NEW YORK: The US and Britain have made a last-minute plea to the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to call off the United Nations vote to recognise a state of Palestine.
The US Deputy Secretary of State, Bill Burns, and the Middle East peace envoy, David Hale, met Mr Abbas in New York on Wednesday, but there was no indication at the UN headquarters that the special assembly meeting, scheduled for Thursday, would be postponed.
''We've been clear. We've been consistent with the Palestinians that we oppose the observer state status in the General Assembly and this resolution,'' the spokeswoman for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, said.
With Western support swelling in favour of the Palestinian bid, Israel went into damage control on Wednesday. Israeli officials began to play down the significance of the draft resolution, which calls for the upgrading of the Palestinian status from observer to non-member observer state. Israel has also toned down its threats of counter-measures after the vote in the General Assembly.
''The United Nations General Assembly will pass a one-sided anti-Israel resolution that should come as a surprise to nobody, and certainly not to anyone in Israel,'' the Israeli government spokesman, Mark Regev, said. ''We always said that the reality was that the Palestinians have an automatic majority in the General Assembly.''
Mr Regev acknowledged ''a certain amount of disappointment'' over the decision of some friendly European countries to support the Palestinians or abstain.
Britain said it would consider voting for the resolution if the Palestinians agreed not to pursue Israel for war crimes in the International Criminal Court. But on Wednesday it seemed unlikely those and other assurances would be forthcoming, meaning Britain would abstain.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur;The New York Times;Telegraph, London