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By Bernadette H. Carreon

KOROR, Palau (June 25, 2002 - Palau Horizon/PINA Nius Online)---Palau has told the international environmental activist group Greenpeace it cannot dictate Palau's position on whaling.

Palau will not be forced into taking an "extremist" position over establishing a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, Palau Minister of State Temmy Shmull said.

Shmull was reacting to Greenpeace’s "attacks" against Palau for not supporting the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary during the recent International Whaling Commission meeting in Japan.

Shmull's statement came as Japan fisheries experts arrived in Palau to meet with local officials and discuss International Whaling Commission issues.

Palau has long traditional ties with Japan and is regarded as one of Japan's closest Pacific allies.

Shmull said: "We have our own position regarding the whaling industry and it will be based on our own studies, research and data. We will not take a similar position with Greenpeace."

Shmull said it is the local government’s policy to ensure that it will use resources on a sustainable basis while taking necessary and reasonable conservation measures.

Greenpeace earlier accused Palau of contradicting "its good work saving dugongs and its commitment to the Pacific Islands Forum."

Greenpeace said other Pacific islands countries are "frustrated at the politics and vote buying in the IWC" and have proposed to set up national sanctuaries.

The Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Papua New Guinea and Samoa have already said they are setting up such sanctuaries in their exclusive economic zones.

The proposed South Pacific Whale Sanctuary won majority support but failed to get the percentage of votes needed for establishment during the International Whaling Commission meeting in Japan. The opposition was led by Japan and other pro-whaling nations.

The Solomon Islands -- which gets substantial aid from Japan and also has close ties -- is understood to have abstained during the vote in a significant blow to the pro-sanctuary movement.

Japan is advocating what it calls the sustainable use of whale stocks.

Shmull said the Japanese and Palau governments will discuss how they can work together in the International Whaling Commission.

"We will continue to cooperate with all the member countries and (Palau) will do its best to work with them and promote the goals and objectives of the commission," Shmull said.

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