| 4.6°C Dublin

US trying to stop UN resolution against West Bank settlements

Washington is desperately trying to head off a United Nations resolution condemning Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and the disputed West Bank territories that is presenting Barack Obama with one of the most acute dilemmas of his presidency.

Senior Palestinian officials said on Monday they were undeterred by American appeals to abandon the resolution, which has been circulated among the 15 members of the UN Security Council and could be discussed as early as Wednesday at a meeting on the Middle East.

In recent weeks, the Palestinians have prepared a draft that would declare all settlements illegal and demand an immediate halt to their construction. The appeal to the Security Council is part of a Palestinian strategy to exert pressure on the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. US-brokered talks between the two sides collapsed recently when he refused to extend a partial ban on settlement-building.

The US, which has frequently wielded its veto at the Security Council in support of Israel, finds itself isolated in its opposition to the resolution, which would probably be supported by all other 14 members of the Security Council, including Britain and the other permanent members.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said recently: "We continue to believe strongly that New York is not the place to resolve the long-standing conflict and outstanding issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We do not think that that is a productive path for the Palestinians or anyone to pursue."

Compromises are being explored, which could include referring to settlements as "illegitimate" rather than "illegal" and would allow the US to abstain. However an abstention could still be seen as hostile towards Israel.