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FILE PHOTO: Hundreds of environmentalists arrange their bodies to form a message of hope and peace in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, December 6, 2015, as the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) continues at Le Bourget near the French capital. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
By Allison Lampert
MONTREAL (Reuters) - The United States attended a Saturday meeting of ministers from more than 30 of the nations that signed the Paris climate-change agreement, though the White House issued a statement saying it will stick with plans to pull out of the deal.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump administration officials said the United States would not pull out of the agreement and had offered to re-engage in the deal, citing the European Commission's Miguel Arias Canete.
A Commission spokeswoman told Reuters at the Montreal gathering that Canete - commissioner for climate action and energy - had not said the United States had changed its position on withdrawing from the deal. The White House said that the report was inaccurate.
"There has been no change in the United States' position on the Paris agreement," said White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters. "As the President has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favourable to our country."
President Donald Trump announced in June that he would withdraw the nation from the 2015 global climate pact, arguing that it would undermine the U.S. economy and national sovereignty. The decision drew anger and condemnation from world leaders.
Everett Eissenstat, the deputy director of the White House's National Economic Council who led the delegation in Montreal, declined comment.
Earlier in the day, Canete told Reuters that "They (the United States) have said they don't intend to renegotiate the Paris agreement, but they will try to work on how to re-engage."
The United States used similar language in August, when it submitted a letter to the United Nations formally stating it intended to withdraw from the pact, adding that it would be open to re-engaging if the terms were favourable.
Ministers from Canada, the European Union and other nations told reporters that they expect continued U.S. participation in Paris Agreement talks. The withdrawal process will take until November 2020 to complete.
“While we understand that the U.S.'s position on the Paris Agreement has not changed, we are pleased that they continue to engage," said Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
Attendees also reaffirmed their strong commitment to the terms of the pact, which was signed by nearly 200 countries and seeks to limit further global warming to no more than 2 degrees.
China's representative Xie Zhenhua said "The Paris agreement should not be renegotiated."
The Montreal gathering precedes larger United Nations climate talks in Bonn where devastation from Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean is expected to pit wealthy countries against small island nations who need help coping with damage attributable to climate change.
Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in the last century, killed dozens of people and caused billions of dollars in damage across the Caribbean and Florida.
(Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici in St. Louis; Editing by Jim Finkle and Mary Milliken)