By Nina Chestney
DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - The United States denied on Thursday it was trying to delay a new global climate deal until 2020, saying it supported an EU proposal that aims to chart a path to a more ambitious pact to fight climate change.
Delegates from almost 200 countries have until Friday to decide whether to commit to signing up to an internationally binding climate deal by 2015, which would take effect from 2020.
Some countries and pressure groups says the United States is trying delay a deal until 2020 or later, saying there is little chance of progress before a presidential election next year, especially given squabbling between Republicans and President Barack Obama's Democrats over environmental legislation.
"It is completely off base to suggest the U.S. is proposing it will delay action to 2020," U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern told reporters on Thursday.
"The EU has called for a roadmap (to a future deal). We support that," he said.
The EU is pushing for a global deal in 2015 but will not extend the Kyoto Protocol -- the world's only legally binding pact on fighting climate change -- unless all major emitters, including the United States and China, pledge ambitious cuts of their own.
The United States has said it will only make its emissions cutting actions binding under an international agreement if China and other developing countries that are big polluters back their commitments with equal legal force.
Stern said the United States was deeply engaged in tough issues such as deciding on a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol and the shape of a strong future deal.
The U.N. summit was "rapidly setting up" a green climate fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change, he said, ways to share green technology and help poor countries adapt to climate change.
"If we take all of that together it is nonsense to suggest we are proposing a hiatus in dealing with climate change internationally after 2020."
Nevertheless, only modest steps towards a broader deal on cutting greenhouse gases that cause global warming is the most likely outcome of talks, which officially end on Friday.
(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jon Boyle)