UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council met behind closed doors on Monday for a preliminary discussion of last week's Palestinian application for full U.N. membership, a move seen as certain to fail.
Diplomats said Monday's meeting was not intended to produce any decisions, but could give early clues to the balance of forces within the divided 15-nation body on the application submitted on Friday by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel's ally the United States has vowed to use its veto to reject the application but if the Palestinians can muster nine votes in favor -- the number needed to pass a resolution absent a veto -- they would score a moral victory.
If they fail to do so, Washington would avoid the need to veto the application, a move that would bring diplomatic embarrassment and possibly spark anti-American protests in the Arab world.
Only six countries on the council appear certain to vote for Palestinian membership. The four European Union countries are expected to either abstain or vote against, while Bosnia, Colombia, Gabon and Nigeria have made no definitive statements and have been courted by both Israel and the Palestinians.
Later this week, the Security Council is expected to set up a committee to look into the application. A month or more could pass before the council is ready to vote.
Last week, the "Quartet" of Middle East mediators presented Israel and the Palestinians with a timetable for new peace talks, in the hope that, if accepted, it could relegate the U.N. membership row to the back burner.
The last talks broke down nearly a year ago, after Israel's resumption of settlement building in the West Bank on land the Palestinians want for a state prompted a Palestinian walkout.
The Palestinians have already signaled that they will not accept the Quartet proposals unless Israel halts settlements, something the Jewish state is seen as highly unlikely to do.
(Editing by Eric Beech)