China is "strongly condemning" Israel's siege of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's headquarters, and urging both sides to stop the violence and start negotiations.
Jiang Qiyue, speaking for China's Foreign Ministry, said Beijing is "greatly concerned" about escalating violence in the Middle East. She said force will only intensify hatred between the two sides, and she urged them to begin talks.
She said Mr. Arafat was wise to urge Palestinians to stop the suicide bombings that have killed many Israelis and Palestinians. She also urged the Palestinians to heed the call for peace and told the Israelis to listen to the international community's plea to stop the bloodshed.
China's comments follow a U.N. Security Council vote calling for Israel to end its siege of the Palestinian headquarters.
China is one of five U.N. members to hold veto power in the Security Council, so Beijing's words carry considerable weight in such debates.
Ms. Jiang also said China would study a possible U.N. resolution by the United States and Britain to allow the use of force against Iraq if Baghdad does not allow U.N. weapons inspectors back in.
Washington and Baghdad are locked in a standoff over allegations that Iraq is developing nuclear, chemical and germ weapons. The United Nations ordered Iraq to give up its weapons programs after the Gulf War, but U.N. weapons inspectors say Iraq did not allow them to carry out full inspections. Iraq denies it has any such devices.