* U.N., Denmark say strong deal still possible next month
* But risks in admitting it will fall short of a treaty
COPENHAGEN, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Widening agreement that next month's Copenhagen summit will likely fall short of a legally binding treaty runs the risk of a longer-term stalemate, which at worst could drag on like the Doha trade round, experts say.
The United Nations and Denmark, which will host the Dec. 7-18 talks, say that all core elements can still be agreed in a "politically binding" deal, including cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by rich nations and new funds to help the poor.
Analysts see a risk that some countries -- led by the United States where the Senate has not agreed carbon-capping legislation -- may take delay of a treaty text as easing pressure to overcome long-running deadlock on key issues.
"It raises the spectre of having a stalemate on the legally binding part lingering for years to come," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He said Copenhagen must set a firm deadline for negotiating a treaty text.
"The fear is that you get a deal in Copenhagen and an unclear process going forward which could lead to a Doha situation," echoed Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF environmental group's global climate initiative.
He said that governments should still focus on trying to get a legally binding treaty in Copenhagen meant to help avert heatwaves, droughts, rising sea levels, more powerful storms and species extinctions.
A Doha deal remains elusive after eight years of talks and the World Trade Organisation has warned countries they will miss a 2010 target for agreement unless the pace of negotiations is stepped up.
Denmark denies lowering expectations for a hugely complex deal, merely bowing to reality -- Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen has said since September that Copenhagen will not agree a full treaty.
Recession and high unemployment in many developed nations has distracted many governments from fighting climate change.
Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard said the summit can agree on cuts in emissions by developed nations, actions by developing nations to slow their rising emissions, ways to help the poor adapt to climate change, new finance and technology.
"We are not lowering ambitions," she told reporters at a meeting of 40 environment ministers in Copenhagen on Monday.
The United Nations has rejected any Doha comparison, pointing to unprecedented support from world leaders, who have focused strongly on tackling global warming this year.
At least 40 leaders plan to attend the Copenhagen summit -- U.S. President Barack Obama is uncertain.
Obama, meeting with Asia and Pacific leaders in Singapore on Sunday, endorsed a Danish proposal to delay a treaty.
Rasmussen wants a text of 5-8 pages capturing key elements of a deal, backed up by annexes outlining commitments by each nation. He said Obama's backing implied Washington would promise emissions cuts in Copenhagen.
"When you signal you approve the idea, it implicitly means that you are committing to cuts in emissions," he told Ritzau news agency.
The U.S. Senate is considering a bill cutting emissions to about 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Developing countries led by China and India say that rich countries need to cut emissions by at least 40 percent.
Hedegaard said a deadline for fixing a legal text could be as long as a year.
Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, suggested mid-2010 to tie down all legal points and keep momentum from Copenhagen, after which U.S. mid-term elections in November may play an unwelcome role. (For an Interactive factbox on the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen please click
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Editing by Sonya Hepinstall
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