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World: New Arctic Council Begins Operations

Ottawa, 19 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- A new international organization called the Arctic Council began operations yesterday with a meeting in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.

The council is designed to coordinate environmental, economic, social and cultural policies affecting the eight nations that surround the Arctic and the nine million people who live in them.

Aside from Canada, the council's other members are the United States, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Native people will also be represented in the council, although they will not have voting rights.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy said last month that the council will focus on environmental protection and economic development.

The idea of the Arctic Council was first proposed by Canada more than two years ago. Correspondents say official talks were delayed by disagreements among the eight nations over how much representation aboriginal people should have.