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Obama To Meet Israeli, Palestinian Leaders


Palestinians say National Authority President Mahmud Abbas is planning to formally launch the statehood bid on September 23.

President Barack Obama is due to meet in New York with the Palestinian and Israeli leaders as the United States continues diplomatic efforts to avoid an international confrontation over the Palestinian bid to be recognized as a state by the United Nations.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov has, meanwhile, said Russia will "certainly" support the Palestinian bid, despite opposition to the move from the United States and Israel.

The White House said Obama would hold talks September 21 with both Palestinian National Authority President Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of a U.S. effort to persuade the Palestinians to drop the membership bid while mediators attempt to restart direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Palestinians say Abbas is planning to formally launch the statehood bid on September 23, when he is due to address the UN General Assembly.

Officials say the United States is still trying to find a diplomatic solution that would avoid a vote on Palestinian UN membership in the UN Security Council, where the United States has vowed to use its veto against the Palestinian campaign.

The United States and its ally Israel say Palestinian statehood should only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

But the Palestinians say negotiations have broken down, and they hope to gain international standing and to pressure Israel into making peacemaking concessions by pursuing UN statehood recognition.

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians gathered today across the West Bank for rallies in support of the campaign.

In Ramallah, the political capital of the West Bank, thousands of people rallied in the city center. Other major rallies were being held in Nablus, Hebron, and Bethlehem.

The French AFP news agency quoted Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the Palestinian security services, as saying security forces are taking all measures to keep the rallies peaceful.

Speaking at the start of the General Assembly summit of world leaders, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a new international effort to break the Middle East "stalemate."

"We have long agreed that Palestinians deserve a state. Israel needs security," he said. "Both want peace. We pledge our unrelenting efforts to help achieve that peace through a negotiated settlement."

compiled from agency reports

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