From: Adam Raney, Associated Press
Published April 21, 2006 12:00 AM

Anti-Whaling Group Accuses Japan of Buying Caribbean Votes to Roll Back Hunting Ban

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad — An anti-whaling group accused Japan on Thursday of trying to buy votes from Caribbean countries in its bid to roll back an International Whaling Commission ban on whale hunting -- an allegation repeatedly denied by Japanese officials.

Japan has given six Caribbean nations -- St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Antigua, Dominica, Grenada and St. Kitts -- more than US$100 million (euro81 million) in fishing aid since 1998. Most of them have backed Japan on the vast majority of whaling votes.

"Call it aid or whatever you like, it is still vote buying," said Joth Singh, director of Wildlife and Habitat Protection for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Singh joined Caribbean environmentalists for a two-day meeting to come up with strategies to convince regional leaders to take a stand against whale hunting at the IWC's annual meeting to be held this June in St. Kitts.

Kaoru Tsurita, a Japanese Embassy spokesman in Trinidad, said Japan doesn't buy votes.

"Our aid is not tied to policy," Tsurita said.

Singh also said Japan has pressured developing countries in the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific to join the commission.

"They are trying to hijack the IWC by bringing in countries that support its positions," Singh said.

That accusation -- which Tsurita denied -- was echoed earlier this week by New Zealand, which said it will join Britain and Australia in a diplomatic bid to prevent Japan taking control of the commission.

New Zealand was talking to many small nations that have joined the commission and voted with Japan after receiving aid packages from the pro-whaling nation, said Prime Minister Helen Clark.

The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986 but approved limited hunts for research purposes a year later. Opponents have called Japan's hunts merely a way for it to dodge the ban.

Source: Associated Press

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