Riot Police, Protesters Scuffle at APEC

The Associated Press
Friday, September 7, 2007; 2:58 AM

SYDNEY, Australia -- Developing countries won a big concession from Australia and the United States on global warming, an official said Friday, as scuffles broke out between riot police and protesters near a hotel hosting delegates to the annual Pacific Rim meeting.

The surge came from among about 1,000 people who had gathered for a rally at a city park, and appeared to have been triggered by a sudden downpour. Police pushed and shoved anyone who came near the hotel, corralling them behind a shoulder-to-shoulder wall of police.

The demonstrations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum came as a weekend deadline loomed to reach a unified position among the 21 leaders on tackling climate change, the top item on the meeting's agenda.

At preliminary meetings for the summit, poorer countries _ led by China _ succeeded in getting any APEC statement in climate change to recognize the United Nations as the main forum to debate the problem, said Salman Al-Farisi, one of Indonesia's experts at the climate meetings.

"They agreed to put that in the declaration" that leaders are expected to adopt at their weekend summit, Al-Farisi told The Associated Press.

A bigger sticking point _ whether the statement should include targets for dealing with greenhouse gases _ remained unresolved, he said.

Australia, with U.S. backing, is seeking a climate change statement that includes targets. Specifics of the Australian proposal were sketchy but officials said they included goals to reduce "energy intensity" _ the amount of energy needed to produce economic growth.

The approach is an attempt to skirt a contentious part of the U.N.-backed Kyoto Protocol, which set targets for industrialized nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases but largely exempted developing ones.

The U.S. and Australia, which have refused to ratify Kyoto, want APEC leaders to embrace a new approach to climate change that would require China _ one of the world's biggest polluters _ and other developing countries to commit to greenhouse gas reduction targets.

But developing nations are against binding targets imposed by others.

A fourth round of talks among APEC officials was due to be held on the topic later Friday, ahead of the leaders' meeting Saturday and Sunday. They were rushing to finish the statement before President Bush leaves the summit early, after Saturday's session.

If the experts fail to reach agreement on the wording of a statement, the issue will be handed to the leaders, who must hammer out some sort of consensus or risk embarrassing Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who put global warming at the top of the meeting's agenda.

With global trade talks at "a critical juncture," the leaders also planned to pledge their commitment to move along the so-called Doha round of trade negotiations, according to a draft of their final statement to be released at the end of their weekend summit.

The World Trade Organization talks, bogged down for two years amid bickering between rich and poor nations over slashing barriers on farm and industrial trade, resumed this week in Geneva.

The draft said the APEC leaders would issue a separate statement on the trade talks "setting out the urgent need for progress and pledging our commitment to work with renewed energy to deliver an ambitious and balanced result."

© 2007 The Associated Press