South Africa's Prime Minister, Mr. John Vorster, began a four-day visit to Israel on Friday?
South Africa's Prime Minister, Mr. John Vorster, began a four-day visit to Israel on Friday (9 April), amid some of the strictest security seen in country, and speculation about a possible arms deal between the two countries.
Mr. Vorster is accompanied by his wife and the Foreign Minister, Dr. Hilgard Muller. His visit is the first by a South African premier for almost 25 years.
Reporters have been asked not to publish details of his timetable for security reasons and Reuters News agency correspondent says it is understood the increased security precautions were taken at South Africa's request.
During his visit Mr. Vorster is to meet several top Israel ministers and officials. Reports from South Africa suggest a possible weapons deal under which Israel would supply its Kfir (Lion Cub) jet fighters and, perhaps, anti-insurgency arms. But officials have declined to comment on these reports and Mr. Vorster told reporters he would not be discussing any arms deals.
South Africa and Israel only recently promoted their diplomatic representation to ambassadorial level. South Africa was one of the first countries to recognise Israel when it was established in 1948, but she was reluctant for many years to establish a full-scale diplomatic mission, partly because of Israel's links with Black African states.
There was also some misgivings among Israelis about being too closely linked with a country whose apartheid policies were condemned by the United Nations and other international bodies.
However, trade between the two countries has risen steadily and there has been substantial tourist traffic from South Africa to Israel.
On Friday, Mr. Vorster visited the Yad Vashem memorial to the six million Jews killed by the Nazis, and he laid a wreath for concentration camp victims. He said: I cannot understand how that tragedy happened. I feel what you have built here is Israel is the answer to that holocaust."
His party also visited the Church of the Nativity, traditionally the place where infant Jesus lay in a manager. They were accompanied by Bethlehem's Christian Mayor, Mr. Elias Freij.
Mr. Vorster later had talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who issued the invitation for his visit.
SYNOPSIS: South Africa's Prime Minister, John Vorster, arrived in Israel for a four-day visit on Friday, amid speculation of a possible arms deal between the two countries. One of his first stops was at the Yad Vashem memorial to the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.
Mr. Vorster laid a wreath for the concentration camp victims. He said he could not understand now that tragedy had happened. "I feel what you have built here in Israel is the answer to the holocaust," he said.
Mr. Vorster's visit is the first by a South African premier for almost 25 years.
He and his party later visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, traditionally the palace where the infant Jesus lay in a manager. His party was greeted by the city's Christian Mayor, Mr. Elias Freij.
Probably the strict security measures ever seen in Israel are in force for Mr. Vorster's visit and Reuters news agency says It's understood the extra precautions have been taken at the request of South Africa. Reporters have been asked to withhold, publication of the details of Mr. Vorster's itinerary for security reasons.
The invitation for the South African leader's visit came from his Israeli counterpart, Yitzhak Rabin, seen here arriving at his Jerusalem residence for talks with Mr. Vorster. Reporters from South Africa suggest a possible weapons deal between the two countries. Under this, Israel would supply its Kfir or lion Cub jet fighters and possibly anti-insurgency weapons..Mr. Vorster has denied this.
When he met top officials on Friday, no agenda was set down for the talks and officials said it was unlikely that details of the discussions would be released.
South Africa and Israel only recently promoted their diplomatic representation to ambassadorial level. Both were reluctant to establish full-scale missions, but trade and tourist traffic has grown steadily in recent years. Several former South Africans have held leading posts in the Israeli administration.