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Obama to call on UN to support independent Palestine

The US president Barack Obama is challenging the United Nations to support an agreement that would create an independent Palestine.

The US president Barack Obama is exhorting the world to unite around the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, challenging the United Nations to support an agreement that would create an independent Palestine and a secure Israel in a year's time. In a speech to the annual session of the UN General Assembly later today, Mr Obama will call on world leaders to cast aside decades of division over the conflict, overcome cynicism and prove their support for a settlement to be reached by the two sides that his administration is now pushing against long odds.

Without a deal, he will say, "more blood will be shed" and "this Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity," according to portions of the text released by the White House in advance of the speech. "If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state," he says. "Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbours who are committed to coexistence."

The excerpts released by the White House dealt only with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and made no mention of other foreign policy initiatives that Mr Obama is expected to champion in his full remarks. The emphasis underscored the urgency of overcoming hurdles that he has met less than a month after relaunching direct negotiations between the parties. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to walk out of the talks if Israel does not extend a slowdown on construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank that is set to expire next week. The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will not extend that partial freeze.

The looming expiration appears to have stalled the negotiations, which got under way in early September in Washington between Mr Abbas and Mr Netanyahu then moved to a second round in Egypt and in Jerusalem last week. That second round ended inconclusively with little visible progress and without an expected announcement of a third session. The secretary of state Hillary Clinton and the administration's special Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell have been meeting with officials from both sides and other interested parties this week in New York to press the agenda forward but seem to have made little headway.

* AP

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