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Lee welcomes IWC rejection of Iceland bid

20 May 2002 Media Statement

Lee welcomes IWC rejection of Iceland's qualified membership bid, and secret ballots

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee says the International Whaling Commission's decision today to reject Iceland's membership because it sought a pro-whaling qualification was "a victory for commonsense".

She has also welcomed the IWC's rejection of secret ballots, which she said would have prevented voting on key policy issues from being open and transparent.

In a statement from the IWC annual meeting, at Shimonoseki in Japan, Ms Lee welcomed the decision by the Commission to uphold a ruling by its Swedish chair, Professor Bo Fernholm, against the admission of Iceland as a member this year.

Commentators had described the vote on Iceland's membership as an early litmus test on whether the IWC would maintain its broadly conservationist stance, or adopt a more hardline whaling advocacy role.

Ms Lee described today's opening session of the IWC annual meeting as "fractious", and said Iceland's bid to rejoin the IWC with a reservation against the Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling did not stack up with the majority of members.

She said the Commission had also voted for the fifth year in a row to reject a proposal fo secret ballots on the IWC's decisions.

"Today's votes were a victory for common sense and for the democratic process" said Ms Lee who is leading the New Zealand delegation.

"Despite some differences in our respective views on whaling policy, it has always been New Zealand's position to welcome the return of Iceland to the IWC, but subject to the same rules that apply to all other members.

"If Iceland does not want to be bound by the global moratorium on whaling, it should join the IWC without a reservation and argue its case," Ms Lee said.

"By rejecting the proposal for secret ballots the International Whaling Commission has reaffirmed its intention to retain the present practice of transparency and accountability.

"The IWC is the international organisation with the global decision making responsibility for the conservation and management of whales, so it is important that the governments and the citizens of the countries represented are able to see how their representatives vote on key issues."

Note—Japan is three hours behind NZ so midnight here is only 9pm in Japan.


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