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APEC Leaders Lower Expectations for Climate Change Agreement 

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Leaders of Pacific Rim economies say a legally binding climate change agreement is not likely in Copenhagen next month, but that they should still work for a political deal. Climate change was one of the topics discussed at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore.

APEC leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, lowered expectations for a deal on climate change before December meetings in Copenhagen.

Meeting in Singapore early Sunday, Pacific Rim leaders agreed there is not enough time for a legally binding pact on reducing global emissions of greenhouse gasses.

The Pacific Rim leaders said a political framework that they can build on later is more realistic.

The meeting on climate change was attended by leaders from 19 of APEC's 21 economies, as well as the Danish prime minister, who flew in at the last minute.

APEC leaders had planned to endorse a goal of cutting their greenhouse gas emissions to half of 1990 levels by 2050.

But, the ambitious reduction target was dropped from a draft statement.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke to journalists at the end of the APEC summit and defended the change.

"We didn't drop the emissions," Mr. Lee said. "We negotiated a draft. We settled on a text. I do not know the ins and the outs. But, this is not an occasion for negotiating climate change. This is APEC and is a declaration of intent in good faith. And, negotiations and the formal commitments will be done in the U.N. process which is leading to Copenhagen."

Although climate change was discussed at the APEC forum, improving the global economy dominated the agenda.

APEC leaders issued a statement Sunday calling for a new formula for growth in the Asia Pacific that would rely less on Asian exports to U.S. consumers.

The statement also called for the Doha round of world trade talks to be completed in 2010.

Also Sunday, President Obama held the first ever meeting with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including Burma-also known as Myanmar.

Mr. Lee says the fact that the meeting took place at all was significant.

"That ASEAN considers it important to have a summit meeting with a US president and the US president considers it worthwhile to have a summit meeting with all ten ASEAN members, notwithstanding difficulties they have, particularly with Myanmar," Mr. Lee said.

At the U.S.-ASEAN summit, Mr. Obama repeated calls for Burma's military government to release detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Nobel Prize winner has been held under house arrest for most of the last two decades.

ASEAN's ten members are Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.