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Posted: 8/23/2001 2:46:21 PM EDT
Arafat arrives in China seeking Asian support BEIJING (Reuters) - Palestinian President Yasser Arafat arrived in China from Pakistan Thursday on the final stage of a whirlwind tour across Asia seeking support for his people's struggle with Israel. Before leaving Pakistan, he said he was ready to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to discuss ways to end 11 months of conflict, but details still had to be finalized. "...We appreciate it much, and we said that we are ready," he told reporters of a German proposal for the talks. He made no comments to reporters on his arrival in Beijing. In remarks to China's official Xinhua news agency, Arafat said he was ready to meet any official who could end the conflict. But Xinhua quoted him as adding: "In Israel, it is Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, not Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who makes decisions." Sharon heads the rightist Likud party, the senior partner in a unity government with Peres's more dovish Labor Party. Arafat, who was earlier in India to drum up support for the Palestinians, said he was awaiting a response from German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer who has been trying to organize the meeting. In talks with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Arafat asked India to help push for a resumption of talks to end bloodshed in the Middle East. Israel and the Palestinians blame each other for 11 months of steady violence. In Pakistan, Arafat said he briefed Pakistan's military ruler Pervez Musharraf on the outcome of Tuesday's Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo. "We have very friendly relations with Pakistan," Arafat said at Islamabad airport. "We cannot forget the strong Pakistani support for our cause." Unlike India and China, which both have military links with Israel, Pakistan has no relations with the Jewish state and is an unambiguous supporter of the Palestinians. "He came here to inform us of the recent developments and we expressed our solidarity to the Palestinians, which is based not only on Muslim brotherhood but also because they are just and righteous," said Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar. Fischer visited the West Bank this week on a mission to end the fighting in which almost 700 people, including more than 520 Palestinians and some 150 Israelis, have died since last September after peace talks stalled. "It (a Peres meeting) is a proposal," Arafat told a local television channel on arrival in New Delhi. While he said he was ready to meet at any time, Arafat said the meeting was not yet confirmed.
Link Posted: 8/23/2001 2:48:21 PM EDT
ARAFAT WANTS CHINA INVOLVED Arafat was expected to urge China -- one of the five permanent members of the Security Council and the final stop on Arafat's brief Asian tour -- to play a more active role to help end the Middle East violence. China reiterated a call for "utmost restraint on the part of both Israel and Palestine, and especially Israel," the China Daily quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao as saying. Beijing has been largely even-handed between its old Arab allies and Israel, a key arms supplier. But it has recently condemned Israel's use of force and backed a Palestinian proposal to send international observers to the region, which Israel opposes. Analysts say China wants to be seen taking an active role in the area by keeping in step with world opinion. But some have linked Beijing's recent criticism to Israel's cancellation of the sale to China of a $250 million Phalcon early-warning radar system last year after U.S. pressure. India, where Arafat spent the morning, was an early supporter of the Palestinian cause but has been nurturing closer political and economic ties with Israel. 12:59 08-23-01
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