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EU Agrees to Lift Sanctions on Libya - 2004-10-11


The European Union has ended more than a decade of sanctions against Libya and eased an arms embargo to reward Tripoli for giving up programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. The move follows a decision by the United States last April to lift most of its commercial sanctions after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi announced he was scrapping his weapons programs.

The foreign ministers, in a statement, commended Libya for pledging to dismantle its programs for weapons of mass destruction and also praised Tripoli's readiness to change its past policies and commit itself to responsible government.

In a separate move, the foreign ministers approved an Italian request to ease the EU's own arms embargo on Libya which was imposed in 1986. This would allow Libya to buy high-tech equipment to prevent the flow of illegal African migrants. Italy wants to sell equipment such as night-vision binoculars.

Europe wants Libya's cooperation in stopping the flow of illegal immigrants, especially through Italy. Libya's oil reserves are also a lucrative investment for Europe. As a sign of improving relations with the EU, Mr. Gaddafi visited Brussels in April, marking his first trip outside the Mideast or Africa in 15 years.

Turning to East Asia, European Union foreign ministers agreed to tighten sanctions on Burma's military leadership to protest its failure to improve human rights.

The ministers said conditions have not been met by Burma to improve its record and to release pro-democracy leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

In a statement they said the European Union will maintain the existing measures against Burma's military regime and tighten them. Approved measures include extending the visa ban on high ranking generals.

On China, the foreign ministers failed to lift the EU's 15-year arms embargo on Beijing. Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot says more work is needed on a code of conduct concerning China's arms exports.

"Its clear that we need more time, at the moment to consider the situation," he said. "But that we hope to be able to indicate a positive orientation towards lifting."

France wants the ban lifted saying the EU could still monitor arms sales to China and restrict exports that could be used for international aggression.

However, diplomats say, The United States fears sales of high-tech European military equipment, such as radars and communications gear, could allow to China to step up intimidation of Taiwan.