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France, Eastern Europe Divided Over Climate Plan

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has failed to end disagreements with leaders of nine eastern European nations on a plan to tackle global warming. Stefan Bos reports from Budapest that Mr. Sarkozy made the comments after talks in Poland.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy tried to sell an ambitious EU climate package to the prime ministers of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic.

The scheme, known as "three times 20", would provide a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20 percent increase in renewable energies, and 20 percent more energy efficiency by the year 2020.

But after his talks with the nine east European leaders, Mr. Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, admitted there was no breakthrough although he remained hopeful an agreement could be reached at an E.U. summit next week.

The French president says he still believes that all states present here are actively engaged in the protection of the environment, and want to find a compromise." He adds that they would like to see Europe send the whole world a message of respect regarding the calendar and the objectives agreed upon earlier in March 2007 at the European Council, about the 'three times 20' scheme. Mr. Sarkozy says an agreement can be achieved, as in his words, "Europe must set an example. He cautions that if Europe wants to set an example, then Europe must be credible.

Yet, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has threatened to veto the plan, unless he wins fossil fuel concessions, as his country relies on coal for more than 90 percent of its electricity.

Poland says it needs until 2020 to curb carbon emissions, for example by using more efficient boilers and carbon-scrubbing equipment and possibly building its first nuclear power plant. Eastern European leaders also fear the emissions guidelines will harm their emerging economies at a time when they try to catch-up with the richer West.

Mr. Sarkozy met the prime ministers in the Polish port city of Gdansk, where he and other officials marked the 25th anniversary of Poland's Lech Walesa receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in promoting freedom and democracy.

Mr. Walesa was leader of the Solidarity trade union and eventually became Poland's first democratically elected president after the collapse of Communism. In comments translated by the Polish Radio External Service, Mr. Walesa said he regarded the prize as crucial in his union's freedom fight. "This prize made me personally mortal. And it gave the solidarity movement a new lease of life, so we could go on to victory. Without that prize, I cannot imagine further successes. I am convinced that victory would not have been possible," he said.

While in Gdansk, French president Sarkozy also met with Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, despite warnings from China that it could have a negative impact on ties between the two countries.

Mr. Sarkozy is the first European head of state to meet the Dalai Lama while holding the European Union's rotating presidency.

The French leader's decision to engage with the Dalai Lama has so far seen Beijing retaliate by canceling a China-EU summit in France. China, which views Tibet as its territory, has also warned that China-France trade deals could suffer.