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. Japan invites developing nations for whaling meeting
TOKYO, Feb 29 (AFP) Feb 29, 2008
Japan, in a feud with Western nations over whaling, said Friday it will meet with 12 developing states in a bid to boost its clout in the deadlocked International Whaling Commission.

The foreign ministry said it will hold a "seminar" on Monday for nations that recently joined or plan to join the IWC, which has long been divided between pro- and anti-whaling forces.

Japanese fisheries officials will also take part in the talks aimed at "obtaining understanding for Japan's position on sustainable whaling," a foreign ministry statement said.

Japan, which kills up to 1,000 whales a year, says its whaling is legal and part of its culture, and accuses anti-whaling countries of insensitivity.

Japan has clashed bitterly with Australia, whose coast guard is trailing the whalers on their annual expedition in the Antarctic Ocean and has released bloody footage of the whale slaughter.

Environmentalists accuse Japan of buying votes in the IWC by roping in countries that receive Japanese aid and have little tradition of whaling.

The countries to take part in Monday's seminar are Angola, Cambodia, Congo (Brazzaville), Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ghana, Laos, Malawi, Micronesia, Palau, Tanzania and Vanuatu, the foreign ministry said.

Japan has pushed for secret balloting at the 78-member IWC, which in 1986 imposed a global moratorium on commercial whaling.

Japan continues to harpoon whales using a loophole that allows "lethal research" on the giant mammals, with the meat going on Japanese dinner plates.

Tokyo says it want to "normalise" the IWC to return to its original mandate of managing whaling.

Last year, Japan invited all members of the IWC, which then had 72 members, for "normalisation" talks in Tokyo. The final attendance was 37, with major anti-whaling nations such as Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the United States boycotting.

Norway and Iceland are the only nations to conduct outright commercial whaling in defiance of the 1986 moratorium.

In turn, a number of prominent developing nations, including India and South Africa, support Western countries in opposing whaling.

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