Tokyo Disneyland has stopped selling helium balloons shaped like Mickey Mouse and other characters because of a worldwide shortage of the lighter-than-air gas, the park's operator said Tuesday.

The popular balloons were withdrawn from sale last week, a spokesman said, because the company was having difficulty securing a stable supply.

"Delivery of our orders cannot be fulfilled" because suppliers are finding it difficult to obtain the gas, said an official at Oriental Land Co, which operates Disneyland and the next door Disneysea park.

"There have not been a lot of inquiries from our guests. We will resume sales of balloons as soon as we can secure supplies," he said.

Helium comes from a relatively small number of natural gasfields, with the United States having long served as a major producer for Japanese customers.

The gas is mainly used as an industrial and medical coolant, particularly for MRI scanners.

The global helium shortage has been a problem among MRI manufacturers for the past few years but has become more acute over the last few months, the Nikkei newspaper said Monday.

Growing demand for the gas for use in MRIs and the IT sector, as well as difficulties at a production site in the United States, are to blame for the paucity, according to the business daily.