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Jewish State Welcomes Visit from Japanese Prime Minister

Japanese Prime Minister Tommichi Murayama visited Israel this week as part of a tour of the Middle East aimed at increasing Tokyo’s role in the regional peace process.

Murayama, the first Japanese prime minister to visit the Jewish state, told his Israeli hosts Sunday that his country would open a trade promotion office in Israel.

The move was welcomed by Israeli officials, who said it signaled that Japan was no longer honoring the Arab boycott. For years, Japan adhered to the boycott for fear of endangering its oil supply.

Murayama later held a 90-minute meeting with Prime Minister to visit the Jewish state, told his Israeli hosts Sunday that his country would open a trade promotion office in Israel.

The move was welcomed by Israeli officials, who said it signaled that Japan was no longer honoring the Arab boycott. For years, Japan adhered to the boycott for fear of endangering its oil supply.

Murayama later held a 90-minute meeting with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who briefed him on the Middle East peace process.

While in Jerusalem, Murayama also paid a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, where he wrote in the visitors book that he hoped that such horrors never reoccur.

On Monday, Murayama traveled to the Gaza Strip for a meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.

During the meeting with Arafat, Murayama pledged $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority.

He also said Japanese observers would help monitor Palestinian elections, to be held after self-rule is extended in the West Bank.

Later Monday, Murayama arrived in Jordan for what was the last stop of his Middle East tour, which also included visits to Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Murayama told his Jordanian hosts that Japan planned to participate actively in the regional economic summit, scheduled to start in Amman on Oct. 29.

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