PLO Flag Raised in Washington, D.C.

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) raised its official flag for the first time outside its Dupont Circle offices in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.  

The Obama administration granted permission to fly the flag last July, despite the mission's lack of embassy status.

PLO official Maen Ariekat raised the flag at a ceremony marking the occasion.

"It's about time this flag - that symbolizes the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood - be raised in the United States," Ariekat said.

"We hope that this will help in the international effort to provide recognition for the Palestinian state," he said.

Ariekat said the Obama administration's decision means its "serious" about ending the "struggle of the Palestinian people" and should take the next steps to make the state a reality.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla) was among those opposing the tactic.

"Raising this flag in D.C. is part of the Palestinian leadership's scheme to manipulate acceptance and diplomatic recognition of a yet-be-be-created Palestinian state, while refusing to directly negotiate with Israel or accept the existence of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

"[It's] part of the same strategy aimed at extracting concessions without being required to meet international commitments."

"The U.S. has reinforced Ramallah's rejectionism through economic and political support, including support for the PLO office in Washington, instead of requiring they meet all conditions in U.S. law," she said.

Ghaith al-Omari of the American Task Force on Palestine said Palestinian officials understood that permission to fly the flag represents "political dividends" for "improving security and governance" in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

Meanwhile, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev joined several South American countries in confirming its recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

PA officials were elated with the announcement and said Medvedev's visiting the Palestinian Authority without having first visited Israel set an important precedent.

"We appreciate the Russian recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders whose capital is east Jerusalem," PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

Medvedev cancelled this week's visit to Israel due to an ongoing strike by Foreign Ministry employees. 

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor confirmed that the visit had been postponed because of the strike.

Medvedev said the cancellation would not affect relations between the two countries. 

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The Jerusalem Post contributed to this report.

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