French President Jacques Chirac led calls on Saturday for a powerful new UN environment agency and for a safe and protected environment to be enshrined as a fundamental human right. Speaking at a conference here a day after a panel of UN experts issued their bluntest warning yet over global warming, Chirac said the proposal to replace the existing UN Environment Programme (UNEP) had the support of 46 countries. "We call for the transformation of the UNEP into a genuine international organisation to which all countries belong, along the lines of the World Health Organisation," Chirac said. However his call for a fully-fledged UN agency has not received unanimous backing, with opponents including the United States, the world's biggest polluter, Russia and the world's top three emerging economies: China, India and Brazil. Russia had reservations about the creation of such an agency, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov told the Itar-Tass news agency. "Russia has certain doubts about the timeliness of such a step," he said. "At the moment the UNEP makes it possible to resolve the tasks in this area," said Denisov, who attended the Paris conference, though he agreed it should be reorganised so it could better "correspond to the demands of today."


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