Fri, Apr 22, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Annexation of Taiwan? `Oui,' says PM

LIBERTY FOR SOME Jean-Pierre Raffarin praised Beijing for becoming a 'nation respected and at peace with its neighbors,' and China replied with a lucrative contract

AFP , BEIJING

France threw its support yesterday behind China's "Anti-Secession" Law while vowing to keep pushing for an end to the EU arms embargo on China.

On a three-day visit to China, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said Paris had no objections to the law, appearing to put it at odds with the EU.

"The Anti-Secession Law is completely compatible with the position of France," he said at a joint press conference with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶).

At the same time, he vowed that his government would continue to push for the lifting of what he called the "anachronistic" and "discriminatory" arms embargo against China.

The EU has made clear it is opposed to any use of force between China and Taiwan and has warned against "any unilateral action."

The timing of the ban's lifting is in doubt because of current difficulties in Beijing's relations with not just Taiwan but also Japan, which has been the target of widespread recent protests in China over its wartime past.

The US has warned that removing the embargo would upset the balance of power in the region.

"France continues to require the lifting of the embargo and does not see what could lead the European Council to change its position on the subject," he said.

He earlier told Xinhua News Agency that China was becoming a "responsible, great nation" and the arms ban in place since the crushing of democracy campaigners in 1989 was outdated.

"This measure is anachronistic, wrongfully discriminatory and in complete contradiction of the current state of the strategic partnership between Europe and China," he said, according to a transcript. "France believes that the transition in progress will leave China even stronger and responsible, a great nation respected and at peace with its neighbors, a new focus of stability on the international scene."

France has been accused of seeking to curry favor with Beijing by spearheading the drive to end the arms ban, as it pursues new opportunities in the world's fastest growing major economy.

Its efforts paid off yesterday with the Toulouse-based Airbus signing orders for 10 new planes worth between US$500 million and US$600 million with Chinese airlines.

Another key concern of the EU as it considers the arms embargo is China's human-rights record, which it has asked to be improved.

At the joint press conference with Raffarin, Wen insisted China had made progress and was working towards ratifying a UN convention on the issue.

"We are making efforts to be able to ratify it as soon as possible," he said.

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