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Blair Admits G8 Climate Deal "Very Difficult"

Blair Admits G8 Climate Deal  Very Difficult
LONDON - Britain's Tony Blair vowed on Monday to press for agreement among world powers to tackle the causes of climate change but admitted he was a long way from achieving it.

The prime minister will host a summit of leaders from the Group of Eight nations in Gleneagles, Scotland, next week. African poverty and global warming top his agenda.

"I think on Africa there is a real sense of coming together. Climate change is obviously very difficult," Blair told a news conference in his Downing Street residence. "It is incredibly important that we do get some clear agreement that we need to move to a low-carbon economy, that we need to curb greenhouse gas emissions and we need to do so urgently," he said.

"It's my own view about that. We will wait to see whether we can get an agreement or not."

The United States has so far strongly disputed the scientific basis for global warming.

A leaked draft of a final statement for the G8 summit underscored a gulf between President George W. Bush and Blair about the extent of the problem.

In a June 14 draft, the sentences "Our world is warming" and "We know that the increase is due in large part to human activity" are in brackets, indicating US disagreement by marking those passages out for possible deletion.

It included no firm targets, timetables or cash although British officials insist it could yet be hardened up.

"We are continuing to negotiate. There isn't ... a proper text yet," Blair said.

Environmental campaigners say he faces a choice -- split with Bush and get a strong climate agreement with the other G8 members or stay with him, get a weak deal and be blamed for missing a crucial opportunity.

"Considerable improvement is needed on the draft G8 communique leaked earlier this month," said Tony Juniper, director of pressure group Friends of the Earth.

"The rest of the world should increase pressure on the United States, the world's biggest polluter, to stop blocking progress on this issue.

"Unless we take action soon the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across the planet will be under threat."

G8 nations Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Russia have all signed up for the UN's Kyoto protocol, which aims to cut emissions of carbon dioxide.

Bush pulled out in 2001, saying it would be too costly and wrongly excluded developing nations.

Story by Mike Peacock

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