Page last updated at 05:41 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Greenland votes for more autonomy

Referendum voters in Nuuk
A quarter of Greenlanders live in the capital, Nuuk

The people of Greenland have voted decisively in favour of a plan to give it greater autonomy from Denmark.

Officials said just over 75% of voters had supported the plan, which would see Greenland take a greater share of its annual oil revenues.

It will also take control of police, courts and coast guard, and have some say in foreign policy.

Correspondents say the vote could be a major step towards independence for the Arctic island of 57,000 people.

Hans Enoksen, the head of the local government in the Danish self-governing territory, thanked Greenlanders for "this overwhelming result".

"The tears are running down my cheeks," said an emotional Mr Enoksen.

Final results showed that 75.54% voted in favour, while 23.57% said no - in line with predictions before the vote. Turnout was 71.96%.

Regaining rights

About 50,000 of the population are native Inuit.

Greenland gained self-rule in 1979, after previously being a colony and then a province of Denmark.

"It was time for us for to regain our rights and freedoms that were stolen from our ancestors," David Brandt, a former fisherman, told the AFP news agency.

Under the new arrangement, due to take effect in June next year, the island will take a greater share of its annual oil revenue, and Greenlanders will be treated as a separate people under international law.

If the proposals are enacted, Kalaallisut would become the official language, instead of Danish.

The plan would also see Greenland becoming less reliant on subsidies from Copenhagen. Currently these provide 30% of its GDP.

In 1985, the island left the European Union to avoid subjecting its fishing grounds to EU rules.

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Guardian Unlimited Greenland votes for self-rule - 19 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Greenland voters back greater autonomy from Denmark - 21 hrs ago
Time Greenland Wants to Rule Itself - And Its Resources - 24 hrs ago
Washington PostGreenlanders vote for expanding autonomy - 25 hrs ago
The Times Greenlanders vote 'yes' to self rule - 25 hrs ago
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