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U.N. climate conference laments U.S. opposition

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The leaders of a United Nations climate change conference said Saturday there is overwhelming support from member nations -- except for the United States -- to implement the Kyoto Protocol statute limiting carbon dioxide emissions.

Representatives from participating countries met for informal talks at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in preparation for official negotiations on the accord due to resume in July in Bonn, Germany. Negotiations on the protocol broke down at The Hague last year.

"All parties but one -- the United States -- declared themselves very strongly in favor of the Kyoto Protocol," said conference chair Jan Pronk, who serves as the environmental minister of the Netherlands.

He said all the delegates urged the United States to rethink its position.

Pronk said that the United States has recently softened its condemnation of the agreement, no longer calling the negotiations "dead," but a "dead end." The conference's executive secretary, Michael Zammit Cutajar, called the U.S. declaration of opposition "the first crisis" in 10 years of climate change negotiations because of the uncertainty that accompanies the resistance of such an influential nation.

In March, President Bush reversed a campaign promise by deciding not to regulate the carbon dioxide emissions of power plants. The president said he made the move in part out of concern that regulating carbon dioxide emissions would lead to higher energy prices, which could have a negative impact on the economy.

Pronk emphasized the importance of the negotiations and the necessity for the parties to return to Bonn in July. "This is not just an issue for the experts," Pronk said. "It is a political issue which requires a political bargain, a political compromise, to be drafted at the highest levels, in the interest of future generations."

The treaty, named after Kyoto, Japan, the city where it was negotiated and signed in 1997, calls for industrial nations to reduce greenhouse gases by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants believed to contribute to global warming.

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