New soil samples prove the Arctic is ours - Russia

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MOSCOW, Sep 20 (Reuters) Samples of earth taken by Russians who planted a flag on the seabed below the North Pole last month show beyond doubt the Arctic is Russian, its natural resources ministry said today.

The Arctic 2007 expedition was the first to plant a flag on the seabed directly below the North Pole and it symbolically claimed the area, which geologists believe is rich in minerals and energy deposits, for the Kremlin.

Now Russia says the scientific evidence cements their claims and they will present it to the United Nations.

Other countries aspiring to own the Arctic seabed have rushed to reiterate their own claims before a May 2009 deadline.

''We have received preliminary data from an analysis of models of the earth's crust from Arctic 2007 which confirms that the Lomonosov Ridge ... is part of the adjoining continental shelf of the Russian Federation,'' the statement said.

The Lomonosov Ridge, named after 18th century Russian writer and scientist Mikhail Lomonosov, runs hundreds of kilometres along the bottom of the Arctic seabed below the icy North Pole and is key to claiming the region's untapped resources.

Global warming is melting the polar icecaps and governments now believe that it is only a matter of time before they will be able to start exploiting the previously inaccessible seabed below the Arctic icecap.

International law states that the five nations which control a coastline in the Arctic -- Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway and Denmark via its ownership of Greenland -- have a 320 km economic zone north of their shore.

But Russia -- which has grown rich in the last decade from oil and gas revenues -- claims a far larger slice because it says the Arctic and Siberia are linked via the Lomonosov Ridge.

It first made the claim to the United Nations in 2001, but now intends to show it new evidence.

''At the present time we are preparing rock samples and materials to document and present to the United Nations commission on ownership of the continental shelf,'' the statement said.

Last month's expedition, when a mini-submarine dived from a command ship 4,200 m (13,000 feet) below the sea and planted the Russian flag with a mechanical arm, triggered international allegations of a Kremlin stunt.

REUTERS SKB BD1905

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