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Canada in Arctic show of strength

By Lee Carter
BBC News, Toronto

Arctic landscape, Lancaster Sound, Nunavut, Canada
A number of countries have competing claims for the Arctic

Canada is launching a series of military exercises in the Arctic far-north region of the country.

The so-called sovereignty operation is designed to show a visible presence in the resource-rich area, amid competing claims among other nations.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to join in some of the exercises later in the week.

Asserting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic has been a priority for Mr Harper's conservative government.

'Show of strength'

Operation Nanook will see the Canadian Armed Forces involved in sea, land and airforce operations in the country's eastern Arctic territory.

Map of Canada

Mr Harper is expected to join the operation midweek, when he will board both a navy frigate and a submarine during a warfare exercise.

The region was once considered barren, but a number of countries with competing claims - including Denmark and Russia - have been carefully mapping the area around the North Pole, thought to be rich in minerals and natural resources.

In a symbolic gesture that won attention around the world in 2007, Russian explorers planted their country's flag on the seabed below the North Pole.

Canada is also concerned by the melting of ice each year through the fabled Northwest Passage, blamed by scientists on global warming.

The United States government has said that it does not recognise exclusive Canadian rights to the waterway, that could be a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Some military analysts say that despite this week's show of strength, Canada does not have the resources to protect its vast Arctic territory full time.

There have been recent signs of closer co-operation in the region between Canada and Denmark.



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