Hundreds protest in Ramallah over Obama's UN speech

AFP , Thursday 22 Sep 2011

Obama's speech to the UN on Wednesday sparks protest in Ramallah with demonstrators slamming the US bias towards Israel and planning to pass the tomb of Yasser Arafat

Around 1,000 Palestinians gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday to protest against US President Barack Obama's speech to the United Nations (UN).

The protesters carried signs deriding the United States and Obama for his address, in which he reiterated his opposition to the Palestinians' attempt to win UN membership for their state, saying there was no "shortcut" to peace.

"Shame on those who pretend to be democratic," read one banner held up by the crowds who gathered outside the Muqataa, the headquarters of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

"America is the head of the snake," read another placard carried by demonstrators, who massed by a pavilion decked out with the flags of the more than 120 nations who have recognised a Palestinian state.

The demonstrators were planning to pass by the tomb of the late president Yasser Arafat before heading to Manara Square in the city centre, where at least 15,000 people gathered on Wednesday to support the UN bid.

The Palestinian workers union said it was planning to issue a call for rallies to take place after the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday outside US embassies across the Arab world.

Information ministry official Mutawakil Taha accused Obama of sounding "like an Israeli settler," and said his speech came in the context of Washington's longstanding defence of Israel at the United Nations.

"Fourty-two US vetos at the UN have enabled Israel to continue apartheid in the region and Obama's speech exposed America, which pretends to support the Arab revolutions," he told AFP.

The Palestinian media was equally scathing about Obama's address, which came two days before Abbas is to formally submit a request that the UN admit a Palestinian state as a member.

Commentators slammed Obama, saying he illustrated the depth of Washington's bias towards Israel and failed to even mention the suffering of the Palestinians or the ongoing construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

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