George Bush's two closest allies in his attempt to sabotage international action to combat global warning last week dramatically distanced themselves from him.
Saudi Arabia announced that it had approved the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty on climate change which President Bush has been trying to kill. And Australia, while still rejecting it, parted company from the United States by saying that it was prepared to negotiate its successor.
The moves follow a tense international negotiating session in Buenos Aires where, as The Independent on Sunday reported last week, the US brought the talks to the brink of collapse by obstructing even anodyne proposals. This breached an assurance given by President Bush in 2001, when he pulled out of the protocol, that America would not try to stop other countries reaching agreement.
New negotiations are due to begin next year on a successor to Kyoto, which will come into force in February, following Russia's decision to ratify it last autumn. Tony Blair regards progress on climate change as one of the top priorities of Britain's presidency of the G8 group of the world's most powerful nations.
US opposition endangers both initiatives, but Mr Bush suffered a blow on Tuesday when the Saudi cabinet approved the treaty. A royal decree is being prepared to endorse it officially. The decision is significant, since the Saudis worked closely with the US in Buenos Aires, but the Australian initiative is more important, as it has so far marched in step with the US to try to kill negotiations.
Ian Campbell, Australia's environment minister, said it would be prepared to enter an agreement to combat global warming. He warned that unless it was reached, the world would be "in jeopardy", adding: "The difference between the US and Australia is that we are prepared to engage in a new agreement, so long as it is comprehensive."
Meanwhile, the official European Environment Agency has announced that the EU nations were on track to exceed the pollution cuts they have promised under Kyoto, so long as they implement all their policies and measures.
© Copyright 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd