Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh said Saturday he hopes a regional Middle East peace conference including Israel can be convened, but he warned that obstacles linger.

"There are still problems and difficulties," Bessmertnykh said after discussing ways of making progress in the peace process with President Hosni Mubarak."I cannot tell you that we are going to have a conference, but we hope we shall. There is a chance, there is a hope if we work further."

He said "it will be a terrible tragedy" if the opportunity to pursue peace in the region is wasted.

Bessmertnykh said he and Mubarak discussed various aspects of the Middle East crisis, including exchanging views on the best ways to move the peace process forward toward convening a peace conference.

"There is a common ground between the two sides on concepts and means of pushing the peace process forward," he said.

The Soviet foreign minister, who is visiting the Middle East for the first time since he succeeded Eduard Shevardnadze in January, will meet Sunday with his U.S. counterpart, James Baker, in Cairo to coordinate superpower efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.

Bessmertnykh's Mideast tour is seen by diplomats as an effort by Moscow to show its interest in playing an active role in efforts to bring a political settlement to the 4-decade-old Arab-Israeli conflict.

Although the Soviet Union refrained from sending troops to serve with the U.S.-led coalition which defeated Iraq, it approved all resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council against Iraq, Moscow's one-time major ally in the Arab world.

Before arriving in Cairo, Bessmertnykh visited Damascus and Amman in addition to Israel.