REYKJAVIK Iceland's interim government said on Wednesday it would allow whale hunting to go ahead this year but left in doubt whether the practice would be allowed to continue beyond 2009.
Fishermen will be allowed to catch 100 minke whales and 150 fin whales during 2009, a decision that will upset environmental groups and many in the international community.
Fisheries Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said hunters should not take it for granted that whaling would be permitted over the following four years, as proposed by the previous government.
The decision to resume whaling was taken despite international pressure and a promise by the new government of Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir to review a decision by the previous administration to set new five-year quotas.
The United States, Germany, Britain, France, Finland and Sweden have called on Sigurdardottir to drop the whaling plans.
An international moratorium on whaling has been in force since 1986.
Iceland ended a 20-year ban on commercial whaling in August 2006, issuing quotas that ran through August 2007. After a temporary halt the country resumed whaling in May last year, despite protests by environmentalists.
(Reporting by Omar R. Valdimarsson via Stockholm newsroom; editing by Tim Pearce)