was the latest country to announce it will be supporting the Palestinian bid
for statehood at the General Assembly on Thursday.
Premier Mario Monti telephoned President Mahmoud Abbas
of the Palestinian Authority to inform him of the decision. He also phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
to assure him that the decision does not mean any weakening of Italy's traditional friendship with Israel.
The Italian government says the decision is part of its commitment to work for a two-state solution.
Meanwhile, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia said they will abstain from the vote. They explained their decision by stating that the European Union does not have an official position on the matter.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic has announced it will vote against the Palestinian bid. It joins the ranks of the US, Canada, Guatemala and Micronesia in opposing the upgrade.
Austria, Denmark, Norway, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland all pledged to support the resolution. Britain said it was prepared to vote yes, but only if the Palestinians fulfilled certain conditions.
The Palestinians are certain to win UN recognition as a state Thursday but success could exact a high price: Israel and the United States warn it could delay hopes of achieving an independent Palestinian state through peace talks with Israel.
Pro-Abbas rally in Nablus (Photo: Reuters)
The United States, Israel's closest ally, mounted an aggressive campaign to head off the General Assembly vote. Israeli PM Netanyahu defiantly declared Thursday that the Palestinians would have to back down from long-held positions if they ever hope to gain independence.
Ahead of Thursday's vote, thousands of Palestinians from rival factions celebrated in the streets of the West Bank. Although the initiative will not immediately bring about independence, the Palestinians view it as a historic step in their quest for global recognition.
In a departure from previous opposition, the Hamas militant group, which rules the Gaza Strip, said it wouldn't interfere with the UN bid, and its supporters joined some of the celebrations Thursday.
Celebrations in Hebron (Photo: EPA)
In the West Bank city of Hebron, some in a crowd of several thousand raised green Hamas flags, while in the city of Ramallah, senior figures of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two militant groups normally opposed to Abbas, addressed the crowd.
"It's the right step in the right direction," Nasser al-Shaer, a former deputy prime minister from Hamas, said of the UN bid.
The Palestinians chose the "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People" for the vote.
Before it takes place, there will be a morning of speeches by supporters focusing on the rights of the Palestinians. Abbas is scheduled to speak at that meeting, and again in the afternoon when he will present the case for Palestinian statehood in the General Assembly.
For Abbas, the UN bid is crucial if he wants to maintain his leadership and relevance, especially following the recent conflict between his Hamas rivals in Gaza and Israel. The conflict saw the terrorist group claim victory and raise its standing in the Arab world, while Abbas' Fatah movement was sidelined and marginalized.
AP and AFP contributed to this report