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    Green groups urge EU to save Arctic

    BELGIUM: March 17, 2004

    BRUSSELS - The European Union must urge Russia to meet global commitments in reducing global warming if the Arctic region is to be saved from destruction, environmentalists said.

    The polar region, stretching across northern parts of Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, is rich in resources but its native Inuit population is under threat from melting ice caps.

    Russia has yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions. After the United States withdrew in 2000, Russia can effectively stop the treaty coming into force.

    "Climate change is happening twice as fast in the Arctic as in the rest of the world," Svein Tveitdal, a senior official at the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) told a news conference, asking the EU to maintain its diplomatic efforts.

    The EU cannot leave it solely up to Nordic states - Denmark, Sweden, Finland and non-bloc member Norway - to protect the Arctic people and landscape, he added.

    The U.N. body and the European Environment Agency published a report listing the dangers facing the Inuit people where seal and pike, traditional food sources, can only be eaten sparingly by women as they contain toxic chemicals harmful to reproduction.