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China invites Hamas leader to Beijing

It would be the first China-Arab forum, signalling recognition of the Hamas-led government, boycotted by Western powers.

india Updated: May 17, 2006 15:26 IST

China on Wednesday said it has invited Palestinian foreign minister and senior Hamas leader Mahmud al-Zahar to visit Beijing to attend the first China-Arab forum, signalling recognition of the Hamas-led government, boycotted by Western powers.

"We have extended the invitation to all the Arab countries. Foreign minister Zahar of Palestine will attend the meeting," the director general of the Chinese foreign ministry's West Asian and North African division, Zhai Jun told reporters.

Zhai said Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing would meet with Zahar, who will be attending the China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Beijing on May 31 and June 1.

The visit will be the first to China by a Hamas leader since the militant Islamic movement formed a government after winning Palestinian elections in January, defeating the Palestine Liberation Organisation led by late Yasser Arafat.

China will become the second United Nations Security Council member after Russia to host a Hamas leader since the Palestinian elections.

The United States and the European Union regard Hamas as a terrorist outfit and have frozen aid to the Palestinian Authority over its failure to renounce violence and recognise Israel's right to exist.