14 Mar 2006

Japan says fuel fund for Tuvalu not linked to whaling question

3:21 pm on 14 March 2006

Japan has pledged money to help Tuvalu as it struggles with the rising cost of imported fuel but denied that the funds were a bribe.

The Foreign Ministry's Economic Cooperation Bureau's Yujiro Akatsuka denied the grants were linked to support for Japan's whaling push.

Last Friday, the Tuvalu Prime Minister Maatia Toafa signed an agreement at the Japanese embassy in Fiji for 841,000 US dollars of funds to meet 37 percent of the nation's fuel costs this year.

Japan has signed similar deals last year for two other small nations in the Pacific - Nauru and Kiribati, who are also members of the International Whaling Commission and support Japan's drive to reverse the IWC's 20-year moratorium on commercial whale hunting.