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3,000 march against gas 'fracking' in Canada
by Staff Writers
Montreal (AFP) June 18, 2011

Some 3,000 people marched Saturday in Montreal to call for a end in Quebec to a technique known as "fracking" to get at natural gas reserves which faces strong opposition from environmental groups.

The demonstrators marched through downtown Montreal, chanting slogans against drilling.

"Quebec should take a turn for renewable energy, especially new energy sources which are green," said Amir Khadir, a member of the provincial assembly who came on bicycle to join the protest.

The Quebec Association to Combat Air Pollution, which organized the protest, said a decision by Quebec authorities to study the issue was insufficient, because eight of the 11 members of a study panel have ties to the oil and gas industries.

Hydraulic fracturing involves forcing chemicals deep into a well to dislodge natural gas from shale thousands of feet below the surface.

Backers say the vast reserves in North America could ease dependence on imported energy. However, some argue that the method risks contaminating underground water sources.

In Quebec, large sources of shale gas are believed to be located in the St. Lawrence valley, and Quebec authorities are studying the potential environmental impact of drilling in the area.

earlier related report
Greenpeace chief arrested after scaling Arctic oil rig
Copenhagen (AFP) June 17, 2011 - Two Greenpeace activists, including the head of the environmental group, were arrested Friday after scaling an oil rig off Greenland to demand a halt to drilling in the Arctic, police said.

"We were able to arrest the two Greenpeace activists who entered the platform at 8:06 am (0806 GMT)," Greenland's deputy police chief Morten Nielsen told AFP, confirming that one of the activists was the international head of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo.

"They have been charged with trespassing and violating the home-rule order in regards to safety zones," he said, adding that the two had been transported to Greenland'S capital Nuuk and were being arraigned before a judge to determine if they could be held in custody until they can be expelled.

Greenpeace had announced earlier Friday it expected Naidoo would be arrested after he "entered an exclusion zone to scale a controversial Arctic oil rig."

Naidoo had demanded "that the rig's master orders an immediate halt to drilling, and (requested) a copy of the rig's missing oil spill response plan," the group said in a statement.

During the operation, according to Greenpeace, Naidoo handed over an appeal carrying 50,000 signatures from supporters around the world to demand that the platform's operator, Scottish company Cairn Energy "explain exactly how it would deal with a BP-style deep water blow-out in the Arctic."

The reference is to the April 2010 explosion on a BP-leased rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers and caused millions of barrels of oil to spew into the sea.

"Wherever it is active, Cairn seeks to operate in a safe and prudent manner," the company meanwhile insisted in a statement Friday, adding that its "operations were not impacted" by the Greenpeace operation.

The latest Greenpeace action came a week after Cairn obtained an injunction against the group from a Dutch court, imposing fines of 50,000 euros (71,400 dollars) a day for breaches of a so-called exclusion zone around the rig, which lies some 180 kilometres (110 miles) off the western coast of Greenland.

The injunction was granted after 20 Greenpeace activists were arrested at the beginning of the month as they attempted to disrupt prospecting at the 53,000-tonne platform.

In August 2010, a similar action by four Greenpeace militants disrupted drilling by Cairn off Greenland for 40 hours, before bad weather forced them to call off the protest.

Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, is looking to oil prospecting as a way to establish its economic independence.

The Arctic holds 90 billion barrels of oil and 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas, according to US geological experts.

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China criticized for inviting Sudan leader
Washington (AFP) June 17, 2011 - China faced heated criticism in the United States for inviting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to visit even though he is wanted for genocide and war crimes and is unwelcome in most of the world.

China's foreign ministry said Thursday that President Hu Jintao and other leaders would meet Bashir on his June 27-30 visit, during which the two sides will discuss "how to consolidate our traditional friendship."

Representative Frank Wolf, who has traveled to Sudan's violence-torn Darfur region, said that he saw first-hand that China was supplying planes, helicopters and arms that have fueled the conflict.

"The number one supporter of the genocide in Darfur that many people are so concerned about is the Chinese government," said Wolf, a Republican from Virginia and outspoken critic of Beijing.

"Now we find that they're welcoming Bashir. What more do we need to know? Lives hang in the balance," Wolf said.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, where the United Nations says about 300,000 people have died since 2003.

"China will distinguish itself on the international scene in the most shameful of ways if Beijing welcomes Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir," said Balkees Jarrah, international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch.

"Bashir is a fugitive from justice for heinous crimes in Darfur. Charges of widespread murder and rape should be cause for condemnation, not an invitation," she said.

Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be targeted by a warrant of the ICC, which means that any member country of the court is obliged to arrest Bashir if he visits. China, along with the United States, is not party.

A number of nations have refused visits by Bashir after pressure from human rights groups.

Bashir has canceled plans to attend a weekend summit in Malaysia, which declared earlier this year that it intends to recognize the ICC's jurisdiction to show its commitment to fight crimes against humanity.

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US, Vietnam in joint call amid China tension
Washington (AFP) June 17, 2011
The United States and Vietnam on Friday jointly called for freedom of navigation and rejected the use of force in the South China Sea, amid simmering tensions between Beijing and its neighbors. After talks in Washington, the former war foes said that "the maintenance of peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is in the common interests of the international c ... read more

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