TOKYO (AFP) — Japan is to allow imports of whale meat from Iceland for the first time since 1991, a report said Sunday.

Nations across the world are signed up to an agreement not to hunt whales for commercial purposes but Japan said it was not breaking the accord and considered the trade as "a deal between private companies", Jiji Press reported.

Iceland announced in October 2006 it had authorised commercial whaling, making it only the second country after Norway to outright defy a 1986 moratorium.

An Icelandic company which has killed seven fin whales plans to export the meat to Japan, its boss has said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph published in early November.

Meanwhile the Japanese government has approved a plan to import whale meat submitted by a Japanese trading firm, Jiji said, citing unnamed government and other sources.

Japan officially complies with the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling. But it uses a loophole that allows countries to kill whales for research, with the meat ending up on dinner plates.

Japanese officials were not immediately available for comment.