Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mussa and Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdul-Rahman Bin Hamad on Thursday urged the United Nations to lead a new peace process between Israel and the Palestinians The Arab leaders made their proposal at a Madrid meeting to mark the 15th year since the 1991 Middle East peace conference in the Spanish capital, where Spain wants to stage a new conference.


Mussa said an international peace conference should be organized under the UN umbrella with a "fully defined time frame and goals" in order to relaunch the peace process.


Bin Hamad backed the idea. "New initiatives are not really needed, but active mechanisms to apply resolutions and solutions in the international framework," he added.


New peace plans should include all the relevant countries, such as Libya and Syria, Spanish secretary of state Bernardino Leon stressed.


The novelties of a new conference would include a more global approach, comprising the situations in Iraq and Iran, and the adoption of a permanent plan for a definitive solution instead of a gradually evolving one, according to Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.


Israeli ambassador Victor Harel rejected the idea of a new Middle East peace conference, describing it as "untimely and inappropriate."


Peace could best be achieved through separate negotiations between parties to conflicts rather than a global approach, Harel added. He said an international conference could be staged after a process based on the Road Map.


Former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said "realist" solutions and existing mechanisms were preferable to "magic formulas."


The three-day meeting inaugurated on Wednesday brought together former leaders, diplomats, academics and other experts, mainly from Western and Middle Eastern countries and international organizations, many of whom attended the 1991 peace conference.


The entire Middle Eastern region could become "a battlefield for all kinds of inter-regional conflicts" and produce a "global disaster," former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev warned in a letter to the meeting.