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Hamas welcomes Palestinian UNESCO membership


15:38, November 01, 2011

DAMASCUS, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- The Damascus-based Islamic Hamas movement welcomed Monday the decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to grant the Palestinians a full membership in the organization.

The decision was a "significant step in favor of the Palestinian cause that would help protect holy shrines and the Palestinians heritage in the face of the Zionist messing with our heritage and shrines, mainly the Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem," Hamas said in a statement obtained by Xinhua in Damascus.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) won a full membership in a vote Monday at the organization's general conference in Paris. A total of 107 member countries voted for the PNA's membership bid, while 14 countries, including the United States and Israel, voted against it.

The voting in favor of the Palestinians by most countries " demonstrates the international community's awareness of the justice of our national cause and scandalizes the brutality of the occupation and the bias of the U.S. administration to it and to its racist policies," Hamas said.

The movement also urged all the UN organizations to pressure Israel to halt its violation of Christian and Muslim holy shrines.

Izzat Rishq, a member of Hamas politburo, hailed the UNESCO's decision in a statement as a "real reflection of the international community's positions" that support the Palestinian people's struggle and its legitimate targets.

He condemned the U.S. stand, which he said "has always been in Israel's favor," and urged the international community to assist the Palestinians to achieve their legitimate rights, mainly the establishment of an independent state and the refugees' rights to return.

The U.S. government said the UNESCO's decision was "premature" and announced later Monday that it had curbed funding to the organization after the vote.

"Today's vote at UNESCO to admit the Palestinian (National) Authority as a member is premature and undermines the international community's shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

The Monday vote made UNESCO the first UN agency to accept the PNA as a full member since PNA President Mahmoud Abbas applied for a formal UN membership at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23. The UN Security Council has decided to discuss the matter in November.

Earlier in October, UNESCO's Executive Board recommended accepting the PNA as a full member and agreed to vote on the issue during the organization's 26th general conference, which opened in Paris on Oct. 25 and will last till Nov. 10.

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