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US pressing EU to uphold arms embargo against China
( 2004-01-31 16:20) (chinadaily.com.cn)

The Bush administration has quietly lodged a series of formal protests with the European Union and its members in an attempt to persuade the body not to lift its 14-year ban on weapons trade with China, the Washington Post reported.

According to the report, diplomats from several European countries confirmed the news.

Earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said the EU arms embargo on China was a product of the Cold War era and should be lifted.

The embargo hampered cooperation between China and EU members, said Zhang.

In a meeting on Monday, the EU's council of foreign ministers assigned two high-level committees to conduct a review on the embargo.

A unanimous decision by the council is necessary to lift the embargo. With France and Germany having already sided with China. the Dutch government announced Friday it favored ending the embargo, in a sign of the growing consensus.

French President Jacques Chirac told his Chinese counterpart President Hu Jintao in Paris on Tuesday that the 15-year-long embargo,slapped on China after 1989 "makes no more sense today." Chirac said he hoped the ban on Beijing would be scrapped "in the coming months".

However, the United States, which imposed a similar ban in 1989, said it opposed the lifting of the ban, and told Europe that ending the embargo would send the wrong signal to the Chinese government, said the Washington Post report. 

"We believe that the U.S. and European prohibitions on arms sales are complementary, were imposed for the same reasons, specifically serious human rights abuses, and that those reasons remain valid today," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters this week.

U.S. officials have also argued that the transfer of European military technology to China could pose a threat to U.S. security, European diplomats said.

The diplomats added though China still have some human rights problems, many European governments believe it has made enough progress that it no longer belongs with the other nations under the EU arms embargo.

The EU is China's third-largest trade partner. In a strategy paper released in October, China said it expected the EU to become its leading trade partner and largest source of foreign investment within five years.

No decision is expected from the EU until at least April.

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