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CONFERENCE VOTES TO HALT IVORY TRADE

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Delegates to a 91-country conference have voted overwhelmingly to halt trade in ivory and place African elephants on the endangered list, but five African members refused to go along with the ban.

Proponents of a total ban on the ivory trade could not obtain the required two-thirds vote and so agreed to a compromise proposal allowing southern African nations to apply for exemptions to a special panel of experts.Environmentalists cheered loudly Monday as delegates to the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species passed the last-minute proposal 76-to-11 with four abstentions.

The measure amounts to at least a two-year ban because no exemptions are likely to be considered before group's next meeting.

It must be confirmed in a full session before the 10-day gathering ends Friday, but delegates called that a formality.

"We think this was a good compromise, a place to work from," said Conny Harriman, head of the U.S. delegation that championed East Africa's bid for a total ban.

Costa Mlay, Tanzania's director of wildlife, said East Africans were satisfied. "This is the best we could do, now we must try to work together."

But Rowan Martin, director of research for Zimbabwe's Wildlife Department, was bitter: "They forced seven countries who seemed to be doing well at conservation out of the convention. "

Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana and Burundi - whose lands contain about one-tenth of the African elephant herd - said they would file for exemptions.