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Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 19:20 GMT
Palestinians secure cyber state

By BBC News Online's Martin Asser

Palestine may not exist on the map yet - at least not on maps that acknowledge the existence of Israel - but it now lives in cyberspace.

Israel and the Palestinians are currently negotiating on the issue of creating an independent Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel.

But before those difficult talks have been concluded, Palestinian websites have been given their own internet domain, using the suffix "ps", just like the two-letter suffix given to more than 200 countries and territories around the world.

The domain is by no means a recognition of statehood, but comes in part from the recommendation of the United Nations, where Palestine has enjoyed permanent observer status since 1974.

The United States Commerce Department has approved the new suffix after a recommendation from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (I-Cann) a newly-established private group which oversees the world's internet address system.

The US Government, which has previously been in charge of internet naming policies, is in the process of switching those duties to I-Cann.

In the real - rather than virtual - world, Washington is known to favour a Palestinian state only as part of a negotiated agreement with Israel, with which it has strong ties.

ps for Palestine

The new suffix is the first addition to the master list of suffixes since I-Cann began taking over the naming function in 1998.

The request for a Palestinian suffix was brought by Yaser Doleh, a Palestinian-American software engineer, who said his was not a political move.

He insisted the "ps" domain would serve to let internet users from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories recognise local users.

There has been no immediate reaction from the government of Israel although a Jewish group in the US, the Anti-Defamation League, says I-Cann should have waited.

"There's no reason to give anybody recognition before it is earned and certified," ADL's national director Abraham Foxman said.

There inevitably a political dimension to the domain. Palestinians in the occupied territories have always been loathe to include the "il" suffix for Israel and have invariably gone for the more neutral ".com" or ".net" option.

Now they can take assert their own Palestinian national identity, in a virtual world, at least.

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22 Mar 00 | Middle East
Peace talks move to Cairo
08 Nov 99 | Middle East
Major hurdles for Mid-East peace
22 Mar 00 | Middle East
Pope calls for Palestinian homeland
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