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CHINA WELCOMES LIFTING OF US BAN ON SALE OF SATELLITES

China said yesterday that President Bush's decision to allow it to launch three American-built satellites was helpful in restoring strained Sino-US relations. But a Foreign Ministry spokesman was unable to say whether China planned any steps to improve ties or whether the two sides were closer to easing a main source of friction - the sheltering of dissident Fang Lizhi in the US Embassy in Beijing.

China has repeatedly referred to Mr. Fang as a criminal wanted for instigating unrest last June.

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On Tuesday, Mr. Bush removed a ban on the use of credits from the US Export-Import Bank and on the export of three American-made satellites to be launched by China for Australian and Hong Kong customers.

The decision removed a major element of the economic sanctions imposed by Washington after Beijing called in the Army to crush a pro-democracy campaign.