Ivory sales meeting unravels

THE HAGUE - African government ministers at a UN wildlife conference yesterday tried to break the deadlock over elephant ivory sales in a dispute between countries seeking to extend a 1989 export ban and others wanting the trade to resume.

THE HAGUE - African government ministers at a UN wildlife conference yesterday tried to break the deadlock over elephant ivory sales in a dispute between countries seeking to extend a 1989 export ban and others wanting the trade to resume.

Talks collapsed on Tuesday over a draft compromise to allow a one-off sale of 140 tons of ivory by southern African states, where elephant numbers are rising, followed by a trade ban for the next 9 years.

Some delegates at the 171-nation UN convention on international trade in endangered species (Cites) meeting argue that more sales would spur illegal killings that could further endanger elephants. Others say tightly limited trade can help by ploughing cash into conservation and development.

Kenya and Mali came to the meeting, which ends tomorrow, demanding a 20-year extension of the ban on all ivory exports from Africa, saying that poaching was killing 19000 elephants a year on the continent.

Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa argue that their elephant populations are on the rise and want to allow regular trade to benefit communities where elephants increasingly come into conflict with farmers.

The dispute is a blow to African states, which usually seek to present a united front on the world stage. One option was to abandon all discussion until the next Cites meeting, due in 2010.

"We don't know how it will finish. They've all given some ground," said one delegate. - Reuters

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