Palestinian hopes of rallying the required nine vote majority in a U.N. Security Council vote on Palestinian statehood suffered a major blow Monday with a Bosnian presidential adviser saying the country will be forced to abstain.
Palestinian officials have said they already have eight votes, and had counted heavily on Bosnia to give them the ninth.
The United States has promised to veto the measure in any case. But the Palestinians had hoped to win enough support to trigger the veto, which would have embarrassed the U.S. by forcing it to go against the will of the international community.
Dzenan Selimbegovic, an adviser to the three-member presidency, said Monday that because the trio still disagrees on the issue, there is no official stand and the chance of someone changing his mind is "theoretical."
"Officially the presidency has no position and if there is no position then the Bosnian ambassador to the U.N. has no position," he told The Associated Press.
Selimbegovic said the presidency will be left with no choice than to abstain.
The three presidents had to agree in order for Bosnia to vote. So far the Muslim Bosniak leader supports the bid, the Serb member is pro-Israeli and the Croat member has not yet not clearly stated his position. The three members have to agree on a common policy or abstain.
With peace talks stalled for the past three years, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked the Security Council in September to admit the Palestinians as a full member state. The Palestinians say that although any vote will not end Israel's occupation of lands they claim, they believe a strong international endorsement would boost their position in future negotiations.
The U.S. and Israel have argued that peace can be achieved only through negotiations.
The Palestinians have been trying to arrange a Nov. 11 vote in the Security Council, though Abbas acknowledged in an interview on Israeli TV last week that he might not be able to muster nine votes.
Last week both the Israeli and Palestinian foreign ministers visited Bosnia to lobby for their cause, but the stands of both Bosniak and Serb members remained unchanged.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman additionally visited the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Banja Luka where decisions are made on how the Serbs will vote in joint state institutions.
The leader of the Bosnian Serbs and president of their mini-state, Milorad Dodik, said after the meeting that the Serb representatives in the central institutions are against the possibility of Bosnia voting at the Security Council for the Palestinian bid.
He added that he now expects Bosnian Serbs and Israel to strengthen economic ties and work on tourism and agriculture.
Lieberman, a Russian speaker who was born in Moldova, was on his second visit to the Bosnian Serbs this year, and spent several days of his vacation in the Bosnian Serb part of the country.
In the West Bank town of Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian government, Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim clergymen held a news conference on Monday urging Bosnia to reconsider its Security Council position.
"I was shocked today when I received the statement saying the Serbian president of Bosnia rejected recognition of Palestine," said Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hana.
"I assume the Serbian president of Bosnia would represent the morals of the Orthodox Church, which always stood beside the oppressed in the world."
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told reporters in late September that the membership bid has support so far from eight Security Council members: Russia, China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Lebanon, Nigeria and Gabon. He said the Palestinians are lobbying for more votes, including from Bosnia and Colombia.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Colombia on Oct. 11 and was told by President Juan Manuel Santos that Colombia will only recognize a Palestinian state that has been established through negotiations with Israel, leaving Bosnia as the likely key to a ninth "yes" vote.
The Palestinians did, however, become a full member of UNESCO on Monday, in a highly divisive move that could cost the agency a fifth of its budget and that the U.S. and other opponents say could harm renewed Mideast peace efforts.
Bosnia abstained from the vote.
Mohammed Daraghmeh contributed to this story from Ramallah