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Arctic Council considers its future roster

Jan. 16, 2012 at 1:06 PM

TORONTO, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Countries without territories in the resource-rich arctic are asking the Arctic Council for admission to the council as permanent observers, officials say.

Countries such as China, India and Brazil want "observer" status out of interest in potential access to the vast hydrocarbons and resources in the region and the cost-savings of using shorter arctic shipping routes, a report from the Walter & Duncan Gordon foundation, a Canadian public policy think tank, said Sunday.

China has a research station in Norway's northern Svalbard Islands and is building an 8,000-ton icebreaker, the report said.

Canada will head the eight-member Arctic Council in 2013.

Member nations are Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark, all nations with territory within the arctic.

Canada and Russia have voiced strong opposition to expanding the council out of fear a greatly enlarged contingent of observers would overwhelm the current members.

"The council is struggling with this question," Tony Penikett, former premier of the Yukon, said. "The non-arctic states' interest is not just a fleeting fancy. For the council to remain relevant, must it give them a larger role or remain an exclusive club?"

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