NEW YORK CITY - United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon invited Israeli President Shimon Peres to a dinner Tuesday evening for some 40 attendees of the interfaith conference.
"It's quite unique when you expect President Peres of Israel…and many kings and leaders of the Arab world… sit down together and have dinner," the secretary general told reporters.
While Ban said he would not try to arrange a meeting between Saudi's King Abdullah and Peres, he hoped dining "together" would have a positive effect.
"I sincerely hope that through their participation in the meetings and through this social-diplomatic gathering, they will be able to promote further understandings," the secretary-general said.
Meanwhile, Peres told reporters that the conference represented an attempt by a group of Arab Sunni states to thwart the Iranian takeover of the Middle East.
Conference speakers include King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Jordan's King Abdullah, the emirs of Kuwait and Bahrain, and the presidents of the United States, Israel, Finland, Pakistan and Lebanon, and the prime ministers of Britain, Qatar, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Djibouti and Egypt.
"The purpose of this meeting is to promote mutual understanding and address all the differences of opinions in the political or religious thinking. I hope this will also create some atmosphere, favorable and conducive to address the difference of political issues," Ban said.
Meanwhile, during a speech marking "Martyrs Day" in Beirut, Hezbollah spiritual leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah called on Arab and Muslim nations to thwart Peres or any other Israeli from participating in the U.N.-sponsored conference.
"Take note of when Peres and the rest of the Israelis are arriving at the conference," Nasrallah said, "right when they are tightening the siege on a million and a half Palestinians in Gaza and stepping up their attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank Judea Samaria ," Nasrallah said.
Sources: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post