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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ecuador pitches Amazon protection plan abroad

* Yasuni initiative aimed at countering climate change

* Govt proposes leaving oil underground in return for cash

QUITO, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Ecuadorean Vice President Lenin Moreno said on Saturday he will travel to Iran, Turkey and Dubai next month to pitch a plan for protecting the Amazon region by leaving 850 million barrels of oil underground.

Under the Yasuni initiative, OPEC-member Ecuador is looking to donor countries to pay it millions of dollars a year in return for not drilling in the area.

The government says not touching the oil, valued at about $6 billion, would avoid creating 410 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

"We will be in Iran, Dubai and Turkey to ask for support for the initiative," Moreno said during a televised address. "We are going to go forward with this project."

Ecuador has been in talks with potential donor countries such as Germany, Belgium and Spain. But the Yasuni pact has proven difficult to negotiate.

Former foreign minister Fander Falconi, who had been in charge of the talks, quit last month after leftist President Rafael Correa said he was not properly handling the project.

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