PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM OFFICIALS BATTLE OVER KYOTO PROTOCOL

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YAREN, Nauru (August 16, 2001 – Sydney Morning Herald/PINA Nius Online)---Palau has accused Australia of being isolationist on international efforts to stop greenhouse gas emissions causing rising sea levels.

Palau led islands’ criticism of Australia at the Pacific Islands Forum officials' meeting in Nauru, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

It came amidst Australia's concerted attempt to stop criticism of the United States refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The Australian position means the usual consensus in the Forum's final communiqué might not be possible, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Palau official David Perrin told the Sydney Morning Herald following a meeting where he argued strongly against Australia's stand: "We would like to see a strong statement denouncing the United States' decision to renounce the Kyoto Protocol."

Mr. Perrin said some island nations were already having to import food because arable land had become contaminated by salt water. "Rising sea levels threaten future ruin in the islands' region," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

The officials' meeting is where much of the preparatory work of the Forum leaders' summit is done, with leaders flying in to work from papers prepared after discussions among their officials.

Before the recent climate change conference in Bonn, America's President George W. Bush described the Kyoto Protocol as "fatally flawed." The protocol makes reductions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases mandatory for industrialized nations,

The Australian government has taken the view that adoption of the Kyoto protocol, without Washington's ratification, would be of little value. It is urging Forum members to wait and see what alternative initiatives come out of an American policy review.

However, small island states facing real danger from rising sea levels believe that Australia is being subservient to the Americans, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

Mr. Perrin said: "Australia has an isolationist stance much like that of the United States. The Australian members have been saying they don't want to see strong criticism of the US and even mention of them except in positive terms."

Another environmental issue being discussed by the officials is how compensation would be paid in the event of an accident involving a ship carrying radioactive fuel, or waste, through the region.

For additional reports from The Sydney Morning Herald, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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