KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat won a statement of support from China's president before traveling Saturday to Malaysia, the latest stop on his whirlwind Asian tour.
In Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, Arafat blamed Israel for the latest round of Middle East violence, accusing the Israel of attacking his people with gas bombs, fighter planes and tanks and laying "a siege" over Palestinian settlements.
"All these American weapons are being used against ... our women, our children, our villages and towns," he said.
More than 580 Palestinians and 150 Israelis have been killed in the 11 months of violence. Israel has said repeatedly that it holds Arafat and his security forces responsible for terrorist attacks because they have not reined in militants who stage them.
On Friday, facing the threat of a U.S. veto at the United Nations, the Palestinians failed for the third time in less than a year to get a Security Council resolution condemning Israel and sending monitors to the Middle East. Arafat's tour was intended to drum up support for an international observer force, he said at a news conference after meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Earlier, in Beijing, Chinese President Jiang Zemin expressed unwavering support for the Palestinians. He told Arafat that observers should be sent to the Middle East to help shepherd the region toward peace, official Chinese media reported Saturday.
"The Chinese people will always stand on the side of the Palestinians' just cause," Jiang told Arafat on Friday, according to Xinhua News Agency. It described the meeting as "warm and friendly."
China, a longtime supporter of the Palestinian cause, initiated the idea for Arafat's visit, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said. Arafat last visited China in August 2000, just days before Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Arafat was scheduled to leave for Bangladesh later Saturday. He has also visited Pakistan and India during his trip.
Meanwhile, in Israel, members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, expressed surprise this week at learning China had canceled a planned visit by a Knesset delegation to Beijing early next month. They were told that the Chinese would be "too busy," the Jerusalem Post reported on its Web site Friday.
The Chinese Embassy in Jerusalem said the postponement was not connected to the political situation in the Middle East.
"We have no problem with Israel," spokesman Qi Qianjin told the Post.
A year ago, Israel offered the Palestinians a state in Gaza and most of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem. But the Palestinians held out for more, especially the right of millions of Arab refugees and descendants to return to homes they lost in Israel. Fighting broke out in late September.