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TAIWAN ELECTION PREVENTS QUICK E.U. REMOVAL OF ARMS EMBARGO ON CHINA

2004-03-12 15:56:32

    Paris, March 11 (CNA) The Commission of the European Union feels that as Taiwan's presidential election is approaching, the E.U. cannot make a formal decision in its upcoming summit meeting to remove an arms sales embargo on mainland China, an influential French newspaper reported Thursday.

    The European Council, the E.U.'s highest decision-making body that groups the heads of state and governments of the fifteen E.U. countries, is scheduled to hold a summit meeting March 25-26 to discuss whether the E.U. should remove its embargo on arms sales to Beijing.

    According to Le Monde newspaper, Beijing has urged European countries and the E.U. to lift the embargo in place since Beijing's 1989 massacre of pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square.

    The newspaper also said that the E.U. issued a code of conduct in 1998 to regulate its members' arms sales as well as high-tech transfers to third countries, and that removing the embargo does not mean that E.U. countries can easily export arms to the mainland.

    However, there are no laws to stop such arms sales and those E.U. countries that sell weapons to the mainland secretly cannot be prevented from doing so, the newspaper cited French defense experts as saying.

    Although the upcoming European Council summit will touch on the embargo issue, the newspaper said that "the E.U.'s executive body estimates it is impossible that a formal decision will be taken on the occasion due to the proximity of the presidential election and referendum scheduled to be held in Taiwan March 20."

(By Y.S. Lo and P.C. Tang)

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