The Bundesbank refused on Monday to bow to pressure from the German government, which has been calling on the central bank to sell a large part of its gold reserves and use the proceeds to bring down Germany's soaring public deficit. Under a recently renewed gold agreement, signed with 14 other European central banks, the Bundesbank can sell up to 120 tons of gold from its gold reserves each year for the next five years. With total gold reserves of 3,400 tons, the German central bank is the world's second-biggest holder of gold after the US Federal Reserve. But the Bundesbank announced on Monday it would make only very limited use of that option and sell only eight ton of gold in 2004. The gold would be sold to the German Finance Ministry for use in its regular gold coin minting program. The German government had been hoping the Bundesbank would sell a more substantial volume of gold this year to help bring down the German public deficit. However, the Bundesbank is opposed to selling the gold for such purposes. "The Bundesbank's gold reserves are part of our national wealth and have great symbolic value for the population," central bank president Axel Weber said in an interview in the daily Die Welt on Tuesday. In addition, gold sales should not be seen as an alternative to long-term budgetary consolidation, Weber said.