President Vladimir Putin has refused to commit Russia to ratifying the Kyoto treaty designed to cut global warming, backtracking on previous pledges and causing alarm in the EU and among environmental groups.
Opening a conference on climate change in Moscow on Monday, Mr Putin said Russia's decision would be in its "national interests", reflecting a debate in the country that some warming might be of benefit by allowing more grain to be grown. "There is an insistent call for Russia to ratify the Kyoto protocol as soon as possible. The government is closely studying this question. A decision will be taken when this work is finished."
Mr Putin added that more research into climate change was needed. Such a comment will cause delight in Washington, which has been trying to persuade the Russian president to join George Bush in repudiating the treaty.
Only Russia is now required to ratify the Kyoto protocol to the climate change convention to begin the process of legally enforceable reductions of greenhouse gases in the developed world.
The EU, Japan and the rest of the developed world, minus the US and Australia, adopted the agreement three years ago, but if Russia changed its mind Kyoto would be dead. To bring the treaty into force, the countries causing 55% of the world's greenhouse emissions must sign up.
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