By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Palestine's U.N. delegation cast its first General Assembly ballot Monday to a warm round of applause, which its ambassador called a symbolic step toward full membership in the world body.
U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour voted in the assembly's election of a judge for the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Koffi Kumelio Afande of Togo was elected to the court.
It was the first time that a Palestinian "state" voted in the General Assembly, almost a year after the 193-nation body elevated it to non-member U.N. observer state, the same status the Vatican holds.
The Palestinians now have access to U.N. agencies and international bodies, including the International Criminal Court and UNESCO.
Under the statute of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Vatican and Palestine, as non-member states, could take part in the election just like the regular General Assembly members.
They would not be able to vote routinely on the bulk of General Assembly resolutions, however.
Full U.N. membership requires Security Council approval, with no vetoes.
In January, then-U.S. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice objected to the Palestinian delegation sitting at the Security Council behind a nameplate that read "State of Palestine" to give the first Palestinian address to the council.
The Palestinians dropped a bid to become a full U.N. member state over a year ago because it was clear the United States would have vetoed their membership application at the Security Council.
But the General Assembly's recognition required only a two-thirds majority, which the Palestinians easily achieved on Nov. 29, 2012.
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