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Japan to Continue Promoting Pro-Whaling Agenda Despite Setback

Japan plans to continue pushing to overturn a 20-year-old international ban on commercial whaling Saturday at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Tokyo suffered twin setbacks during Friday's opening session in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. The commission narrowly voted down a Japanese bid to remove the issue of hunting dolphins and porpoises from the agenda.

The IWC also voted (33 to 30) against a Japanese proposal to introduce secret ballots so pro-whaling countries could vote without fear of retribution.

Both items were considered key to Japan's efforts to establish a pro-whaling majority on the commission.

Japanese officials say the organization should be trying to manage the whale population rather than stop the hunting of the huge marine mammals.

Environmentalists say the votes are a victory for the whales, but no cause for complacency.

The main issue facing the 70-nation whaling group has been its 1986 ban on all commercial whaling. That decision was intended to help preserve whale populations, which were depleted after decades of industrial hunting.

Pro-whaling countries need a 75 percent majority of those voting to repeal the commercial ban.

Supporters of the moratorium say Japan in particular has exploited a loophole in the ban that allows hunts for scientific purposes, to catch hundreds of whales.

Environmentalists also accuse Japan of using its wealth to influence the vote of poorer nations, an allegation Tokyo has denied.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.