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NATO cannot boost presence in Arctic - Russian president's envoy

RIA Novosti

12/02/2009 16:46 MOSCOW, February 12 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian lawmaker and presidential envoy on Arctic and Antarctic international cooperation said on Thursday that NATO lacked the technical capability to enhance its military presence in the Arctic.

"Only our country has the unique technical equipment capable of solving the problems of extreme Arctic conditions, and nothing can be compared with our fleet of icebreakers in terms of mobility and effectiveness," polar explorer Artur Chilingarov said.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai said recently that the Arctic region is of high strategic importance for NATO in terms of providing security for allies.

However, Chilingarov said that Russia is not refusing cooperation with other countries in the Arctic region, including with NATO member states.

"For us, the Arctic remains an important geopolitical direction and we are ready for direct dialogue as well as within the framework of international organizations," Chilingarov said.

Russia has undertaken two Arctic expeditions - to the Mendeleyev underwater chain in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge in the summer of 2007 - to support its claims to the region. Moscow has pledged to submit documentary evidence to the UN on the external boundaries of Russia's territorial shelf in 2009.

The move irritated a number of Western countries, particularly the United States and Canada. Under international law, these Arctic Circle countries, as well as Denmark, Norway and Russia, each currently have a 322-km (200-mile) economic zone in the Arctic Ocean.

Last September, President Dmitry Medvedev called for a new Arctic frontier law. Some Western media outlets linked the move to Russia's claim to a large part of the Arctic, believed to be rich in oil and gas.

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