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Russia: New Arctic Council To Begin Next Month

Ottawa, 19 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The eight nations that surround the Arctic will launch a new international organization next month to coordinate environmental, economic, social and cultural policies affecting the nine million people who live there.

The organization, which will be known as the Arctic Council, will begin operations September 19 with a meeting in Ottawa, Canada.

Other members are the United States, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Native people will also be represented in the new group, although they will not have voting rights. They are: the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the Saami Council and the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy told reporters in Ottawa that the Council will concentrate on environmental protection and economic development in the North, including developing trade using northern routes and sharing technology for environmental clean up.

The idea of an Arctic Council was first proposed by Canada more than two years ago, but official talks were delayed by disagreements among the eight countries on how much representation aboriginal people should have.