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Japan loses key vote at whaling meet

TOKYO: Japan's quest to overturn a 19-year-old ban on commercial whaling started poorly on Tuesday when it lost two votes at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission. As the most vocal pro-whaling country, Japan had hoped to gain the upper hand against conservationists such as Britain and Australia by introducing secret ballots in IWC votes and removing talks on whale sanctuaries from the agenda of the five-day meeting in Ulsan, South Korea. The proposals were rejected, by 30 votes to 27 and 29 to 28, suggesting Japan does not yet have support of the majority of IWC members it needs to challenge the ban. Overturning the ban would require a two-thirds majority. The failure to win a majority on less controversial issues has heightened speculation that Tokyo may leave the IWC. Victory would have enabled pro-whaling countries to close down committees and send a message that the IWC's support for conservation was waning. Environmentalists were wary of claiming victory, saying the balance of power could shift again by the time the conference ends on Friday.

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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