China may sign the two leading international covenants on civil liberties soon, a top cadre indicated yesterday. The hint came from National People's Congress Chairman Qiao Shi when he met Finnish Defence Minister Anneli Taina, who is visiting China at the invitation of her counterpart, General Chi Haotian. Xinhua (the New China News Agency) said Mr Qiao briefed Ms Taina on 'the situations in China and that it will soon sign the two international covenants' but did not give a date. President Jiang Zemin first revealed to French Defence Minister Charles Millon last month that China would sign this year the two covenants, which guarantee citizens of signatory countries political freedoms such as the right to assembly, free speech and elections. According to Xinhua, Mr Qiao also told the Finnish minister that China was prepared to open a human rights dialogue with foreign countries but that it did not welcome a 'confrontational' approach.