US says Palestinian UNESCO membership is premature

October 31, 2011 - 10:35 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says UNESCO's approval of full Palestinian membership is "premature" and undermines the international community's goal of a comprehensive Middle East peace plan.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says Monday's vote is also a distraction from the goal of restarting direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Delegates to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization approved Palestinian members in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions. U.S. lawmakers have threatened to halt $80 million in annual funding to UNESCO if Palestinian membership was approved.

The Palestinians are seeking full membership in the United Nations, an effort the U.S. has threatened to veto in the Security Council. Given that, the Palestinians separately sought membership at Paris-based UNESCO and other U.N. bodies.