Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would not predict success Thursday for last-ditch talks with Israel and the Palestinians to avert what other diplomats have called a disastrous Palestinian plan to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations.
She warned the Palestinians that their effort is shortsighted and cannot succeed.
Two senior U.S. diplomats are making their second visit in a week to Israel and the West Bank. Other talks are going on in Europe as the U.S. and its allies try to head off the Palestinian plan for a showdown at next week's U.N. General Assembly session.
The U.S. supports a Palestinian state but says it must be created through negotiation, not by U.N. action.
"I cannot give you the odds on how successful our entire effort will be," Clinton told reporters following joint security meetings with Australian diplomatic and defense officials.
She said she would give no specifics on the latest talks, calling them sensitive, but she issued a warning to the Palestinians.
The difficult issues that have held up creation of a Palestinian state, including the borders and a future security relationship with Israel, "will not be resolved if some other route is taken at the United Nations."
U.S. officials in Washington said one proposed formula would include a statement from the international Quartet of Mideast mediators _ the U.S., EU, Russia and U.N. _ endorsing the 1967 boundaries that separated Israel and the Palestinians, which President Barack Obama has said should be the basis of an agreement. This, they said, might be accompanied by some sort of conciliatory speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the U.N. next week.
In a direct challenge to the United States, the Palestinians said Thursday they will ask the U.N. Security Council next week to accept them as a full member of the United Nations, even though Washington has promised to veto the measure.
In Ramallah, West Bank, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told foreign journalists Thursday that the Palestinians were not looking for a fight. But he said the American stance puts the U.S. in a "confrontational position" with the rest of the world, and suggested American credibility could be at stake.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney emphasized that negotiation with Israel was the only viable path to Palestinian statehood.
"The Palestinians will not and cannot achieve statehood through a declaration at the United Nations. It is a distraction, and in fact, it's counterproductive," he said, adding that "the only way to resolve the issues between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and to ultimately create a Palestinian state, is through direct negotiations."
The Palestinians seek an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with east Jerusalem as their capital. Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Mideast war.
Netanyahu rejects a complete pullout from the West Bank and says Israel must retain east Jerusalem, which it considers an inseparable part of its capital. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
The Palestinians say they are turning to the U.N. in frustration after years of failed peace talks. While a U.N. vote will not change the situation on the ground, the Palestinians believe it will improve their position in future talks. In particular, they say Israel must accept the 1967 borders as the basis of a future agreement.
While largely symbolic, the Palestinians are guaranteed a victory in the chamber, which is dominated by developing nations sympathetic to their cause. The Palestinians say some 130 nations have already pledged to support them, and Malki predicted up to 170 countries would vote in favor.