Abbas to meet China's leaders
BEIJING - Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas is to meet China's top leaders, angling for financial assistance ahead of July elections in which he said radical Islamist movement Hamas would be welcome to participate.
Abbas, who is in Beijing for a two-day visit, earlier told reporters he could even contemplate a role for the group in a future Palestinian Cabinet, depending on the support it would get from the voters.
"If they would like to participate in political life, and if they win enough seats in the legislative election, they're welcome to participate, even in the future government," Abbas told reporters in Beijing late Tuesday.
Abbas, on a tour of Asia, was scheduled to meet with State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, a former foreign minister who is among the Chinese diplomats most intimately involved in the Middle East peace process.
Later Wednesday, he was to have talks with President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
Abbas had told the Xinhua news agency in an interview prior to his arrival that he hoped China could contribute more to settling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
"As a great country with principles and a long history which holds a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, China can play a bigger and more important role in the Mideast peace process," he told Xinhua.
Shortly after his arrival in China, Abbas sought to put an end to uncertainty that had recently emerged on the July election.
An Abbas aide last week raised the idea of postponing the July legislative elections amid fears in the Palestinians' ruling Fatah party that Hamas could capitalize on recent local poll successes.
However, Abbas Tuesday ruled out any change in the timetable.
"It will go on as scheduled. There is no reason to delay the election. It will be on time," he said.
Israel has said a Hamas victory could make it re-think its planned pullout from the Gaza Strip.
Abbas flew in from Japan where he secured a pledge from Tokyo to provide 100 million dollars in aid.
When asked if he hoped for assistance from China as well, he said Tuesday that "China had always fulfilled its promises to the Palestinians."
Meanwhile, ranking members of his delegation were scheduled to meet Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai, according to the Palestinian embassy in Beijing.
At the end of Wednesday's meetings, Abbas was to sign contracts with his Chinese hosts on economic cooperation, the embassy said.
Currently, economic ties mainly take the form of Chinese exports to Palestinian territories, according to Chinese state media.
China established diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority in 1988.
Abbas leaves Thursday, and is scheduled to move on to Pakistan and India, according to earlier reports.