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KEEP POLITICS OUT OF TALKS ON PIRACY, CHINA TELLS U.S.

China urged the United States Thursday to keep politics out of next week's talks on copyright piracy.

The Clinton administration announced Wednesday that trade negotiator Lee Sands will return to Beijing on Monday to assess China's progress in halting what Washington calls rampant piracy of American videos, music and computer software.The talks will be the first face-to-face meeting in more than two weeks. Since then, Washington threatened to place punitive tariffs on $2 billion in Chinese imports starting June 17 if Beijing did not stop the illegal copying.

China has warned it will retaliate by placing hefty duties on a range of U.S. goods and may cancel contracts with American businesses.

"Sanctions will do nothing to resolve the issue and will instead make it more complicated, and that we do not want to see," Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang said Thursday.

Shen said Beijing has always sought consultations to resolve the dispute. He asked Washington to show a "realistic attitude and sincerity" in the talks.

"We do not want to see this subject deliberately made into a political issue," Shen said at a regular media briefing.

State-run media have suggested that Washington's hard line has been dictated more by an election-year need to appear tough on China than on Beijing's record.

A commentary by the official Xinhua News Agency Thursday said that Washington has been motivated "out of domestic political needs." Both sides will suffer if sanctions are imposed, Xinhua said.

The Clinton administration contends that it is merely trying to get Beijing to comply with a February 1995 agreement to stamp out piracy and protect goods under copyrights, patents and trademarks. Industry groups claim the piracy costs U.S. businesses $2.3 billion a year.

Shen reiterated that over the past 15 months China has set up an agency to supervise makers of com-pact disks for music and software and worked out rules to enforce the agreement.

The Ministry of Culture is devising stricter rules to keep illegal audio and video tapes, laser disks and compact disks off the Chinese market, the state-run China Daily reported Thursday.