weeks or even months. Nor is a rejection necessarily final, Shtayyeh added: Jordan's application was rejected three times before being accepted.

Israel, he predicted, won't carry out its threat to freeze tax transfers to the PA if it goes through with the UN bid, because it's not in Israel's interest for the PA to collapse. But if Israel does freeze the transfers, Abbas has already asked Arab states to compensate for "every penny," he said.