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EU mulling to lift arms embargo against China by 2011

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LONDON (PTI): European Union may lift its arms embargo clamped on China in 1989 in the wake of Tiananmen Square crackdown, by early 2011, providing a big boost to the Chinese military which is currently embarked on producing 5th generation fighters and long-range cruise missiles.

The lifting of the embargo on transfer of all lethal weapon technology “could happen very soon,” French daily Le Figaro reported quoting sources close to the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The paper said the issue was raised at the last EU Summit on December 17 and in a confidential presentation major EU powers felt that the embargo may have outlived its purpose.

The report described the embargo as a “major obstacle” to the Euro-Chinese ties and advocated a “move forward”, indicating that the lifting of sanctions could be round the corner.

The EU noted that China had grown 15 times richer than in 1989 and was copying and improving the newest Russian fighter bombers and would soon be in a position to challenge US aircraft carriers in the Pacific by deploying indigenous long-range attack missiles.

France and Spain have long campaigned for an end to the embargo. But, Le Figaro said now Netherlands, UK and to an extent Germany had lowered their opposition. The sanctions prohibit sale and transfer of weapons technology to China.

Other members mooted the idea of making conditional the lifting of sanctions to link it with Beijing improving its ties with Taiwan, amnesty for those arrested in Tiananmen Square crackdown and the calender for the ratification of the convention on civil and political rights.

“The embargo on lethal weapons, imposed by EU shortly after the US, has lost over the years its practical justification,” Le Figaro said quoting top level EU sources.

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