UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the new Palestinian coalition government to live up to the expectations of the international community, referring to demands that it recognize Israel and work toward peace.
Ban will meet Saturday evening with Defense Minister Amir Peretz in Tel Aviv. The talks are expected to cover Security Council Resolution 1701 ending the summer's war in the North, the deployment of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, Israel Defense Forces soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev held captive in Lebanon and the new Palestinian unity government.
Ban will meet Sunday with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and may also meet with Palestinian Foreign Minister Abu Amar and Finance Minister Salam Fayad, both of them independents.
Ban spoke after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is hosting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Arab foreign ministers this weekend for discussions on the Mideast peace process.
Ban said he welcomed the formation of a new Palestinian coalition that adds moderates and independents to a government formerly made up exclusively of members of the hard-line Islamist group Hamas.
"We expect that the national unity government will meet the expectations of the international community for peace and security in the region," Ban said. He said he discussed the need to encourage this ongoing peace process with Mubarak.
Ban said earlier Saturday that he had no plans to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh during his Middle East tour.
"I will be meeting with President (Mahmoud) Abbas and other members of the cabinet. At this time I will say that my itinerary schedule at this time does not include my meeting with Prime Minister Haniyeh," he told a news conference in Cairo.
The United Nations is part of the international Quartet, which is demanding that the Palestinian government recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept old agreements with Israel.
Haniyeh, as a leading member of the Islamist movement Hamas, has not accepted the conditions of the Quartet, which also includes the United States, Russia and the European Union.
Hamad said: "(Failure to meet Haniyeh) would be wrong because this is a government of national unity that represents the entire Palestinian people and the United Nations is supposed to be an organization that represents all countries and not a political organization.
"It will not serve to create an atmosphere of stability... We hope the United Nations will play a bigger role in narrowing the gaps and in opening dialogue between countries and not to adopt the style of boycott," he added.
Ban said he might also meet the Palestinian ministers of finance and foreign affairs, either with Abbas or separately. The two ministers are independent of both Hamas and of Abbas's Fatah movement.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now