EU keeps China arms embargo

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The Independent Online

The European Union has ruled out an early end to its 15-year arms embargo against Beijing as it seeks to head off a damaging row with Washington over its ties with China.

The European Union has ruled out an early end to its 15-year arms embargo against Beijing as it seeks to head off a damaging row with Washington over its ties with China.

France has led calls for a relaxation of the ban, which was applied after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. The United States is strongly opposed to the move, arguing that any weakening would increase pressure on it to follow suit.

Last month, Britain sided with the US in opposing a French call for a swift end to the embargo. Since last December, London has supported the idea of reviewing the law and made clear it could throw its weight behind a lifting of the ban given sufficient safeguards. After the French failed to get an instant lifting of the ban, they agree to the detailed review.

Supported by Germany, France says the embargo singles out the Chinese when other nations have worse human rights records. It also points out that a code of conduct on arms sales would mean that no lethal weaponry would be sent to Beijing even if the ban is lifted. The study by EU states is examining the code of conduct to see whether it needs tightening. One diplomat said: "The political readiness to make the gesture [to lift the embargo] has to be ripe and it is clearly not that moment now." No timetable has been laid down for the review, but one official said it is "not moving at the speed of light".

Several countries are pressing the Chinese to make human rights concessions first. And the UK is suspicious of France's efforts to rush through an end to the embargo. London believes Paris attempting to position itself as China's closest ally.

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