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Whaling Moratorium Talks Break Down-Delegates

Date: 24-Jun-10
Country: MOROCCO
Author: Tom Pfeiffer

Talks on replacing a moratorium on whaling with a controlled cull have hit an impasse and will be suspended for a year, delegates at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) said on Wednesday.

Negotiators in the Moroccan city of Agadir said the proposal, aimed at breaking the long-running deadlock over the emotive issue of whaling, failed because whaling countries and anti-whaling delegations could not find enough common ground.

"This means these talks are finished," said Sue Lieberman, who was heading the delegation of the anti-whaling Pew Environment Group at the talks.

One national delegate said talks on the proposed changes to whaling policy had been put on hold until the next annual session of the IWC.

"It seems this means that there is going to be a one-year break in negotiations," said Uruguayan representative Gaston Lasarte.

A moratorium on whaling has been in force for 24 years but Japan, Norway and Iceland have caught thousands of whales since the 1980s, arguing that they are not bound by a total ban despite international condemnation.

The compromise proposal under discussion at the IWC meeting would have lifted the moratorium for 10 years but imposed strict controls on the limited whaling that would then be allowed.

Some environmental groups have given qualified support for the proposal, saying if it was not possible for now to stop all whaling at least it should be limited.

However, it was opposed by supporters of whaling who said it amounted to a back-door ban on the practice, and by some anti-whaling campaigners who described it as a sell-out to the whaling lobby.

"We had two days of useful talks but we still haven't got a consensus resolution. There is an absence of political will to bridge the gaps and to compromise," said Geoffrey Palmer, head of the New Zealand delegation in Agadir.

Japan's delegation also blamed a lack of flexibility on the proposals, which were put forward by the IWC's chairman, for sinking the talks.

"Unfortunately, there are some members who are unhappy with the chair's proposal and who do not accept it as a basis for discussions," the delegation said in a statement.

(Editing by Noah Barkin)

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