CAIRO - The United Nations must play a bigger role in trying to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the United States should not be the only mediator, according to the head of the Arab League.

Amr Moussa told Reuters, without directly criticising U.S. policy in the Middle East, that any mediator must be objective.

"There should be a change in the direction of the peace process, by having a mediator who understands the needs of the two parties, and not one party," he said.

"The United Nations role which was marginalised at a certain stage with regards to the Arab-Israeli struggle should be brought back," he added.

The United Nations is part of a Quartet of mediators alongside the U.S., European Union and Russia, but the United States has taken a leading role in the peace process.

U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell is expected to visit the region in January for a fresh push to resume the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stalled since the three-week Gaza conflict a year ago. Months of Mitchell's shuttling between the sides yielded no concrete signs of progress in 2009.

Hints of movement in the deadlocked talks have emerged in discussions between the leaders of Egypt and Israel this week, Israeli and Palestinian officials said Wednesday.

Neither side has divulged the details of what development may take place though both are cautiously optimistic that talks could resume sometime in 2010.

Moussa told Reuters on Tuesday that he trusted Obama, but added: "We must maintain the American role in the framework of other roles, European and United Nations and all countries that have links to and interests in the situation in the Middle East."

Moussa, who was Egypt's foreign minister between 1991 and 2001, won praise from many Egyptians and Arabs for his criticism of both Israel and past U.S. Middle East policies.