Palestinians Deny Submitting Official Statehood Request to UN

PLO officials say letter to UN chief earlier Thursday was sent by grassroots activists, not Palestinian officials.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) denied Thursday that it had submitted an official request to the United Nations to recognize Palestine as a member of the world body, explaining that the campaign launched in Ramallah earlier in the day was the work solely of grassroots activists.

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UN General Assembly

The letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's office in Ramallah declaring the launch of a campaign to gain statehood recognition was not an official Palestinian Authority document, a spokesman for the PLO said Thursday, but rather a grassroots attempt to garner support ahead of the UN vote in later September.

A senior Palestinian official told Haaretz that the official request will be made in New York, not Ramallah, and issued by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Some 100 Palestinian officials and activists gathered at the UN offices in Ramallah for a short ceremony, where they announced their plans in a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In the letter, Palestinian officials reportedly urged the leader of the international community to "exert all possible efforts toward the achievement of the Palestinian people's just demands."

The letter said the campaign would include a series of peaceful events leading up to the September 21 opening of the UN General Assembly. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will address the assembly two days later, according to the letter.

A spokesman for the PLO negotiations affairs department, Xavier Abu Eid, however, said that letter was not official and only the PLO could make the final and official request for state recognition.

A date for the submission had yet to be set, the official told the German Press Agency dpa.

"The PA does not have any international relations mandate. The only one that can negotiate or sign agreements is the PLO, so the PLO is going to submit the official request," he said.

The grassroots campaign will include a host of activities in the coming weeks, including demonstrations in support of the United Nations bid.