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Canada, Iceland mark Viking's anniversary

OTTAWA, April 6 -- Canada and Iceland held ceremonies Thursday to mark the 1,000th anniversary of Viking explorer Leif Ericsson's arrival in North America. In Ottawa for the ceremonies was Iceland's Prime Minister David Oddsson, who accompanied Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien at inaugural events at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Iceland was discovered and colonized by Leif Ericsson's father, Eric the Red, just over 1,000 years ago, and Oddsson said Canada and Iceland had lot in common to celebrate.

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Chretien said the two countries shared "unique historical ties that stretch back 1,000 years to the Viking explorers."Those ties "are best symbolized by the founding of 'New Iceland' in what is now Gimli, Manitoba," some 45 miles (70 km) north of Winnipeg, he said.

In Newfoundland, Ericsson founded what is said to be the first-ever European settlement in North America. Remains of the settlement, called Vinland, have been excavated at L'Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland's northern tip, and are preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Newfoundland is planning a series of events to mark Ericsson's arrival in Canada.

On July 28, a replica of Ericsson's Viking ship is scheduled to arrive off the Newfoundland coast near L'Anse aux Meadow. The replica Viking long ship, called Islendingur, will be captained by a direct descendent of Ericsson in a voyage from Greenland to Canada, following a route along the Labrador coast taken by the Viking explorer 1,000 years ago. The voyage was planned in cooperation with the Iceland government, and the Islendingur is set to be accompanied, on its arrival, by 13 other Viking ships from several countries participating in the celebrations.

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The replicas are expected to make up "the largest flotilla of Viking ships in North America," officials in Newfoundland said.

The island is also planning a "bilingual multi-media exhibit which tells the story of the Vikings' arrival in North America and their contacts with Aboriginal peoples in Newfoundland and Labrador," the officials said. After the ceremonies in Newfoundland, the exhibit is set to make an international tour, which will continue until 2003.

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