Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that the PA's acceptance as a full member to UNESCO represents support for freedom and justice.

"This vote is not directed against anyone, but represents support for freedom and justice," Abbas said in a statement to the official news agency WAFA.

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"This vote is for the sake of peace and represents international consensus on support for the legitimate Palestinian national rights of our people, the foremost of which is the establishment of its independent state," he added.

The United Nations' cultural agency decided on Monday to give the Palestinians full membership of the body, a vote that will boost their bid for recognition as a state at the United Nations.

UNESCO is the first UN agency the Palestinians have joined as a full member since Abbas applied for full membership of the United Nations on Sept. 23.

The United States, Canada, Germany and Holland voted against Palestinian membership. Brazil, Russia, China, India, South Africa and France voted in favor. Britain and Italy abstained.

US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice called the vote "deeply damaging" to the UN cultural agency and "no substitute for direct negotiations."

The vote highlighted divisions over foreign policy within the European Union, some of whose 27 members voted for and some against Palestinian membership.

Austrian UNESCO ambassador Ursula Plassnik, whose country voted in favor, said she regretted the European Union could not arrive at a common position on the Palestinian issue.

The Palestinians obtained backing from two thirds of UNESCO's members to become the 195th member of UNESCO, with status as "an observer entity". Of 173 countries that voted from a possible 185, 107 voted in favor, 14 voted against, 52 abstained and 12 were absent.

Forty representatives of the 58-member board has voted in favor of putting the matter to a vote earlier this month, with four - the United States, Germany, Romania and Latvia - voting against and 14 abstaining.

"This resolution is a tragedy for UNESCO...UNESCO deals in science and not science fiction and nevertheless (UNESCO) adopted the science fiction reality," said Nimrod Barkan, Israel's ambassador to UNESCO.

Israel has said the Palestinian bid would amount to politicization of the agency that would undermine its ability to carry out its mandate.

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