Page last updated at 00:48 GMT, Sunday, 21 June 2009 01:48 UK

Self-rule introduced in Greenland

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The Arctic island of Greenland is assuming self-rule, in the latest step towards independence from Denmark.

The move follows a referendum on greater autonomy in November. It will see Greenland take a greater share of revenues from its natural resources.

The local government is taking control of the police and the courts. Greenlandic - or Kalaallisut - becomes the official language.

Denmark has the final say in defence and foreign-policy matters.

Copenhagen has ruled Greenland for three centuries. It granted the territory limited sovereignty in 1979.

But the new self-rule system takes the Arctic island and its 57,000 inhabitants closer to independence.

Greenlanders - most of whom are native Inuit - will be treated as a separate people under international law.

Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist
Greenland Prime Minister Kleist has promised to focus on social problems

Much of the oil, gas, gold and diamonds the island holds has been inaccessible because of the Arctic ice covering most of the land mass.

But US experts believe it will become easier to exploit the island's mineral wealth as global warming melts the ice sheets.

Independence advocates hope the expected increase in revenues from minerals will help fund a final breakaway from Copenhagen.

But analysts say any push for independence is likely to be put on the backburner by Greenland's new leftist government.

Newly elected Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist has vowed to concentrate on tackling big social problems, such as alcoholism, domestic violence and a high suicide rate.

Greenland currently relies heavily on subsidies from the Danish government - which provide 30% of its GDP.

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