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Bonn talks hit last-minute snags

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BONN, Germany (AP) — Negotiators went into overtime Sunday trying to resolve the final problems on the Kyoto global-warming agreement, with host Germany warning the holdouts the talks will fail if they refuse to compromise.

Conference chairman Jan Pronk said he had won agreement from most of the 178 delegations to accept a draft agreement he submitted Saturday without changes — as long as no one else demanded revisions.

But other countries — including Japan, Canada and Australia — raised objections and refused to go along with the draft without further talks.

"The moment is approaching when the question will be who will take the responsibility for blocking the agreement," the EU's chief negotiator Olivier Deleuze said.

The 15-page draft put together a package of compromises on issues that have been in contention since the protocol was crafted in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, to curb the emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

The United States said from the outset it wants no part of the Kyoto Protocol, which it says is harmful to the U.S. economy. Although it has said it will not be obliged by the outcome of the talks, an American delegation took part in most of the discussions to ensure U.S. interests are not trampled.

Initial optimism that greeted his draft agreement late Saturday dissipated overnight as blocs of countries studied their gains and losses.

German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin warned the talks could collapse if countries tried to reopen the negotiations.

"We believe that it is not possible to achieve a better result," Trittin said. "There is a risk that further proposals for amendments will make the Bonn climate change conference and the Kyoto Protocol fail."

The European Union set the tone Saturday when it told Pronk it would reluctantly agree to the paper as long as everyone else accepted it unchanged.

One by one, Pronk persuaded other blocs not to submit amendments and to accept the paper as it is.

"I knew that one amendment will catalyze hundreds of amendments," Pronk told an open meeting of delegation leaders Sunday. "I wanted to avoid a situation where all of a sudden we would be flooded with amendments."

But the bloc of 77 developing countries and China were concerned about funds that were promised for developing clean technologies, Pronk said. But he said the European Union was considering a separate political statement guaranteeing financial aid, possibly including figures.

In a statement, Japan, Australia, and Canada said they were unhappy with the financial obligations, with the rules to penalize countries that cannot comply with their obligations, and with the system of buying and selling emissions credits between countries.

Earlier Sunday, signals from the leaders of seven wealthy countries plus Russia, ending their summit in Italy, cast doubt that the Bonn negotiators could close a deal.

"Bonn will probably not have our agreement," Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said in Genoa. "We need more clarifications and credits."

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi refused to say whether Japan would go ahead with the Kyoto pact without the United States.

"It's not over until it's over," Koizumi said, reiterating Japan's view that it would be best to have the United States and other countries working under the same rules.

The climate talks have already failed once when a conference last November in The Hague, Netherlands, collapsed in a last-minute dispute between the United Stats and the Europeans.

In a major concession by the EU, the draft accord allows countries to offset their obligations to reduce industrial pollution by counting the proper management of forests and farmlands that absorb carbon dioxide, known as carbon "sinks."

Environmental groups said the heavy allowance for sinks effectively reduced the commitment in the Kyoto accord to cut emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels. In fact, the reduction would be closer to 1.8 percent, said the World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

But they said the accord was still worthwhile.

"Overall, we see this as a strong architecture for the Kyoto Protocol that would start the world moving forward," said Jennifer Morgan of the WWF.