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Sarkozy and Amazon leaders to issue rainforest plea

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Representatives from eight nations straddling the Amazon basin, plus French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on behalf of French Guiana, have met in Brazil ahead of world climate talks in Copenhagen in December to urge leaders to preserve the rainforests.


AFP - Representatives from eight nations straddling the Amazon basin plus French President Nicolas Sarkozy met Thursday in Brazil to urge next month's world climate talks to preserve the rainforests.

Called by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the one-day meeting in the city of Manaus in the heart of the Amazon included Sarkozy because France's overseas department of French Guiana is in the region.

Together with high-level delegates from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Suriname, Lula and Sarkozy hope to draw up a "common stance" for the December 7-18 conference in the Danish capital Copenhagen on saving the Amazon jungle.

The participants will issue a declaration urging next month's UN-sponsored talks to not to neglect the preservation of the planet's forests and proposing "sufficient and adequate" related funding mechanisms, said Brazilian climate negotiator Luiz Figueredo.

The centerpiece of the summit is a Brazilian proposal to fight rampant deforestation throughout the Amazon basin with financial help from rich nations.

"We want an agreement from the Amazon countries because in Europe, everyone thinks the Amazon is a zoo, a botanical garden and does not realize that it is more complex, there are 30 million people living here," said Lula's chief adviser Marco Aurelio Garcia.

Greenpeace's Amazon official Paulo Adario told AFP that the Lula-Sarkozy alliance was significant "because France has an important leadership role in the European Union and Brazil is also showing growing leadership on the international stage."

The two leaders met two weeks ago in Paris to plan for the summit.

The clearing of wide swathes of jungle for farming and livestock, especially in Brazil, is reducing the planet's capacity to absorb greenhouse gases -- chiefly carbon dioxide -- that contribute largely to global warming and climate change, Greenpeace warned ahead of the summit.

As the fourth-largest greenhouse gas producer, Brazil has promised to cut its CO2 emissions by 36-39 percent by 2020. Half that effort will come from reducing deforestation in the Amazon jungle by 80 percent.

Brazil this year has managed to curb deforestation to its lowest level in 20 years, but 7,000 square kilometers (2,700 square miles) of rainforest still disappeared.

Those hoping for a major South American drive for Copenhagen could have hopes dashed by the news that two of the region's big hitters will not attend Thursday's summit.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez -- at loggerheads over an agreement granting US access to Colombian military bases -- declined the invitation.

Chavez said he had "many things to do in Caracas," while Uribe said he would not attend for health reasons.

The talks in Copenhagen, under the 192-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, aim to craft a post-2012 pact for curbing the heat-trapping gases that drive global warming.

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