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European climate talks seek Japanese support

But Bush reaffirms his rejection of ’97 accord

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BONN, Germany — European leaders sought Japan's support at world climate talks Tuesday to try to salvage the Kyoto global warming pact despite U.S. rejection.

Japanese Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, whose delegation sought to play down pessimistic comments by their prime minister, was to meet her Dutch counterpart Jan Pronk, a European source said. Pronk is chairing the U.N.-sponsored talks in Bonn that follow a failed meeting at The Hague in November.

But President Bush, who visits Europe this week for a separate Group of Eight summit with fellow leaders of the big industrial powers, reaffirmed his rejection of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol agreed to by his predecessor, Bill Clinton.

The European source said Kawaguchi and Pronk would discuss over lunch the status of negotiations to try to implement the pact. Some progress on technical issues had been made since the meetings, involving some 180 countries, began Monday.

Shrugging off criticism in Europe for his attack on the accord in March, Bush repeated that he found Kyoto's entire approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions unacceptable.

He said he had told European leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair whom he will visit before the weekend G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, that Washington did want to reduce greenhouse gases that may be dangerously warming up the planet. But it did not "accept the methodology of the Kyoto treaty."

"We look forward over time to detailing our strategy with our friends and allies," Bush said. An alternative strategy promised by Washington for cutting emissions is not yet ready.

The Japanese delegation in Bonn "clarified" its position following cautious remarks on Sunday by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who is anxious not to isolate his U.S. ally.

Koizumi had suggested no deal was likely in Bonn and more talks in Marrakesh, Morocco in October could be needed to clinch one. But Kawaguchi's delegation tried to sound more upbeat.

"Japan will do its utmost to achieve broadest possible agreement at COP6 resumed session, aiming at the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol by 2002," its statement read, referring to the formal name of the meeting in Bonn.

The European Union is threatening to put the accord into effect in spite of Bush. But without Japan, Europe has virtually no chance of securing the weighted majority of industrial, polluting states needed to give the protocol legal weight.

"Participation of the U.S. is critically important and Japan is engaged in consultations with the U.S.," Kawaguchi's statement read. "Japan does not, however, intend to delay multilateral negotiations because of these consultations."

Koizumi's remarks had sparked anger among environmental activists accusing Tokyo of delaying a pact they see as crucial to saving much of the planet's coasts and islands from drowning as greenhouse gas build-ups threaten to melt polar ice-caps.

Bush has been the target of low-key peaceful protests in Bonn, with demonstrators accusing the former Texan oilman of placing American business interests above those of the planet.

Washington questions the science behind global warming fears and says the Kyoto plan for industrial powers to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012 would hurt the economy. American cars, homes and factories produce the lion's share of those gases.

Kawaguchi arrived in the former West German capital ahead of most other ministers, who start high-level meetings in Bonn only on Thursday. The ministerial talks last until Sunday.

European Union officials have not yet given up hope of bringing Japan on board in a bid to have the pact ratified by a majority of key powers and so, in the EU's view, increase the pressure on Bush to drop his objections to the deal.

Much of the high-level political arm twisting—as well as potentially violent protests—may be reserved for the G8 in Genoa, where Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac will confront Bush and Koizumi.

The Bonn talks focus on detailed issues like deadlines for cutting gas emissions, subsidies to help poor countries survive in a warmer world, mechanisms for trading emissions allowances among countries and formula for offsetting gas emissions against forests, which can suck up carbon dioxide.