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Israeli spokesman, Moshe Fogel
"It is the right decision if we want to have any chance of agreement"
 real 28k

The BBC's Robin Denselow in Palestine
"There will be moves to propose Palestine for UN membership"
 real 56k

Monday, 11 September, 2000, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Arafat applauded for statehood delay
Palestinian refugees enjoy a picnic overlooking Baqaa Camp in Jordan
Palestinian leaders have set no new date for statehood
The Israeli government has praised the "positive step" taken by Palestinian leaders who have called off their plans to declare independence later this week.

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat had been threatening to declare an independent Palestinian state on 13 September - the original deadline set by both sides for reaching a final peace deal.


It is an automomous decision of the Palestinians which we appreciate

Acting Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami
But with a deal still proving elusive, the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) has agreed to Mr Arafat's request to put back the deadline, to give the peace process another chance to bear fruit. No new date has been set for declaring statehood.

The move staves off the threat of confrontation with Israel - which had threatened to annexe Palestinian areas of the West Bank if the declaration had gone ahead.

"It's a positive step that can enable us to proceed," said Israel's acting Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben Ami, "but it is not a gesture that needs to be compensated."

Salim Zenoun
Salim Zanoun said that delay does not remove Israeli obligations
Mr Ben Ami said the Palestinians' decision was "appreciated" by Israeli, although he said he did not regard it as a goodwill gesture.

The US has welcomed the move, which Washington called the right choice.

And the Russians - traditional allies of the Palestinians - also applauded the decision.

"It is satisfying that the PCC did not resort to unilateral measures, which could lead to negative consequences for the peace proces in the region," a Russian foreign ministry statement said.

A BBC correspondent says that the lack of international support, even from allies such as Russia, for an independence declaration, was a critical factor in the PCC's decision.

The PCC, which reached its decision after a two-day closed session, said preparations for statehood would continue despite the delay.


The Palestinian leadership remains committed to the choice of peace in order to achieve to goals of justice and self-determination

Salim Zanoun
Elections will be planned, along with the entry of a reborn state of Palestine into the United Nations.

PCC chairman Salim Zanoun said the body now expected a progress report on statehood by 15 November, the 12th anniversary of a symbolic declaration of a state-in-exile.

Obligations

The delay "does not mean that Israel is free from implementing its obligations" under previous agreements, said Mr Zanoun.

But "the Palestinian people and leadership remain committed to the choice of peace as a strategic choice in order to achieve the goals of justice and self-determination," he added.

No date has been set for the resumption of talks between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators.

However, a White House spokesman in Washington said discussions could be held in New York next week.

The two sides remain deadlocked over the future status of Jerusalem, the return of Palestinian refugees, and the final borders of a new Palestinian state.

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See also:

11 Sep 00 | Middle East
Clinton's elusive Mid-East dream
10 Sep 00 | Middle East
Palestinians delay state declaration
10 Sep 00 | Middle East
'Decisive' push for Mid-East peace
02 Jul 00 | Middle East
Palestinian statehood 'irreversible'
04 Sep 00 | Middle East
Arab League warns on Jerusalem
04 Jul 00 | Media reports
Palestinian leaders share Arafat's vision
20 Jul 00 | Middle East
Analysis: A faltering peace
25 Jul 00 | Middle East
Camp David timeline
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