31 Jan 2005

Kiribati president denies opposition claims he's open to inducements from Japan

2:11 pm on 31 January 2005

The president of Kiribati is denying that the government would accept inducements from Japan to support the end of the global ban on large-scale commercial whaling.

Anote Tong was responding to Opposition leadership claims that he would bow to pressure from Japanese diplomats if offered cash.

Kiribati will be present at the International Whaling Commission annual meeting in South Korea in May when the issue is debated.

Mr Tong says he's unlikely to support a ban while research is inconclusive over the impact of the whale population on the country's tuna fisheries.

He says the fisheries are his main concern and he will not be bullied by other nations.

"Small countries will always be subjected to pressure by its close and far off neighbours. At international fora we are always being approached but I think at the end of the day it's important that we consider our own interests. We must not provide support indiscriminately."

Mr Tong says he has not been approached by Japanese diplomats.