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G-8 agreement in differences on environment
May 31st, 2007

POTSDAM, Germany: Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday stressed their agreement on the need to fight global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, despite persistent sharp differences over how to go about it.

“I think that no one wishes to underestimate or to set aside the very difficult issue of climate change and the need to address it, the need to do something about it,” Rice said at a news conference with Steinmeier and other top diplomats.

Germany, which will chair the June 6-8 Group of Eight summit meeting in Heiligendamm, is pushing agreement on specific targets for reduction of the carbon emissions believed to cause global warming.

But the United States has said it rejects all-encompassing goals for emissions and instead is promoting technological solutions such as cleaner coal and fuels made from crops – a point emphasized again by Rice at a meeting of G-8 foreign ministers in Potsdam before the summit.

She also took a jab at Germany‘s decision to phase out nuclear power in the coming years, questioning whether it was a wise move in light of global warming.

“One has to wonder if you are really concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, why you are not interested in nuclear power? And we are interested in nuclear power,” Rice said. “It just shows that there might be different solutions for different countries.”

Nuclear power avoids the burning of fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases.

In any case, Steinmeier said the two sides agreed that the topic was pressing. “I don’t think that anyone here disputes that it is time to act,” he said.

Steinmeier stressed Germany‘s goal of getting an agreement that could be taken up at talks in Bali, Indonesia, later this year to find a successor to the limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The protocol, which exempts developing countries and was signed but not ratified by the United States, expires in 2012.

“What it comes down to is that our international efforts will bring us closer together and that hopefully the Bali conference will be a chance to work out a plan to follow up on the Kyoto protocol,” he said.

Separately, the German environment minister cautioned Wednesday that predicting a G-8 failure on climate change could undermine hopes of a future U.S. “leadership role” on the issue.

The BUND environmental group and the Attac anti-globalization organization suggested that no final declaration on climate would be better than an insufficient one. However, Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel dismissed that

“I believe that such a discussion in the week before the summit begins is extraordinarily damaging,” Gabriel said at a news conference. “Why should the Americans negotiate if we already say in public, ‘It doesn’t matter, it can go ahead and fail?’ “

“The issue is too important,” he added. “The heads of government are not meeting in Heiligendamm so that they can play the blame game afterward; what is important is that we really try to launch the necessary negotiating steps.”

On another troublesome issue, the G-8 foreign ministers threatened to support “further appropriate measures” if Iran failed to comply with UN resolutions demanding that it suspend nuclear enrichment.

The chief nuclear negotiator for Iran, Ali Larijani, reiterated that he would not give in to demands that his country suspend uranium enrichment over fears it is developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies that it is secretly developing atom bombs.

Larijani is scheduled to hold talks on Thursday with the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, amid a long-running argument between Iran and the West over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Diplomats do not expect a breakthrough.

On another issue discussed here Wednesday, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to deepen cooperation between their governments “at all levels,” particularly in the fight against terrorism and repatriating Afghan refugees.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the G-8 all said they needed to act together in joint operations to stamp out terrorist bases. Source www.iht.com

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