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Palestinians win seat at UNESCO

A symbolic victory for the Palestinians ahead of U.N. Security Council vote.

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Palestinian Authority president and head of the Fatah movement Mahmud Abbas at a Fatah 'Revolutionary Council' meeting in Ramallah on October 26, 2011. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

PARIS -- The United Nations cultural body on Monday admitted Palestine as member – despite opposition from Israel, and US threats to sever tens of millions of dollars in funding.

The BBC reported that 173 UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) countries voted at a Paris meeting, with 107 in favor and 14 opposed. There were 52 abstentions.

The vote comes one month after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sought full Palestinian UN membership at the Security Council in New York.

The Security Council is due to vote in November, but the U.S. has promised to use its veto power to block the move. The U.S. does not have the power of veto at UNESCO.

Read more on GlobalPost: Obama gives speech opposing Palestinian U.N. bid

According to the BBC, Palestinian leaders see membership of UNESCO – known for its World Heritage Sites – as part of a broader push for international recognition.

Ahead of the vote, US Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter said:

"We believe this is counterproductive ... The only path for the Palestinians is through direction negotiations.”

Al Jazeera reported that UNESCO's acceptance of Palestine will likely invoke a 1990s U.S. law that bars the U.S. from funding any U.N. agency that “accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states".

It is estimated that the U.S. provides 22 per cent of UNESCO's total budget, amounting to between $70 and $80 million a year.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/france/111031/unesco-vote-palestinian-membership