SIRTE, Libya — The head of the Arab League urged the 22-nation bloc on Saturday to engage Iran directly over concerns about its growing influence in the region and its disputed nuclear program.

Amr Moussa also warned in his opening statement at a two-day Arab League summit in Sirte, Libya, that Israeli construction on land claimed by Palestinians could scuttle the Mideast peace process for good.

Moussa outlined his plan for closer ties with Iran, saying it would involve a forum for regional cooperation and conflict resolution that would include Iran and Turkey – both non-Arab nations.

But the proposal could undermine U.S. and Israeli efforts to isolate Tehran amid concerns that its nuclear program aims to develop atomic weapons. It also comes as the U.S. and other Western powers push for a fresh round of sanctions over Iran’s nuclear defiance. Tehran insists its program is for peaceful purposes.

“I realize that some are worried about Iran but that is precisely why we need the dialogue,” Moussa said.

The push to engage Tehran seems to be at least partly fueled by Arab frustration over Washington’s failure to get Israel to back down on plans for more Jewish settlements.