UNITED NATIONS — Furiously scrambling to head off a U.N. showdown, the United States warned world leaders Wednesday that trying to create a Palestinian nation by simple decree instead of through hard negotiations was bound to fail as a shortcut to peace with Israel.
Undeterred, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pressed toward a formal bid for U.N. recognition that could bring the issue to a head on Friday.
Addressing the U.N., President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy offered different solutions to defuse the diplomatic crisis. Sarkozy would have the Palestinians seek a lesser form of recognition at the U.N., while joining new talks with Israel.
Obama implored Israelis and Palestinians to restart direct talks. He didn't directly call on the Palestinians to drop their bid for recognition from the U.N. Security Council, but the U.S. threat to veto any such U.N. action loomed unmistakably.
"Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations," Obama told U.N. delegates. "If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now."
Sarkozy supported an observer state status for Palestine but not full U.N. membership for now. That idea would head off a Security Council vote and veto that he said would risk "engendering a cycle of violence in the Middle East."
The French president proposed a one-year timetable for Israel and the Palestinians to reach an accord.
The White House said the United States agreed with the broad goals of the French proposal, but disagreed with Sarkozy on the value of a U.N. status upgrade for the Palestinians ahead of a peace accord.
Palestinian senior aide Saeb Erekat said the pursuit of full U.N. membership would not be slowed: "We will not allow any political maneuvering on this issue," he said.
At their meeting Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Obama for defending Israel, which fears that a Palestinian state drawn by the U.N. would include borders leaving the Jewish state vulnerable to attack.
Obama and Abbas also met for more than 45 minutes Wednesday evening.
The White House said Obama reiterated his opposition to the statehood bid and the U.S. intention to issue a veto.
The so-called Quartet of Mideast peace mediators were working also on a deal. Under that compromise plan, the Quartet would issue a statement in which Israel would have to accept its pre-1967 Mideast War borders, with land exchanges, as the basis for a two-state solution, and the Palestinians would have to recognize Israel's Jewish character.
In return, the Palestinians would petition the United Nations Security Council on Friday, as expected, but would agree not to press for action on the request for statehood recognition for a year, or would withdraw it later.
Palestinians show support: Thousands of flag-waving Palestinians rallied Wednesday in towns across the West Bank to show support for their president's bid to win U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state. A new poll indicated an overwhelming majority supports Abbas' quest for U.N. recognition of a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War.