Senior Palestinian officials said Sunday the Palestine Liberation Organization Central Council was determined to declare independence from Israel this year, but insisted that no date has yet been set.
"The proclamation of a state is a Palestinian decision to be announced by its leadership before the end of the year and at such a time it finds appropriate," Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior aide to Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, told AFP.
Israel has warned of violence if the Palestinians carryout promises to declare statehood even without an agreement between the two sides.
Abdel Rahim was speaking after the opening session of a two-day meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization's 129-member Central Council.
Asked if a specific date would be set during the meeting, Abdel Rahim said, "No, but the council will focus on its previous decision that the announcement of a state will be taken this year when it is appropriate."
Salim al-Zanun, head of the central council, said that September 13th, the deadline for a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, was only one of several possible dates for the proclamation of statehood.
"We are not locked to any of the dates that have been suggested, they are all suggestions. We will chose the correct time," Zanun said.
The central council liaises between the Palestine National Council, the PLO's 650-strong parliament, and the PLO's 18-member executive committee.
Zanun said a meeting of the 650-member group could be held before implementing independence from Israel, which the PLO formally announced in Algeria in 1988.
The central council meeting, attended by 108 of its members, began with a minute's silence in memory of the Palestinian "martyrs" killed in the struggle against Israel.
The council's agenda included reports on the practical measures necessary for setting up an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Arafat had already put back the declaration of an independent state under intense pressure from the United States and Europe in May last year, when the interim Oslo accords of 1993 expired, but said on June 25th that a Palestinian state will be proclaimed "in a few weeks." - GAZA CITY (AFP)
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