ISRAELI Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin yesterday urged China to play a greater role in the Middle East peace process, but his call met only with a lukewarm response from Prime Minister Li Peng. In the first formal talks between Chinese and Israeli heads of state, Mr Rabin said ''he would like to see China more involved in the Middle East peace process'', according to Eyal Propper, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wu Jianmin quoted Mr Li as saying that ''the Chinese Government will give positive support to all endeavours and agreements that contribute to a just and reasonable resolution of the Middle East issue''. However, Mr Li's offer of help seemed to fall short of what Mr Rabin expected. ''China's role is quite limited, but we are willing to play our role,'' Mr Li said. Beijing has taken part in Washington and Moscow-brokered Middle East talks, which began in October 1991. Yet, as in other international affairs falling outside its relatively narrow bilateral and regional interests, China has shied away from taking a leadership role in the Middle East peace process. Multilateral talks are scheduled to be held in Beijing at the end of this month on the matter of sharing water resources in the Middle East. Mr Propper said Israel saw China's offer to host one in a series of such meetings as ''very positive''. However, he said that Mr Li yesterday ''didn't offer any kind of new ideas'' with respect to greater Chinese involvement in the peace process. Other than hosting the multilateral talks, ''until now there is nothing that I can mention that China took part in'', Mr Propper said. Mr Li and Mr Rabin spent 100 minutes in talks yesterday, part of which was completely private, with only translators sitting in. Mr Wu and Mr Propper said they did not think military issues had been discussed, despite Israeli and Western concerns about Chinese sales of weapons and nuclear technology in the Middle East. Mr Rabin is the Defence Minister, as well as Prime Minister. Also representing the Israeli military was the head of the Defence Ministry Office. No Chinese military officials were present in the talks between the Chinese and Israeli heads of state yesterday, said Mr Wu. Mr Rabin, speaking of the Middle East peace process, had expressed concern about what he saw as a threat to peace and security posed by Iran and by Islamic fundamentalists, Mr Propper said. In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Israeli Health Minister Haim Ramon yesterday confirmed reports that the largest Muslim faction among Palestinian opponents to the peace talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the fundamentalist Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, was considering joining the process. In Tunis, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat gained an influential ally when Farouk Kadoumi, head of the PLO's political department, set aside misgivings and joined Mr Arafat in urging the Palestine Central Council to endorse the peace accord. Meanwhile, clashes erupted in the Gaza Strip after an Israeli truck crashed into a bus killing three Palestinian workers and injuring 45 other people, police said.