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U.N. climate expert backs Kyoto

GENEVA, Switzerland -- Industrialised countries should press ahead with ratifying the Kyoto treaty on global warming with or without the United States, a U.N. climate expert has said.

Michael Zammit Cutajar, the Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, told a news conference on Thursday that if other nations moved towards ratification at a negotiating session in Bonn on July 16, the door could be left open for the U.S. to join later.

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Japan, which has sent out mixed signals of its intentions, was now pivotal to the future of the agreement which aims to raze five percent off 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2012, Reuters quoted Cutajar saying.

U.S. President George W. Bush rejected the Kyoto treaty, signed by his predecessor Bill Clinton, when he came to office arguing that it discriminated against industrialised nations and would harm growth in the U.S. economy.

To come into force, the 1997 treaty requires 55 countries -- responsible for at least 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions -- to ratify it.

The loss of America, responsible for around 25 percent of the world's pollution, placed a severe strain on reaching the targets.

Cutajar on Thursday urged other nations to press ahead and leave Washington to join in 2013 when the next phase of the programme was due to come into force.

"It is not ideal but it is the second best option (to the U.S. joining from the start)," Reuters quoted him saying.

The European Union has come out strongly behind the agreement while the heavily industrialised Japan has veered more towards compromise.

"Japan holds the balance," Cutajar said.

On Thursday the Japanese Environment Minister Yoriko was quoted by the Kyodo news agency as saying that there seemed little likelihood of a breakthrough in Bonn.

The alternatives to pressing ahead without the U.S. support were to try and compromise with some of Washington's demands or simply start again, said Cutajar.

Japan is the only country to have publicly raised the possibility of amending Kyoto but there was no suggestion that any state would seriously consider trying to draw up a new agreement, he said.

Although Bonn was not a "do-or-die" affair, Cutajar said that the longer implementation was delayed, the harder it would be for states to meet the carbon dioxide emission reduction goals. Such emissions are widely blamed for changes in the world's climate and rising temperatures.

• U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change

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