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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 07:33 GMT 08:33 UK
Watery grave looms for Maldives

A senior official in the Maldives environment ministry says Washington's decision to reject the Kyoto treaty on global warming could spell disaster for small island nations like the Maldives.

The director of environmental affairs, Mohamed Khaleel, said the issue was one of life and death for its 250,000 people, who face becoming environmental refugees.

Mr Khaleel said 80% of the Indian Ocean islands which make up the Maldives were only a meter above sea level and could disappear if global warming caused the oceans to rise.

President Bush has condemned the Kyoto protocol saying its provisions to limit harmful airborne emissions are unfair. Washington says Kyoto is flawed because it does not hold developing nations such as India and China to strict emissions standards.

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