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Abbas speech at UN lifts Palestinian spirits

world Updated: Sep 24, 2011 23:11 IST

Reuters
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Palestinians packed the streets of West Bank cities on Friday to support their leaders’ UN bid for statehood, cheering President Mahmoud Abbas as he made the biggest speech of his life.

The largest crowd seen in Ramallah since the funeral of Yasser Arafat in 2004 waved Palestinian flags and watched Abbas address the UN General Assembly in New York on giant screens. Many said the speech made them proud.

“We have come to take part with our people in asking for our rights,” said Mohammed Hamidat, 40, who had brought his wife and four children to watch events unfold.

“With the current closed horizons, it’s the only thing we can do, even if the result is failure. It’s been years since we have seen anything new: this is a first step.”

His caution was typical of many Palestinians who are wary of the strong opposition to their UN statehood drive — not only from Israel but also from its main ally, the US.

Despite the prospect of failure, Palestinians who turned out on Friday welcomed the step as a change of approach 20 years after the start of peace talks that have failed to deliver their independence.

Abbas’ speech to the General Assembly, which detailed the Palestinians’ grievances against Israel, was widely admired, even by some of his critics at home.

“There’s great pride. We are behind the president. Obama spoke about freedom in the Arab world but forgot that the Palestinian people are under occupation,” said Tawfiq Nimr.

Loud cheers, whistles and applause erupted as Abbas handed the formal Palestinian statehood application to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and waved it before the General Assembly.