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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
Arafat seeks Asian support
Arafat and Vajpayee
Mr Arafat greets the Indian prime minister
The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has begun a tour of Asia aimed at bolstering support against Israel.

He is briefly visiting India and Pakistan on Thursday, before moving on to China.


[We call for]...utmost restraint on the part of both Israel and Palestine, and especially Israel

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman
In India, he met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and President KR Narayanan to seek their support internationally, especially in the United Nations.

India is a long-standing supporter of the Palestinian cause, but in recent years has also sought better relations with Israel, and backs an international solution to the Middle East conflict.

Mr Arafat will also briefly stop over in Islamabad, where he will meet the Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistan does not recognise the state of Israel, and is a loyal backer of the Palestinians.

But Mr Arafat's main target is China, where he arrives on Thursday evening.

Caution

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China's support is crucial for the Palestinians.

Palestinian woman with Israeli soldier
Daily tensions continue on the West Bank

China has always been cautious in its approach to the Middle East question.

It is friendly with the Arab states, but Israel remains a key arms supplier.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry is quoted as calling for "utmost restraint on the part of both Israel and Palestine, and especially Israel," in the runup to Mr Arafat's visit.

Mr Arafat hopes China will use its influence in the UN to condemn the recent occupation by Israel of Orient House, the unofficial Palestinian headquarters in east Jerusalem.

Mr Arafat arrived in India from an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo.

Boycott

The ministers gave only limited support to the Palestinians.

They condemned Israeli aggression, and spoke of reactivating an Arab boycott of Israeli products, but came up with no fresh initiatives for resolving the conflict.

On his arrival in India, Mr Arafat said he was willing to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to discuss ways to end the 11-month upsurge in violence, but was waiting for a response from German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who had originally proposed the idea.

Almost 700 people, more than 520 Palestinians and some 150 Israelis, have been killed since September 2000.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Duncan Hewitt
"China is a long-term ally of the Palestinian leader"
See also:

11 Aug 01 | Middle East
Arafat seeks support over Jerusalem
11 Aug 01 | Middle East
Furious demo over Palestinian HQ
02 Aug 01 | Middle East
Arafat lobbies Italy for observers
Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


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