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Tuesday, 15 August, 2000, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Israel looks east for help
Mr Peres [L] and Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono
Mr Peres [L] asked Japan to help stall Mr Arafat
Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has asked Japan to help persuade Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to postpone his deadline for declaring an independent state.

Mr Arafat in Vietnam
Mr Arafat pressed his case in Vietnam
He told Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori that peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians may break down if Mr Arafat insists on declaring statehood on 13 September, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Mr Peres's plea came as Mr Arafat continued his own whirlwind tour of the region trying to bolster support for the Palestinian position.

He is due in Japan on Thursday to present the Palestinian position on the collapse of last month's US-brokered Middle East peace talks.

On Monday, Mr Arafat won the backing of Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Mr Arafat has made ambigious remarks about the deadline
Mr Jiang was quoted saying China supported the Palestinians' right to self-determination.

But Mr Peres, Israel's minister of regional co-operation, is following close on Mr Arafat's heels.

He is due to arrive in Beijing on Wednesday to present the Israeli view.

China has long been a supporter of Mr Arafat. It was the first major power to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1988.

But Beijing is building increasingly warm ties with Israel, particularly in the area of defence.

Ambiguous

Mr Arafat has given conflicting signals on whether he will actually declare a Palestinian state on 13 September as he has threatened.

His tour continued on Tuesday with a trip to Vietnam, which has long supported the establishment of a Palestinian state.

But while in Hanoi, Mr Arafat said a final decision had still to be taken over the plan to declare statehood.

He has now flown to Malaysia, one of the most vocal supporters of the Palestinian cause.

Talks between Mr Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David collapsed in July, in part due to differences over the status of Jerusalem, which each side claims as its capital.

During the talks between Israel and Japan, Mr Mori reportedly told Mr Peres he hoped both sides would resume negotiations before the deadline.

"Mr Peres asked Prime Minister Mori to tell Arafat that he had better wait for a while, rather than making a decision that could lead to conflict," a Japanese foreign ministry official said.

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See also:

14 Aug 00 | Middle East
Arafat wins Chinese support
13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
China anger over US 'interference'
03 Apr 00 | Middle East
US anger at Israeli arms sales
11 Apr 00 | Middle East
Chinese president heads for Israel
12 Apr 00 | Background
Analysis: The China connection
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