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France to back Palestinian U.N. status

PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Tuesday it would vote in favour of Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations, boosting Palestinian efforts to secure greater international recognition.

Frustrated that their bid for full U.N. membership last year was thwarted by U.S. opposition in the U.N. Security Council, Palestinians have launched a watered-down bid for recognition as a non-member state, similar to the status the Vatican enjoys.

The proposal, which is due to be put to the vote in the General Assembly at the end of the week, would implicitly recognize Palestinian statehood. It could also grant access to bodies such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where the Palestinians could file complaints against Israel.

"This Thursday or Friday, when the question is asked, France will vote yes," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced in the French National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

Abbas' bid seems certain to win approval in any vote in the 193-nation assembly. The United States say Palestinian statehood must be achieved by negotiation and has called on Abbas to return to peace talks that collapsed in 2010 over Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

"It is only with negotiations between the two sides that we demand immediately without any preconditions that a Palestinian state can become a reality," Fabius said.

France, a member of the U.N. Security Council, had under former President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to support Abbas if he opted for the upgrade option and broke from its closest allies last year voting in favour of giving the Palestinians full membership of the U.N.'s cultural agency UNESCO.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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