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China Urges Bigger UN Role in Mideast Peace Process - 2003-05-28

China's special envoy to the Middle East is calling on the United Nations to play a bigger role in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. China says it may host a peace conference to help make that happen.

Ambassador Wang Shijie says bringing China and the other four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council together on Middle East issues could move the peace process forward. Mr. Wang said they should be joined by all "concerned parties" at a conference as soon as possible.

He spoke Wednesday in Beijing after his recent talks in the Middle East with Israeli and Palestinians officials.

In those talks, Mr. Wang urged the Palestinians to take "concrete actions" to stop attacks against Israeli civilians.

Beijing also pushed Israel to stop military action against Palestinians and help the Palestinian government cope with severe unemployment and poverty.

The Chinese envoy thinks that both sides recognize the futility of the cycle of violence and revenge that has killed more than 2,000 people on both sides in the past 32 months.

Ambassador Wang said his trip left him optimistic that peace can come to the Middle East because Israel has accepted the so-called road map that lays out a process to make peace. The road map was drafted by the United Nations, European Union, Russia and the United States. Mr. Wang repeated that China also backs the plan.

But he also says the path to peace will be a "long and bumpy one."

China has gradually been trying to take a greater role in international diplomacy, organizing meetings and communicating between opposing parties in several parts of the world.

China's efforts come as Jordan plans to host a summit meeting between President Bush and the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers. They are expected to discuss the peace plan.

Israel's cabinet conditionally approved the road map plan on Sunday. It calls for a Palestinian state by the end of 2005.