msnbc.com news services
updated 6/23/2004 10:54:29 AM ET 2004-06-23T14:54:29

The United States expressed concern about Iceland’s whale hunts on Tuesday, but stopped short of imposing trade sanctions against its NATO partner.

The Commerce Department said it is also continuing to list Japan for similar whaling programs. Both countries argue that they hunt whales for scientific purposes.

President Bush told Congress in a letter that his administration would use “diplomatic efforts” to discourage Iceland from killing whales for research purposes.

He said his top economic officials would keep the issue “under close review” and “work with Iceland to encourage it to cease its lethal scientific research whaling activities.”

“I believe these diplomatic efforts hold the most promise of effecting change in Iceland’s research whaling program, and do not believe that imposing import prohibitions would further our objectives,” he said.

While U.S. law allows the United States to ban imports from countries certified as conducting such hunts, the administration said it will direct U.S. delegations attending meetings with Iceland regarding whaling issues to raise U.S. concerns and to seek ways to halt these actions.

Iceland began a lethal research whaling program in August 2003. The United States and 22 other nations asked Iceland to halt the program immediately. Iceland did not, and its whaling program harvested 36 minke whales in 2003, a reduction from Iceland's original proposal to take 250 minke, fin, and sei whales.

On June 1 this year, Iceland announced that it was authorizing a hunt of 25 minke whales in 2004.

Japan was most recently listed by the United States in 2000 for the expansion of its lethal research whaling program in the North Pacific.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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