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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas officially asked the United Nations to recognise Palestine as an independent state today, despite fierce resistance from the United States and Israel.

Abbas handed over the necessary paperwork, including a letter requesting UN membership, to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, before delivering his speech at the annual General Assembly. Ban was to submit the request to the Security Council, where the United States was expected to veto the bid.

The UN Security Council could take weeks to consider the statehood application, which would allow more time for diplomacy before the Palestinians consider their next move – approaching the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status to a non-voting observer state, analysts said.

The Palestinian leader's announcement came while at home clashes erupted in the West Bank ahead of his speech.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man near Nablus in the West Bank after a confrontation erupted between Palestinians and Jewish settlers, news reports said. Palestinian protesters hurled rocks at Israeli forces in East Jerusalem and near Ramallah, according to reporters.

Trying to forestall Friday's statehood bid, the administration of US President Barack Obama urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks, which stopped a year ago.

Abbas, who has refused to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, rebuffed the appeals.

Speaking to Palestinian Americans who came to his hotel Thursday night, Abbas told his guests that Washington had "aggressively" sought to deter him from the move but that he had insisted on proceeding. “There are small countries in the world that have gained their freedom and independence but we still haven’t got ours. So we are going to demand this right.”

The Voice of America (VOA) network quoted an aide to Abbas as saying however that the Palestinian president believes the bid for UN membership will not prevent serious peace negotiations with Israel.

Israel said it had deployed 22,000 security officers across the country in advance of the widely anticipated speech to respond to possible unrest.

The UN Security Council could take weeks to consider the statehood application, which would allow more time for diplomacy before the Palestinians consider their next move – approaching the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status to a non-voting observer state, analysts said.