NORFOLK ISLAND (AP) _ A proposal to ban Antarctic whaling for 50 years failed to win enough support to ensure its passage at a meeting in May.

As a five-day technical meeting of the International Whaling Commission ended today, it was clear that the two main whaling nations, Japan and Norway, could still muster enough votes to block establishment of the sanctuary.

The idea is supported by the majority of the 39 whaling commission members, but it would require a three-fourths majority to be adopted at the commission's formal meeting in Mexico in May.

France and Ireland proposed the sanctuary, which would overlap with an existing whale refuge in the Indian Ocean.

Commercial whaling has been banned since 1987, but Japan contends that the minke whale population of 760,000 in the Antarctic is stable enough to allow a resumption of whaling for 2,000 to 4,000 minkes a year.

At the meeting on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, delegates from 26 nations were unable to reach consensus on a resolution endorsing the sanctuary. Even those in support of the idea disagreed on technical issues, such as where the sanctuary would begin.