TEL AVIV, Israel -- Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir flew Sunday to Togo to begin a weeklong round of visits aimed at strengthening newly restored relations between Israel and a number of African states.
Shamir's first stop in Lome, the Togolese capital, was added to the prime minister's itinerary just last week, when the West African state announced it would restore diplomatic ties with Israel after a 14-year lapse.
'Togo only decided in the last few days to renew its diplomatic relations with us,' Shamir said before departing from Ben Gurion airport, 'and in my discussions with the president and his ministers we will together decide about the shape and character of renewed relations.'
The president of Togo, a country of 2.9 million people that is slightly smaller than West Virginia, is Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema.
The weeklong trip also will take Shamir to Cameroon and Liberia, where he hopes to 'strengthen our ties in the political and economic arenas.'
Israel provides economic and agricultural assistance to many African countries and Shamir was accompanied on his trip by both economic consultants and private businessman.
Shamir said a stop in Zaire was scrapped after officials failed to agree on a meeting date.
'Because of internal African issues in Zaire, we did not succeed in establishing a date for a visit,' he said. 'But we, President Mobutu (Sese Seko) and I together, decided to hold the visit at a later date.'
Togo on Tuesday became the fifth African nation in five years to restore relations with Israel.
The other four were Cameroon, in August 1986; the Ivory Coast, in February 1986; Liberia, in August 1983; and Zaire, in May 1982. Some 29 African states cut ties with Israel after the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars.
'Since 1980 we have made efforts to renew ties with African states,' Shamir said. 'My visit today is within this framework.'
Asked if he would make a surprise visit to a fourth nation, he said, 'Perhaps there will be other possibilities during my visit for enlarging relations with African countries. But for the moment I can't say anything about it.'
Shamir, in an earlier interview with the newspaper Yediot Ahronot, said, 'The main purpose of my visit is to consolidate our entry into Africa and to inject momentum into our political relations with countries on the black continent.
'The visit to Togo is a new breakthrough for Israeli diplomacy,' he said.