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Emissions cuts deal OKd at climate talks

DURBAN, South Africa -- Countries from around the globe agreed yesterday to forge a new deal forcing all the biggest polluters for the first time to limit greenhouse gas emissions, but critics said the plan was too timid to slow global warming.

A package of accords agreed to after marathon UN talks in South Africa extended the 1997 Kyoto Protocol allowing five more years to complete a wider pact that has so far eluded negotiators. Kyoto's first phase, due to expire at the end of next year but now extended until 2017, imposed limits only on developed countries, not emerging giants like China and India. The United States never ratified it.

Those three countries and the EU held a last-ditch huddle in the conference center before finally agreeing to wording that commits them to a pact with legal force, although what form it will take was left vague.

Countries also agreed on the format of a fund to help poor nations tackle climate change.

Many small island states and developing nations at risk of being swamped by rising sea levels and extreme weather said the deal lacked the ambition needed to ensure their survival.

Delegates agreed to start work next year on a new, legally binding accord to cut greenhouse gases. It is slated to be decided by 2015 and take force by 2020.

The process for doing so, called the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, would "develop a new protocol, another legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force." That phrasing was used by all parties to claim victory.

Britain's Energy and Climate Secretary Chris Huhne said the result was "a great success for European diplomacy."

U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said Washington was satisfied with the outcome: "We got the kind of symmetry that we had been focused on since the beginning of the Obama administration."

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