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Divide persists at Copenhagen climate summit

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By The Associated Press
Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009

COPENHAGEN — The atmosphere at the U.N. climate conference grew more tense and divisive after talks were suspended for most of yesterday's session — a sign of the developing nations' deep distrust of the promises by industrial countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

With only days left before the conference closes Friday, one world leader said he would come early to try to salvage the negotiations, and others reportedly were considering the move.

The wrangle over emission reductions froze a timetable for government ministers to negotiate a host of complex issues. Though procedural in nature, the Africa-led suspension went to the core of suspicions by poor countries that wealthier ones were trying to soften their commitments and evade penalties for missing their targets.

Talks were halted most of the day, resuming only after conference President Connie Hedegaard of Denmark assured developing countries she is not trying to kill the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 document that requires industrial nations to cut emissions and imposes penalties if they fail to do so. Kyoto makes no demands on developing countries.

The negotiations are meant to extend the Kyoto pact by at least five years, with deeper emission targets for rich countries. A separate stream of talks dealt with the United States — which rejected Kyoto — and obligations by the developing countries in exchange for tens of billions of dollars a year.

The Africans protested when Hedegaard wanted to lump all the talks together.

Mohammed Nashid, the president of the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of the Maldives, helped resolve the deadlock with an impassioned speech to the African nations to return to the talks, delegates said.

U.S. special climate envoy Todd Stern said that with leaders due to arrive soon, "any lost time is unhelpful." He added that in any complex negotiation, "it never goes smoothly, never according to plan. There are always bumps."

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