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Russia: Kyoto pact harms economy

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MOSCOW, Russia (Reuters) -- Russia will block the landmark Kyoto environmental pact because it threatens economic growth in its current form, a top Kremlin aide said on Tuesday.

"The Kyoto protocol places significant limitations on the economic growth of Russia," Andrei Illarionov, who advises President Vladimir Putin on economic issues, told reporters.

"Of course, in its current form, this protocol cannot be ratified," he said, after a meeting between Putin and European businessmen.

Russia needs to ratify Kyoto for it to come into force. The treaty, which aims to cut emissions of gases responsible for global warming, requires approval from countries responsible for 55 percent of emissions.

This leaves Russia with the casting vote since top polluter the United States has pulled out.

Russia had previously promised to approve the treaty, but Putin surprised experts at a climate change conference in Moscow in October by saying the country needed to assess the impact it would have on Russia's heavily energy-dependent economy.

"It's impossible to undertake responsibilities that place serious limits on the country's growth," said Illarionov.

Analysts think Russia stands to gain from the protocol since, under its terms, countries can trade pollution quotas that they do not use.

Russia has substantial spare capacity since the limits were set in 1990, a year before the collapse of the Soviet Union and its heavy industries.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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