Commonwealth united on Pakistan, split on climate

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KAMPALA, Nov 25 (Reuters) A Commonwealth summit that ended today united behind decisive action against Pakistan but was too divided to issue the tough statement on climate change that vulnerable island nations wanted.

In contrasting outcomes from the three-day meeting, the club of mostly former British colonies overcame divisions to suspend Pakistan because of its failure to lift emergency rule but issued a general and diluted statement on global warming.

A final communique expressed ''serious disappointment'' that President Pervez Musharraf had so far failed to quit as army chief and endorsed the decision of a ministerial committee to suspend the country's membership until democracy was restored.

But opposition from Canada and the outgoing conservative Australian government stymied a drive led by Britain and the island nations to issue a strong statement on global warming that would have urged binding targets for emission cuts.

Canada called the climate declaration stern and Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon said it as ''quite a leap forward''.

The Commonwealth is proud of a tradition of reaching decisions by consensus so open dissent is unusual, but some members were clearly disappointed, especially small nations that are threatened by rising seas.

''We believe that a number of developed countries have not given the commitment we expected. They are the main contributors to the imbalance in climatic conditions and they should contribute much more,'' said Denzil Douglas, prime minister of the tiny Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis.

''The general view is that the document ... could have gone further. We are one of the groups who believe that it should have gone further,'' he told reporters.

WORST HIT St Kitts is among countries likely to be worst hit by global warming, as rising sea levels engulf its populated coast and higher ocean temperatures increase the frequency and severity of hurricanes, scientists say.

Malaysia also expressed disappointment at the outcome. Asked about Canadian ''intransigence'' and the lack of specific targets on emissions, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said: ''In some way I do feel a little bit disappointed.'' The climate statement said developed countries should take the lead in cutting emissions, but gave no details on how this would be achieved.

Before the summit, Britain had called for an unequivocal message on climate change that would urge developed nations to make binding commitments at a conference of world environment ministers in Bali next month.

But Canada, an oil producer, said it would not sign any final declaration that did not include developing as well as developed nations. India and China are major emitters, but as developing nations they are exempted from the Kyoto protocol.

Abdullah said he was happy that the newly elected Labor government in Australia would ratify Kyoto, reversing the policy of the previous conservative administration.

He also said Malaysia, as a fellow Asian member, had wanted to delay action against Pakistan, but had eventually gone with the majority view, like Sri Lanka which initially opposed suspension.

McKinnon told Reuters Pakistan was a more clear cut issue.

''There was more consensus on Pakistan ... There was a robust defence of Pakistan from some corners. But eventually even best friends say 'right you've crossed the line, you get suspended','' he said.

''But climate change is something that every country is trying to come to grips with.'' McKinnon said it was impractical for the 53 Commonwealth members to make commitments before the Bali meeting. ''They are not prepared to make themselves that vulnerable to the others.'' REUTERS JT KN2240

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