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Arafat Seeks Support From China - 2001-08-24

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says he is ready to begin peace talks with Israel but he says the other side does not seem ready. His comments came between meetings with China's top leaders Friday in Beijing.

China's President Jiang Zemin smiled broadly as he greeted Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat in Beijing. In an earlier meeting, Mr. Arafat embraced the head of the National People's Congress, Li Peng, who returned the gesture.

This is Mr. Arafat's 14th visit to China and the meeting appeared to reinforce the long-standing ties of friendship.

Palestinian officials said Mr. Arafat would press China to play a more active role in ending the current violence in the Middle East.

Beijing is expected to reaffirm support for a Palestinian state and offer financial assistance. On Friday, China again called on the two sides, particularly Israel, to exercise "the utmost restraint" and urged both parties to resume negotiations.

In a brief television interview (on Reuters) Mr. Arafat was asked if the two sides were likely to restart talks. He says the Palestinians are ready "at all times" but said the Israelis "are refusing."

Israel has repeatedly said Mr. Arafat needs to take steps to halt Palestinian terrorist attacks if he wants to resume peace talks.

Mr. Arafat made stops in India and Pakistan on the way to China, trying to boost support for a plan to send international observers to help quell the violence between the Israelis and Palestinians. Israel opposes the plan.

Mr. Arafat is scheduled to finish his visit to China on Saturday.