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Iceland calls for end to 'Cold War' tension over Arctic

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Sept 22, 2010
Iceland's president called Wednesday for an end to "Cold War" tensions over the Arctic as nations with competing claims to the region met in Moscow.

"Countries should not discuss territorial claims against each other, but engage in dialogue," President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

"The Cold War times, when the Arctic was a region of tension, have passed."

He was speaking on the sidelines of the two-day Arctic Forum, which opened in Moscow on Wednesday.

It is thought to hold 90 billion barrels of oil and 30 percent of the world's untapped gas resources, according to the US Geological Survey.

Speaking with his counterpart Dmitry Medvedev later in the day, Grimsson said Russia and Iceland could strengthen bilateral ties by jointly exploiting Arctic riches.

"All those questions related to exploiting economic resources in the Arctic and opening new shipping routes are a big impetus for strengthening our ties with Russia," he said at the start of the talks at Medvedev's Gorky residence just outside Moscow.

Medvedev for his part said Russia and Iceland shared responsibility for the region.

"We answer together for the Arctic, the climate of the planet, the people in our countries," Medvedev said. "This makes it necessary for us to meet regularly."

Separately, Grimsson said Iceland could help Russia exploit its geothermal resources to produce clean energy.

"We could discuss exploiting these resources in Kamchatka, where there are plans to build a geo-thermal power station for the production of clean energy to be used in aluminium plants," he said, referring to the region in the country's Far East.

Five Arctic nations are racing to gather evidence to support their claims amid recent reports by US researchers who warn that global warming could open up the region, leaving it ice-free by 2030.

Russia alarmed its Arctic neighbours when it planted a flag on the ocean floor under the North Pole in 2007 in a symbolic staking of its claim over the region.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is due to speak at the Arctic forum on Thursday.

earlier related report
earlier related report
Dozens of forest fires blaze in Russia: officials
Moscow (AFP) Sept 22, 2010 - Dozens of forest fires raged in Russia on Wednesday in fresh outbreaks following the country's exhausting battle with wildfires this summer, officials said.

Sixty-five separate fires were blazing across 364 hectares (900 acres) of land on Wednesday, the emergencies ministry said in a statement, with six of the fires smouldering in peat bogs.

"There are no large fires," the ministry said.

A ministry spokeswoman told AFP that fires were now registered in three regions, Irkutsk in Siberia, the Volga region of Ulyanovsk and the Urals region of Sverdlovsk.

The fresh fires come after Russia this summer battled thousands of blazes, some dangerously close to its top nuclear research centre in Sarov in central Russia.

Forest fires ravaged more than a million hectares in Russia in recent months, destroying whole villages and leaving more than 50 people dead, according to official tallies.

Smoke from peat bogs in the regions around Moscow clouded the capital in acrid smog in August. The peat bogs were artificially dried out in the early Soviet era when the peat was used for power generation.

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Russia, Canada trade rival Arctic claims
Moscow (AFP) Sept 16, 2010
Canada and Russia on Thursday traded rival claims over the Arctic as their countries eyed energy riches and shipping routes made increasingly accessible by melting Polar ice. Visiting Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said the aim of his mission to Moscow was to explain his country's new Arctic policy, which includes a greater military presence in the region. "We will exercise ou ... read more

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