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Last Updated: Monday, 18 September 2006, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Italy urges end to China arms ban
Romano Prodi and Wen Jiabao
The two leaders signed bilateral agreements
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi says Italy favours lifting the EU's 17-year-old ban on arms sales to China.

On a visit to Beijing, Mr Prodi said Italy "leans to lifting the embargo" as soon as possible.

China has described the ban, imposed after the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, as a "relic of the cold war".

France has led calls for a lifting of the ban, but other EU countries have been more divided on the issue.

The US opposes a lifting of the ban, citing China's human rights record as well as fears that it will upset the delicate balance of relations between China and Taiwan.

After meeting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing, Mr Prodi said they had had "constructive discussions" on human rights.

Italy "leans to lifting the embargo of arms sales to China," the Italian prime minister told reporters.

"We should resolve this issue as quickly as possible because it can't wait."

Mr Prodi's comments came at the end of a six-day visit to China during which the two leaders signed 15 bilateral agreements on a number of issues including trade and agriculture.

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