The two weeks of talks have proved extremely contentious [AFP]

Contentious talks at a UN summit in Bali appeared to be heading towards a deal to launch negotiations on a global pact by 2009 to fight climate change after the EU said it supported a compromise proposal.

Talks had been extended into Saturday due to a row between the US, which opposes a guideline that rich countries should cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and the EU which favoured the target

Humberto Rosa, a Portuguese environment official representing the EU, told delegates that the compromise had been brokered in a "good co-operative atmosphere".

"It results from a compromise," said Rosa. "It was elaborated with the engagement of all the parties."

However, disputes lingered about how far a final "road map" for a climate pact to succeed the UN's Kyoto Protocol should demand action by China, India and other developing nations.

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Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, reporting from Bali, says that India and China have refused to accept limits on carbon dioxide emissions.

She said: "India was unsatisified with the wording of the document, and China has outright refused."

"However, it looks like an agreement may be reached on a road map to a future deal where all sides will agree. But it is unclear at the moment what kind of agreement this will be."

Weary delegates had been called to debate a compromise among almost 190 nations after two weeks of negotiations in Indonesia.

Chinese opposition

But the meeting broke off after objections from China, saying that many delegation leaders were still in side talks outside the plenary.

If approved, a draft decision would launch two years of talks on a new long-term treaty to involve all nations.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, arrived in Bali on Saturday morning for an unscheduled return to the talks from East Timor.

He was due to hold a news conference later in the morning.

The draft compromise, reached after days of acrimonious debates, relegated the range of emissions cuts to a footnote from a more prominent position in the preamble.

"Deep cuts in global emissions will be required" to avoid dangerous climate change, the preamble says.

The US, the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases and the only industrialised nation not party to Kyoto, said it was satisfied with the compromise.

Economic fears

"We can live with the preamble," US negotiator Harlan Watson said.

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Washington opposed mention of firm 2020 guidelines for cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, saying it would prejudge the outcome of negotiations on a new treaty meant to slow ever more droughts, heatwaves, storms and rising seas.

Most nations favour starting two years of negotiations ending with a broad new pact in 2009 to succeed Kyoto, which obliges 37 industrialised nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of five per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

The UN says a new deal, mainly on reducing dependency on fossil fuels, must be in place by the end of 2009 to give parliaments time to ratify and to reassure carbon markets and investors looking beyond 2012.

UN officials said one section of text that was still undecided was how far developing nations should be required to take "actions" or make less demanding "contributions" to fight global warming.

The main negotiating bloc of developing countries, the G77, said it was not ready to make new efforts to fight climate change by cutting emissions from fossil fuels.

It fears curbs would cramp economic growth aimed at lifting millions out of poverty.

"People are negotiating, they are posturing, and not rising above entrenched national positions," Angus Friday, Grenada's Ambassador to the UN and chair of the Alliance of Small Island states, said.

"We are just very disappointed at this stage. We are ending up with something so watered down there was no need for 12,000 people to gather here in Bali to have a watered down text. We could have done that by email," he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies