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Germany will not back Palestinian UN status

Germany will not support the latest Palestinian bid to become an "observer state" in the United Nations. Overwhelming approval is likely in the 193-member UN General Assembly vote on Thursday.

Germany will not vote in favor of an upgrade in the Palestinians' diplomatic status at the United Nations, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin on Wednesday.

The German Foreign Ministry said intense consultations were continuing with other European Union governments in the hope of achieving a common stance. But Seibert said Berlin would not budge ahead of Thursday's vote.

"There won't be any approval of such a resolution," he said. It was not clear whether Germany will oppose or abstain from the vote.

Switzerland, Denmark and Austria said they would vote for the upgrade. France gave its approval on Tuesday and Britain said it would not oppose the move but needed more assurances to give its support.

The United States reiterated its opposition toward the UN vote. Direct negotiations with Israel would be "the only way to get a lasting solution," that would help Palestinians achieve statehood, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

During a meeting on Wednesday, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Middle East envoy also tried to dissuade President Mahmoud Abbas from seeking an elevated UN status, but were unsuccessful.

With increasing support, Palestinians appeared certain to earn approval in the 193-member UN General Assembly for a status upgrade to "observer state."

A Palestinian bid for full membership status was thwarted by opposition from the US in the UN Security Council last year.

The new status, which is to be proposed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, would recognize Palestinian statehood without granting any voting rights at the UN. The only current observer state, the Vatican, is classed by the UN as a non-member state.

Recognition could also grant Palestinians access to bodies such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where they could file complaints against Israel.

Talks however have been stalled for two years, mainly over the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have expanded despite being deemed illegal by most of the world.

hc/msh (Reuters, dpa, AP)