Thu, Mar 24, 2005 - Page 1 News List

France refuses to budge on arms sales


The Bush administration renewed its request Tuesday that European allies maintain an arms embargo on weapons sales to China. While divided European leaders took no immediate action, a top French diplomat signaled there would be no retreat.

"What we had in mind was to do it at the end of June, and so far nothing has been changed," French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte said after a speech at Yale University.

In the speech, the ambassador said France remained committed to lifting the ban on weapons sales to China.

"It makes sense to lift an embargo which is obviously outdated," Levitte said.

The diplomat said he hoped the issue would not divide the US and Europe as the war in Iraq did two years ago.

As the 25-nation EU marked time in Brussels, Belgium, French President Jacques Chirac declined to give ground in a public dispute with the Bush administration.

Chirac told the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun that ``what the Europeans want to is to normalize their relations with China.''

Casting any decision to lift the 16-year embargo in symbolic terms, the French president said "the Europeans have no intention of engaging in an armaments exportation policy toward China."

Sale of lethal weapons already has been ruled out, and only such items as helicopters might be sold, said European diplomatic sources in Washington on condition of anonymity.

The tug-of-war between the US and the Europeans led by France and Germany has run counter to a basic improvement in transatlantic relations.

For months, the administration has insisted that European weapons could be turned against Taiwan if China attempted to use force against the democratic country.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said Tuesday "the arms embargo against China is political discrimination, which is not in line with today's reality."

US Department of State deputy spokesman Adam Ereli, applying a bit of pressure, said "we do not think the time is right for lifting the arms embargo against China."

also see story:

Lifting weapons ban on China could spark Asian arms race

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