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Denmark wants to claim North Pole

COPENHAGEN - Denmark aims to claim the North Pole and hunt for oil in high Arctic regions that may become more accessible because of global warming, the Science Ministry says.

It said Denmark would send an expedition to try to prove the seabed beneath the Pole was a natural continuation of Greenland, the world's biggest island and a Danish territory whose northern tip is just 450 miles from the Pole.

Science Minister Helge Sander said last week success would give Denmark access to "new resources such as oil and natural gas".

The potential return would outweigh the 150 million crowns (13.9 million pounds) that Denmark has allocated to the investigation.

The Danish bid rests on a U.N. convention allowing coastal nations to claim rights to offshore seabed resources. Countries that ratify it have 10 years to prove they have a fair claim to the offshore territory and its resources.

"First we have to make the scientific claim. After that there will be a political process with the other countries," said Science Ministry official Thorkild Meedom.

Other claimants to the area, with the Pole itself, include Russia, Canada and Norway. The United States may also make a claim.

"We're seeing a growing focus on and fight for the resources in the Arctic, especially as the global warming makes the region more accessible," said Samantha Smith, director of the WWF environmental group's Arctic Programme.

She said nations around the Arctic should sign a treaty to regulate access to oil, fisheries and possible new shipping lanes through the Arctic as the ice retreats.

Global warming, blamed by scientists mainly on emissions of carbon dioxide from cars and factories, has thinned the ice and U.N. projections indicate further shrinkage in coming decades.

Areas of interest for Denmark are three patches of seabed around Greenland and two around the Faroe Islands.

But experts said it could take years to sort out a tangle of overlapping claims in the Arctic. At the other end of the globe in Antarctica, several countries have also claimed slices of the continent but lack international blessing.

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