BBC news 2011-09-24

BBC News with Gaenor Howells

The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has received rousing applause at the United Nations General Assembly after flourishing his formal application for UN membership for a Palestinian state. The United States had opposed the move, threatening to veto it at any Security Council vote. Mr Abbas said Palestinians wanted a greater role for the UN since previous international peace efforts had failed because of what he called Israel's intransigence. Mr Abbas was speaking through a translator.

"It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence. The time has come to end the suffering and the plight of millions of Palestinian refugees in the homeland and the Diaspora, to end their displacement and to realise their rights, some of whom were forced to take refuge more than once in different places of the world."

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told the UN he was extending the hand of friendship to all countries of the Middle East but in particular to the Palestinian people. But he said lasting peace could only be achieved through direct negotiations. Kim Ghattas reports from the UN.

Benjamin Netanyahu said he was ready to travel to Ramallah to meet the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He went on to say even better let's meet here today at the United Nations. The Israeli leader said Israel wanted peace but this could not be achieved through UN resolutions. Mr Netanyahu then said the Palestinians were still refusing to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestine Liberation Organisation recognised the state of Israel in 1993.

The Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators - the US, Russia, the European Union and the UN - has now called for direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians to resume within one month and finish within one year. Speaking after a meeting at the UN, the European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the Quartet envoys would work with the parties and she hoped they'd react positively.

"We expect the parties to come together within four weeks, and we'll ask the Quartet envoys to prepare that meeting, to work with the parties, to bring them together."

Shelling and explosions are reported in the north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa in renewed clashes between forces loyal to President Saleh and armed tribesmen opposed to his rule. Unconfirmed reports say that at least 13 people have been killed. After his homecoming earlier on Friday, President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for a ceasefire to end the violence, in which around 100 people have been killed this week, mostly unarmed anti-government protesters.

Media organisations in the US and in Britain have condemned attempts by Iran to block independent reporting by jamming satellites, interrupting Internet connections or intimidating journalists.

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The White House has intensified America's criticism of Pakistan, accusing the government there of allowing a militant group to operate from safe havens in the country. A White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said Pakistan must break any links it had with the militants, the Haqqani network. Paul Adams reports.

Once again, the governments in Washington and Islamabad find themselves locked in a war of words. On Thursday, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, of supporting the Haqqani network. Admiral Mullen went further, describing the network as a veritable arm of the ISI. Pakistani officials reacted angrily, the Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar warning that America risked losing an ally. But Jay Carney says it's critical the Pakistani government break any links it has and take strong and immediate action against a network which he says represents a threat to both countries.

The Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has returned home from Cuba after having what he says was his final round of chemotherapy for cancer. Mr Chavez said the treatment had been successful and he felt born again. The Venezuelan leader, who had surgery in Cuba in June to remove a tumour, said his health would not stop him standing for re-election next year. Secrecy over the exact nature of his cancer has fuelled speculation that his condition may be worse than officially stated.

The government of Azerbaijan has denied allegations that the country was promised two gold medals at next year's London Olympics in return for millions of dollars. A spokesman said the allegations made in a BBC television programme were based on what he described as false facts and absurd conclusions. The accusations came from sources within international boxing, who told the BBC that a secret deal had been done to get funding from Azerbaijan in return for manipulation of the Olympic boxing tournament.

BBC News.