Kyoto Summit: Prescott takes a leading role

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The Independent Online
John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister and head of the British delegation, has suffered many irritations this week, but one in particular has been outstanding. It reached its climax yesterday, at a meeting of EU ministers, which was being interrupted by the constant trilling of mobile phones. The chairman of the meeting, the Luxembourg environment minister, appeared unbothered by the commotion. According to one present, it was left to Mr Prescott to ask that they be switched off, in language rarely heard in ministerial conclaves.

Mr Prescott is no diplomat and seven months ago, piloting his battle bus during the general election campaign he would have seemed an unlikely, and inexperienced green. But in the past two months, and this week in particular, he has played a significant role in the negotiation of the Kyoto protocol. In the run- up to Kyoto he made two round-the-world trips to consult with the key parties; after arriving in Japan at the weekend, his irascible leadership has prevailed.

As a member of the "troika" - the past, present and future holders of the European presidency - Britain was always going to play a significant part in negotiations on the EU's behalf in Kyoto. But for several reasons, Mr Prescott has extended that role.