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Now, we have a state: Abbas

Ramallah, Dec 2, 2012, Agencies: 1:04 IST

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas returned to the West Bank on Sunday after winning upgraded UN status for the Palestinians, telling cheering crowds: “Yes, now we have a state.

“Palestine has accomplished a historic achievement at the UN,” Abbas added, three days after the United Nations General Assembly granted the Palestinians non-member state observer status in a 138-9 vote.

“The world said in a loud voice... yes to the state of Palestine, yes to Palestine's freedom, yes to Palestine’s independence, no to aggression, no to settlements, no to occupation,” Abbas told the ecstatic crowd.

Abbas pledged that after the victory at the United Nations, his "first and most important" task would be working to achieve Palestinian unity and reviving efforts to reconcile rival factions Fatah and Hamas.

“We will study over the course of the coming days the steps necessary to achieve reconciliation,” he said, as the crowd chanted: “The people want the end of the division.”

“Abbas, onwards, we are with you until liberation,” flag-waving Palestinian well-wishers chanted at their president.

The festivities included a ceremonial release of balloons in the red, green, white and black colours of the Palestinian flag into the sky. Palestinian onlooker Mohammad Stayyeh said he was there “to thank the president for the historic achievement and dream that he achieved for us and our children”.

In Gaza, Hamas official Salah Bardawil said the group was calling “for urgent meetings to achieve reconciliation.”

“We are interested in achieving Palestinian reconciliation and Hamas has presented several positive initiatives to protect the unity of the Palestinians,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

The return was a moment of triumph for Abbas, who last year tried and failed to win the Palestinians full state membership at the United Nations.

The bid stalled in the Security Council, where the veto-wielding United States has vehemently opposed it.

The move gives the Palestinians access to a range of international institutions, including potentially the International Criminal Court, and raises their international profile after years of stalled peace talks with Israel. He laid a wreath and said a brief prayer at the grave of the iconic late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is buried within the presidential complex, later dedicating the UN victory to the former president’s memory.

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