Abbas at UN.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses UN General Assembly, September 23, 2011. Photo by AP
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The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously agreed to hand the Palestinian application to join the United Nations to a committee that will review and assess it in the coming weeks.

The standing committee on the admission of new members to the world body is comprised of all 15 council members. Normally, the review period for a membership application is a maximum of 35 days, but Western diplomats say that this limit can be waived and might take much longer for the Palestinians.

The chief Palestinian delegate to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, welcomed the council's move.

"We are grateful to the Security Council for moving decisively and clearly on our application," he said. "The process is moving forward step by step, and we hope that the Security Council will shoulder its responsibility and approve our application."

He reiterated that the Palestinians hoped that the process would not take too long. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that he wants the review over within weeks. The standing committee will hold its first meeting on Friday.

The United States has pledged to veto the Palestinian application, which needs council approval in order to be handed to the UN General Assembly for confirmation. So far, Western diplomats say, the Palestinians only have six certain votes on their side.

Security Council resolutions need nine votes in favor and no vetoes from the five permanent members in order to pass.