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U.N. panel calls for Palestinian state

Edith M. Lederer Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council sent a strong message to Israel on Monday that the international community is demanding “urgent efforts” to create a separate Palestinian state and achieve an overall Mideast peace settlement.

The council statement was approved by all 15 members a week before Israel’s new hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has refused to endorse the two-state solution, holds his first meeting in Washington with President Barack Obama.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, speaking at a ministerial meeting of the council as a member of Obama’s Cabinet, underscored the president’s determination to vigorously pursue “a comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors” in the months ahead.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev objected to the meeting, saying Israel doesn’t believe the involvement of the Security Council contributes to the political process in the Middle East and calling the timing “inappropriate” because of Netanyahu’s upcoming visit and the government’s ongoing policy review. “This process should be bilateral and left to the parties themselves,” Shalev said in a statement.

But Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia, which holds the council presidency this month, stressed the importance of a rapid resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and of international involvement in the process, a view echoed by Rice and council members.

While Israel’s previous government, led by Prime Minster Ehud Olmert, was committed to the goal of Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peaceful independent states, Netanyahu has expressed misgivings about an independent Palestinian state.

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