12/03/2004, 00.00
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Arms sales ban at the centre of China-EU talks

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The EU's ban on arms sales to China will be the main topic at next week high-profile diplomatic talks between China and Europe. China's Foreign Ministry said however it was not prepared to make a deal on human rights.

The EU imposed the ban after the 1989 bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.

The issue is likely to be raised when German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visits Beijing next week and when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits the Netherlands for a China-EU summit.

"China stands firm against pegging the lifting of the ban to human rights issues. China's progress on human rights over the years is for all to see," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said.

"This is a serious political issue. It is not for the Chinese side to make any concessions," she added.

The issue is never the less likely to be on the agenda when Mr Schroeder starts his visit on Monday.  "Of course, during these meetings, the two sides will also touch upon some problems between China and Europe, including the early lifting of the EU arms embargo," Ms Zhang said.

Last week, Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said the EU was ready to give a 'positive signal' on dropping the ban on arms sales at the UE-China summit. However, he said "there remain a number of concerns", including human rights abuses.

Germany and France want an end to the embargo to open trade opportunities with China. But the United Kingdom has said that such a decision could give the impression that for the EU trade and economic relations have priority over democracy and human rights.

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