Beijing says Olmert will visit next week

Meeting follows earlier tensions stemmed from China's invitation of Hamas FM.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will visit China next week to mark the 15-year anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties and to discuss the situation in the Middle East, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday. Olmert will meet Chinese leaders in Beijing during his Jan. 9-11 trip to "exchange views in an in-depth way on the Mideast situation," ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a regular briefing, but did not give any details. "The Chinese and Israeli people share profound friendship," Liu said. "We hope this visit could further deepen our profound friendship and promote the development of bilateral relations and cooperation." Olmert will also attend a concert marking the anniversary, he said. Ties were strained last year after China invited the foreign minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority to attend a conference on China-Arab relations in Beijing. While China has growing economic and political ties in the Middle East, it has no direct stake in the tensions. But Beijing is eager to promote an image as a major power with global influence.