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Norway Awards Oil-Drilling Licenses In Barents Sea

Norway has awarded oil-drilling licenses to 13 oil companies in its territory, including a previously unexplored part of the Barents Sea.

Three of the 10 licenses awarded on May 18 are for drilling near Norway's maritime border with Russia -- an area that the two countries long disputed before an accord was reached in 2010.

Drilling rights under two of those licenses were awarded to Norway's state-controlled Statoil, and the third has gone to another Norwegian group, Det Norske, with Russia's LUKoil taking a major stake.

The areas close to Russia are free of ice due to recent melting caused by climate change.

Environmental groups have condemned the move, saying the rich but fragile ecosystem in the Barents Sea cannot risk the environmental damage of an oil spill.

Other companies awarded licenses are Sweden's Lundin, which is represented in five of the 10 licenses, the U.S. groups Chevron and ConocoPhillips, and Britain's Centrica.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP