arab league - AP - March 2 2011
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, second from left, at an Arab League foreign ministers meeting at the group's headquarters in Cairo, March 2, 2011. Photo by AP
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RAMALLAH - The Arab League will ask the United Nations to upgrade the Palestinians to full member status, a draft statement from a league meeting in Qatar said yesterday. "It was decided to go to the United Nations to request the recognition of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and to move ahead and request a full membership," said the communique.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the move, saying if the Palestinians really wanted peace, "they would sit down for negotiations, without preconditions. There is no replacement for negotiations. Unilateral steps will not bring peace closer and will not bring any solution."

The Arab League statement did not provide a timeline, but Palestinian officials have said they want the application to be made in time for the UN assembly in September. A Palestinian delegate said the Arab League had appointed a committee to determine dates.

Full member status for Palestine would require approval in the Security Council, where the United States has already said it will veto any such resolution.

The Palestinians currently have UN "observer" status, and had previously pledged to seek UN endorsement in September for their claim of sovereignty over the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Arab League formally backed their plan in May.

But in the face of opposition from a number of world powers, who say only negotiations can solve the conflict, the Palestinians had previously signaled they might opt for a more limited upgrade to "non-member state" status, which requires only General Assembly approval.

Palestinian analyst Talal Okal said the Arab League and Palestinians were aware of the obstacles they faced, including a potential U.S. veto, but had chosen to push forward because, with peace talks frozen, they saw no other diplomatic solution.

"The Arab consensus means that there is disappointment over the American position, that the negotiations have reached a dead end, and that we have entered a stage of political battle," Okal said.