Commonwealth leaders remain divided on how to move forward on climate change, but Australia's newly elected prime minister has pledged to sign "immediately" a climate change treaty that the country has in the past rejected, Britain's prime minister said.
During informal talks that started on Friday, climate change has emerged as a major issue for Commonwealth leaders, who had tried to see whether they could reach a consensus before an international conference on climate change starting on Dec. 3 in Bali.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told journalists he had a conversation on Saturday with new Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd. He said Rudd had told him "he will immediately sign the Kyoto agreement ... and he had also told me he is proposing binding commitments in the post-Kyoto talks that start in Bali in a few days' time."
The Bali meeting is to lay the groundwork for a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Kyoto set emissions targets for developed countries while exempting developing ones.
"There is no doubt there is still a lot to do to bring countries together on climate change issues," Brown said on the sidelines of the Commonwealth summit near Kampala.
He did not identify the countries holding out against a common platform for the 53-nation group of Britain and its former colonies.
Brown said he was uncertain whether the world would reach agreement on climate change in Bali but, "there is a strong chance we can get all countries on board."
Late on Friday, a senior Canadian government official denied reports that Canada is blocking a Commonwealth resolution calling for binding cuts to greenhouse gas levels, but said Canada wants all major emitters to be included -- a reference to developing countries such as India and China, as well as the US.
Earlier on Saturday, Commonwealth leaders named Kamalesh Sharma, currently India's ambassador to Britain, as the new Commonwealth secretary-general. Sharma will replace New Zealander Don McKinnon as the day-to-day head of the Commonwealth on April 1.
In a pre-summit meeting on Thursday, a committee of Commonwealth foreign ministers suspended Pakistan after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf failed to meet a deadline to lift a three-week-old state of emergency and step down as army chief.
Pakistan condemned the move as "unreasonable and unjustified."
"The pace of progress towards normalcy will be determined by ground realities and legal requirements in Pakistan rather than unrealistic demands from outside," a Pakistan foreign ministry statement said on Friday.
Pakistan was last kicked out of the Commonwealth in 1999 after Musharraf seized power in a coup. It took the country five years to be reinstated.