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Friday, 17 August, 2001, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
Islanders press Bush on global warming
By Phil Mercer in Sydney

Leaders of the world's smallest island nations in the Pacific are demanding a meeting with President George W Bush to try to win his support as rising sea levels threaten low-lying atolls

Representatives from Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Cook and Marshall Islands have warned of an environmental catastrophe if efforts to stop global warming are not speeded up.

George W. Bush
The US says the Kyoto protocol is unfair
They want to put their case to the United Nations General Assembly next month and also to President Bush who has rejected the Kyoto protocol on climate change as unfair to the United States.

The call was made during a meeting at the annual Pacific Islands Forum being held in Naura.

Officials from Tuvalu, north of Fiji, believe global warming has created an ecological time bomb which threatens to slowly drown the tiny pacific island over the next 50 years.

They have called for help to resettle the country's 12,000 people if and when this happens. The highest point of Tuvalu's nine islands is no more than five metres above sea level.

Islands 'face holocaust'

The Americans are on the sidelines of a deal worked out between 180 nations in Bonn last month to save the 1997 Kyoto Accord, under which industrialised countries agreed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

The president of Naura, Rene Harris, said that, with so many low-lying islands in the Pacific, it would be a modern holocaust if the world did not address the problem of rising sea levels.

The environment, regional trade agreements and politics are dominating this year's summit in Nauru.

Simmering tensions in Papua New Guinea, the corrupt distribution of foreign aid in the Solomon Islands and post-coup elections in Fiji are all under discussion.

The 16-member Pacific Islands forum was set up in the early 1970s in response to France's nuclear tests in French Polynesia.

Thirty years on and some of the world's most remote island communities are again being drawn together by a looming environmental disaster.

The future of the group is, however, increasingly uncertain.

With nearly a third of the forum leaders absent - including the Australian prime minister, John Howard - it is not clear what, if anything, will be accomplished during the five-day conference.

See also:

14 Jul 01 | Americas
Bush feels heat on global warming
12 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Global warming 'worse than feared'
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