28 Jan 2005

Claims Kiribati now facing pro-whaling pressure

2:12 pm on 28 January 2005

The Opposition leadership in Kiribati is claiming that Japanese diplomats are about to pressure the country's president in a bid to end a global ban on whaling.

Kiribati is taking a seat at the International Whaling Commission annual meeting in South Korea in May.

It will have a crucial, possibly deciding, vote on the lifting of a worldwide ban on large-scale commercial whaling.

Brian Orme, who's a spokeperson for the Kiribati Opposition leader Dr Harry Tong, claims the president will be offered cash in return for support.

"Japan adopts the same attitude as Taiwan does - if you look at the countries that are supporting the commercial fishing for whales like Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, they undoubtedly buy their support; I don't think they even deny that."

Mr Orme says MPs won't have the chance to question the president, Anote Tong, until after the whaling commission meeting.

He says American whalers hunted in Kiribati waters in the 19th century.

But Mr Orme says whales have no great significance in Kiribati culture, although locals will eat meat from dead animals washed up on beaches.

The Australian Government says it's asking for Kiribati's support to keep the ban.