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China army chief on 'historic' visit to Israel

Aug. 14, 2011 1:22 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 15, 2011 10:56 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- China's army chief was due to arrive in Israel on Sunday for talks with top defense officials, the Israeli military said.

The Israeli army said China's "Chief of the General Staff, General Chen Bingde [...] will meet senior security officials and attend strategic and security briefings, visit the IDF Urban Warfare Training Centre, and observe a display of IDF forces training."

The Israeli military declined to say how long Chen would be in the country.

Israeli army radio, describing the visit as "historic," said Chen was to meet Defense Minister Ehud Barak late on Sunday.

In June, Barak made a rare visit to Beijing for talks with Chinese leaders, at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie.

Defense ties had been frosty after US intervention twice scuttled Israeli arms deals with China: The sale of advanced Phalcon spy planes in 2000 and of spare parts for Israeli-built Harpy drones five years later.

Chen's visit comes as Israel seeks to convince the international community to vote against a bid by the Palestinians for recognition of a state at the UN General Assembly in September.

Israel has in the past also sought tougher measures from Beijing, a key UN Security Council member, against Iran's controversial nuclear program.
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