Australia and Japan set for court over whaling

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - The battle over Japan's controversial whaling programme is moving from the high seas to the United Nations' highest court.

Australia opens its case on Wednesday at the International Court of Justice, arguing that Japan's annual hunt in the icy waters around Antarctica is an illegal commercial activity outlawed since 1985 by an International Whaling Commission moratorium.

Australia's agent to the court Bill Campbell said on Tuesday: "What Japan is doing is commercial whaling, pure and simple."

But Japan argues that the annual hunt is legal under article eight of the 1946 International Convention for Regulation of Whaling, which lets governments to grant permits authorising their citizens "to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research". The hearings are expected to last for eleven days, with New Zealand supporting Australia.