China denies Hamas leader to visit
BEIJING, Apr 6: China today denied it planned to host a visit by Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, contradicting an earlier announcement by the senior Hamas leader himself.
Israel and the United States have been trying to isolate Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in January and formally took control of the Palestinian Authority last week.
Hamas refuses to recognise Israel and has vowed to destroy the nation.
Al-Zahar met with the director of China's Office to the Palestinian National Authority, Yang Weiguo, on Tuesday, and announced plans to visit China and other East Asian countries next month.
But a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry denied any such plans and said the announcement might have been due to some ''confusing, unclear and inaccurate information''.
''As far as I know, there are no such arrangements for Foreign Minister al-Zahar to lead a Hamas delegation to visit China,'' the spokesman, Liu Jianchao, told a regular news conference in Beijing.
The Foreign Ministry said in a faxed statement that Yang, the Chinese diplomat, had told al-Zahar Beijing hopes to maintain ''friendly relations'' with the Palestinian Authority but it also wants the new Hamas government to ''take positive steps'' to promote peace.