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Bush facing clash over climate

LONDON, England (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush is heading for a clash with European Union leaders when he meets them in Sweden in June, following what they see as his sabotage of a key global warming treaty.

The U.S. administration's insistence this week that the Kyoto treaty process is dead represents a sharp slap in the face for the EU.

Only the previous week, the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, and Sweden's Prime Minister Goran Persson, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, had written to Bush saying that the U.S. and Europe "urgently needed" talks on a follow-up to Kyoto following the breakdown of post-Kyoto talks in The Hague last year.

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"The global and long-term importance of climate change and the need for a joint effort by all industrial countries in this field makes it an integral and important part of relations between the U.S. and the EU," they said.

Under the treaty, the major powers agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which result mainly from burning coal and oil, by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

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Bush's response was abrupt and dismissive. National Security Adviser Condoeezza Rice had already warned EU ambassadors that the Kyoto process was dead as far as the new U.S. administration is concerned, but there has been little effort to smooth the rejection process diplomatically.

The EU leaders should not have been surprised.

Bush himself had already pointed out: "I oppose the Kyoto protocol because it exempts 80 per cent of the world, including major population centres such as China and India from compliance and would cause serious harm to the US economy."

But they had been hoping for American co-operation in a meeting scheduled for Bonn in July which would have attempted to revive the Kyoto process.

Bush is due to travel to Europe to meet the EU leaders at a summit in June. But that first meeting now threatens to be a sour occasion.

Sweden's environment minister says that Bush's opposition has sabotaged the Kyoto process, which EU leaders had been desperately keen to revive.

There is already high tension between U.S. and Europe over defence. Many EU leaders object to America's planned National Missile Defence project and the U.S. has made clear its worries that the EU's new rapid reaction force could undermine NATO.

In addition, Robert Zoellick, the U.S. Trade Representative, has warned that the U.S. is prepared to launch new trade sanctions against the EU if it pushes ahead with plans to remodel its regime for the importation of bananas.

The U.S. has been irritated too by the EU's agreement that Persson should make an official visit to North and South Korea seeking to aid the reconciliation process on the peninsula.



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