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President Bush, continuing a perennial battle with Congress, has vetoed legislation that would have required China to improve its human rights record in return for favorable U.S. trade treatment.

The veto, which had been expected, will likely be sustained. The House voted overwhelmingly to impose conditions for renewal of most-favored-nation trade status. But the Senate last month voted 59-39 for conditions, short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.The president reiterated his view Monday that the best way to affect improvements in China's internal and trade practices is through engagement, not isolation.

"There is no doubt in my mind that if we present China's leaders with an ultimatum on MFN, the result will be weakened ties to the West and further repression," Bush wrote in a veto message to Congress. "We are making a difference in China by remaining engaged."

Bush added, "My administration shares the goals and objectives" of the bill. "My objection lies strictly with the methods proposed to achieve these aims."

Senate Democrat leader George Mitchell said. "This veto again demonstrates the president's tenacious support for the communist leadership against the interests of the Chinese people. The president's policy has failed. It is time for the Congress to change that failed policy by overriding his veto."

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said earlier that the conditions outlined in the congressional measure "would impede the advance of reforms in China and impede the effort to get improvements in the human rights record."

The measure would have required China to soften its harsh treatment against political dissidents. It also would have forced Beijing to cease unfair trade practices.