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Lottie

EU Will Not Lift China Arms Ban

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The European Union has said it is not ready to lift its 15-year-old arms embargo on China.

A spokeswoman said there were still concerns about China's commitment to human rights.

But a joint EU-China statement, issued following talks in The Hague, said Beijing welcomed a European pledge to work towards lifting the ban.

China's Premier Wen Jiabao has described the ban as "a product of the Cold War" and out of date.

The arms ban, which was imposed after China's bloody crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square, has dominated the build-up to the EU talks.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac have both made very public calls for the embargo to be lifted.

But the US and some other EU countries want the ban to remain in place.

Washington is concerned that arms and related technology sold to China by the EU could be used against the US's ally Taiwan, and risk sucking the US into a regional conflict.

Human rights

"The EU side confirmed its political will to continue to work towards lifting the embargo. The Chinese side welcomed the positive signal," the EU and China said in a joint statement issued after Wednesday's meeting.

Bernard Bot, Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, earlier warned that the issue was not yet resolved.

"We are working assiduously but... the time is not right to lift the embargo," he said.

He said he hoped the ban would be lifted next year.

EU spokeswoman Francoise le Bail said China's commitment to human rights was still an issue.

"We continue to be concerned about civil rights, freedom of expression, and we appeal to China to abide by the internationally agreed standards in terms of human rights," she said.

'Normalising ties'

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has been leading the Chinese delegation at the talks, which also focussed on trade and investment issues.

He said the key to developing EU-China ties lay with mutual trust and understanding.

The current ban "does not reflect the partnership between China and the EU," he said after the meeting.

The BBC's Diplomatic Correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, says advocates of lifting the ban say they do not expect a flood of weapons sales to result.

The move is about normalising the EU's valuable relationship with China.

But such arguments do not carry much weight in Washington, our correspondent adds.

The US fears that Chinese access to defence technology such as radar and communications equipment - rather than European weaponry - could alter the balance of power in Asia, and across the Taiwan Strait.

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EU Will Not Lift China Arms Ban

Why? Should we? rolleyes.gif

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