NAIROBI - American voters hold the key to ending the war in Iraq and can help revive a UN treaty on global warming which was rejected by President George W. Bush, Kenyan ecologist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai, told reporters.
"There are very many Americans who are not for the war (in Iraq) and who are wishing that this war could come to an end," Maathai said at the United Nations offices in Nairobi.
Nobel Peace prize winner Wangari Maathai addresses the media in Nairobi October 9, 2004, during a press conference at the headquarters of the Green Belt Movement. Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the first Nobel given to an environmentalist, honored for fighting poverty by trying to save the continent's shrinking forests. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti
"In a country like America, there are lots of people who would prefer that their government ratify the (Kyoto) protocol, who would gladly change their consumptive lifestyle, especially the rate at which they consume fossil fuel, so that they are not polluters of the environment," Maathai, who is Kenya's deputy environment minister, said.
The Nobel laureate urged US voters "to make a decision" in the November 2 election, both on the US-led war in Iraq and on the Kyoto protocol on climate change -- the UN pact that was approved by 159 countries in 1997, and which Bush rejected shortly after taking office in 2001.
"We make our decisions at the national level through elections," 64-year-old Maathai said, implicitly throwing her weight behind Bush's Democratic challenger John Kerry when she urged US voters to elect a leader who would rapidly wrap up fighting in Iraq.
Kerry has pledged to muster more international troops for Iraq so the United States could start withdrawing its forces next year.
"Americans will be given an opportunity to reassess their presence in Iraq and reassess their approach in dealing with terrorism in the world, and maybe make options that will ensure that we have peace in the Middle East," she said.
"I am quite sure that those who decided to go in there didn't know what was lying ahead," she said of Iraq.
"I am sure they thought they could get out of it as soon as they were able to remove one person they thought was responsible for violations of human rights in that country," Maathai added, referring to ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who Bush claimed had weapons of mass destruction and had to be forced from power.
Maathai also appealed to industrialised nations to consider changing their lifestyles in order to cut down on pollution.
"Not to do that is to put the burden on the poor... who do not consume as much, but who also suffer from that pollution," she said.
"There are quite a few countries that encourage us (developing countries), for example, to restore our forests so that we can provide the carbon sink..., but this is not enough, it is also important for them to change their lifestyles," Maathai added at the fringe of the African women's environment assembly in Nairobi.
"By far the largest number of people in rich countries are responding because they want to retain this high consumptive lifestyle that is costing us our lifestyle," she added.
Swedish Environemt Minister Lena Sommestad told the same press conference that the Kyoto protocol is the best tool to combat carbon pollution.
"We know that there are lots of people, lots of politicians in the US who support the protocol," she added.
The charter commits 39 industrialised signatories to bring annual global emissions of six greenhouse gases, the main one being carbon dioxide (CO2), to below 1990 levels by a timeframe of 2008-2012.
To achieve that, they will have to restrain the burning of oil, coal and gas, the carbon-bearing sources that sparked the Industrial Revolution and remain the foundation for economic life today.
© Copyright 2004 AFP