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. Laos To Join Whaling Body At Japan Request As Iceland Targeted By Sea Shepherd

File image of IWC meeting. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) May 15, 2007
Landlocked Laos has agreed to join the world's whaling body at Japan's request, an official said Tuesday, leading campaigners to accuse Tokyo of buying votes in its bid to resume commercial whaling. The Japanese foreign ministry here said Laos, whose prime minister is on a visit to Japan, plans to join the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The move comes ahead of the IWC's annual meeting later this month in Alaska, where Tokyo is expected again to push for an end to a moratorium on commercial whaling.

"Japan requested cooperation on preserving traditional culture and we think the reason Laos agreed to join the IWC is to help improve friendly ties with Japan," the foreign ministry official said.

Laotian Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh is currently holding talks here on securing investment from the world's second largest economy.

Japan, which says whale meat is part of its culture, hunts whales using a loophole that allows a catch for scientific research.

It is campaigning for an outright resumption of commercial whaling. Only Norway and Iceland defy the global ban on hunting altogether.

Pro-whaling nations won a razor-thin 33-32 victory at the last IWC meeting in the Caribbean last year, passing a symbolic resolution saying the whaling moratorium was no longer necessary.

The environmental campaign group Greenpeace, which opposes whaling, accuses Japan of using aid to boost the IWC's ranks with friendly developing nations, many in Africa, which have no genuine involvement in the issue.

"In the IWC, countries are fighting to get even one vote so there is a chance that one vote could change things a lot," said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan's campaign leader.

"To join the IWC in return for receiving aid does not reflect what the Laotian people desire, and to have Laos join an international meeting through these obscure means is very bad for both Japan and Laos," Sato said.

But the Japanese official said it was uncertain if Laos would join in time for this month's meeting, which is set again to pit Japan against anti-whaling nations led by Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the United States.

The Laotian leader on Monday agreed with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to set up a council of government and private-sector officials by the end of the year to discuss a pact on bilateral investment.

"I hope that both our governments will explain ourselves to investors ... in order to create a secure environment" for them in Laos, Bouasone told a news conference Tuesday.

Bouasone will meet with business leaders and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the government-backed lender, and have a ceremonial audience with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko before leaving Thursday.

earlier related report
Anti-whaling activists target Iceland
Sydney (AFP) May 15 - Activists who sank two of Iceland's whaling ships 20 years ago announced plans Tuesday to disrupt the country's resumed whale hunt.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said its flagship "Farley Mowat" would leave Australia later in the day and head for the North Atlantic with a crew of volunteers from around the world.

Sea Shepherd, headed by Canadian Paul Watson, describes itself as the most aggressive non-governmental organisation in the world.

One of its ships clashed in the Antarctic this year with Japanese whalers, with each side accusing the other of ramming the other's vessel.

Watson noted in a statement received here that Sea Shepherd sank two Icelandic whalers in Reykjavik harbor in 1986 and warns that it will "shut down" Iceland's whaling operations resumed in October last year.

"We cannot and we must not allow them to destroy these whales and therefore we have no alternative but to put our lives and our ship on the line for the defence of the whales of the North Atlantic," Watson said.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.

Iceland's decision to resume commercial whaling, making it only the second country to do so after Norway, sparked protests from around the world. Japan claims its annual whale hunts are for scientific research.

The IWC holds its annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska on May 28-31, where Japan will again press for the commercial hunting ban to be lifted.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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International Whaling Commission (IWC)
Follow the Whaling Debate

Scientists Gather As Japan Prepares For Whaling Fight
Washington DC (AFP) May 08, 2007
Japan geared for its perennial clash with conservationists over lifting a commercial hunting ban Monday ahead of the polarized International Whaling Commission's annual meeting. But as the IWC's scientific committee began two weeks of closed sessions in Anchorage, Alaska to prepare a report for the May 28-31 meeting, the global body's future could also be at stake as Japan has warned it could quit.

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