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EU set to lift ban on arms sales to China
Updated: 2004-04-15 10:24

The European Union may lift its ban on arms sales to China this month, officials in Brussels said April 14.

EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin said EU governments have discussed an end to the ban several times in recent months.

EU foreign ministers will "likely" make a final decision on April 26, she said.

The foreign ministers meet in Ireland next weekend with their Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, as part of an EU-Asia meeting.

The arms embargo is not on the official agenda, but Ireland, current holder of the EU presidency, says they will cover "international and regional issues of common concern."

France and Germany are the key proponents of lifting the ban, which keeps China from buying cutting-edge weapons like French Mirage jets and stealthy German submarines.

European arms makers are keen to supply the fast modernizing military of China, the EU's second biggest trade partner after the United States.

European Commission President Romano Prodi met Chinese leaders in Beijing yesterday.

"China is now our second largest trading partner," Prodi said in his speech.

"On present trends, the EU will very soon occupy a similar place in China's own trading hierarchy. Not much longer after that, it will probably be China's first partner."

Chinese President Hu Jintao told Prodi China is ready to strengthen consultation and coordination with the EU on important international and regional issues.

Hu said China is willing to expand mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the EU, adding that the two sides should join hands to contribute to world peace, stability and development.

He said that thanks to joint efforts of the two sides, the Sino-EU relationship has grown rapidly.

The two sides made an important decision to set up a strategic partnership last year, setting clear direction for the development of Sino-EU relations in the new century.

He said China supports the enlargement and integration of the EU and hopes it will play a bigger role in international affairs.

Prodi said EU-China relations have never been so good.

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