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Last Updated: Friday, 10 August 2007, 22:36 GMT 23:36 UK
Canada to strengthen Arctic claim
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, file photo
Mr Harper said Canada has a "real, growing" Arctic presence
Canada has said it will build two military facilities in the far north in a bid to assert its sovereignty over the contested Arctic region.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement during a tour of Canada's northern territories.

It comes as a Danish mission prepares to sail to the North Pole to map the seabed under the ice.

Last week, a Russian expedition planted the country's flag on the floor of the Arctic Ocean under the North Pole.

'Use it or lose it'

Mr Harper said a cold-weather army training base would be set up at Resolute Bay and an existing port at a former mine at Nanisivik would be refurbished to supply Arctic patrol vessels.

He said the facilities would bolster Canada's claims to disputed portions of the Arctic.

"Canada's new government understands that the first principle of Arctic sovereignty is use it or lose it," Mr Harper said from Resolute, a small Inuit community about 600km (372 miles) south of the North Pole.

"Today's announcements tell the world that Canada has real, growing, long-term presence in the Arctic."

Polar missions

Melting polar ice has led to competing claims over access to Arctic resources, including the Northwest Passage, a shipping channel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans currently blocked by ice during the winter months.

Arctic scene
The Arctic Ocean is believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves

Mr Harper announced plans last month to build six naval vessels to patrol the passage.

Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway and the United States also have competing claims to the seabed below the North Pole, an area containing as much as 25% of the world's undiscovered oil and gas according to a US study.

The area is not currently regarded as part of any single country's territory and is governed instead by complex international agreements.

Last week a Russian expedition sent a mini-submarine to the ocean floor four kilometres (2.5 miles) below the North Pole to further Moscow's claim to the Arctic.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The North Pole like the South should be a de-militarised area, with no-one able to claim the territory
George Hinton, Twickenham, UK

Moscow argues that waters off its northern coast extending to the North Pole belong to its maritime territory because an underwater feature, the Lomonosov Ridge, is an extension of its continental territory.

On Sunday, Denmark is sending a month-long expedition to the North Pole to study the same underwater ridge to see if it is connected to Greenland, a Danish territory.

The Danish team plans to collect data to map the seabed under the ice.

RUSSIA'S ARCTIC CLAIM
Arctic map
1) North Pole: Russia leaves its flag on the seabed, 4,000m (13,100ft) beneath the surface, as part of its claims for oil and gas reserves.
2) Lomonosov Ridge: Russia argues that this underwater feature is an extension of its continental territory and is looking for evidence.
3) 200-nautical mile (370km) line: Shows how far countries' agreed economic area extends beyond their coastline. Often set from outlying islands.
4) Russian-claimed territory: The bid to claim a vast area is being closely watched by other countries. Some could follow suit.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Canada's prime minister visits the Arctic



SEE ALSO
Canada PM asserts Arctic claims
10 Aug 07 |  Americas
Russia plants flag under N Pole
02 Aug 07 |  Europe
Russia ahead in Arctic 'gold rush'
01 Aug 07 |  Special Reports
Canada 'to reclaim Arctic waters'
10 Jul 07 |  Americas

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