The president, Adolf Ogi, has told the United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, that he expects the Swiss electorate to vote in favour of UN membership in two years' time.
Ogi was speaking at the Children's World Festival in Basel, where he and Annan were the main guests of honour.
Swiss voters rejected joining the UN by an overwhelming majority 14 years ago. However, recent opinion polls show attitudes toward the world body have undergone a sea change.
The cabinet is expected to consult political parties on the issue over the next few weeks, and if it receives a positive response, it could ask parliament later this year to back the membership bid. That would pave the way for a referendum, which Ogi said could take place in 2002. UN supporters have also collected enough signatures to force a vote.
Annan arrived in Basel to take part in the closing ceremonies of the festival, following a tour of the Middle East. He thanked the Basel authorities for organising the event, which was run under the patronage of Unesco. The secretary-general said the tradition of freedom and democracy in Basel and the neighbouring regions in Germany and France made it the ideal host for the festival.
Annan was presented with a check for SFr100,000 to support international youth projects.
Hundreds of children from around the world were granted passports recognising them as "Junior Ambassadors of Peace" at the closing ceremony.
swissinfo with agencies