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Israel warns of 'harsh' consequences of Palestinian UN bid

Hardline Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, seen here in July, has
warned there will be "harsh and grave consequences" if the Palestinians seek
UN membership as a state. [AFP/Gali Tibbon, File]

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Hardline Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Wednesday there will be "harsh and grave consequences" if the Palestinians persist with their plan to seek UN membership as a state.

Speaking shortly before a scheduled meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Lieberman did not elaborate on the possible consequences.

"The moment has not yet come to give details of what will happen," he said.

In the past he has called for Israel to sever all relations with the administration of President Mahmoud Abbas should it press on with its UN bid.

"What I can say with the greatest confidence is that from the moment they pass a unilateral decision there will be harsh and grave consequences," Lieberman told an agricultural conference in southern Israel.

"I hope that we shall not come to those harsh and grave consequences, and that common sense will prevail in all decisions taken in order to allow co-existence and progress with negotiations," he added.

Lieberman has in the past accused the Palestinians of planning an "unprecedented bloodbath" after the UN move although they say they will hold purely peaceful rallies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier Wednesday met Ashton in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu's office did not immediately comment on the talks while a short statement from the defense ministry said only that Ashton and Barak had discussed "relations with the Palestinians and the situation in the region."

The EU foreign policy chief arrived from Cairo, where she met Abbas and Arab League ministers who have been discussing Palestinian preparations to request UN membership for a state of Palestine.

Abbas is expected next week to present a membership request to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who will pass it on to the 15-member Security Council for examination.

So far, 127 countries have already recognized a Palestinian state based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, including Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Some hardline Israeli ministers are calling for Israel to annex chunks of the West Bank if the Palestinians go ahead.

US President Barack Obama on Monday said the UN bid was a "distraction" that would not result in viable statehood, while Russia said it will back the Palestinians as the European Union remains divided.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was dispatching two envoys to the Middle East for talks with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, stressing again the need for renewed peace talks.

"I'm sending David Hale and Dennis Ross back to the region in the next days to meet with both Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and President [Mahmoud] Abbas," Clinton said.

"The only way of getting a lasting solution is through direct negotiations between the parties and the route to that lies in Jerusalem and Ramallah, not in New York," she said.

Maan News Agency

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