JOHANNESBURG - As negotiators put the finishing touches to a global plan to tackle poverty and save the environment, Russia said Tuesday it will soon ratify the Kyoto Protocol - a move that would bring the key climate change agreement into effect.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was among a series of leaders at the World Summit urging action on Kyoto. He said his country planned to ratify the agreement "in the very near future," but did not specify when.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said Monday he would submit the protocol to his Parliament to consider ratification, and China announced Tuesday it had already ratified it.
"Different countries have different conditions, however, we should all endeavor to take responsibility for the whole world," said Xie Zhenhua, China's minister of environmental protection.
The United States has been relentlessly criticized for its rejection of Kyoto, which requires industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. But the accord can still come into effect if Russia joins the European Union and Japan in ratifying.
U.S. Environmental Protection Administrator Christie Whitman said Tuesday the United States supported other countries' ratification of the deal. But she said the agreement was not appropriate for the United States, which is taking other action to limit climate change.
On the sidelines of the summit, Iraq said it was ready to discuss a return of U.N. weapons inspectors, but only in conjunction with ending sanctions and restoring Iraqi sovereignty over all its territory.
"If you want to find a solution, you have to find a solution for all these matters, not only pick up one certain aspect of it," Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tari QAziz said after a 20-minute meeting Tuesday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Annan urged Aziz to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions, which call for the unconditional return of inspectors, his spokeswoman said.
Fifty heads of state and other dignitaries were making back-to-back speeches Tuesday. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was to address the summit Wednesday - closing day - on behalf of President George W. Bush, who has been criticized for not attending personally.
Late Monday, negotiators resolved the last main sticking points in a 70-odd page plan to turn commitments made 10 years ago at the Rio Earth Summit into reality. Most of the items were geared to helping the world's poorest people without polluting.
Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai praised the nonbinding agreement as a strong blueprint for sustainable development.
"The test is whether governments, along with civil society and the private sector, can pursue the commitments that are in the document and take actions that achieve measurable results," he said.
After loosing its push for targets on the use of wind and solar energy, the European Union said Tuesday it would form a coalition of "like-minded countries and regions" willing to commit to strict timetables for increasing renewable energy.
EU Energy Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said the initial response from countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean had been positive. She did not elaborate.
Many developing countries had sided with the United States and Japan against including the targets in the summit's plan, arguing they were a rich country's luxury.
The text agreed late Tuesday includes a commitment to "urgently" increase the use of renewable energy sources, but says cleaner use of fossil fuels is also acceptable, diplomats said.
Earlier, the Bush administration accepted language that says nations backing Kyoto "strongly urge" states that have not done so to ratify it in "a timely manner."
Negotiators also agreed to text urging countries to reform subsidies that favor industrialized countries or are harmful to the environment, and committed to halving the 2 billion people living without proper sanitation by 2015.
The plan emphasizes the need for good governance to achieve sustainable development, but does not make it a condition for receiving aid as advocated by the United States, diplomats said.
"It may seem on the surface that the text does not do as much as some people would like, but it is very significant," Whitman said.
British Environment Minister Margaret Beckett called the plan "a generous and serious and substantial outcome."
"Because people want to implement these ideals and proposals, they will happen," she said.
But at least one country said it still had concerns about the document.
Canada has been pressing for language requiring the provision of health care in a way consistent with human rights. Without it, the delegation worries that protection against harmful cultural practices like genital mutilation might be weakened.
"We will continue to fight for this," said Kelly Morgan, spokeswoman for Canada's Environment Ministry.
A host of civic and environmental groups also condemned the compromises, calling some of them a significant step backward from previous commitments.
"Economic interests were allowed to maintain their primacy over other global priorities," said Kim Carstensen, deputy head of WWF International's summit delegation.
U.N. officials were combining the different sections of the plan into a document for adoption by the summit. World leaders were also wrapping up a political declaration in which they commit to building a "humane and caring global society in pursuit of the goal of human dignity for all."