Japan on Friday came out against Israel’s decision to oust Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, saying the move will only escalate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“Israel’s decision to remove Mr. Arafat came as a huge shock to Japan,” Senior Vice Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told Israel Ambassador to Japan Yitzhak Lior in a hastily arranged meeting.

Motegi also called on Israel to deal with the matter “sensibly and carefully,” saying a forcible removal of Arafat would not bring about a positive result.

Lior answered that Israel believes it would be difficult to establish peace if Arafat remains in power.

“We hope Japan will use its influence (to persuade) the Palestinian side as well” to prevent further terrorist activities, Lior was quoted as saying by a Japanese official.

Japan will deliver a similar message to the Palestinians through various diplomatic channels, the official said.

Earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda also voiced opposition to Israel’s plan to depose Arafat, noting that he was elected as Palestinian leader.

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