French president Nicolas Sarkozy has warned of a new cycle of violence in the Middle East if the Palestinian demand for full membership of the United Nations is vetoed by the United States.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has vowed to go ahead with a formal request for UN membership on Friday, even though US president Barack Obama has personally told him the US will veto the bid.
Mr Obama had earlier told the UN General Assembly that the Palestinians deserve their own state but it can only be achieved through talks with Israel. He said there was no substitute for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations nor any short-cut to peace.
The contradictions of American policy towards the Middle East were on display, the BBC reports, because in the same speech Mr Obama praised the way Arabs in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia had seized their freedom.
If UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon approves Mr Abbas's request, the Security Council will examine and vote on it. In order to pass, it would need the backing of nine out of 15 council members, with no vetoes from the permanent members (who include the US).
Mr Sarkozy has urged a compromise, suggesting the General Assembly give the Palestinians enhanced status as a non-member state to allow a clear timeline for talks - a month to start negotiations, six months to deal with borders and security and a year to finalise a "definitive agreement".