EU ends arms trade ban with Libya

The EU's foreign ministers yesterday end 18 years of restrictions on trade and weapons sales to Libya, and moved closer to easing a ban on arms exports to China.

At a meeting in Luxembourg the EU effectively normalised relations with Tripoli, removing a moratorium on arms sales imposed in 1986, and repealing trade sanctions that had already been suspended.

They also came closer to accepting calls from Paris to axe a 15-year-old arms embargo imposed on China after the bloody repression against pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

Under pressure from Washington, which wants the EU to keep the ban, Britain was one of those that helped stall an immediate move to lift the embargo. However the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, went further than before by declaring publicly that he is not opposed in principle. "We are not in any sense quote 'against' the lifting of the embargo," Mr Straw said in Luxembourg yesterday, "but it has got to be done in a proper and sensible way and that is the process which has been agreed by the whole of the European Union."

Privately the Foreign Office increasingly resents the interference from Washington but accepts the need to stall on lifting the embargo on China in the run-up to the US presidential elections next month. One British source argued: "It is completely illogical for the US to put pressure on the EU when Israel is the second largest provider of arms into China. It is on shaky foundations in giving orders to Europe not to consider lifting the embargo."

An EU diplomat added: "The British were never opposed fundamentally but they have been subjected to such pressure from the US that they are very cautious."

The French president, Jacques Chirac, has called for an end to the embargo during a visit to Bejing in which he signed commercial contracts worth €4bn. France sees China as an important strategic partner and believes that it should not be left in the category of the handful of countries, like Burma and Zimbabwe, that have specific measures against them.

One of the arguments in favour of caution is that the EU is trying to tighten a code of conduct governing all arms sales, which would still apply to Bejing if the embargo is lifted.

In Luxembourg France's European affairs minister, Claudie Haigneré said that policy was evolving and that a "positive signal" could be sent to Bejing when at December's EU-China summit.

Bernard Bot, foreign minister of the Netherlands which holds the EU presidency added: "It's clear that we need more time to consider the situation, but we hope to be able to indicate a positive orientation towards the lifting."

Mr Bot said there was no formal link between a lifting of the arms deal and an improvement in human rights. At the same time he argued that the release of the last of those imprisoned following Tianamen Square would be well received as a "gesture of goodwill".

The decision to normalise relations with Libya followed pressure from Italy which wants to provide Tripoli with equipment to to patrol its coastline and catch the hundreds of illegal migrants who try to reach Europe by sea each month . The US lifted its trade embargo on Libya last month.

The EU and the US imposed sanctions on Libya in 1986 in retaliation for what they saw as Libyan support for terrorist groups. The US lifted its trade embargo on Libya last month.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why