PARIS - European leaders are courting some African, Asian and Latin American nations to counter the clout of China and the United States at the climate change talks in Copenhagen, French officials said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his EU allies were wary of letting Beijing present itself as a spokesman for emerging economies, they said. This would be based on China's ties with the G77 bloc of developing nations which is chaired by Sudan, an ally of Beijing.
We have Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia with us. What we need is to rally the 51 African countries, all the little islands, the vulnerable countries, Bangladesh, and India if possible, said a Sarkozy adviser, who did not wish to be named.
Sarkozy has pushed his climate agenda during talks with leaders from Ethiopia, Egypt and Indonesia this week, and was meeting heads from the 1l countries in the Congo basin, the world's second-biggest forest after the Amazon, on Wednesday.
The leaders of France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain, Denmark and Sweden agreed on a joint diplomatic charm offensive on the fringes of a European Union summit last week, they said.
They divvied up the phone calls. It's obvious for example that to talk to Argentina and Chile, (Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez) Zapatero is better placed, an aide told Reuters.
After a working lunch with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Tuesday, Sarkozy said Africa and the EU were on the same political line in terms of targets for cutting carbon emissions -- one of the sticking points in Copenhagen.
Meles, who is representing Africa at the talks, was slightly less upbeat, speaking of near-total agreement.
Sarkozy was already on more solid ground with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The two men issued a joint call last month on rich countries to boost aid immediately for developing nations to fight global warming.
Sarkozy has also proposed that 20 percent of a future fund to help emerging countries cope with climate change should go to forest preservation projects.
Aides said Sarkozy was hoping to consolidate his diplomatic work during a three-way meeting with Lula and Meles in Copenhagen on Thursday.
The European leaders want to avoid a repeat of events on Monday, when African countries walked out of the talks temporarily, accusing rich nations of seeking to kill off the existing Kyoto protocol on climate change.
Sarkozy's advisers said they suspected China, which has growing influence in Africa, had played a part in the walk-out.
The Europeans also want a united front to put pressure on U.S. diplomats in Copenhagen, but one French official said final negotiations might boil down to a simple argument between Washington and Beijing on which should make the bigger effort.
If these two major players don't succeed in finding some common ground and making important commitments, then anything the others do will be useless, said the adviser.