By environment reporter Sarah Clarke
Seventeen mostly pro-whaling nations have had their voting rights suspended at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Morocco, in what could be a blow to Japan's hopes of resuming commercial whaling.
Delegates at the Agadir meeting are currently engaged in secret talks in a bid to break the deadlock over proposals to allow Japan to resume a limited commercial whale hunt in exchange for a reduction in its so-called scientific whaling program in the Southern Ocean.
This morning meeting deputy chairman Anthony Liverpool said about one-fifth of the meeting's 88 member states would not be allowed to vote.
The countries include Palau, the Marshall Islands, Ghana and Gambia and are mostly drawn from the pro-whaling bloc which has been expected to back Japan's move.
They have been suspended for reasons including failing to pay their annual fees.
Solomon Islands, meanwhile, has failed to show up at the meeting.
With so many nations unable to vote, some are hopeful that the controversial plan to overturn a 24-year ban on commercial whaling will not get the numbers to pass.
Under the draft proposal, Japan would be allowed to catch 120 whales a year in its coastal waters.
The package has split the anti-whaling bloc, with Australia now at odds with some of its former allies.
The proposal needs a three-quarters majority vote to pass.
Europe could have the deciding vote, with some in the EU supporting a deal.
The meeting, held behind closed doors over the next two days, is the most controversial in years.
As well as trying to negotiate a way forward for the deadlocked organisation, the IWC is also under pressure to investigate allegations its deputy chair had his hotel bill paid for by Japan and that delegates are being offered prostitutes in return for their vote.http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010 ... 933768.htm