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Russia plans Arctic national park amid northern surge

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Aug 14, 2007
Russia is planning to create an Arctic Sea nature reserve, an official said Tuesday, amid increasingly intense international competition to lay claims over the resource-rich territory.

The ministry of natural resources has approved a proposal for a nature reserve called "The Russian Arctic" including territory around a group of far northern Russian islands in the Arctic Sea, a ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

The reserve would cover the archipelago of Franz Josef Land and Victoria Island, as well as 8.36 million hectares (32,000 square miles) of surrounding sea, daily Vedomosti reported.

Competing claims over Arctic territory by numerous countries, including Canada, Denmark, and the United States, have sharpened since a Russian expedition planted a Russian flag on the North Pole seabed on August 2.

The Arctic Sea bed is thought to contain massive oil and gas reserves.

The ministry spokeswoman denied the nature reserve initiative was in any way connected to Russia's territorial claims, saying: "This project started in 2001 and has nothing to do with the recent expeditions."

The national park would have to be approved by the ministry of defence, which conducts naval manoeuvres in the area and has several outposts on the islands.

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Canada to build first Arctic deep-water port, military base
Iqaluit, Canada (AFP) Aug 10, 2007
Canada will build its first Arctic deep-sea port to bolster its disputed claims to the famed Northwest Passage and Arctic seabed, believed to hold oil and gas riches, its prime minister said Friday.

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