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Plea to delay climate talks

Plea to delay climate talks

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands -- World climate talks could be delayed by two months if the European Commission agrees to a U.S. request for more time to consider its global warming policy.

The talks were tentatively set to resume in May after failing in November at The Hague, where the U.S. was heavily criticised for its reluctance to curb pollution.

Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk, who is also the chairman of the United Nations' conference of parties on climate change, said on Friday that he and the EC were considering the U.S. request to push back the talks until July.

The talks centre on how industrialised nations will implement cuts in "greenhouse gas" emissions agreed in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

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Those gases are expected to contribute to sharp rises in sea levels and increased global temperatures in the next century, according to a U.N. scientific body.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has requested that Pronk delay the meeting so parties can review their policies and consult with others, the U.S. State Department said this week.

A EC official said Washington wanted more time because the new administration had yet to appoint people to carry on the negotiations.

"They are telling us the new administration is committed to the process," the official said.

Environmentalists had pushed for an agreement at the Hague conference, fearful that a Bush administration would seek to roll back progress made in past years.

"Pronk's first reaction is that it's positive that the new U.S. administration takes the issue of climate change seriously," said Dutch Environment Ministry spokeswoman Babette Graeber.

The U.S. request was supported by Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Graeber said.

Those five countries have negotiated as a group in recent talks with the EU and a coalition of developing countries.

U.S. and EU negotiators met in Canada shortly after the failed Hague conference, but were unable to jump-start talks.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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