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Britain ready to abstain on Palestinian UN vote

    The British and French governments are reportedly planning to abstain if the Palestinian Authority's unilateral bid for UN membership reaches a vote.

    The Palestinians won membership of the UN cultural agency UNESCO week, a move which France backed but Britain abstained on.

    A UN diplomat told the BBC that Britain and France made their positions clear during Security Council talks. Although both countries are committed to a two-state solution, there are concerns in both that the UN bid will damage rather than further the peace process. However , neither country has confirmed its position.

    Abstentions from the two European permanent members of the Security Council would be welcomed by Israel and by the United States, who have already vowed to oppose it.

    Germany has also said it will not support the bid, while Colombia is believed to be planning to abstain as well.

    Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian Foreign Minister, said yesterday that they would not accept a compromise of observer status. "We will not accept less than we deserve," he said.

    A vote could be held as soon as next week after the Security Council committee considering the Palestinian application completes a report.

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