Climate change theme for UN's Ban on S America tour

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UNITED NATIONS, Oct 30 (Reuters) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has made climate change a priority, will visit the Antarctic and the Amazon rain forest during a South American tour starting next week, the United Nations said.

The visits will be ''so that he can see first-hand the effects of climate change and deforestation on the environment,'' UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe told a news briefing yesterday.

Ban is preparing for a UN climate change conference to be held in Bali, Indonesia, in December, which is expected to kick off negotiations on a new accord to curb carbon emissions after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, Okabe said.

Ban, who began his job this year, has focused strongly on the environment and staged a climate change summit at the United Nations on September 24, on the eve of the annual General Assembly gathering of world leaders.

Okabe said he would visit Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chile, located beneath a hole in the ozone layer, and the nearby Torres del Paine national park, where glaciers have been affected by global warming.

During the trip to Antarctica he would be briefed by scientists at research stations, she said.

Later in Brazil, Ban would meet researchers and indigenous groups in the Amazon region and visit an ethanol plant. Ethanol made from sugar cane is a growth industry in Brazil, where three quarters of new cars run on a mix of biofuel and gasoline.

Biofuels are a controversial subject at the United Nations, however. A UN special envoy on the right to food called last week for a five-year moratorium on them, saying it was a ''crime against humanity'' to convert food crops to fuel.

Ban's trip will not be confined to the environment. He will also pay an official visit to Argentina and attend the Nov.

8-10 Ibero-American summit, grouping leaders of European and American Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries, in the Chilean capital Santiago.

Returning to the climate change theme, he will visit Valencia, Spain, on November 17, where the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, is releasing its latest report. The IPCC and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore won this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Reuters BJR VP0345

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