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No end in sight for whaling stalemate

THERE are no guarantees that negotiators from pro- and anti-whaling nations will settle their dispute within a 12-month deadline they have set themselves, the new head of the International Whaling Commission said yesterday.

"I can't promise a final solution within a year. I hope at the very least we have the framework of an agreement at the end of that period," Cristian Maquieira said at the end of the IWC's weeklong annual meeting.

Delegates from more than 80 countries at the talks in Portugal's Madeira islands remained split between nations that support whaling and those that demand its end. However, they agreed to keep pursuing an agreement in time for next year's meeting in Morocco.

The stalemate, which has angered conservation groups, has lasted since a 1986 ban on commercial whaling.

Japan, Norway and Iceland together continue to harpoon around 2,000 whales annually. They argue that many species, such as minke whales, are abundant enough to continue hunting them. They are backed by around half the IWC's member nations.

The United States, Australia and the European Union, among others, want whaling to stop or at least be reduced.

Maquieira, a veteran Chilean diplomat who was elected IWC president Thursday, said both sides must compromise.

"In the final outcome, not everybody's going to get what they want. If they want to have an agreement they're going to have to swallow some very tough decisions," he said.

Conservation groups attending the meeting as observers were mostly unhappy about the decision to extend negotiations for another year.


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