Zaire, Long a Friend of Israel, May Recognize Palestinian State

Zaire, the first African nation to break a 10-year diplomatic freeze with Israel, may soon recognize the independent Palestinian state proclaimed by Yasir Arafat in Algiers last month.

AZAP, the official news agency of Zaire, reported a meeting in the capital Kinshasa last Thursday between President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Saiman el-Herfi, identified as a special emissary of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Arafat.

The dispatch quoted the Palestinian envoy as saying the Zaire government will soon make an announcement of formal recognition.

Arafat declared an independent Palestinian state on Nov. 15 at the meeting of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s legislative body, in Algiers.

Zaire, one of the largest and most important nations of Africa, was among the 20-odd African states that severed diplomatic ties with Israel during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, in a gesture of solidarity with Egypt.

In 1983, it took the lead in restoring ties with Israel. Several other black African countries soon followed Zaire’s example.

Mobutu, who holds the rank of marshall, has personal ties with Israel, He received his military training from the Israel Defense Force, His special presidential guard is staffed by IDF officers.

There is a small but commercially important Jewish community in Zaire, mainly in Kinshasa. Zaire was formerly Belgian Congo.

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