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Activists showing impatience at Durban climate talks

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The conference in this coastal city along the Indian Ocean began Nov. 28. It is the latest meeting to seek incremental steps after attempts were abandoned two years ago to reach a global agreement on reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Much of the debate centered on a demand by industrial countries, led by the European Union, to revise the 20-year-old division of the world into rich and poor nations with two levels of responsibility: Rich countries are legally bound to reduce carbon emissions while developing countries take voluntary actions.

"This is the main issue. I don't know how it's going to be resolved," said Argentine Ambassador Sylvia Merega, who leads the 132-nation group known as G77 and China.

The EU won an endorsement from an alliance of small islands and the world's poorest countries — about 120 nations altogether — for its proposal to start negotiations now on a deal to take effect after 2020. Under the EU proposal, all countries would be equally accountable for their global-warming actions. The EU later announced that Brazil — a major power in the developing world — also was lining up with its proposal.

The European Union has said it will not renew its emissions reduction pledges, which expire in one year, unless all countries agree to launch negotiations on a new treaty that would equally oblige all countries — including the world's two largest polluters the United States and China — to control their emissions. The U.S. never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, though it has made voluntary efforts to reduce emissions.

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