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Germany

Chancellor Under Fire over China Arms Ban

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder came under criticism on Saturday for favoring the lifting of the European arms embargo on China against the wishes of the German and European parliaments.

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Schröder's China stance doesn't please everyone in his government

Christa Nickels, head of the human rights commission of the German parliament, or Bundestag, said Schröder should not defy parliamentary opinion, in an interview with the Berliner Zeitung daily.

"If our chancellor announces something while he is abroad which goes against the vote of his own parliament he discredits the concept of separation of powers," she said, adding: "This would not really be the promotion of democracy."

Schröder begins a visit to China on Sunday.

Human rights first?

Nickels conceded that China had made progress since the embargo was slapped on in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, but the ruling coalition of Schröder's Social Democrats and the Greens had made respect for human rights an obligation for arms

exports.

The Bundestag voted at the end of October in favour of the embargo being maintained and was followed by the European Parliament in mid-November. Other EU countries, notably France, want the ban lifted, and government sources said Schröder would also press for it in discussions with his European counterparts.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said Thursday: "This is a very solemn, serious political issue. We think it's for the EU to make an early and appropriate decision. It's not for the Chinese side to make any concessions."

Schröder will meet in China with President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who will also travel to the Netherlands on December 8 for an annual China-EU meeting.

Big Business

China, unable to purchase advanced weapons from the United States, wants to buy them from Europe and countries such as France and Germany are believed to want to benefit from this likely lucrative trade. The Chinese government spends heavily on military hardware.

Zhang argued Thursday that China and the EU have had "fruitful and effective" dialogue on human rights. It was "natural" for the two sides to have differences on human rights but those differences could be resolved through dialog instead, she said. The ban was "incompatible with the reality of our strategic partnership" and resolving the issue will benefit the development of China-EU relations, she said.

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